Crafting a Cover Letter that Stands Out
You want to present your best self when applying for a job. However, if hundreds of people applying for a position, how can you make your cover letter stand out? Here are tips for creating an impressive cover letter.
Choose the Tone of the Letter
Depending on the job, the tone of your cover letter may shift. Understand the position you are applying for, and match the tone of your cover letter to the position. Some job listings are no-nonsense. Other postings are playful and joking. In some instances you can show a bit of personality, or, you may have to be professional and to the point. For example, if you’re applying for a job working at an ice cream store or as a teacher’s assistant, it might be appropriate to show that you’re fun and personable. However, if you are applying for a job as a receptionist at a lawyer’s office, you need to show that you are polite and professional.
Find a Contact Person
If you know who is running the interview process, address your letter to them. By writing a personalized letter, your submission will be more memorable and thoughtful. Try to throw in a personal anecdote if you have met the person before so they will remember you and make a connection to you.
However, you might not know who to address your cover letter to. First, look on the company website, or on LinkedIn. The job postings there may include the name of the person who is doing the hiring, or the name of the person who would be your supervisor.
If you still can’t find a person to address your cover letter to, you can say something like, “Dear [position you’re applying for] Hiring Team.” For example, “Dear Project Manager Hiring Team,” or “Dear Sales Associate Hiring Manager.” If you do this, make sure you make the salutation specific to the job you are applying for. This shows the person reading your cover letter that you care enough about the job to do your research.
Include a Referral
If you know someone at the company you are applying to, the cover letter would be an appropriate time to share who referred you to the job. Of course, you should always check with the person whose name you are dropping to make sure that they are comfortable being named. You will also want to confirm they will give you a positive reference.
Choose a Basic Font
Stick to the basic fonts such as Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial when you are writing a cover letter. Use 12 point font size, and black as your font color. The first thing potential employers will notice about your cover letter is the font, so make a good choice.
Many hiring committees will not take your cover letter seriously if you use what looks like a less professional font, such as Comic Sans or something with lots of curlicues and flourishes, or an unusual font color. If Comic Sans is your preferred font because you have dyslexia, consider using one of these other san-serif fonts: Arial, Verdana, Tahoma, Century Gothic, or Trebuchet. Those are considered more professional looking.
However, if the job posting or application instructions specify a font style and size to use, make sure you follow instructions!
Keep It Short and Simple
Some cover letters drag on far too long. If an employer is receiving thousands of resumes for a position, the last thing they want to do is read a long-winded cover letter. Say everything you need to say in a short, concise manner and leave it at that. Additionally, leave plenty of white space as it increases readability. A good length for a cover letter is one page, with three or four paragraphs.
Use Bullet Points
Similarly, another quick way to get your point across is to use bullet points. Not many people use bullet points in their cover letters which may be an effective way to stand out while sharing the most important and necessary details of your qualifications.
Keep the Same Format for Your Resume and Cover Letter
You should keep the same format with your resume and cover letter. This includes the same font type, size, and bolded sections. This will increase readability and cohesiveness in your overall application.
Match the Job with Your Qualifications
Mention that the skills you possess that make you a qualified applicant in your cover letter. If you can match the job requirements to your credentials, you can write about how great of a fit you are for the position. By doing this, the potential employer will be able to see right away why they should consider you for the position. Make it easy for them to see why you’re the best fit!
Highlight Relevant Resume Info Only
Focus on and share relevant information, education and experience in your cover letter. For example, if you are applying for a job writing for a large corporation, they will not care if you were a cashier at McDonald’s during high school.
If you are writing cover letters for jobs with different companies, make sure you customize each cover letter to the job you’re applying for. Don’t send the exact same cover letter to each company, but tweak it so the person reading it sees that you know and understand the company you’re applying to and the job you’re applying for.
Check for Grammatical Errors and Typos
An issue that can immediately take you out of the running for a position is grammatical errors and typos. It never hurts to run your cover letter through a spell check database or to have a second set of eyes look it over to catch something you missed. Make sure there are no red squiggles underneath anything! Also, double-check that you have spelled the name of the person you addressed the letter to and the name of the company correctly. Names are not usually in spell check databases, so the computer may not catch those typos. Spelling the hiring manager’s name or the company’s name wrong in your cover letter will send your application to the bottom of the pile.
Include an Email Signature
An email signature is a block of text at the end of your email. It usually includes a person’s name, contact information, job title (when it is their work email), and company website. In your own email signature, include the following: your name, phone number, email address, and your LinkedIn profile URL, if you have one. These items will give the employer ways to follow up with you and avenues to look into your qualifications.
You can set up an email signature by going to the “settings” in your email (you can Google “email signature” and your email provider for instructions). Or, you can type this information in yourself at the bottom of your email.
Email it to Yourself
The last thing you should do is email your cover letter to yourself to make sure the formatting is correct. Sometimes how things look on your screen may not be how they appear on another screen. Check the formatting of your letter on a computer, a tablet, and a phone since these items are used to respond to job applicants.
Preparing the perfect cover letter is not an easy task but if you follow this checklist, you may have a chance of landing the job of your dreams. Presenting yourself in the best light will give you a better chance of securing an interview. A cover letter is the first thing potential employers see and it is always best to make a great first impression.