If you've never written a cover letter, or struggled when you've tried to write one, I wouldn't be surprised if you've searched for cover letter samples to copy and use as your own.
This is a common approach, but NEWS FLASH: You're not the only one who thought it'd be a good idea. In other words, you risk handing in a cover letter the employer has seen before.
I'm not saying you should never borrow from someone else's cover letter; I'm saying you shouldn't copy a sample letter verbatim. Here's an example of an introduction that I took out of a book, word-for-word:
It was with great interest that I read about your opening for a _________, as my background and abilities appear to meet your requirements for this position. Please allow me to explain my skills and how they can benefit your organization.
It seems pretty generic and easy to copy, right? That's because it is. It's an introduction that every hiring manager has likely read dozens of times. So how do you customize it?
Easy. You change the order of elements and play around with the wording. Here's the same introduction with a customized twist:
Dear Mr. Smith:
I found your opening for a Security Guard on jobfindersite.com and am very excited to see how well my background fits your requirements for the job. I am especially skilled at firearm safety and non-confrontational negotiation techniques, which I know your company places a great deal of value on. Allow me to further explain my qualifications.
See what I did there? After rearranging things and replacing certain words, I added a line that wasn't in the original copy ("I am especially skilled at..."), which further sets this cover letter apart.
There's nothing wrong with drawing your inspiration from someone else's well-written cover letter. (Heck, we provide sample text in Pongo's Cover Letter Builder too!) Just be sure you use it only as a guide for writing a personalized cover letter that shows a little of your style and addresses the specific job and employer.
Have you ever used this approach in your own cover letters?