How to Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out?

Jul 5, 2020

Imagine reading this fifty times a day.

“Dear Sir or Madam,

I’m writing to apply for the position of the assistant manager with your company.”

This is what recruiters and hiring managers do constantly. 

When a good position gets posted online, it receives about 200+ resumes and cover letters from job seekers. To find the best candidates, the employer needs to go through all of them. 

As you can imagine, a traditional cover letter that begins with “Dear Sir or Madam…” isn’t a good way to stand out. The way you write your cover letter is as important as the content, so you need to know how to make it more memorable. 

In this article, you’ll find the best tips on how to make that happen.

Writing a Memorable Cover Letter: The Essentials

Let me start by walking you through the essentials of writing a cover letter. These are the simplest but critical requirements to meet.

So, please keep in mind these points before writing:

  • keep it short. The ideal length of a cover letter is between 250 and 300 words. This is equivalent to one page of text, so plan your ideas and outline accordingly
  • state the position clearly. Some people who are new to the job-seeking process (especially graduates), use cover letter templates. Often, they write a generic introduction without the name of the position they applied to. So, please ensure that your recruiters don’t have to guess about anything
  • Find out the name of the person you are sending the cover letter to. Addressing the reader by name will add a personal touch, and help your cover letter to stand out.
  • include some numbers. It’s important to support your accomplishments with some specific, useful data. That’s why try to find some numbers before sitting down to write your cover letter
  • look for cover letter mentions in the job description. Some employees make sure that the applicants read job descriptions by making special requests

In this job description, for example, the recruiter wants applicants to specify salary requirements. 

Requests like these can be as simple as “write ‘I’ve read the description at the beginning of the cover letter,’” but they’re important for the employer. So, pay attention to descriptions and address them accordingly. 

Doing this will help you to make your cover letter short enough to read quickly. Also, you’ll avoid most of the silly mistakes that many graduates make. 

Now that we’re feeling more confident, let’s talk about specifics.

5 Tips How to Write a Cover Letter that Stands Out

typing cover letter
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

In this section, you’ll find tips on how to write a truly unique cover letter that gives you a great chance to stand out from the rest. 

1. Say No to Academic Writing Style

As a fresh graduate, you’re used to writing in the academic style. All those essays and research papers you’ve written throughout the student years had to follow a bunch of strict styles and tone requirements to get a nice grade.

For a recruiter, though, reading a cover letter in an academic style would be a weird experience. For one, they’ll know how it feels to a university professor who’s reading an essay. 

While you certainly should keep the tone of writing professional, there’s no need to use complex academic-style words. The only thing they’ll do is make the cover letter more complicated.

Besides, many employers use natural, simple language to write job descriptions. 

Source: LinkedIn

Try to mirror their style in your cover letter. In the above example, reading the text feels like having a conversation with the recruiter. 

In this particular case, writing the cover letter in a similar tone and style would be a good idea.

2. Start by Explaining Why You’re Passionate About The Job

This is one great way to make your cover letter stand out. 

Start with the name of the person you’re sending the cover letter to (if you know their name), or a simple “Hello,” and consider writing something like this. 

Example 1

“I’ve been writing a personal blog since 2012, so it felt right to turn this passion into a career.”

Example 2

“After trying five career assessments, having one-on-one career coaching sessions, and reading tons of advice on career planning, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m really good at one thing: writing web content.”

Example 3

“Among my friends, I’m known as the most empathetic one who can always listen and give advice. That’s true: I like to help people and have a knack for communication. This is why I think I would be a great fit for the position of customer support specialist.”

An introduction like this would be a nice change among those “Dear Sir or Madam” ones. The recruiter is more likely to be genuinely interested in reading more.

3. Tell Them You Have the Skills

The recruiter reading your cover letter is likely to have a list of skills and competencies by which they judge the applications. That’s why you should mention them in the first part of your letter. 

Before writing your letter, choose at least five skills and five competencies that are relevant to the role you’re applying for. Here’s how you can mention them.

“As a candidate, here’s how I can help your company:

  • Superb time management skills. In my internship at [company name], I’ve managed to complete [example KPIs] within [timeframe] because of the excellent time management skills.
  • Fast learning skills. I’m a passionate learner, eager to obtain new skills needed to find new growth ideas. Your position requires the best candidate to be willing to learn many new marketing techniques fast, so this is not a problem for me.”

Be sure to mention how a skill of competence is relevant to the position. 

4. Mention Your Degree and School

Now that you’ve grabbed their attention with how passionate you are about that job, it’s time to give them more reasons to consider you.

This means mentioning the info about your degree, college, internships, and other experiences.

Here’s an example.

“As a recent graduate of [University name], I have a significant background in copywriting. As a journalist major, I took part in multiple internships at marketing agencies, including a junior copywriter at [Company Name].”

As you can see, this example briefly mentions the degree and goes straight to the experience. This is a deliberate tactic because the cover letter must highlight the experience that the employer is looking for. 

Pro Tip! 

“Feel free to bold the most important words in the experience section,” says Aaron Kielce, a writing consultant at Trustmypaper. “It’ll help to draw the attention of the reader and allow them to get the essential info even without reading the entire document.” 

Read: The Smart Internship Guide: Everything you need to know about completing an internship while at University.

5. Describe an Impressive Achievement

The fact that you had multiple internships is great. But remember that there might be 200+ people like you with a similar experience. 

Since we’re here to help you stand out from the crowd, you need to describe the most important accomplishments you had during your studies or internships. 

Here are a couple of examples for inspiration.

“After my second month as an intern at [Company name], I was promoted to an assistant. That position had me perform sales analytics and compile weekly reports. This means I’m ready for a challenge, so the position of the sales manager might be it.”

“I’ve completed my first internship with a college football team while I was a sophomore. After the third year, I was hired as a second assistant to the offensive coordinator. Within just three weeks, I was promoted to the first assistant.”

While any impressive accomplishments are great, be sure to mention those related to the position you’re applying for. Mentioning the skills that led you to that achievement would also be a big plus.

Read: 6 Key Employability Skills for Graduates.

How to structure a cover letter

Employers will be interested to see how you structure your cover letter. They will be looking to see how you format the document and present information.

Whilst the general structure of your cover letters will be more or less the same, it’s important to tailor your cover letter for every role.

Within the first paragraph, outline:

  • Why you are writing
  • The job you are applying for
  • Where you saw the job advert

In the second paragraph, outline:

  • What you can bring to the role specifically
  • Why you are applying to their particular company

Standing Out Isn’t Easy

But it’s not impossible, either. Even though an average job receives 200+ applications, you can differentiate yourself from others. Writing a great cover letter is a perfect way to achieve that goal. 

Once again, in this article, we didn’t talk about the obvious things like listing your qualifications. They are critical but won’t help you stand out. If you add the motivation and passion for the role, you’ll increase the chance of impressing the person reading your cover letter.

Okay, we’re done here. Good luck with your applications! 

Guest post written by Daniela Mcvicker

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