Writing A Stand Out Cover Letter
A resume and cover letter work in tandem to tell an employer, and more specifically a hiring manager, why you’re worth a consideration for hire. Your resume informs on your skills and experience. Your cover letter is your opportunity to convince the hiring manager why you’re the best candidate for the job. It should make clear why your skills and experience are aligned with the requirements of the job, and how your accomplishments translate directly to meeting the company’s needs.
There are a lot of different approaches to writing cover letters, but all of them have one thing in common: be memorable. Your cover letter needs to not only tell the employer how your skills fit the position, but also why you are a better fit than other candidates. So let’s start from the top and work our way down the elements that work together to create a breakthrough cover letter.
First off, always try to address the cover letter to a specific person, be it the hiring manager or department head of the position you’re applying to. Starting with addresses like “To whom it may concern,” or “Dear sir or madam,” is impersonal and shows that you didn’t do the small amount of research needed to find out who you’re addressing.
The opener’s job is to make the hiring manager want to keep reading. Entice them. A good idea is to start by expressing your passion – your “why” for wanting to work in that field, at that company, or in that specific position. You don’t necessarily have to keep it short, but your opener certainly shouldn’t be a run-on sentence turned paragraph. To be memorable, often times it is best to keep it powerful and punchy. Another opening option is starting with professional attributes or accomplishments. This lets the hiring manager know you’re qualified off the bat, so you can spend the rest of the letter detailing how you’ll meet the company’s needs. Still another option is opening with humor, showing a bit of creativity. A short joke or anecdote relevant to the position or field can help you be memorable. It’s worth clarifying here that your opening line, and indeed entire cover letter, needs to be tailored to the company to which you’re applying. If it’s a creative agency, a joke will work. If it’s a law firm, accounting firm, or corporate business, opening with attributes and achievements works. Just be sure to do your research first.
The meat of your cover letter is the substance that will land you the job. In the letter’s body, you should include a bit of personal information, some relevant professional examples, and a distinguisher that sets you apart from other candidates. It’s your cover letter’s job to separate yourself from other candidates and show that you can meet the needs of the company. Don’t spend a lot of time listing what your resume already covers like education, skills, and work history – unless of course it applies directly to the position, or you’re complimenting it with an example.
Listing your skills is boring and repetitive of your resume. Instead, show your skills by providing examples of times when you’ve used your skills to accomplish something. You have to demonstrate your value. A good way to do this is to address the company’s needs directly. Start by identifying a problem the company is facing or a goal you think the company should meet. Say, for example, you’re applying for an account coordinator job at a business. You could write something like:
“As an account manager veteran, I know how difficult it can be to stay on schedule while handling multiple clients in different industries.”
This tells the hiring manager you know the problems the company faces because you’ve experienced them personally. Identifying a problem like this will do wonders for your credibility, but you also need to demonstrate that you can solve problems.
Convince the hiring manager that you are the solution to the problem you just exampled. This is where you can mention your work experience, education and technical skills. Make sure to keep your solution relevant, and as always, address the company’s needs.
“Having managed [number of] clients in [previous position or education] I can immediately jump in and create an efficient schedule for organizing your clients’ project timelines, and communicate those timelines to clients to address any of their additional needs.”
Providing a solution like this shows that you know how to meet the position requirements. The “any of their additional needs” bit is always smart to include because it shows that you are ambitious – always try to add unique additional value.
Closing and General Etiquette
In closing, you should definitely thank the hiring manager for their time in reading your cover letter. Keep this part short, polite, and simple. Don’t write a long, over-admonished thank you paragraph. Be professional. You should also demonstrate confidence, competence, and genuine interest in the company. Express that you are eager to learn more about the position duties (production needs, client engagement, marketing, etc.) and how you can help meet the company’s needs. Again, don’t overdo it here. Then simply sign off with a polite “Best,” or “Sincerely,” and your full name.
A few general tips not covered in the article so far, but are equally important:
- Write multiple drafts and EDIT each one carefully before sending your final cover letter to an employer
- Tailor your letter’s tone to match that of the company
- EDIT – no grammar mistakes or careless misspellings
- Keep your cover letter to one page
- Remember to be memorable
- For you future’s sake – EDIT