How to Write a Cover Letter That Stands Out

It’s official—you’ve identified the perfect job for the next step in your career. As a job seeker, you know that feeling of excitement when an opening at a company you respect that perfectly connects with your past experiences and future goals opens up. But despite being confident you are the ideal candidate for their team, it’s up to you to convince the hiring manager that you’re the one they should hire. This is where a cover letter comes in. Including a cover letter in your job application is an opportunity to personally introduce yourself to the hiring team. This is your chance to catch their eye, make a lasting impression, and entice them to dig deeper into your qualifications for the role. A cover letter should convince the hiring team to pay close attention to you as a candidate and your awesome resume. When it comes to landing your dream job, your cover letter is often the first place your future employer will look to decide if you’re the right candidate for their team. So, what’s the secret formula for nailing your cover letter? At VanderHouwen, we’ve spent over 20 years working with both job seekers and hiring managers. We know what companies are looking for during the hiring process and understand what makes a successful cover letter stand out amongst others. We’ve brought together our best advice to share what will make your cover letter stand out in a sea of candidates.

Do your research.

Before diving into writing your cover letter, do some in-depth research about the job you’re applying for, the team you will be working with, the company you’ll be employed by, and, if possible, the hiring manager who will be interviewing you. (Glassdoor and LinkedIn are great places to start!) Look into the company’s mission statement, products and services, and team environments to get insights into the type of work the company does and what it’s like to work there. Conducting detailed research will allow you to better understand the audience you are talking to, leverage the industry language that they’re familiar with, and demonstrate your level of interest in their open position.

Focus on specific and relevant skills.

A cover letter provides you with an opportunity to add additional details that don’t fit onto your resume. In your research, determine what the key requirements and priorities are for the position you want, and then use your cover letter to expand upon your own strengths that meet those requirements. Be specific and talk about how you will be able to deliver and accomplish in the role. Use examples from past experiences that highlight your successes and how they can provide value to your future team.

Tell your story.

Storytelling is a great way to captivate the hiring manager right off the bat and keep them engaged while reading your cover letter. Be descriptive and paint a clear picture that brings your background and specific experiences to life. Create meaningful connections between your accomplishments and the goals they’re looking to achieve. Consider what emotions you want the hiring manager to feel after reading your cover letter; your choice of words and stories can help define whether they see you as a visionary leader, as a hard-working team player, or as just another character in the bunch.

Keep it short and sweet.

Remember that hiring managers may be reading through hundreds of cover letters, so keep yours focused, short, and concise. What are the main points based on your experiences and qualifications that the hiring team should know after reviewing your cover letter? You should be carefully crafting a unique cover letter for each position you’re applying to, so make sure the most important information for this specific role is predominately highlighted and clearly communicated. And if possible, keep you cover letter 150 words or less.

Be real, authentic, and have fun.

Don’t be afraid to have fun and try something out of the ordinary. Think of something memorable to include. Try something creative. Be witty or funny. Adding a little unique flair, without going too over the top, is a one-of-a-kind way to stand out to the people that matter. When you’re authentic to who you are and what you believe, your personality will shine through in your words.

Finish strong.

End your letter by re-emphasizing why you would be a good fit. Be persuasive, but not pushy. Make sure you sign off with a clear call-to-action—ask about next steps and share your enthusiasm to move forward in the process. Express your interest to interview in your closing statements. (For example, “I look forward to the opportunity to speak with you about how I can contribute.”) And be sure to let them know the best way to contact you by including all of your information and helpful links (such as your LinkedIn profile or an online portfolio). Writing an attention-grabbing, personal, and relevant cover letter is the first step to landing the job of your dreams. Impress your future employer right away by doing your research, speaking their language, and showing how your past experiences can help them be successful in the future.

Now that you’ve crafted the perfect cover letter, how do you nail the initial phone screening? Read our tips on preparing for a phone interview.