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7 Tips for Writing a Cover Letter that Stands Out

When you’re applying for jobs, you have a lot to do – updating your resume, filling out applications, and writing a killer cover letter. I’ve never met anyone who looks forward to writing a cover letter, but these letters are an important step to landing your dream job at a small business.

They’re a great way to communicate your enthusiasm for the position and explain what you bring to the table.

When you’re writing a cover letter, it’s important that you write a unique one for every position you’re applying to. Since that might make the process even more daunting, try some these tips to help you write a cover letter that stands out and gets you the job.

Address the Hiring Manager

Nobody likes to read a letter that starts with, “To Whom It May Concern:”

That’s a huge sign that you don’t know who you’re talking to, you don’t care who you’re talking to, and you didn’t put much effort into finding out.

Try as hard as you can to find out the name of the hiring manager or the person in HR who will be reviewing resumes and job applications. You can look on the company’s website, ask the receptionist, or ask anyone you know who already works at the company. That way, you can start your letter, “Dear [Hiring Manager]:”

Communicate Your Enthusiasm

Why do you want this job? Sure, maybe you just need a steady paycheck because your wallet is getting a little too thin, or maybe you’re miserable at your current job and need a change.

But, why this job?

Explain how excited you are about this particular opportunity. If you’re applying for a purchasing coordinator position and your favorite class in college was Supply Chain Management, share why you loved the class and how it will help you in this role.

Connect with the Company

In your cover letter, make a personal connection with the company. If you know someone who works at the company already, make sure to mention it (name dropping isn’t always a bad thing).

If you don’t know anyone at the company, then explain why you connect with their mission statement. When the hiring manager reads what the company’s mission means to you, they’ll feel like you’re already part of the company culture.

Provide Examples

Too often people just regurgitate their resume in their cover letter. Don’t do that; the information on your resume is also probably on your job application. No hiring manager wants to read the same thing three times.

Instead, provide examples. If you listed a particular skill in your resume, share an example of how you’ve used that skill or how you will use that skill in this position.

Address Any Problems

Your cover letter is also a great place to address any potential problems with your resume. Maybe there’s a red flag on your resume that would normally cause the hiring manager to think twice about scheduling an interview with you; give them peace of mind by address the problem and explaining why it’s not really a problem.

One of the most common red flags in a resume is a gap between jobs. Use your cover letter to explain why you had that gap (Did you go back to school? Did you stay home with your kids for a few years?).

Adjust Your Tone

Not every cover letter has to be stiff and formal. It all depends on the company.

If the job post was casual, then feel free to be a little more casual in your letter. (For example, if the job post mentioned that the company participates in a sports league, mention that you’d be a great addition to their kickball team.)

Of course, if the job post is formal and traditional, then write a more formal cover letter.

Keep It Short

The person reading your cover letter, resume, and job application has a lot to do, so don’t give them more to do. So, don’t write a four-page essay explaining why you’re the right person for the job. Instead, keep your cover letter as short as possible – never longer than one page, but keeping it to two or three paragraphs should be plenty.