5 Tips for a Standout Cover Letter

Say goodbye to cookie-cutter cover letters.

Ah, the cover letter. It’s the source of many hours of frustration that just might push you from potential candidate to hired employee – as long as it’s good. Equally, a poorly-written cover letter can get your name tossed from the pile, never to be heard of again. While the success of a cover letter is ultimately based on the taste of the person reading it, there are some universal tips that can help anyone along.

Don’t copy and paste.

Every company has different qualifications they’re looking for in a potential employee, and reusing an old cover letter shows that you don’t care about this job very much. You also miss out on your only opportunity to show the employer how your skills could fit this specific job. It’s usually obvious when a candidate does this, and the hiring manager will easily move on to the next application. Don’t be this person! Having a rough template you use to write a cover letter isn’t a bad idea, but it’s really worth taking the time to rewrite it every time and tailor your language, mentioned skills, and the order of the sections to the specific job and role you’re applying for.

Start off strong.

Don’t always start the same way for every cover letter. Ideally your cover letter is like a story, and this is the beginning of the narrative that hooks the reader into wanting more. It shouldn’t be dramatic, but if you can make yourself sound good while making a cover letter actually enjoyable to read, you’re only going to help your case. Do not start with the boring universal statement “Hi my name is ____ and I’m applying for the ____ position.” It’s a waste of space and there’s no need to state what they already know.

Don’t ramble.

In reality you get maybe 30 seconds of someone’s time to decide if you’re the best fit for this job, so make it count and keep it concise. Your cover letter should be maximum one page, and you should split it into different sections/paragraphs to make for easier reading. Talk about the highlights of your career without repeating your resume. They’ve probably already looked over your resume, now they want to know more. They want to get a sense of who you are as a person, and how the experience laid out on your resume can apply to the specific role you’re applying for – don’t waste this opportunity!

Do your research.

Do as much research on the company as you can, especially if it’s your dream job. This not only helps for your potential future interview, but can show how interested you are straight away. If it is your dream job, don’t be afraid to tell them. Companies will appreciate it if you have a passion for the work they do – just be sure to not come off as a superfan and keep it professional. You can also use your research to bring up relevant details that connect to you and your skills. Let’s say you know all about the company’s recent social media campaign – you can compliment it and tie in your own experience running successful social media campaigns at your last job.

Proofread… and then proofread again.

If your writing and communication skills are important for the job (think consulting, sales, marketing, media, etc.) this cover letter is the key to showcase your abilities. Sloppy grammar mistakes or typos show the hiring manager that you don’t reread your work, or don’t care enough about the job application to go through and edit it. Having someone else read your work with fresh eyes would be a great way to ensure there aren’t any glaring mistakes. If you’re still in college you can utilize your career centers or professors by having them read it over and offer advice.

In the current job application process, your cover letter and resume are the two documents you get to represent you as a person, so make sure they’re doing the job. Getting an interview will make it easier to showcase your personality and aptitude for the position, but in order to get to that next step make sure your resume and cover letter are airtight.


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