When you’re looking for a new job, you’re largely focused on crafting a totally awesome resume. And organizing your job search. And making sure any professional samples are up-to-snuff. But how much thought have you given to cover letters?

At first glance, cover letters seem totally unnecessary – just a fluff-filled letter addressed to ‘Whom It May Concern.’ And we’re going to level with you. Some employers will gloss over your cover letter. Or ignore it entirely. But that’s not to say cover letters can’t make an impact. A lot of hiring managers actually care about cover letters. 45% of them will automatically reject an application if the cover letter is missing, and 40% of them are actively looking for applicants to include them. Those numbers don’t lie – without a decent cover letter, you’re going to be missing out on a lot of opportunities.

So how do you create a captivating cover letter? Fortunately for you, we’ve put together a quick guide to help you avoid the common mistakes and make your cover letters truly effective.

Tip 1: Don’t Go Generic

Cover letters should give insight into your motivations and why you’re the best fit for the role. It needs to be tailored to the opening to highlight how your skills and background align with the company’s needs. Using the same cover letter for every job won’t serve you. It’ll be too vague to be meaningful to any hiring manager and won’t compel them to look at your resume. Plus, if you write it fresh each time, you’ll avoid embarrassing mistakes like referring to the wrong company.

Hiring managers can tell when you’ve sent them the canned cover letter you’ve sent to everyone else. They can also tell when you’ve taken the time and effort to tailor it to their job. It sends the signal that you are genuinely interested in the opening and can tip the scales in your favor to reach the next stage of the hiring process.

And FYI: One or two sentences saying “I love [insert Company Name]’s mission” isn’t targeting. It’s pandering. Talk about the role and how you align with their mission instead. Or you can include details on what parts of their company culture mean the most to you. You’ll have to do a little research, but you’ll need that information for the interview anyways!

Tip 2: Keep it Short and Sweet

Here’s the good news: writing a specific cover letter for each job doesn’t mean writing a novel every time. You should get straight to the important stuff with your cover letter: who you are, what makes you different from other candidates, and why you’re the right fit for the role. You can do all this in 400 words or less. Emphasis on less.

And remember that your cover letter isn’t just a different type of resume. There’s no reason to list all your accomplishments or academic merits. Don’t simply repeat things that are already on your resume! Instead, focus on just one project or experience that relates to either the role. It’s also a great place to showcase how you work and elaborate on your personal style. Use your cover letter to intrigue the hiring manager enough to read your resume – after all, that’s how you’re going to land your interview.

Tip 3: Send A Cover Letter – Even If They Don’t Ask For One

You don’t get very many opportunities to talk directly to the hiring manager about why you’re the best person for the job. Especially so early in the hiring process! So write the damn cover letter. Even if they don’t specifically require one. Often, applications have a “any other documents you’d like to include” if they don’t ask for a cover letter separately. This is where you’ll add your letter.

Yes, it’s an extra step to write a cover letter. But if it’s the extra step that seals the deal for that interview? It’s definitely worth it.