3 Keys to Writing Cover Letters That Stand Out

3 Keys to Writing Cover Letters That Stand Out was originally published on Vault.

It's a myth that high quality job openings are few and far between thanks to Covid. The truth is, despite the economic uncertainty created by the pandemic, there are many great openings out there. And to get them—or, at least, have a chance at getting them—you first need to capture the attention of hiring managers. And the best way to do that is to write compelling cover letters. So here are the three keys to writing cover letters that stand out.

1. Convey your personality, quirks and all.

Showcasing your uniqueness and allowing your personality to shine through in your cover letters can magnetize hiring managers, sending instant messages that you might be the candidate they're looking for. The secret to achieving this is to use specific details, rather than vague ones.

For example, the following was recently used by an applicant when applying for a Head of Marketing position (shortly after sending this, the candidate was interviewed and then hired):

“I have a passion for data and analytics. I enjoy spending (a little too much time) geeking out in Google analytics, advertising platforms, and BI tools (Tableau and Looker), digging deep into data to identify opportunities that can be leveraged to drive growth and inform testing strategies for campaigns, websites, and products.”

Now compare the above to the below (which has less personality and fewer details, and thus would likely not stand out):

“I am well versed in data analytics, and I am experienced with Google analytics, BI Tools, and other advertising platforms. I have a proven ability to inform testing strategies for campaigns for websites and products.”

Here's another example of cover letter phrasing that captures the attention of hiring managers:

“I'm rather obsessed with personal organization. I read three organizational blogs on my own time, and I've organized my desktop folders into color-coded sub-categories. My friends laugh at me for saying things like, ‘An organized space equals an organized mind,' but I don't like wasting time looking for things.” 

Now compare that to this less specific phrasing:

“I have a proven track record of being organized, and I have a passion for it. I have a proven knack for keeping files organized on an ongoing basis, and I have put organizational processes and procedures in place for my department. The bottom line is organization is always my highest priority.” 

2. Prove your level of dedication to your profession.

Another way to stand out is to illustrate specific things about your dedication to your field. In the following example, a candidate showcases her dedication to her profession, proves that she spends a lot of time thinking about driving results in her field, and shows that she takes concrete steps in order to be a high quality contributor in her field. All of which goes a long way when it comes time for hiring managers to decide which candidates to interview. 

“I believe that a good marketing strategy requires seeking out the latest trends and staying one step ahead of the competition. I've attended the Traction conference two years in a row and completed the 2018 Reforge Growth Series, a highly credible and exclusive course that only accepts 10 percent of applicants and is built by leaders from Hubspot, Uber, and other firms. Through these professional developments, I've opened my mind to uncommon marketing methods, and I pride myself on thinking outside the box to develop strategies that create sustainable, low-cost customer acquisition loops that lead to long-term positive ROI.” 

Now compare the above to the below, which is less detailed and includes less specific phrasing:

“I have the skills and requirements for this position, and I believe I would complete every task asked of me to the highest standard expected. My background and experience make me an excellent fit for this position for many reasons. I am very interested in marketing, and I think I would be a great asset to the team.”

3. Include concrete, quantitative results that show your value.

In any written application, you'll need to showcase some form of quantitative results to stand out. Note that even if you don't have a lot of shiny results in your career yet (or even any relevant experience—which is okay!), you can still use words to capture someone's attention with what you have done. And if you do have a record of achieving quantifiable results, then by all means include them, like in the below:

“I developed several Google ad campaigns that were worth more than $500,000 and that resulted in high-level customers. Also, through testing and optimization, I increased newsletter sign-ups by more than 200 percent.”

Now compare that to this bland sentence:

“I have experience in Google ad campaigns, as well as experience in testing and optimization.”

A final note

When trying to convey your personality, get across your dedication, or communicate your value, there's a big difference between saying you're a good fit for the job and actually showing it.

So, when writing your cover letters, try to hold these words in mind: I know you (the hiring managers) don't know me, so let me show you exactly why I'm completely invested, committed, and passionate about doing this specific type of work. And let me show you the specific reasons why hiring me, over all other candidates, would be beneficial to you.

If you hold all this in mind, the right details and words will flow right out of you—and into your cover letters.

Natalie Fisher is best known for helping professionals land their ideal roles and achieve explosive salary growth (even with little experience). If you want to dive deeper on the topic of your career mindset and become a person who knows exactly how to land their dream job offer, listen to her on the podcast Get a Six Figure Job You Love.