Are you applying for jobs and not sure how to craft a stand-out cover letter? You’re not alone. Cover letters can be the most intimidating part of the job application process, but they can also be extremely effective if done right.
Whether or not you think an employer will read your cover letter, you’ll want to make sure it showcases you at your very best and demonstrates your passion for the company to which you’re applying. The cover letter should leave its reader with the sense that you, specifically, will be an asset to their company.
That said, here are seven pieces of advice to help you write a cover letter that is sure to stand out.
Tailor your cover letter to a specific job.
Though the application process can get tedious, you should write a fresh cover letter for each new job to which you apply.
This means tailoring the cover letter to suit the position, the voice of the company, and the experiences you have that apply to the position’s job requirements.
You’d be surprised how many employers get cover letters that seem like robo-copies of the same letter sent to tens of different companies. Some applicants even accidentally write the wrong company name in a cover letter because they’ve applied to so many jobs with the same general format.
Do yourself a favor and go through each cover letter like it’s a new opportunity. That way, you’ll put in the time and effort to make the letter specific to each company and position and stand out in the process.
Address the hiring manager personally.
A sure way to avoid writing the wrong company name in your cover letter is to actually address the hiring manager personally in your letter.
This also shows an extra level of attention to detail on your part and will allow the hiring manager to think of you more as a potential employee, rather than just another name in a long list of resumes and cover letters.
Gone are the days of the “To Whom It May Concern” generalities!
You can get as specific as addressing the hiring manager more formally, using Mr. or Ms. with their last name, or more informally, by simply addressing them by first name.
Which option you choose should depend on the company’s level of formality. Keep in mind, if you aren’t sure which gender pronoun the hiring manager uses, avoid the Mr. or Ms. title and use generic pronouns if needed.
Write a captivating opener.
Since the hiring manager already knows your name from your resume, you have the opportunity to skip the boring introductions and offer a really compelling opening line that will hook your reader instantly while also providing some information about your passion for the role.
If you have any mutual connections with the hiring manager, you might open with that. Or, you can make a statement about your beliefs, bring up a relevant piece of news, or highlight your most impressive accomplishment.
You might even open with a short anecdote or narrative-style sentence, as long as your narrative style doesn’t get too long-winded.
For examples of some compelling opening sentences and more tips on the cover letter opener, check out this article from Indeed.
Get creative! But make sure your opening highlights a positive aspect of you as an applicant and maintains the proper tone for the company to which you’re applying.
Shine light on your past accomplishments.
Instead of just listing your accomplishments in your cover letter, offer some insight into those success stories. For example, you can include a description of specific skills and value you brought to past positions or even a quick anecdote or two to help the hiring manager better understand the lists of roles on your resume.
The way you elaborate on your past positions and accomplishments will depend on the type of role you’re hoping to get. For example, if you’re applying for a data-driven role, you could highlight actual statistics in numbers to demonstrate the value you brought and the ways you tangibly improved your past company. If you’re applying for a more creative role, a story will likely be more fitting.
Don’t use this as an opportunity to brag, but rather utilize this chance to share with the hiring team the unique value you will bring to the company based on your past roles and achievements.
Keep your letter succinct.
Though you want the hiring manager to understand what you can bring to the company, you should always keep your cover letter succinct. Unless you know of some specific requirements that say otherwise for a certain role, never write a cover letter longer than a page, and likely a half page is best.
If your cover letter is too long, hiring managers will likely just skim it, and they might miss some important information. Or they might just skip reading it all together.
If your cover letter is short and to the point, the hiring manager, who is likely busy reading many cover letters in search of the right candidate, will already be thankful for you and your respect for their time.
Use keywords from the job description.
In case the hiring manager doesn’t read your cover letter, always use keywords from the job description. Some larger companies and corporations get so many applicants that they have to use keyword-finding software to filter out applicants who don’t fit the job description.
So, by making sure you use keywords the company has already chosen for the job description, you at least ensure that your resume and cover letter make it past the initial scan, assuming you are qualified for the job.
Moreover, using keywords from the job description demonstrates your attention to detail and willingness to take on a company’s goals as your own. By understanding what the company wants from you and bringing that to your cover letter, you already show that you’re a very interested and cognizant candidate.
Finally, proofread, proofread again, and then have a friend proofread for you.
The worst way to stand out is to have typos or grammatical errors in your cover letter. The easiest way to avoid that is to proofread your cover letter as many times as you need to ensure that it is error free.
If you do have a professional friend read it, ask them for their first response to the letter, based on instinct. If they aren’t intrigued, you might have more revising to do.