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Build Your Career Get the Job

10 Ways to Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out

10 Ways to Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out
Credit: Gonzalo Aragon/Shutterstock

In theory, writing a cover letter seems like a simple task. But in practice, it can be a struggle. How do you cover all of your skills, experience and your personality in a few short paragraphs and in a way that convinces your dream company to potentially hire you?

Many people make the mistake of emailing their prospective employers generic cover letters that are too long and completely laden with clichés. Those types of cover letters are likely to get your application tossed in the virtual trash. If you want to write a standout cover letter, follow these 10 tips from business owners and hiring managers.

Address the hiring manager specifically

"Address the cover letter to a specific person within the company, not the general (and much hated) 'Dear Sir or Madam.' This shows the candidate has done some research and is truly interested in working with that company, not just any company." – Alina Cincan, managing director and co-founder, Inbox Translation

Make it short and sweet

"The best cover letters are concise, friendly and transparent. They don't have to be long; in fact, the best cover letters get right to the heart of why we are a great fit for them, and why they are a great fit for us. Recruiters are reading hundreds of applications a day, so a well-written and concise letter makes our job a little easier — which is definitely appreciated." – Chris Wood, chief organizational alchemist and partner, Paige Technologies [7 Personal Secrets Your Résumé Is Revealing ]

Use bullet points

"The best thing a candidate can do in a cover letter is use bullet points relating to the job description and qualifications. Take the time to customize your cover letter, and your interview ratio will go way up." – Bettina Seidman, president, SEIDBET Associates

Be passionate (and well-researched)

"Show knowledge of and a passion for the organization and the work. Company representatives, including internal recruiters, need to know why you are interested in working for that company. Would you hire someone who had the qualifications for a job but demonstrated no passion or knowledge of what you do?" – Lavie Margolin, consultant and career coach, Lion Cub Job Search

Write a good intro

"[It's important to include] a strong opening line that highlights your experiences, years of work, skills or something else that was mentioned as important in the job posting. Hiring managers often pay even less attention to cover letters than they do résumés, so having something more than 'I am applying for the position of such and such' in your first paragraph is key." – Chaz Pitts-Kyser, founder and author, Careeranista

Get creative (and tailor it to your industry)

"Instead of writing the cover letter in its traditional format, be relevant. Write a blog post with 'The 5 Best Traits in Your Next Content Writer' and link to your previous work or attributes as references. As an added bonus, link to a post from the company's own blog, and match the employers tone, showing you have interacted and read it. This shows me you are serious about the position, creative and aggressive, and likely to stand out against other candidates." – Michelle Brammer, social media strategist, eZanga

Offer insights and suggestions

"The best thing a potential employee can do to make sure their cover letter pops is to give two to three tips on how you would improve the business immediately. This shows that you have not only done your research about the company, but it shows your thought process, creativity and ability to make improvements from Day 1." –Kim Kaupe, founder, ZinePak

Share your company connection

"Use the cover letter as a platform to share a brief story that connects you to the company, their mission and/or product. This exercise will undoubtedly separate you from the majority of other candidates and provide the company recruiter and/or hiring manager with a reason to read your résumé." – Kenneth Johnson, president, East Coast Executives

Include testimonials

"The best thing to include in a cover letter to be noticed and remembered is a testimonial from a former client or supervisor. The testimonial should relate to an accomplishment in the candidate's résumé ... and address an issue (perhaps a cultural fit) that can't be easily conveyed in a résumé." – Eric Wentworth, director, Steve Allen Media

Use the "T" format

"I'm an advocate of a two-column 'T' format cover letter, where rather than paragraph after paragraph of 'blah blah' about yourself, you have one column entitled 'Your Requirements' and another entitled 'My Qualifications' and, like a litmus test, you put a sentence under requirements and match it with a sentence under qualifications. It stands out from other cover letters with paragraph diatribes as well as shows that you really thought about what was being asked for." – Darrell Gurney, career coach, Career Guy

And a bonus tip, if you're applying to a job out of your area:

"A cover letter is a great place to explain a relocation. Why are you moving? Have you lived there before? Do you have family nearby? Explain why an employer should believe that you will be tied to that community long-term." – Bobbi Bailey, senior vice president, Principal Technologies

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Brittney Helmrich
Brittney Helmrich

Brittney M. Helmrich graduated from Drew University in 2012 with a B.A. in History and Creative Writing. She joined the Business News Daily team in 2014 after working as the editor-in-chief of an online college life and advice publication for two years. Follow Brittney on Twitter at @brittneyplz, or contact her by email.