Let me guess – you hate writing cover letters. Don’t we all?

The reason that we all hate writing cover letters is mostly because they are boring, and we generally don’t know what to say. Many job seekers even believe in the myth that their resume will catch the hiring manager’s attention, despite how terrible their cover letter is.

Regardless of your reasoning, one fact remains – your cover letter is your first chance to grab the hiring manager’s attention. If you don’t set yourself apart from the pack and pique the reader’s interest, you can kiss the shortlist goodbye.

Now before I go any further I must state that some hiring managers actually prefer the professional version of a cover letter that follows the same outline and wording as hundreds of other cover letters that they will read – but if you are looking for ways to veer away from the standards, then the tips below are definitely for you.

Address the Reader

Seems simple enough, but a majority of job seekers forget how important this detail is. If your cover letter begins with “To Whom It May Concern”, you have already made your first mistake. You should do your absolute best to include the hiring manager’s name at the top of your resume.

If you’re lucky, the name will be included on the job posting, or in the email address that you are submitting to. The second step would be to check LinkedIn to locate the individual responsible for hiring for that particular position.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to call the company and ask for the hiring manager’s name. If all of your attempts fail, the back-up option is to include “Dear Hiring Manager”, but a name just makes it so much better.

Interesting Introduction

Remember your high school English class when your teacher explained how to write a great essay, and one of the first tips was to have an interesting opening sentence? Well, that rule is true for almost everything you’ll ever write, at any age, for any purpose. The introductory sentence to your cover letter needs to be interesting.

A great way to catch the reader’s interest is to begin your cover letter with an anecdote – a professional anecdote.

If you’ve experienced a career highlight or turning point, then tell the hiring manager about it. You want the hiring manager to read this anecdote and think “wow, this person accomplished that under those circumstances… that’s pretty cool.”

Now you’ve caught their attention, impressed them, and seriously increased your chances of getting a callback.

Use Bullet Points

The traditional style of cover letters focuses on paragraphs, but the modern style focuses on bullet points. After introducing yourself to the hiring manager, you can include your achievements and skills in bullet point form to draw the hiring manager’s eyes towards the most important information.

Also, try to stay between three and five bullet points. These are just highlights; you don’t need to include every detail – that’s what the resume is for.

Research and Personalize

Researching the company is that extra bit of work that you need to do. If you’re too lazy to take the time to personalize your cover letter with information about the company itself, you don’t really want the job.

In the online job market, most hiring managers will assume that you are sending off the same resume and cover letter for every role you apply for. By making it incredibly obvious that you have targeted this cover letter directly to them, you will automatically grab their attention.

Including the company name throughout the cover letter simply isn’t enough.

You should integrate keywords from their value proposition and mission statement and explain why you will be a great fit within their corporate culture. You can also bring information from the job posting directly into your cover letter and explain how your skills and achievements align perfectly with what they are seeking.

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