In today’s competitive job market, having a strong resume sometimes isn’t enough to get the job you want. To grab the attention of employers and show them why you’re the best person for the job, you need a killer cover letter that communicates your passion and skills.
Here are 8 tips with examples to help you write a killer cover letter that sets you apart from the competition:
1. Write a compelling introduction
Your cover letter’s introduction is your chance to pique a hiring manager’s interest to learn more about what you can contribute to the company.
As such, your cover letter introduction should give a quick overview of your past accomplishments, while conveying your interest in the position.
Here’s a list of what to include in your introduction paragraph:
- Title of the position you are applying for
- Name of the company you are applying to
- A short summary of your past experience and why it makes you the perfect candidate
- A statement of your intention to apply
Here’s one example:
“I am writing to apply for the position of Restaurant Manager at Duval’s. Throughout my eight year long career in the food and beverage industry, I have developed a strong commercial sense and fine tuned my interpersonal skills. I hope to apply these skills to further contribute to Duval’s reputation as a first class establishment.”
The candidate states clearly which position they’re applying for, and gives examples showing why they would be a good fit. Their introduction is succinct but immediately conveys that they have the experience required for a managerial position.
2. Show that you can help the company achieve its goals
To really make yourself stand out, show employers that you’ve done your research and understand the company’s vision. Use your cover letter to demonstrate how you can help them achieve their goals.
Whether the company is intending to expand its services and products or is eyeing new markets, make sure you portray yourself as an essential part of accomplishing those goals.
Here is an example from an applicant with international networking experience applying for a US-based company looking to expand into Asia:
“As a Business Development Representative at Quintrix, I went on yearly business trips to connect with current clients in Japan and South Korea as well as seek out new business opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region. As a result of my team’s networking efforts, we were able to expand our reach into India. I’m confident my experience in international business would be a benefit towards ABCorp’s goal of establishing operations in the Asia-Pacific.”
This cover letter introduction works because the candidate immediately shows that they’ve been successful in establishing new international business relationships, and then connects that to the current business goals of the company they’re applying to work with.
3. Demonstrate that you’re a perfect culture fit
Besides having the necessary skills and experience to be able to excel in the position, hiring managers also want to know if you’ll be a good fit at the company.
Read the job description carefully, check out the company’s website, and have a look at their social media. Is the language used professional and straightforward, or more relaxed? Adapt the tone of your cover letter depending on what you find out through your research.
For example, you could:
- Mimic the tone they use
- Display an interest in activities organized by the company outside of work
- Adjust your cover letter design to match the style of the company website
- Find out if the culture is more collaborative or competitive and highlight relevant traits
4. Don’t just repeat what’s on your resume
A common mistake applicants make when writing cover letters is to simply restate the information on their resumes. The best cover letter complements your resume by adding context and personality to your application, not just repeats your qualifications.
However, that doesn’t mean you should never talk about the information listed on your resume. In fact, your cover letter is the perfect chance to show what you’ve learned from the experiences mentioned on your resume.
Below is an example of a typical bullet point found in the experience section of a resume:
“Responded to an average of 40 customer inquiries daily via phone and email”
And here is how to expand upon it to make it suitable for a cover letter:
“Communicating with an average of 40 customers on a daily basis taught me to think on my feet and to adjust my language depending on each customer’s level of computer literacy. It also allowed me to put my conflict resolution skills into practice.”
5. Make your cover letter unique
While it may be tempting to send out the same cover letter to multiple companies, hiring managers can tell which candidates have put in the extra effort to tailor theirs to the job posting and which candidates have sent out a generic cover letter.
A killer cover letter provides insight into your reasons for applying to that job specifically, showcases your skills, and highlights a bit of your personality.
Here are some examples demonstrating how to write an attention-grabbing cover letter.
- Include a short anecdote that explains why you are interested in this particular company
- Talk about how your values align with the company’s mission statement
- Demonstrate that you posses the most highly sought after skills listed in the job description
If you are applying for a position that requires imagination and creativity or if the company has a casual office culture, feel free to show some originality and humor in your cover letter as well.
6. Highlight specific accomplishments (with hard numbers)
Your killer cover letter should bring attention to a few of your most impressive relevant accomplishments from your career.
If the hiring manager thinks you might be a good candidate, you’ll get the opportunity to go over the rest of your work experience in detail at an interview.
To increase the impact of your cover letter, make sure to quantify your achievements whenever possible. Here are three examples of how to use hard numbers to your advantage:
- “Under my leadership, the team surpassed sales targets by 10% for five consecutive months”
- “On average, 18 out of 20 daily clients rated their experience as 5 out of 5 stars ”
- “After I joined as an English teacher at Westview High School, 60% of my students raised their grades by a full grade or more”
You can also list particularly important accomplishments in the form of bullet points in between your body paragraphs to make them stand out.
7. End with a killer call-to-action
The last step in writing a killer cover letter is writing a memorable closing paragraph.
This is your last chance to leave a lasting impression on the hiring manager, so make it count by reminding them why they should hire you over every other candidate.
A killer cover letter closing paragraph should have:
- A short summary of the skills that would make you an asset to the company
- A “thank you” to the hiring manager who took the time to read your cover letter
- A request for an interview
Here are two great examples of how to end a cover letter:
8. Proofread it before you send it off
Spelling mistakes and odd phrasings can make you appear unprofessional and hurt your chances of landing a job. Spell checkers are helpful tools, but they’re not always reliable. Set aside time to proofread everything to ensure you catch any errors.
When proofreading, be on the lookout for these mistakes:
- Spelling and grammar mistakes
- Repetitive language
- Irrelevant information
- Missing information
- Incorrect names
- Inconsistent fonts, spacing and margins
It can be difficult to spot your own mistakes. If possible, enlist a friend or family member to read through your cover letter as an extra precaution.