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Cover Letters: Why Copy + Paste Won’t Get You the Job

When it comes to writing a cover letter, one size does not fit all. It is important to write a tailored cover letter for each position you seek. Writing cover letters and customizing résumés can seem like a lot of work, but when you consider that you’re seeking a long-term placement with this institution, the initial time investment is quite small.

People can see through a form letter a mile away. If your cover letter doesn’t show thoughtful composition, why should the hiring manager give it thoughtful consideration? You will likely have characteristic ways of saying things; if you have a nice turn of phrase for describing one of your strengths, no one will fault you for using it twice. Still, a cover letter written as a whole will have a natural flow that an altered cover letter, Frankensteined together, will lack.

When most people go to write a cover letter, they pull up their most recent cover letter and adapt it.

While understandable, this is not a best practice and can lead to embarrassing mistakes, such as addressing your letter to the wrong company. Rather than using a past cover letter as a template, work off of a cover letter checklist. It can guide you through writing the cover letter and then help you spot check to ensure you included all the key elements. Here’s our cover letter checklist to get you started:

• Date

• Salutation

• Introduction

• Position sought

• Relevant skills and experience

• Call to action

• One page

Have you ever made—or received—a cover letter gaffe? Share your story on social media.