People have a love-hate relationship with cover letters. Most hate writing them. When it comes to hiring managers, some love them and some loathe them. But if you want to make a good impression, you NEED a cover letter that stands out.
In my experience, cover letters get read about half the time when they are not required and 100% of the time when they are.
So it’s definitely important to spend time writing a cover letter that stands out and gets you noticed.
So in this article, I’m going to walk you through the 3 steps you need to write a cover letter that stands out.
How to Write a Cover Letter That Stands Out and Gets You Interviews
A stand-out cover letter contains 3 essential sections, designed to show the reader you’re ideally suited for the role.
Let’s start with the first section that you need in order to stand out:
Step 1: Verbalize the Pain
Use the cover letter to show the reader that you understand the company’s challenges, struggles, etc., and how you are the perfect candidate to solve these issues. In other words, show them that you understand the pain and can make it better.
Pain takes many shapes and forms, from seamless project execution in order to not disrupt business, to building or growing a team to capture market share, launching a new product or service to elevate the brand, to saving money by introducing process efficiencies and automation.
In order to do this, you’ll need to research the company and put yourself in their shoes. Read the job description and think about what they seem to need help with.
That leads us perfectly into the second step of how to write a stand-out cover letter…
Step 2: Examples that Show Pain Solving
Once you’ve effectively shown the reader you understand the challenge or the pain, the next step is to convince them that you are the person who can mitigate it.
If it says they need someone who can work in a fast-paced environment and handle a high workload, then they probably have too much work coming in and are stressed/overwhelmed. Show them that you can ease this burden.
If they say they need someone who can make a great impression on clients to help them grow their business, the best way to write a stand-out cover letter is talk about how you can do this – or better yet – how you’ve done this in the past for other employers.
This should NOT be accomplished by describing yourself with adjectives, but by sharing career highlights that quickly show how you’ve solved similar problems in past roles.
You need to give them real accomplishments, and the more detail, the better. Give facts, statistics, numbers, and results. This is really important when you get to the interview too, so don’t forget this.
(If this is your first job search and you have no past accomplishments you can talk about, read this article on writing a cover letter with no experience).
Step 3: Moving Past the Pain
Part 3 of a stand-out cover letter should recap your skills and how they can contribute to not just solving pain, but to moving forward to achieve a company’s higher mission, vision or goal.
You need to pull the two previous pieces of your argument together and make your conclusion.
Tell them how their company will improve by having you. What will happen when these problems are solved? Get them excited about a future with you as a part of the company… and show them you’re excited to do the work as well!
The “Secret Weapon” to End Your Stand-Out Cover Letter
After you’ve followed the 3 steps above, you have the main body of your cover letter, and you’ve written it in a way that will stand out to employers and get you interviewed.
But there’s one more thing you should do to stand out further…
You want to finish your cover letter by directly asking for the interview! This seems obvious, but more than 50% of job seekers don’t do this!
So give them your contact details and TELL them to contact you to set up a time to talk. Tell them you’re looking forward to sharing more detail and answering any questions they have about your background, and you’d like to schedule an interview with them to talk further.
This is the final essential piece for how to write a cover letter that will stand out.
Formatting Your Cover Letter Before Sending
So let’s walk through how to format your cover letter well for an electronic format like email:
#1 Contact Information
Unlike a printed cover letter where your contact details must appear at the top, on a digital version, this info should be located below your name in the form of an email signature. Make sure at the very least you include your full name, contact number, email, address, and a LinkedIn URL.
#2 Screen v. Print Reads
Reading online is a whole different ballgame than print reading. In fact, it is much harder. This is in large part due to the fact that our eyes have a tough time digesting dense blocks of text (large paragraphs, long lists of bullets) on a screen.
To ensure smooth online reading of your electronic cover letter, aim for paragraphs that are two to three lines maximum.
Keep this in mind when you format your resume, too, if you expect it to be read in an online format.
A Stand-Out Cover Letter Can be the Difference Between an Interview and a Rejection
Not every hiring manager puts a lot of weight on cover letters, but some do! And when hiring managers require it, then there’s a high probability that they care a lot and use it to decide who to interview.
If you follow the steps above for how to write a cover letter that stands out to employers, you’ll get more interviews and find a job faster.
The following expert contributed to this post:
Virginia Franco is a multi-certified executive resume and LinkedIn writer and founder of Virginia Franco Resumes. She offers customized executive resume and LinkedIn profile writing services for the 21st century job seeker.