How to write a cover letter and stand out from the crowd

By Hannah Kingston

Monday October 5, 2020

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Wondering how to write a cover letter compelling enough to stand out from the crowd? Your cover letter will often be the first impression that you make on a potential employer, it truly is your time to shine so you should not rush this written introduction.

Writing a compelling cover letter is your opportunity to showcase why you are the best candidate for the role, including a brief yet engaging overview of your past experience and skill set, as well as how you would be a benefit an organisation.

Writing a cover letter takes time, research and personalization, a well-written cover letter can be the difference between your CV staying at the top of the pile or going in the bin, while that may sound harsh, it is the truth. There are a number of things you need to remember each and every time you craft a covering note – here are the top seven.

How to write a cover letter

  1. Introduce who you are in a concise yet powerful way
  2. Customize each and every cover letter you write
  3. Describe how the role is the right fit for you
  4. Describe how your qualifications and previous experience apply to the role but focus on your USP
  5. Keep your cover letter to one page
  6. Use buzzwords but don’t go into overdrive
  7. Proof-read what you have written

Introduce who you are in a concise yet powerful way

Introduce who you are in a concise yet powerful way, even if you have a short paragraph at the beginning of your CV that outlines who you are, the cover letter is often the first thing that an employer will look at.

State who you are and use power words to describe yourself. For example “My name is Jane Smith and I am passionate about working for Organization X because…” or “My name is John Doe and I am motivated to work for Organization X because…”

Keep your introduction succinct but do what you can to pitch yourself from the beginning. You have a limited amount of space so it may help to imagine that you are on a short elevator ride with this person. If you had 45 seconds, what would you say?

Customize each and every cover letter you write

Customization is paramount when it comes to writing a cover letter. Remember this is not a place to summarize your CV. The hiring manager wants to know why you specifically think you are the right candidate for this particular role in this particular organization, not an overview of everything you have done throughout your professional career.

Do the research and highlight the key reasons you could benefit the organization. Outline an example of one of the organization’s values and bring it back to you.

It might be time-consuming to research and personalize each cover letter you write but the extra effort will have a return on investment and if you truly are passionate about working for a particular organization, you will be keen to put the time in.

Describe how the role is the right fit for you

Showcasing how you see yourself slotting in easily helps the hiring manager to visualize you in that role. You can do this by highlighting some key elements of the job spec and how they relate to you.

For example, if the job spec outlines that being data-driven is essential, you could mention that you are KPI driven and are guided by data, provided this is accurate. Again, it’s important to imagine that you are speaking face to face with the hiring manager as opposed to simply outlining why you would like the job. You need to convince them why they need you!

Describe how your qualifications and previous experience apply to the role but focus on your USP

When it comes to forming your compelling case on why you are the best candidate for the role, you need to connect your previous qualifications and experiences to the role. Remember that hiring managers tend to get piles of applications.

A large number of other candidates may have similar qualifications and experience to you, so what makes you a better fit for the role? What is your USP (Unique Selling Point)?

If you can identify what makes you the perfect fit before even writing the cover letter, you are likely already ahead of the other job-hunters, so make sure that you identify and showcase why you are the best person for the role in the central paragraph of your cover letter.

Keep your cover letter to one page

Anything over one page is likely to be too much when it comes to your written elevator pitch unless the employer has specified that they would like a novella. If your cover letter is a page and a half, there is always room to edit it down. Do not send lengthy winding paragraphs that lack a punch line.

You want your cover letter to be well written but also well presented, the easier it is for a hiring manager to read your cover letter, the easier it is for them to shortlist you.

Keep it concise and to the point. Make sure that every sentence has a purpose.

Use buzzwords but don’t go into overdrive

A good exercise for making your cover letter pop is printing the role description that is being advertised and circling each adjective or skill that you think applies to you. This habit doesn’t just help you to write a cover letter, it also helps you to identify if you really are the right person for the role.

When you are writing your cover letter, come back to this document and highlight words to include in your cover letter, such as “strong communication skills” or “X years of experience”, by feeding the role requirements back to the hiring manager, you are connecting the dots for them, making their job easier and giving you a better chance of standing out among the crowd. Make sure that you don’t just copy and paste the role however or it could seem insincere.

Proof-read what you have written

This might seem obvious but it’s absolutely essential to proofread what you have written. If there are typos, repetition or long tangent like sentences, it will look like you have not put the effort that was due into your application, which doesn’t bode well for you putting the effort in when you get the job (in the hiring manager’s eyes).

Proofread your work and then proofread it again, then ask an objective person to read it and give you honest critical feedback.

Once you are sure that you this cover letter is as close to your best work as it can be, attach it to your application and hit send!

Do you have cover letter tips? Leave them in the comments below!

Now read: 10 simple yet effective ways to make your CV stand out

Now read: How to get a promotion in the public sector: 10 tips 

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