A cover letter can be an important tool for a job seeker. Build a cover letter that grabs the attention of the right people can be challenging. Here are the keys to make a cover letter stand out for any job application.

Be Specific

The cover letter is a part of your first impression and can be a helpful way to set the tone for your message. If you are going to write a cover letter, then make sure that you incorporate the relevant, specific details on it. Here are some of the details to consider including in your next cover letter:

  • Job title and requisition number for the position you are pursuing
  • Relevant details from your resume that help your application
  • Skills that make you qualified for the role
  • Experience with the company, its industry, or its employees
  • Any other specific information that is unique to you and your experience which makes you a strong candidate

Focus on the Audience

A cover letter is not typically parsed by the applicant tracking system (ATS) used by employers. Instead, it will be viewed by a person (if at all). You should include some of the keywords on the cover letter if it comes directly from the job description or it otherwise helps your application. However, the real focus of your cover letter should be on your audience - the recruiter, the hiring manager, and anyone else that may be involved in the hiring process. This audience can vary in terms of what they want to see in the next candidate or on the materials submitted by the candidate. Make sure that you are addressing the items that most people will want to see on your cover letter to ensure that they can quickly see why they should interview you.

Stay on Brand

The cover letter should be consistent with the language and style of your resume. It should be able to stand on its own, but the cover letter should also be consistent with your overall message for the job application.  Here are ways that you can do that in your next cover letter:

  • Use the same font, header, and overall design of the resume
  • Include examples of achievements on your resume
  • Focus on the key concepts that make you different
  • Explain what you want and how that is relevant to what the organization is looking for when evaluating candidates
  • Connect skills, experiences, and results together whenever possible to create a strong message that lays the foundation for your interview.
  • Answer the question - why hire me?

Do Your Research (and use it!)

Smart candidates will use the cover letter as a way to showcase their skills. The easiest way to do that is to do your research and incorporate it on the cover letter. You don't need to inundate the recruiter with factoids on the cover letter. Instead, the best strategy is to incorporate relevant information that enhances your information. For example, if you are a sales professional, then use the cover letter as a pitch for yourself in the same way that you would pitch the company's products or services. This includes doing the legwork to get the meeting with the decision-makers like you would do with any other sales opportunity. Or, you could simply incorporate references to the people that you know at the organization and what they have said about the job/company.

However you decide to proceed, make sure that the research and how you use it is consistent with your overall message and value. Don't force the research in your letter and make sure that the cover letter stays focused on you and why you are a good fit for this role at this company.

A great cover letter is simple, to the point, and makes it clear why you are a good fit for the job. This is a professional piece that should connect the audience with you. Remember that actual people will skim the resume - not bots. So, make sure that the cover letter showcases your message and skills in a way that someone who doesn't know you will understand. A great cover letter is always focused on the reader and it uses the opportunity to create interest in the candidate. Keep your cover letter focused on your core message to the particular audience and you will start getting more interviews.


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