Career Advice

5 Tips For A Better Cover Letter


Max knows he needs to draft a cover letter that is going to catch a hiring manager’s attention. He’s written a few cover letters in the past and is considering reusing them with some minor adjustments.

While Max thinks — and even some hiring managers say — a cover letter is a waste of time, plenty of employers still require a cover letter at the beginning of the hiring process.

Here are five ways you can make your cover letter stand out amongst the rest:

1. Mirror the language in the job posting.

One of the sneakiest ways of writing a cover letter that speaks to the hiring manager is by mirroring the language in the job posting. If the job description says they are looking for someone that can work on their own, Max should write in his cover letter that he works well without supervision.

By mentioning specific skills or traits that the job description lists, Max shows he took the time to draft a cover letter specifically for the company to which he is applying. It is also a way for him to directly address what the company is looking for and how he is best qualified for the job.

2. Honesty is the only policy.

Max feels including a few white lies in his cover letter aren’t going to be noticed. Embellishing in a cover letter is one way to set yourself up for letting down your future employer once you’ve been hired.

Max has played around in Photoshop but hasn’t really learned how to use all of its features. The job he is applying for asks for someone with Photoshop experience. Max feels like he should list that he’s experienced in Photoshop. However, the first time he is asked to edit a photo, his employer will know that he lied.

The best case scenario is that lying on a cover letter creates uncomfortable situations. Worst case scenario? Max loses his job because he is not the candidate they were looking for.

3. Your cover letter isn’t really about you.

In April 2014, the Society for Human Resources surveyed organizations on resumes, cover letters, and interviews and found the top three things that need to be included in a cover letter are:

  • How a candidate’s work experience meets the job requirements
  • How a candidate’s skills meets the job requirements
  • Why a candidate wants to work at the organization

When Max writes his cover letter, he will focus on his experience and how it fits with the company where he is applying. After doing some research, Max should only include experience and skills that relate directly to the job posting and nothing more.

It can be easy to get sucked into bragging about yourself to look your best. But in the end, the more irrelevant information you include in a cover letter, the more likely the reader will miss the important information.

4. Get out your handy-dandy thesaurus.

“Hi, I’m Max. I’m a detail-oriented, multi-tasking, natural born leader and I am perfect for your company.” Hiring managers are going to read the same basic cover letter repeatedly. Adding a little word variation is going to help Max stand out against other applicants.

Instead of describing himself as creative, Max could say he is imaginative. He’s inventive, not innovative. He’s not determined, he’s tenacious. These word variations at least show Max can think beyond what the average applicant is willing to do.

5. End with invitation for the next step.

The final thing Max should include in his cover letter is a subtle invitation for a follow-up. Hiring managers can be put-off by including a closing line such as, “I will call you next week to set-up my interview.”

No matter how qualified Max feels he is for a position, presuming he is guaranteed an interview is one way to ensure he doesn’t get the job. Max should close his cover letter with, “Thank you for your time. I would love the opportunity to meet with you in person to further discuss the position and my qualifications. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

By including the next step in the hiring process, Max is leaving the decision up to the reader to meet with him. Expressing his desire to move forward is one last way to make a good impression with the hiring manager.

What are the things you always include in your cover letter to make a great impression?