How to write an effective cover letter and mistakes to avoid

Surviving The Slump: How to write an effective cover letter and resume
WATCH ABOVE: Amanda Salopek from Salopek & Associates sits down with Linda Olsen to discuss resumes and cover letters, and how to get ahead for your next interview.

January 2016 saw Alberta’s unemployment numbers skyrocket to 7.4 per cent, an increase of 4.6 per cent from the same month last year.

Employers throughout the province are sifting through thousands of applications every day for only a handful of available jobs.

READ MORE: How to turn a layoff into an opportunity

If you’re currently on the hunt for work, your best bet is to make strategic moves to separate yourself from the pack.

Director of business development and accredited recruiter with Salopek and Associates, Amanda Salopek, says there are key steps in ensuring your resume gets moved to the top of the pile.

Scroll down to see an example of an effective cover letter

First and foremost, cover letters are important and if formatted the right way, will draw a potential employer to want to flip the page and keep reading.

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“Candidates who go to the extent of creating a customized cover letter, have the opportunity to demonstrate their interest in a better capacity and show that they’re genuinely interested in the opportunity, and not just blanket responding to whatever opportunity there is available to them,” Salopek said.

READ MORE: Searching for a job? Make sure you have these skills on your resume

In fact, she says the worst thing she sees as a recruiter is a resume or cover letter that is obviously a sweeping application. If you want your information to be overlooked, that’s the very best way to do it.

“If you see somebody who’s put time and energy and is genuinely interested and excited about this opportunity, you–as a recruiter–will be excited to read about it,” she said. “I think, as somebody who has looked at thousands of resumes, it certainly will make your resume or your cover letter stand out.”

WATCH: Amanda Salopek from Salopek & Associates sits down with Gord Gillies with more tips on resumes and cover letters, and how to get ahead for your next interview.

Surviving The Slump: More tips to write an effective cover letter and resume
Surviving The Slump: More tips to write an effective cover letter and resume

A quick how-to

A cover letter doesn’t need more than three short paragraphs.

First… introduce yourself and your interest.

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Second… demonstrate your understanding of the role and the applicable experience you have that they’re looking for.

Third…explain your skills and why you’re a good fit for the organization.

And make sure to keep it short and sweet: Salopek says a big “no no” is a cover letter any longer than a single page. Make sure your three paragraphs are clear, concise and not too extensive.

Customization is key

“I think it’s really important to include in a cover letter why you’re a good fit for the organization, not just the position,” she said. “So, demonstrating that you have alignment with the organization’s values.”

Tailoring your application package doesn’t stop at the first page: your resume should also be trimmed to highlight why you and your specific skill set are absolutely perfect for the job.

Making use of modern tools you have at hand is also a way to maximize the potential of your resume and cover letter.

“Technology has advanced exceptionally over the last ten years and I think what people really underestimate is the value of networking,” she said. “I think the social networking opportunities on professional platforms is a huge way people are getting discovered by recruiters, and if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile that has your resume and your cover letter and is up to date–then you’re majorly missing out on opportunities.”

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In terms of what to avoid, Salopek says she sees easy mistakes being committed on cover letters everyday, and the majority of them come from simply not taking the time to proofread.

“A mistake would be, if you are providing multiple companies with applications, to not edit your cover letter appropriately and accidentally include information that’s not relevant to the company you’re applying to. Like the name of a different company or the position title of a different opportunity…which happens, unfortunately.”

Taking the time to put care and effort into your application is a reflection of your work ethic and is representative of what you will be bringing to a company if hired. Treat the hiring process as an interactive experience and a true opportunity for someone you could be working for, to get to see the best of you in summarized form.

Salopek said to avoid large photos (unless it’s a performing-related role) and to make sure to include dates of your relevant experience and education.

Check out an example of an effective cover letter from Salopek below: