Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out

Didn’t the dreaded cover letter go out with the horse and buggy, or at least with the VCR Does anyone even write them anymore?  Who needs them?

The answer is, you do. If it’s been a while since you’ve had to apply for a job, or if this is your first attempt delving into the job market, you might be inclined to dismiss writing a cover letter. And you’d be wrong…


A cover letter can sometimes make or break whether or not your résumé, even gets considered. Why? Because the cover letter, which is your introduction, gets scanned by the hiring manager within a couple of seconds, not minutes. If you can get him interested in you within the confines of that time period, you’ve got a shot at having him read your résumé with interest. Not having a cover letter pretty much takes you out of the running. And quite frankly, if he doesn’t like your cover letter, he might not even look at your résumé.

So what’s the trick to writing a good cover letter? First and foremost, don’t make it a summary of your résumé. Instead, use this opportunity to let your personality shine through. Remember, the résumé is an impersonal document, listing not much more than your previous employment history. The cover letter can, and should be, more personal- even conversational in tone.

Here are some simple suggestions to making your cover letter stand out.

► Keep it short and sweet. Three or four paragraphs at most. You don’t want to bore the hiring manager to death. Remember, he’s probably reading a hundred of these things for every job opening.

► The opening or salutation is more important than you think. No one wants to be called by the incorrect name. So if you know the name of the hiring manager, address the letter to him or her. and get it right. Say Dear Ms. Johnson, or Dear Mr. Smith. If you don’t know the name of the person, say To the Hiring Manager. Whatever you do, don’t try to be clever or cute by starting out your cover letter with something as informal as Hey There or Hello, which is something that happens too frequently if the cover letter is being sent in an email. The business world still runs like a business!

► The first paragraph should tell the hiring manager why you are writing. Did you learn about the job through networking or are you answering an ad? Give this information up front.

► The next paragraph or so should explain show the hiring manager why you are the person for the job. It’s perfectly acceptable to do this in a narrative or bullet points, as long as you get the information you want to convey across in a clear, concise way. Explain why you would be an asset to their company. Don’t make it all about you, as in I want, I hope, I need, or I did. Instead turn it around to indicate what you will do for the company to which you are applying. Read the job description and make your cover letter an answer to what they are looking for with your particular qualifications in mind.

► And finally, the last paragraph can be a standard paragraph where you promise to follow up in the near future. A simple Thank you for your time or Thank you for your consideration is fine. After that a Sincerely, and your name and email address.

Writing an excellent cover letter will not necessarily get you the job. But NOT writing a good cover letter will almost certainly guarantee that you won’t. So take a little time and do it right!