Impress Employers With a Standout Cover Letter

Many job seekers dismiss the cover letter as a mere formality and use it to simply summarize what the recruiter will see in the resume. But since the cover letter may be your only chance to showcase your personality and highlight things that aren’t apparent on your resume, this could be a serious mistake. Most resumes are informative but impersonal; the cover letter can provide a glimpse, albeit minor, of the person behind the resume.

Filling your cover letter with cliché-ridden, boilerplate language will only make an employer’s eyes glaze over before they read the resume. You want your letter to grab their interest and make them excited to read your resume, not put them to sleep before they get even get to it.

Use these cover letter tips to help you get noticed.

Be Human

Before you even write your first word remember, you are a human. And not just any human, you are you. So start acting like it in your cover letter. This doesn’t mean don’t be professional. It just means don’t be anonymous. Try not to get caught up in application or cover letter speak. Say what you need to say as naturally as if you were speaking to a person.

And while we’re on that topic, remember that you are speaking to a person and most people, even employers, like it when you speak to them as such. So it would behoove you to find out to whom you’re addressing the cover letter and keep them in mind when you’re writing it.

Start Strong

Most employers will scan your letter in less than five seconds and if you don’t grab their attention, they’re simply going to move on. Cookie cutter is not going to cut it. You need to speak directly and get straight to the point.

Here’s where doing some homework comes in handy. You need to know what the company wants and needs and how you’re best suited to provide it. You also need to communicate to an employer that you’d fit right in. And the best way to do this is by making a connection.

Rather than saying something like:

Dear Sir or Madam: I’m writing to apply for the position of marketing manager at Outside Magazine.

You could say something like:

Dear Joe:

Although my experience leading national campaigns for x, y and z has given me the skills for the job, those life-changing moments alone on a mountain trail or kayaking through the Alaskan fjords have given me the drive and passion.

Or Even;

Dear Josephine,

Years ago in college, your magazine inspired me to take my first rock climbing class at a local gym. Since then I’ve scaled the granite domes of Yosemite and the red rock canyons of Utah, all while learning the ins and outs of marketing.

Of course few people have the opportunity to boast of such grand feats as conquering Yosemite’s El Capitan. But you get the idea. Find a connection between your skills and the job that will stand out.

Convey Enthusiasm

If you feel as if writing the cover letter is basically just going through the motions, it’s going to read like it. Remember, this is your first impression. Do you want to come off as eager and energetic or listless and boring? Tap into what motivated you to apply for the job in the first place and use it to energize your letter.

Keep it Short

You’re not writing a personal essay for your college applications. This is a succinct statement on who you are, why you’re interested, and what makes you better for the job than other people. The letter should be no more than two or three paragraphs and definitely not more than a page. You want to be able to express your personal value and likability without sounding boastful, arrogant or verbose.

Customize

Pay close attention to the job description and what they’re looking for and make sure your cover letters are customized to address the needs of each company for which you apply.

It’s the Grammar, stoopid!

Remember in school when you’d work on solving a complex math problem and somewhere along the way you’d make a careless mistake that caused you to get the wrong answer? The same can be said about cover letters. Misspell one word or use improper grammar and no matter how correctly you executed all the other steps, you’re still wrong.

But the solution is simple. Check your work. Have a friend check your work. Because to an employer, hiring somebody who doesn’t pay attention to detail just don’t add up!

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Nicole Cavazos

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Nicole Cavazos is a Los Angeles based copywriter and blogger. As a former contributor to the ZipRecruiter blog, she covered the job market and wrote advice for job seekers.

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