How to Write a Cover Letter That Stands Out

Wondering how to write a good cover letter? This guide lays it out on the table and even shares a cover letter template to help you write yours!
how to write a good cover letter

A standout cover letter can be just as crucial as a strong resume in today’s competitive job market. It’s your first, and sometimes only, chance to capture a potential employer’s attention. This guide provides top tips for crafting a cover letter that not only meets format standards but also shines with personalization and professionalism.

The Purpose of a Cover Letter

A cover letter is much more than a mere formality; it is a critical tool in your job application arsenal. It serves as your personal introduction, providing a glimpse into who you are beyond the bullet points of your resume. It’s here that you can craft a narrative that showcases not only your qualifications but also your passion and personality.

Parts of a Cover Letter

There are several parts of cover letters that each play an important role in telling your story. Consider this your cover letter writing checklist.

Personal Introduction and Narrative

Your cover letter is your chance to tell a story that your resume cannot. While a resume is structured to display your professional experiences and skills, a cover letter gives you the space to explain the context behind your experiences. It’s where you can articulate your journey, the challenges you’ve overcome, and the motivations that drive you professionally. This narrative helps the hiring manager see you as a well-rounded individual, not just a list of accomplishments.

Explaining Your Fit for the Role

The cover letter allows you to directly address why you are the ideal candidate for the position. Here, you can align your skills and experiences with the specific needs of the company and the role. This involves not just stating your qualifications but demonstrating how they make you a perfect fit. For instance, if the job requires someone with innovative problem-solving skills, you can detail a specific situation where you used innovation to solve a complex problem. This tailored approach shows that you understand what the role entails and that you’ve thought carefully about how you can contribute.

Showcasing Your Enthusiasm and Company Knowledge

In your cover letter, you can express your genuine enthusiasm for the role and the company. This is where researching the company’s culture, mission, and recent achievements pays off. By referencing these elements, you can show that your interest extends beyond the job description. This level of detail demonstrates to the employer that you’re not just looking for any job but that you’re specifically interested in being part of their organization.

Conveying Personality and Cultural Fit

Beyond skills and experiences, cultural fit is an important factor for employers. Your cover letter is a platform where you can convey aspects of your personality that make you a good fit for the company’s culture. Whether it’s your collaborative work style, your innovative thinking, or your commitment to certain values, the cover letter lets you express these traits in a way that a resume cannot.

Direct Communication with the Hiring Manager

Unlike a resume, which is often scanned by applicant tracking systems before it reaches human eyes, a cover letter is more likely to be read directly by the hiring manager. This direct line of communication is your opportunity to address the hiring manager personally. By using their name (if you know it) and speaking directly to the needs and goals of the company, you create a personal connection that can set your application apart.

How to Write a Good Cover Letter

Follow the tips below to craft a cover letter that sets you up for success. 

1. Research the Company and Position

Before you start writing, conduct thorough research about the company and its specific role. Understanding the company’s culture, values, and goals enables you to tailor your cover letter to resonate with the employer. Reference specific details about the company in your letter to show that you’ve done your homework.

2. Follow a Professional Format

While creativity can be an asset, adhering to a professional format is crucial. Your cover letter should include the following elements:

Header: Your cover letter heading should include contact information at the top, followed by the date, and then the employer’s contact details.

Salutation: If possible, address the letter to a specific person. Using “Dear [Name]” is more personal and impactful than “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Hiring Manager.”

Opening Paragraph: Start with a strong opening that grabs attention. Mention the job you’re applying for and how you learned about it.

Body Paragraphs: Here, detail your relevant skills and experiences. Link your background to the job requirements.

Closing Paragraph: Conclude by reiterating your interest in the position and expressing your desire for an interview.

Formal Closing: End with a professional closing such as “Sincerely” or “Best regards,” followed by your name.

3. Personalize Each Letter

Avoid the temptation of using a generic template for every job application. Tailor each one-page cover letter to the specific job ad and company. This demonstrates your genuine interest in the position and shows that you’ve taken the time to write a personalized cover letter.

4. Showcase Your Skills and Experiences

Your cover letter is an opportunity to highlight the skills and experiences that make you a great fit for the job. Use specific examples and achievements to demonstrate your abilities. If the job description emphasizes certain qualifications, be sure to address how you meet these requirements.

5. Keep It Concise and Focused

Aim for a concise, focused letter, ideally no longer than one page. Hiring managers often have limited time, so make every word count. Stick to the most relevant information and avoid repeating your resume.

6. Use a Positive and Professional Tone

Maintain a positive and professional tone throughout your letter. Even if you’re discussing a challenging situation or a career gap, focus on what you’ve learned and how it’s prepared you for this role.

7. Proofread and Edit

Grammatical errors or typos can be a significant turnoff for most hiring managers. Proofread your letter multiple times and consider having someone else review it as well. Pay attention to details like the company’s name and the hiring manager’s title to ensure they’re correct.

8. Follow Application Instructions

Always follow any specific instructions mentioned in the job listing. If the employer requests certain information or a particular format, ensure your cover letter complies.

Now that you understand how to write a cover letter, let’s take a look at an example cover letter. 

Sample Cover Letter Template

Here is a generic cover letter example to help guide your writing. The perfect cover letter for your situation may look completely different, but this template is a good place to start for most cover letters.

 

[Your Name]

[Your Address]

[City, State, Zip]

[Your Email]

[Your Phone Number]

[Date]

 

[Employer’s Name]

[Company Name]

[Company Address]

[City, State, Zip]

 

Dear [Hiring Manager’s Name],

I am writing to express my interest in the [Position Name] at [Company Name], as advertised on [where you found the job posting]. With [number of years] years of experience in [your field/industry], I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to [specific project or aspect of the company mentioned in the job description or your research].

In my previous role at [Your Previous Company], I [mention a key achievement or responsibility relevant to the new job]. This experience honed my skills in [specific skills relevant to the job], making me well-equipped to tackle the challenges at [Company Name].

[In this paragraph, provide another example of a relevant achievement or experience]. This aligns closely with the requirements of the [Position Name] at [Company Name], particularly in [reference a specific requirement of the job].

I am particularly drawn to [Company Name] because of [mention something specific about the company’s values, mission, projects, etc.]. I am eager to bring my expertise to your team and contribute to [specific project or goal of the company].

Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss how my skills and experiences align with the needs of your team. Please feel free to contact me at [your phone number] or [your email] to arrange an interview.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

 

Writing a great cover letter that stands out requires a balance of professionalism, personalization, and relevance to the job and company. By following these tips and using the sample template as a guide, you can craft a compelling cover letter that grabs the attention of hiring managers and sets you apart from other candidates. Continue honing your communication skills to grab the hiring manager’s attention in your cover letter. 

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