How to Write a Cover Letter that Gets Noticed

by Kara Smith

Cover letters (now really cover “e-mails”) can give you an edge in your job application by providing a succinct and customized summary to the hiring manager about why would be a great fit for the job.

Think of this as the interview before the interview.

So, how do you write a cover letter that gets noticed?

CUSTOMIZE — CONNECT — CONCISE

A cover letter that is customized, concise, and creates a connection will give you an edge!

CUSTOMIZE:

If you are not customizing your cover letters, you are missing an opportunity to highlight why you would be a good fit for the position. Customized cover letters are better for your job search. This truly is the interview before the interview. Not only does this help you get noticed, your cover letter becomes your preparation for the next phase in the process: the phone interview.

The catch? A customized cover letter takes time and can feel like a big task.

Here are some tips to customize your cover letter:

  • Read the qualifications in the job description and select three qualifications that match your skills and experience. By selecting three specific experiences/skills and highlighting them in your cover letter, you are helping the reader understand why you would be a good fit for the position based on their qualifications. This is also your opportunity to showcase results. Rather than just saying ‘I have project management experience’, say ‘I have over 10 years of project management experience leading global teams. My most recent project resulted in …..’.
  • Brie Weiler Reynolds, FlexJobs Director of Content & Community, shares that you will have more success if you apply to five jobs with more personalized documents. Filter your job search to the positions that best match your experiences versus applying to more jobs with a generic message.
  • Create your own cover letter template, and then customize as needed for a particular job description. Once you do this a few times, it will become easier to customize your cover letters.

CONNECT:

A great way to customize your cover letter is to create a connection with the reader.

Here are some tips to create a connection:

  • Do you know someone who works at the company? Utilize LinkedIn to find out who you know at the company. If you have a connection, great! Find out about the company from your network, and share this connection in your cover letter. Don’t be afraid to extend your network to learn more about the position.
  • Why are you interested in this particular company? Do you have a personal connection with the company culture? Research the company website to understand their mission and values as a company. Find out about any awards the company received in recent years.

CONCISE:

Think about the recruiter or hiring manager reading your cover letter/e-mail. They may give your cover letter ten seconds. One common cover letter disaster is saying too much in the cover letter. The best cover letters are concise yet to the point. Limit the cover letter to three-four paragraphs, and aim for 300 words or less. Also, consider using 3–4 bullet points in your cover letter to highlight key points. This format technique can help the reader quickly identify why you would be a good match for the position.

Here are some tips to create a concise cover letter:

  • Give yourself 30 minutes to write a draft cover letter and don’t worry about being concise or customizing just yet. Then, use this draft as your starting point to craft your template.
  • The first paragraph can be 2–3 sentences on the position you are interested in, why you are writing and why are you interested in working at this company.
  • The second paragraph is your place to shine! Explain why you are a good fit for the role and customize your message based on the job description.
  • The third paragraph is good to share a summary on why you are interested in the company and share any connections. This is another great place to customize your message.
  • The final note in the cover letter is to summarize next steps. ‘I look forward to connecting to learn more about the position’ can be a simple way to close your letter.

Good luck!

Kara

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