12 ways to write a cover letter that stands out

People generally don’t like writing CVs. That’s one of the reasons I have a job. And however much they dislike writing a CV, they like the idea of writing a cover letter even less. So, here are 12 tips to inspire you.

1. Take the time to find out who the hiring manager is. What’s the name of the person to whom you’ll be writing? A quick email or phone call to find out the recruiter’s name doesn’t cost much and addressing Mrs Taylor as opposed to Dear Sir/Madam or the potentially disrespectful ‘To Whom It May Concern’ can make all the difference. Most people don’t bother and that will already set you apart which is what you want to be doing 

2. Include a line about why you’re writing the cover letter. What role are you applying for? How did you find out about the vacancy?

3. Make it personal. A CV is a professional summary that is written in third-person, whereas a well-crafted cover letter written in first-person is a more personal reflection to highlight insights into who you are and what you can offer. Don’t just copy your CV content. By all means, use some of the content from your CV, but make it more personal in your cover letter. Use words and phrases that are more vibrant

4. Use the job ad. Although they are different in styles, one fundamental similarity between a CV and a cover letter is that you need to tailor them both to the role that you are applying for. Use the same words and phrases from the targeted job ad for keyword optimisation. Explain in a concise and engaging way how your skills and experience match the job requirements

5. Keep it achievement-focused as with your CV. Again, don’t just list things you have done. What have you achieved for your businesses? Make it as quantifiable as you can. What did you increase/improve? By how much? It isn’t easy to quantify achievements in some roles, so in those cases, you may not be able to include a number, but you can focus on what changed such as increasing team morale. Demonstrate how you have solved problems for your previous employers or clients. Look on the new company website. What do you know about them? What problem could you solve for them? Tell them how

6. Include your proudest achievements. Another way to make your cover letter more personal is to highlight one or two of your proudest professional achievements. Talk about what you achieved and more importantly, why it’s important to you as this will give the recruiter an insight into your motivations and potential cultural fit 

7. Write in an appropriate tone for the company that you are addressing. Writing to a small, independent design company would be different to writing to a multinational investment bank. But again, balance it with your own professional personality as it still needs to sound like you 

8. Do your research. In addition to finding the name of the person you are addressing (you have read point 1, haven’t you?), what is the company’s mission statement, vision, culture, most recent success and challenges? Use the company website or contacts you may have. Incorporating elements of these will set you apart from the many who simply send a regular application

9. Stand out as much as you can. And for the right reasons. Use the same design header for your documents to maintain your personal brand. It demonstrates professionalism, attention to detail, gets you noticed and makes it easier for the recruiter. Follow the conventions and requirements of writing a cover letter, but also consider the company culture and reputation. Again, use the company website. Maybe use their brand colours on your CV and cover letter design. Use as many word variations as possible, not just the standard CV/job-search vocabulary

10. Include a call to action. What do you want them to do after they have read your cover letter? How can they contact you? Although you will have included your contact details at the top of the document, also add them at the end. For example, “I would welcome the opportunity to discuss my application with you. Please contact me on 123 456 789 or emailaddress@zmail.com (including a hyperlink) to arrange an interview at your earliest convenience.”

11. Sign off with ‘Yours sincerely’ assuming you have addressed it to a person, which you have of course done because you have done your research and read point 1

12. Be succinct. Keep it to one page. Maximum

If you would like help putting together your cover letter and CV, have a look at our other blogposts or get in touch with us at Career & CV Therapy. 

Email louise@careertherapy.co.uk / LinkedIn

Email jason@careertherapy.co.uk / LinkedIn

Feature photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Other photo by Eunice De Guzman on Unsplash

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