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Personalize Your Cover Letter

There's one rule of thumb to follow when writing a cover letter for a nonprofit job: Be unique.  The less generic your letter is, the better chance it has of being read.

The temptation to write a generic cover letter is great.  This method increases productivity, but it also leads to worse results.  Think about it from the employer's perspective: They receive hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes everyday, and most of them probably categorized as generic.  A job application that has a vanilla cover letter or resume will almost always go into the "rejected" pile.

One person's generic is another's unique, so how can you be sure that your cover letter rings true to an organization?  I have one word for you: Personalization.  Here are some tips to make your letter more unique for each job:
  • Instead of addressing the cover letter to unnamed "hiring managers," find out their name.  Avoid "To Whom It May Concern" openings at all costs.
  • Don't just say you've done something, show specific examples of your accomplishments.  Make sure these anecdotes are used to show strength in an area that employer identified as a need.  This will prove that you read their job description thoroughly.
  • Don't leave out any specific instructions from the job description.  There's no better way to write a generic cover letter than ignoring specific requests from the employer.
  • List your interest in the specific job for which you are applying.  It might sound obvious, but many job seekers list skills in their cover letter that have nothing to do with the job in question.  This makes it seem like you simply copied a previous letter.
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