Cover letter? We’ve got it covered.

Ah, the cover letter, that elusive element of the job search. It’s not much fun to craft and people often make mistakes, but learn to do it right and the reward will be great.

TopResume’s career advice expert Amanda Augustine shared some tips with Business Insider on best cover letter practices. She emphasizes doing your research to personalize your cover letter for the hiring manager. “Re-read the job description carefully. Depending upon where you found the role, the person who posted the position may be linked to the listing,” says Augustine.

Here’s how to write the coveted cover letter:

1. Don't restate your entire resume.

The recruiter already has your resume. So, there’s no need to rehash your entire work history in your cover letter. This is often a turn-off for employers who are sick of letters that merely summarize their candidates’ resumes. Consequently, they see no need to read them.

Augustine recommends, “Use your opening documentation to demonstrate your understanding of the company’s position in the marketplace and their needs, and then highlight your experiences and accomplishments that speak to these requirements.”

2. Use the hiring manager’s name, if possible.

People like personalization. Show the reader you've done your homework by using the hiring manager's name in your cover letter opener.

Companies and recruiters often post their position in more than one place. Run a Google search for a portion of the job description in quotes. Or, If you know the name of the recruiting agency that’s running the search, take a look at their company site. If the group is small enough, they may have each recruiter’s bio listed.

The worst ways to address a cover letter or an email to a potential employer include: "To Whom It May Concern," "Dear Sir or Madam," and "Dear Recruiter." Avoid using these whenever possible.

3. Use the T-format.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. The main components of your cover letter don’t really change. Follow this, what I like to call the “t-format”:

  • First Section: Introduce yourself and state why you are interested in the position. Show you’ve done a background check and are knowledgeable about the company or industry.

  • Middle Section: Prove why you are fit to do this job. How do skills and your experience meet the requirements of the position?

  • Last Section: Get enthusiastic! Close the note and create a “call to action”. Let them know when you will be following up.

4. Choose the top three requirements that match your experience.

The hiring company is going to list out a bunch of ideal skills. Don’t be intimidated. Simply pick the top three that match your experience and skills. Now, put these under the “Your Needs” column. Write a little blurb for each one in the “My Qualifications” column.

Focus on past examples of your work that show how you meet each of the hiring manager’s needs.

5. Don’t make your cover letter generic!

Boilerplate is not the way to go. You need to tailor your cover letter to speak specifically to each company’s needs.

Augustine says, “While your introduction may not be as specific as it would be for a position where the employer was known, this doesn’t give you license to use a generic template for the main sections of your cover letter.

Read the job description and brainstorm how you have each prerequisite. Then, pair it with a specific contribution, experience or accomplishment. Relay this information in a paragraph or a set of bullets. This will customize your cover letter and grab the reader’s attention.

You don't have to say it all–just say it right–in your cover letter, if you want to get the job.

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