Three Ways to Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out
Cover letters are tough! There truly isn't a “standard” cover letter anymore; a quick Google search will yield a wild variety of advice. Should you include a formal header or go straight to the greeting? Be bold and ask for a direct meeting within a certain time frame or offer to work around the interviewer's schedule?
Every company, expert, and consultant will tell you something different. Here’s a breakdown of our guiding principles for making a cover letter stand out from the pile:
Customize. Phrases like “at your company” or “for your business” scream "here's my generic form letter." Always personalize and customize for both the company and the position. I like to open with telling the company, flat out, why I want to work there. It shows interest, dedication, and that you’ve done your homework. Visit the company’s website and social media to better understand their vision, mission, and culture, and work to mimic that tone.
Research Key Words. Pull keywords from the job description or the industry and work them into your letter. A great place to echo some key words is by utilizing a bullet points section. Bullet points are not just for resumes! The reader’s eye gets drawn there, so maximize that opportunity by blending some key points about the position with things you do or have done. Be sure to blend, not copy and paste – a hiring manager, 9 times out of 10, also wrote the job description.
Show Some Personality. A cover letter is NOT a place to re-create your resume. While it’s likely you’ll have a few bits of information that will overlap with your resume, avoid the temptation to start listing our your work history or all your technical skills. Your cover letter is a chance to show warmth, depth, and interest. After you’re done writing, re-read the letter… Out loud. Make sure it flows, that there are no errors, and that you feel comfortable and confident in your message.
The bottom line in our book is making sure you match your overarching style with the company you’re applying for. If the company has been around for decades and is run by leaders with a more traditional background, then go for a formal look’n’feel. If the company is a remote start-up based out of Brooklyn and only gotten funding last year, punch it up with visuals and a more conversational tone. A cover letter (just like a resume, a networking profile, or any other personal document) is a personal branding tool: Meet your target audience where they are, and read between the lines to show them how you fit the picture.