A popular adage goes, "Don't judge a book by its cover." An even more popular adage goes, "Don't judge a candidate by their cover letter." Just kidding. That's not popular, that's not an adage, and it's not even correct. Your cover letter will be your first impression to your potential employer, and of course they will judge you for it. So make sure it's phenomenal. Here's how.

1. Nix, "To Whom it May Concern"

"To Whom it May Concern" might just be the 5 most uninspired words in the American-English lexicon. Your cover letter "may" not even concern anyone if it opens with this tired and lazy salutation. Instead, find out an actual living, breathing human being to which to address your cover letter. With a few seconds of research, you can likely come up with a name of someone in the department to which you're applying. Someone who may very well be concerned.

And according to Vicki Salemi at U.S. News, it's best to start at the top: "If you're pursuing a job in human resources and the company clearly lists the name of the chief HR executive in charge, go ahead and address the letter to that person. Will the executive be the first person to open the cover letter in the applicant tracking system? Not exactly. Will it look like you did your homework? You bet."

2. Show off that you know about the company.

Having a generic cover letter that you can send out to the masses is a good place to start, but you should never send out a generic cover letter before you spice it up with company-specific details. The HR department doesn't care that you are qualified for "a" job in your field, but that you are qualified for "the" job that they are seeking. Research about the company, and present to them why you want to work there. Also, make sure it's the right company. We can't tell you how many times we've seen cover letters that are addressed to people in a completely different company. That's embarrassing, and a surefire way to get it thrown in physical (or metaphorical) trash. Make sure that you cater your skills to appeal to those mentioned in the job description. Be relevant, and only include information that can benefit your eligibility for this job.

3. Don't rehash your résumé.

Get right to the point. No one cares to read what they can already find out from your résumé. Your cover letter is an opportunity to show your human voice, so show your diligent personality without going overboard. Focus on skills, communications, and relationships you've built in your professional life. Tell a story. Give your potential employers the relevant context that explains why you would be the ideal candidate at this point in time. Be brief, yet substantial.

4. Use power words.

Instead of using words such as "organized" and "hard-working," like any good employer would already expect you to be, according to career experts, words that stand out appeal to the emotions. Talk about your enthusiasm, passion, and listening skills. Talk about your admiration for such-and-such and how you inspired so-and-so. Use strong verbs such as "achieved" and "led," or "negotiated" and "generated." These are positive words that mean more than just you did stuff and were responsible.

Also, make sure you use the active voice ("I generated leads for the world famous Walrus Expo in Alaska") instead of passive voice ("Leads were generated by me and my team for the world famous Walrus Expo in Alaska."). It's a way to keep things concise.

5. Cut it out with the adverbs.

"I was enormously instrumental in my team's success." Eye roll. Cut out the extra words, and you'll be able to shine that much brighter. The words are getting in your way, and are often a cover-up for not knowing exactly what you want to say. Instead of more words, choose better words, and you won't find the need to make up for it.

6. Turn your experiences into skills.

When you're reading your cover letter back to yourself, see if all of your skills can translate into the domain in which you are applying. Think outside of the dodecahedron. Even your time spent vacationing in Bali can translate into skills. That vacation shows that you're able to appreciate different cultures and practices, for example. Every skill you have can be interpreted through a corporate lens.

7. Have impeccable grammar.

The only way for you to catch all of your mistakes is to print out your cover letter (yes, print it) and read it aloud to yourself or others. And while you're at it, send it around to a bunch of people to proofread it. Even a small typo is enough to get you on some employers' naughty lists. Take the extra precaution.

You're on your way to landing that job, if you keep these cover letter tips in mind. Go get 'em!

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What do you do when financial hardship hits and you can't make your monthly mortgage payments? This is a question on many homeowner's minds as nearly 17.8 million Americans are reportedly unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic.

When homeowners face financial hardship, such as the loss of a job, they often look to obtain a forbearance agreement from their lender. A forbearance happens when your lender grants you a temporary pause or reduction in monthly payments on your mortgage. Forbearance is not the same as payment forgiveness, in that you still have to pay the entire amount back by an agreed-upon time.

Mortgage lending institutions differ on their mortgage relief policies and qualifications; however, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act were signed into law in late March of this year to protect government-backed mortgages.

Federally backed mortgages include:

  • Fannie Mae
  • Freddie Mac
  • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • The US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)
  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Under the CARES Act, homeowners with a federally backed loan who either directly or indirectly suffer financial hardship due to coronavirus automatically qualify for mortgage forbearance.

Even if your mortgage is not secured by one of these agencies, you still can call and see if you qualify, as many lenders will still offer the option in order to avoid foreclosures.

Under the CARES act, homeowners can claim mortgage forbearance due to financial hardship from COVID-19 for up to 12 months without requiring any documentation or verification. During the forbearance period, mortgage lenders cannot charge late fees or penalties.

Additionally, as long as your mortgage is current at the time you claim forbearance, the lender is required to keep reporting your mortgage as paid current throughout the entire period.

At the end of the forbearance, the CARES act protects consumers from having to make a lump sum payment. Instead, you will be given a repayment plan from your provider. Since repayment options vary, it's important you ask your provider about all of your repayment options.

Possible Repayment Options:

You may be eligible for a loan modification at the end of your forbearance. With modification, the mortgage terms are changed in order to add payments that were missed during the forbearance onto the end of the loan, extending the term.

Another option that may work for some is a reduced payment option. This allows you to keep paying monthly payments at a reduced amount. The amount missed is usually added back into the monthly payments at the end of the forbearance.

For example:

Regular payment: $1000 per month

Reduced payment: $500 per month

Payment after forbearance period: $1500 (until caught up)

Balloon payments, or lump sum payments at the end of the forbearance, are prohibited under the CARES Act. However, mortgage lenders may require homeowners who are not protected under the CARES Act to make a balloon payment at the end, so again it is best to check first with your provider.

Mortgage forbearance should only be considered in true financial hardship. In other words, just because of the pandemic, you should not take a forbearance on your mortgage if you can still afford your payments. Likewise, if you are able to start making payments before the forbearance period is up, it's best to do so as soon as possible.

The Next Steps:

Before you get in touch with your mortgage servicer, save time by gathering as much documentation about the mortgage as you can. Also, be ready to list your income and monthly expenses. Due to an influx in calls, financial institutions are experiencing extremely long wait times right now, and having your information at the ready will help.

Have questions ready to ask. Here are some questions you should be asking:

  • What fees are associated with the forbearance?
  • What are all the repayment options available to you at the end of the forbearance?
  • Will you be charged interest during the forbearance period?

If your forbearance is approved, make sure to keep all documentation pertaining to it. Make sure to cancel any automatic payments to the mortgage during the forbearance period, and keep tabs on your credit report to make sure your lender doesn't report the loan as unpaid.


For more information on forbearance, contact your lender and discuss your options. If you need more assistance with understanding your options, you can contact a local agent for the housing counseling agency, or call their hotline at 1-800-569-4287.