Despite checklists, recruiter suggestions and urges from employment experts, the cover letter is one of the most overlooked elements of a job search.
It’s an awesome opportunity to give a company a glimpse into your personality and explain what you can bring to the table. If you can do it creatively, you can grab the attention of the hiring manager right away and secure your spot in the interview process.
Most cover letters are redundant, narcissistic or just plain boring. Applicants rarely disclose what they have to offer for the particular company, and more often will simply explain why the job would be great for them.
In order to really stand out in sea of cover letters, you need to demonstrate how you’re going to fit into the company culture and what kind of worker you are (aka the high-performing kind).
Here’s how to write a compelling cover letter:
- Be Yourself
Sure, we’ve heard it before: be genuine and hiring managers will see (and want to hire) who you really are. But there’s more to it than that. If you’re honest about struggles you’ve had or challenges you’ve faced and then conquered, you’ve got a much more interesting narrative. Nobody wants to read about another “perfect” candidate. They want to read about a real person, one who may be perfect for their company. So be yourself, tell your story.
- It must be tailored
This is a big one. In order to even make it into the next round, you need to tailor your cover letter for the company at which you’re applying. Not only does this mean addressing the letter to a specific person (start with a simple LinkedIn search to find a name), but you also need to be contextual. Far too often hiring managers read a bland, vague letter that could apply to any position, at any company. Make sure yours is unique. Tell them why you’re interested in their specific company, and how your skills apply to what they are trying to accomplish.
- Share your value as it is relevant to the job
Just as you want to tailor your cover letter to the company, you want to make sure you’re conveying your skills and expertise in a way that makes sense given the job at hand. Don’t just brag about your experience here, but give specific examples of where you think you could help. What problems can you help the company solve? What have you done in your past roles that prove you have what it takes to deliver what they need?
Now that we’ve established why a cover letter can make or break your application, it’s time to get creative! Try writing your story and make it interesting. You could also experiment with a unique approach, like a video instead of a letter. Whatever you do, just be sure to avoid addressing it with “To whom it may concern.”