27/09/2016 9:42 PM AEST | Updated 29/09/2016 6:05 AM AEST

Want Your Dream Job? Use These Five Rules To Write An Effective Cover Letter

For many, one of the most challenging parts of a job search is writing the dreaded cover letter. What’s worse, some don’t take it as seriously as they should. It will serve as an employer’s first impression of you, so you need to make sure you get it right.

A great cover letter can mean the difference between getting your foot through the door, and getting your application thrown in the trash. These days, it’s still just as important a part of your job application as your resume and even your LinkedIn profile. Here are five ways you can write an effective cover letter that is sure to get you noticed.

1. Do Your Research

Your cover letter shouldn’t just be a rehash of your resume. Instead, try to put the focus on the position, the company, and what you have to offer them. Remember, the hiring manager wants to know what you’ll be able to bring to the role, so be clear about showing off what you are capable of.

You want to personalize the letters you send out for each individual job role. Take the time to do some research beyond the job description and the company website. Get a feel for the business by going through employee profiles on LinkedIn and checking out the executives’ Twitter feeds.

Doing this will help you gain valuable information about current challenges facing the company and how your role would help to address these. You will also have a better understanding of the culture, and this will help you find the right tone for your letter.

2. Follow Basic Formatting

While it may be tempting to play around with the formatting in order to stand out from your competitors, this is usually not the way to do it. Your cover letter, as well as your resume, should follow a standard, easy-to-read format.

That means avoiding annoying fonts, including line breaks between paragraphs, and using the appropriate salutation. A formal salutation is best, and you should use the name and title of the hiring manager where possible.

A good place to start is with a template. This will give you a good idea of the type of formatting that is expected; you just need to make sure you fully personalize it for your job application. At the end of the day, you just want to make sure that it’s neat and professional.

3. Don’t Waste Your Opening Paragraph

Avoid the standard first line where you say that you are applying for X position that you saw on Y website. This is a waste of space and will do nothing to help your application. You want to hook the reader’s interest from the first sentence.

While you want to sell yourself and show that you have confidence in yourself, you don’t want to go too far either. Going over the top can be a big turn-off for employers, so it’s all about striking the right balance. Show some personality where possible, but avoid being too informal.

4. Keep it Short and Sweet

When it comes to the cover letter, it’s often the shorter, the better. In a Saddleback College Resume Survey, 43.7% of respondents stated that they prefer a cover length of half a page. It’s easy to get carried away, but you need to remember that most employers will spend as little as one minute or less reading your letter.

You don’t want to leave anything out, so you should ensure that whatever you say, you say it succinctly. Make sure you target the specific position, what you can bring to the role, and provide examples to support your statements.

5. Review Before You Hit Send

One of the worst mistakes you can make is to use the wrong name, title, or company in your application. It shows carelessness and a lack of interest in the job you are applying to. Before you hit send, be sure to review your cover letter in full. Look out for spelling and grammar mistakes you may have made.

You can even use apps like Grammarly to instantly check for grammatical, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. If editing is not your strong suit, then you may want to consider asking a friend to read it as well. A fresh set of eyes aways helps, and they may be able to spot a mistake you missed yourself.

The easiest way to get your application binned is to send out a letter full of errors. Don’t risk losing out on your dream job because of a silly mistake. Always proofread everything, and then again, just in case you missed anything the first time.