Cover Letters: how to make yours stand out from the crowd

  • cover letters
  • March 23, 2016
Ok, you’re applying for a new job. You have a flawless resume. The layout is clean, and your work experience is impressive and neatly presented. But unless you have a great cover letter, no one is going to see your great resume.

Consider this: for every open position, a recruiter or hiring manager is likely sifting through dozens, maybe even hundreds of applications. They don’t have the time or energy to read every cover letter, so frequently they will quickly skim before moving on. That means you only have a few seconds to grab their attention and entice them to turn the page to look at your resume.

So how do you create a letter that stands out? We’ve got you covered! Here are five simple ways you can improve your cover letter.

Grab attention from the start

Avoid generic opening lines, such as “My name is John Smith and I’m applying for the position of quality inspector.” Write something that will encourage the recruiter or hiring manager to keep reading.
 
For example, if someone in your network referred you for this position, don’t be afraid to drop names. Be sure to mention the personal connection in your first sentence, such as, “Jane Doe, vice president of corporate communications at company x, recently suggested that I apply for the position of quality inspector at company x.”
 
Another tactic is to focus on the job responsibilities and tie in a personal experience or accomplishment. For instance, a good opening sentence might succinctly state why you have the skills and experience to meet the job’s requirements and how you will contribute to the company.

  

In the opener, leave off statements that highlight how much you want the job and why it would be good for you. Employers want to talk to candidates who will help them … not who need help.

Don't repeat your resume

Your cover letter and resume are separate for a reason. The cover letter paints a picture of why you should be considered for the position. The resume details your background and experience to support your cover letter.

Therefore, you shouldn’t repeat all of the same information in both. Instead, select a few key attributes from the job description and elaborate on how a few specifics of your experience or background fit the job for which you are applying.
  

Remember, this is your sales pitch. Sell the hiring manager on how you will make a difference and why you are the best candidate for the position and organization.

Know your audience

Don’t go overboard, but put some of your personality and professional cleverness into your cover letter. However, you must understand your audience and the company culture, because that will dictate the language you should use in your letter. Take a cue from the job description. If it uses informal, fun language, then you can likely use the same type of language with success. If it is straightforward and highly professional, your cover letter should be so as well.
 
When in doubt, search the Internet for cover letter examples from job seekers in your field.

Keep it short and sweet

You aren’t writing an autobiography. Just like your resume, keep your cover letter as concise as possible. You should be able to fit everything on one page, divided into three paragraphs: the intro, the body and the conclusion. Keep in mind, the hiring manager is looking at multiple candidates, so if your cover letter looks too long, and simply has too many words, your potential future employer might pass on you without even reading a word.

Close with a bang

Have you ever read a book that has been spectacular most of the way through, but ended without any real conclusion? You want your cover letter to have a payoff similar to that of a great novel. Include one last attention-grabbing sentence explaining why you are the best candidate for the job.
  
Remember, a good cover letter has the same impact as a great first impression. Use these tips to make sure your letter stands out as the best in the pile.
 
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