Ten Different Ways to Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out in a Good Way
In today's competitive job market, it's more important than ever that you stand out from the crowd. One way to set yourself apart is to write a cover letter to accompany your resume that grabs the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager – in a good way – and makes them believe you'd be a perfect fit.
Especially if your cover letter is included in the body of an email, it will be one of the most carefully considered components of your application. Your cover letter therefore has the potential to make or break a first impression. Here are ten ways to get your cover letter noticed in a good way.
1. Direct your letter to a specific person or department.
Never start with "Dear hiring manager" or the dreaded "To Whom It May Concern." This impersonal and outdated approach gives the impression that you're applying to jobs wholesale. If the job ad doesn't specifically state who to address your letter to, use the department or team that the position would serve or call the office and ask. As long as the ad doesn't specifically prohibit calls, reaching out before applying demonstrates legitimate interest and gives your application some early exposure.
2. Tell them who you are and what you want.
Avoid generic phrases and vague terminology which indicate that you're likely sending a lazy, form letter. Your first paragraph should tell the hiring manager exactly what position you want and why your background and experience uniquely qualify you for that role. You don't want to sound too casual, but including this information in an unexpected or personal way will help set you apart.
3. Customize. Customize. Customize.
It's imperative that your cover letter refer directly to the job you're applying for and specifically to the duties it requires. Use the exact terminology that the company used in their ad when you describe your qualifications to perform the job requirements. When hiring managers read information that doesn't exactly align with what they're seeking, they are more likely to move on to other applications.
4. Research the company's services and products.
Go out of your way to understand the company's business model and goals, and use this information to further customize your cover letter. Including information on how you can support their broader mission is bound to impress hiring managers who will be seeking candidates who are not only qualified, but also demonstrate a deeper understanding of what the company promises its owners and customers.
5. Know what the position actually requires.
Use strong, results-driven action verbs to detail what you can and will achieve for that specific position. For a data entry position, for example, assert that you "enter data efficiently and correctly to ensure accurate reporting," rather than saying "I am good at entering data." Your clear understanding and mastery of both the job requirements and goals will go a long way toward getting you an interview.
6. Use strategic keywords.
Don't overdo it by including an indiscriminate list of the job requirements that you could just copy and paste into the letter, but definitely consider sprinkling keywords from the job description strategically throughout. Focus especially on referencing the requirements and qualifications that your experience most closely matches. This technique will emphasize that your skills align strongly with what the company wants and needs.
7. Show that you match their company culture.
Hiring managers want to know if you understand more than just the job. They want to find candidates who also support the company's vision, mission, and values – people who would make a good cultural fit. If you speak to their culture in your letter and explain how your character would support and advance the company as a whole, hiring managers will take notice.
8. Avoid overselling and overstatements.
While you want to sound confident in your cover letter, you don't want to come off appearing conceited, desperate, or hyperbolic. Do your best to sound clear, controlled, and as specific as possible about your qualifications, while remaining humble about the possibility of obtaining an interview.
9. Edit. Edit. Edit.
Get across all of the necessary information in as little space as possible. Editing to remove redundant statements and unnecessary words or phrases may take more time on your end, but it will make it easier for hiring managers to get all the information they need to decide if you'd be a good fit. If someone has to weed through a lot of words to find the relevant details, they will stop reading. Keep your cover letter well under one page – 300 words is a good standard.
10. Finish strong.
Don't think recruiters stop reading before they reach your salutation. If you keep your cover letter brief and loaded with relevant information, the people reading it will remain interested until the end. Be clear about what you want to happen next. Confirm that you'd appreciate the opportunity to further discuss your qualifications in an interview, and that you're available for a follow up by phone, email, or in person.
Finding a job is no easy feat. Get your foot in the door by using the tips above to compose a cover letter that helps you stand out from the crowd.
Written by Ashford University staff