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How to Beat Writer's Block When Writing Cover Letters

3 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Cover Letters

If you get writer's block when trying to write a cover letter, perhaps you haven’t thought through your career goals. Cover letters are tough to write unless you know what you want in a job and career. Even when you’re certain of your direction, you may still be stuck at square one.

One cure writers use to break through writer’s block is called freewriting. Writing becomes a problem for some people when they try to start at the beginning. When you freewrite, take about 15 minutes to randomly scratch out your thoughts on paper or pound away at your computer keyboard. Don't slow down to organize or edit. After you’ve pushed your pen for the full 15 minutes, read over your work. Mark ideas, words, and phrases that you can use in your cover letter. You may wish to freewrite several times until your brain warms up.

Another technique to stop staring at a blank page is to answer the following questions. Find a friend to help you brainstorm, and make notes as you go:

  • Who do you picture reading your letter? What is that person wearing? In what environment is that person reading your letter?

  • Which qualities do you want to emphasize in your letter?

  • Why will your letter be interesting and important to the reader?

  • What benefits do you bring to the reader’s company?

  • What special skills or talents set you apart from the competition?

  • Why do you think your employability (person-specific) skills will help you fit into a new company?

  • How are your previous jobs similar to those you now seek? If the jobs are different, what skills are the same and transferable?

  • What do you like about the company to which you are applying?

Here’s a tip for people who speak better than they write. Recruit a friend to engage in a recorded discussion about the target job. Tell the friend why you are a hot prospect to fill it. From that recording may come sound bites that lift your letter out of humdrum status.

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