After weeks of searching and networking, you’ve done it. You’ve found the perfect job for which to apply.
Of course, the first thing you want to do is impress the employer. In fact, you want to make such a great first impression they can’t turn you down. So what do you do? You wow them with your cover letter.
When it comes to applying for jobs, many job seekers are apprehensive about experimenting with their cover letters. There’s so much pressure to impress the hiring manager, and one slip-up could land your application in the trash.
In addition to writing an impressive cover letter, 18 percent of employers say a creative cover letter is valued. This is why you should allow your personality to shine through in order to differentiate yourself from other job seekers applying for the same position.
If you’re searching for some unique ways to make yourself stand out to employers, here are five unconventional ways to start your cover letter:
1. Break it down.
Employers like numbers. They especially like numbers when they have meaning. If you choose to use numbers to illustrate your experience in your cover letter, use them within context. This will allow employers to understand your accomplishments and how they qualify you for the position.
Example: 640 hours. 50 volunteers. Eight weeks. One event. That’s what it takes pull together Spring City’s Annual Community Expo.
As a special events professional, I’ve gained experience pulling off extremely successful events under tight deadlines. This is why I believe I’m qualified for your Special Events Manager position for Flowerville’s Chamber of Commerce.
2. Use a quote describing your work ethic.
Although it may seem cliché to use a quote in your cover letter, when used well and in context, a quote can add more value to your cover letter.
Select a quote that relates to your experience, passions, and the position for which you’re applying. Once you find a quote, tie it into the elements of your experience and explain how it summarizes your qualifications.
Example: Stephen R. Covey once said, “Accountability breeds response-ability.” As an experienced manager, I believe accountability is the key to success in any work environment. In every management position I’ve had, I’ve encouraged my employees to be accountable for their successes and failures, which is why my leadership style will be a great fit for this position.
3. Tell a mini anecdote.
Telling a story in your cover letter allows employers to see your more personal side. When employers search for candidates, they’re not only looking at your qualifications, but they also know if you’d be a good fit for their culture, too. By telling a story that relates to your career path, it will allow you to reveal your genuine self to the reader.
Example: I fell in love with basketball at a very young age. Not only do I love the sport itself, but also I loved the numbers behind the scores. Because of this life-long interest in sports and numbers, I believe I would be an excellent candidate for the Data Analyst position for the Washington Wildcats.
4. Illustrate your passions, dreams, and goals.
Employers not only want to hear why you’re qualified for the position, but they also want to know why you chose your career path. Employers want to hire passionate employees because they know these individuals will be motivated to do their job.
Example: Content marketing, social media, and research are my passions and areas of expertise. Not only are these my passions, but also I believe these skills are the foundation for any digital marketing professional. These passions, combined with my enthusiasm, would make me a great candidate for your Digital Media Manager position at ABC Marketing, Inc.
5. Speak as if you’re already hired.
When you jump into writing your cover letter, shift your mindset to as if you’re already hired. Pretend you’re in the break room and one of your coworkers or manager asks you why you chose to work at their company. This is a great way to show your interest in your cover letter.
Example: When I discovered Accounting Solutions was hiring, I knew I had to apply. I’ve been waiting to find a company where I feel like I can make a difference while working as an accountant. Not only are your clients awesome, but the overall mission of your company is something I believe in, too.
6. Say it in 140 characters or less.
Brevity is key when applying for any job. The shorter and more powerful statement you can create, the stronger your cover letter will be. Remember, employers don’t have a lot of time to review cover letters and resumes. However, if you can make your introduction short and sweet, you’ll help the employer decide if they should keep reading.
Example: Design and nature are my elements. Let me tell you how my web design experience will help you protect the environment.
There are endless ways to write a cover letter and there’s no perfect formula. Just keep in mind your audience and how you can relate to them, and you’ll be able to write a much stronger cover letter that will land you an interview.
What tips would you add to ensure a cover letter stands out to an employer?
TagsCover lettersJob Searchpopular
By Joe Issid
Monster Contributing Writer
One of the most mundane aspects of being a recruiter involves poring over dozens of cover letters every week. Somehow, cover letters have evolved into bland summaries of professional highlights mixed in with clichéd claims of expert time-management and organizational prowess. Truth is we have all been guilty of writing yawn-inducing summaries simply because that was the standard template. In fact, I grew so weary of suffering through such tomes that I took the decision to stop mandating cover letters for all of my company's job applicants. I opted to focus more on the candidate's resume and online persona mixed in with some preliminary communications. But, after some time, I realized that something was missing; as an owner of a media company, it seemed a little unfair to bypass the exercise of allowing candidates to present themselves honestly and candidly in writing. But how could I extract the most out of this exercise while making it beneficial for both applicant and recruiter?
To thine own self be true
Honestly, I think it is time that we all stop touting our proverbial “problem-solving” and “high-level communication” skills. Offering such platitudes in a cover letter takes up valuable space and offers a potential employer very little interesting information about yourself. Allow the recruiter to determine for themselves your ability to effectively communicate or your high-energy approach to your career. You should seek to remove as much objectivity from your cover letter and simply stick to relevant details about your professional background. If you have a significant amount of experience as a technical support analyst, for example, it is safe to assume that you have refined troubleshooting skills. There is no need to embellish this detail in your cover letter.
OK, I am not suggesting that you include pictures of your cat or He-Man collection; however, divulging some relevant details about your personal background can add some texture to your cover letter. For example, I have a BA in English Literature yet I spent the first ten years of my career working as a software developer. Without a well-written explanation of this seemingly unusual career path, most recruiters would have had a hard time understanding my resume. My cover letter included the reasoning behind my decision to pursue an education in the Arts yet a career in high-tech. These reasons were as much personal as they were professional. Without a well-reasoned explanation, I am certain my career would have turned out quite differently.
We are all different
If you wrote a college admissions letters, it might be useful to dig that up. At the time, you were (hopefully) encouraged to leverage your unique background and personal interests into a compelling narrative about your future. A professional cover letter does not have to be too far removed from that ideal. If caring for your elderly grandmother played a direct role in your career in healthcare, it would be of great benefit and interest to a recruiter to know that. As much as we may not believe it sometimes, we are all different and we all have unique stories. And there is absolutely no shame in exposing that.
Don't be an infomercial
If your cover letter is littered with superlatives and unsubstantiated claims about how awesome you are, most recruiters will perceive this as a warning sign. It is crucial to tone down the rhetoric and focus on subjective details that present you in a positive, professional light. Additionally, refrain from presenting yourself as an absolute authority on a given matter. Calling yourself a "maven" or "guru" only makes a recruiter feel that you are more fluff than substance.
Have a clear narrative
All good story-tellers focus on keeping a captive audience by constantly moving the narrative forward. And writing a resume should be no different. If you are unsure of where to start, a time-tested approach is to simply tell a chronological history of your education and career thus far. While your resume should contain the factual summary of your experiences, your cover letter should be more anecdotal and informal. Like any writer, you should keep asking yourself: is this detail important to the overall story? For example, should you mention the fact that you completed a marathon last year? Of course! Any achievement that required perseverance, dedication and hard work is always relevant to a prospective employer. Just be sure that it ties in with the flow of the overall story.
In reality, many recruiters will rapidly gloss over a cover letter as it can be just too time-consuming to review them all. As such, it is best to keep your introductions on the shorter side and be sure to only include elements that are relevant to the employer. If you aren't a confident writer, feel free to solicit the help of someone you know. However, I would advise against using a writing service as they simply will not be able to provide a personal, intimate summary of you and your qualifications.