A great cover letter can make or break your chances of landing your dream job. While it may seem unfair to put so much stock in a single part of your application, you need to put yourself in the position of the employer. It's likely they have several people applying for the same position, so the cover letter is your chance to make a favorable impression. If your letter is drab or full of simple errors, it sends the message that you don't care enough about the job or the employer to do your best.
With that in mind, we have three qualities of a great cover letter that you should consider as you write yours.
1. A great cover letter is well-written
Okay, this might seem obvious (and a little redundant), but it's really that important, perhaps the most important aspect of your letter. You can disagree all you want, but if a cover letter has even a handful of errors, you will look either unintelligent, lazy, or both.
Seriously. If you can't take the time to produce a cover letter that is error-free, why should your potential employer trust your work? You'll be competing against applicants whose letters are perfect, so make yours perfect too. Don't just read it a couple of times off the screen. Print it out, and read it aloud. Give it to a couple of (literate) friends to read as well. Don't be too proud. Ask for help.
2. A great cover letter is direct
You may have the greatest anecdote in the world involving ice fishing, a polar bear, and an alien spaceship, but a cover letter isn't the place to share it. Keep in mind that the person reading your letter will likely be reading dozens of these letters if not more. While your storytelling skills and beautiful prose may be solid assets, you need to save them for the right time.
In your cover letter, you want to introduce yourself briefly and state succinctly why you're a good fit for the job.
Your prospective employer will be more impressed by your pithy than your prose.
3. A great cover letter is personalized
If you want to make sure that you don't get a job, go ahead and send a letter that begins "Dear Sir or Madam" or "To Whom It May Concern" and provides a generic introduction to you and your particular skill set. Really, nothing screams "apathy" like simply copying and pasting a generic cover letter that demonstrates no awareness of a specific position or employer.
If you really want to show a prospective employer that you're a right fit for the job, then you need to take the time to research the specific position appropriately. Show why you are a good fit for this job and not just any job. And you simply must address the letter to the person who will actually be reading it.
Hopefully, these tips will help you land your perfect job by writing a great cover letter. You do need to make sure, however, that your cover letter is properly formatted and grabs the reader's attention, like in these examples. You also want to maximize your time.
An excellent resource is LiveCareer's Cover Letter Builder. This online tool lets you focus on the important task of selling yourself while taking care of the formatting with hundreds of quality templates. If you have writer's block, the Cover Letter Builder offers pre-written samples to get your creative juices flowing. With a free trial available, there's nothing to lose.