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8 Tips to Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out

Chris Perry

In today’s job market, you’re undoubtedly contending with countless other job seekers each time you apply for a new opportunity. With so many qualified individuals all applying for the same position, it is increasingly challenging for you to stand out from the crowd and land that first interview.

Catch the attention of hiring managers with these eight clutter-cutting cover letter tips:

1. Keep It Short and Simple

A long cover letter with too much detail can take away from the content of your resume. In addition, length and fancy fonts and colors can be a turnoff to employers who have countless resumes and cover letters to review. Keep a hiring manager’s attention by making your cover letter short, business-professional and easy to read. A rule of thumb is to keep it to no more than one page, or four to five paragraphs.

2. Address It to the Right Person

Find out who the hiring manager is for this specific opportunity and address your cover letter to him or her personally. Many job seekers don’t do this and as a result, fail to demonstrate initiative and deep interest. They also miss an opportunity to establish an immediate and direct connection with the hiring manager.  Which address is more compelling: “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Mr. John Smith”? 
So how do you find the hiring manager’s name? If the job is posted on LinkedIn, the posting will often identify the hiring manager’s name. If the name is not provided, go the extra mile and call the company and ask for the name of the HR contact and/or hiring manager.
Once you have the person’s name, make sure to show respect by adding the Mr. or Ms. formality (e.g., “Dear Mr. John Smith” or “Dear Ms. Jane Doe”).

3.  Be Clear About Which Job You’re Applying For

Companies are often hiring for many positions at the same time. To ensure that your cover letter and resume make it into the right pile, refer to the specific job for which you’re applying in your cover letter. If the job posting mentioned a job code or number, include this in your reference too.

4.  Show That You’ve Done Your Research

If you’re truly interested in an opportunity, do your research to fully understand the position and company culture. Use specific examples from the job description to highlight how your strengths and experience will meet or exceed the position’s requirements. In addition, find a way to reference the company’s culture in your cover letter as one of the reasons you are a strong fit for the job and the organization. Most job seekers do not invest the time or effort to do this, so you’ll stand out from the crowd.

5. Build a Personal Connection

While your resume is generally professional in tone, your cover letter should be more personal and should demonstrate that: 1) you’re a great fit for the organization, and 2) there’s a sincere story behind your interest. 
Why do you want to work at this company? Your reason should never be “because I need a job.” While that need may be legitimate for some job seekers, you should only target companies in which you have sincere interest. In your cover letter, tell the hiring manager why the company means something to you and why you want to be a part of it. If possible, share a short personal anecdote or story. A good story should demonstrate your interest and the unique qualities you possess as a candidate.

6. Remember: It’s Not About You

Despite the fact that you are the job seeker and that you are applying for the job, this process isn’t about you. The hiring manager is looking for someone who can go above and beyond the responsibilities and requirements outlined in the job description. He or she ultimately needs to know what’s in it for the company. Make sure your cover letter focuses on the company and what you can do for them, whether it be generating revenue, cutting costs, driving efficiencies, developing new business, etc. Wear the hiring manager’s hat and speak to his or her company needs, and you will stand out from many other self-focused job seekers.

7.  Exemplify Your Strengths and Experience

Instead of telling hiring managers about yourself and your skill set with overused phrases, such as “team player,” “excellent communication skills” and “problem solver,” demonstrate your skills and experience with specific examples and results. Call out relevant leadership positions, honors and awards, and unique skill sets right at the beginning. Just as you might quantify your accomplishments within your resume bullet points, offer numbers to illustrate the results you achieved in your previous roles. This shows employers that you speak their language and understand what they need in an employee. It will help you catch and keep their attention.

8. Check Grammar and Spelling

While this may seem obvious, always proofread your cover letter for grammar and spelling. We all judge books by their covers, or in this case, job seekers by their cover letters. Even one typo in a four- to five paragraph cover letter makes you look less professional and less dedicated to the position in question.  Proofread carefully and consider having someone else read it as well to ensure perfection.

Chris Perry is a Gen-Y brand and marketing generator, brand marketing manager, personal branding expert and the founder of Career Rocketeer, MBA Highway and multiple other ventures.