Industry insights for job seekers and employers.

Using Your Cover Letter to Stand Out from the Competition

You’ve spent hours carefully putting together your résumé for a potential employer, managing to make it simultaneously concise yet detailed. Yet before a hiring manager even gets to that, they see the equally important cover letter. This piece of writing should receive just as much time and care as the résumé : This is the first introduction someone gets to you. And as the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Debate still rages as to whether the cover letter is actually thoroughly read or glossed over, so most agree to keep it less than a page in order to keep the hiring manager’s attention. When putting it together, come up with a few salient points to stand out. But how do you know which are, indeed, salient? A few suggestions on what to put in (keeping in mind that different fields and markets may look for different qualities):

  • Mention of a mutual contact in the opening sentence — this immediately separates you from other candidates
  • Describe your work experience in one to two sentences near the beginning of the letter
  • Show, don’t tell: Illustrate examples of your qualifications with specifics that demonstrate how you can help the company
  • Connect the job to a particular personal incident or life experience
  • End the letter by stating how and when you will be in touch (and give your basic email and phone number so they can easily contact you as well)

The main conflict in writing cover letters has to do with tone. Most experts agree that you need to keep it professional and formal, even when writing a cover letter as an email, as happens more often nowadays. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean stiff, nor does it mean that you shouldn’t be yourself. Your résumé presents your skills and experience; your cover letter presents you as a person if you craft it correctly. This is the chance to tell that story mentioned above that relates your life and skills to the potential position; how personal and informal you make it depends on the company.

To that end, make sure you know the company — study their website and other pertinent social media they use to get a feel for company culture and the way they do things. Add a sentence or two about why you want to work for this particular place: What drew you? This demonstrates to a hiring manager that you took the time and interest to learn about the company and how you will help them benefit. This also raises the important point that you need to tailor each cover letter, although you can certainly use parts from one letter in another; just keep away from the generic letter.

Remember that your cover letter is an important first step in showing a hiring manager who you are and why they should want you. Be clear, be concise, and be yourself.

If you have questions about your resume, contact our team of professional recruiters today! With over 121 combined years of experience in the staffing industry, we have the team in place to help you with your job search. Contact us today!

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