Pretend you're on Twitter
If your cover letter was a tweet, what would it say? Get right to the point without saying: "I'm applying for the ABC position at EFG Corporation that was posted on Simply Hired."
Writing this sentence on Twitter would be a total waste of characters. Instead, your cover letter should start with your pitch: "I'd be a great fit for the ABC position because XYZ."
Stop saying that you have "strong analytical skills" and instead analyze the job description and craft some very concise and specific statements demonstrating why you'd be perfect for the gig.
Lose your laundry lists
Why does your résumé include laundry lists of each daily task you performed for all the jobs you've ever had? If you were a part-time receptionist, anyone who looks at your résumé will know that you answered the phone. What made you good at this job? How did you stand out?
Candidates should always pitch themselves as achievers as opposed to doers. Make accomplishments the focal point of your resume and cover letter -- and cut out the rest.
Stop the résumé firing squad
We all know the drill: Modify a few résumé buzzwords, change the company name and job title on your cover letter and fire off multiple applications into cyberspace.
Instead, opt for a quality-over-quantity approach by applying to a few positions very well. Standing out requires more time than you may be spending right now.
Ditch the cover letter robot vibe
Write a cover letter the way you would write a blog post -- with a human voice.
Read your cover letter aloud. Now read a post on your favorite blog aloud. Notice a difference? Your cover letter is written in a robotic voice that you may think sounds professional. It's not.
Remove words like "strong communication skills" and "good phone etiquette" from your application and write a persuasive cover letter that has some action in it. Walk the walk.