How to Write a Cover Letter That Stands Out From The Crowd
by Luis Rocha
Nov 30, 2017
Amongst a Sea of Competition
Any job worth having is going to have a very competitive hiring process. Qualified applicants from far and wide line up to submit resumes to top companies - so you better make damn sure you stand out! “If they only knew the kind of person I was”, you think. “I hope they give me a chance to meet them face to face and show them I’m the one”. You HAVE that chance from day one! By allocating additional time to writing cover letters, you make yourself a more unique and enticing candidate. Cover letters are less robotic than resumes and allow you to show more of your personality and have a conversation with the reader about who you are and what you bring to the table. Continue reading to learn my four-step formula for the perfect cover letter that inspires hiring managers to rank your application on top of all the rest.
When Should I Send A Cover Letter?
Now, don’t AWLAYS need to write a cover letter. Efficiency is a thing after all… and if you’re serious about your job hunt then you are trying to apply to as many places as possible. You’ll have your A-Tier Gold Job Category, B-Tier Silver Job Category, and your C-Tier Bronze Job Category. ABSOLUTELY write cover letters for any A-Tier jobs you apply to. Decide whether or not to write a cover letter to your B-Tier jobs by determining how soon you need a job and how likely you are to accept an offer from these companies. Your c-tier jobs are jobs you don’t really want but are applying to just in case. It is completely up to you on whether or not you want to spend time writing cover letters to these jobs. I personally wrote a cover letter to 90% I applied to, as it gave me good practice and helped increased my response rates.
Why You NEED to Write A Cover-Letter
- Convey personality in a way that your resume doesn't
- Establish rapport with a hiring manager before even meeting them
- Demonstrate alignment between the company's mission and your life experience/interests
- Quickly show that your own values match that of the companies
- Discuss why you love the work you do and hope to do for them
The Four-Step Plan.
Writing a cover letter can be broken down into four key steps. These steps make it easy to keep each paragraph concise and on point.
- Introduction and personal connection
- Frame your winning personality
- Frame recent job-relevant accomplishments
- Restate and extend.
In the following sections, we’ll be breaking down an actual cover letter that I sent to an image processing startup in San Francisco. I was quite interested in this company and spent a lot of time perfecting this cover letter. It got me a phone screen rather quickly, and even helped propel me to a final meeting with the CEO. Keep reading if you want to learn how to write a cover letter that gets you that instrumental face-to-face. The names of companies mentioned have been changed.
Paragraph 1: Introduction and personal connection
All conversations start with an introduction. Here, you set the tone and introduce yourself, your interest in the position, and, most importantly, establish a personal connection to the company and their mission.
Spend time on the company website and focus on the about page. Usually, you will find the company’s mission boiled down into a single sentence. Reflect on yourself and your motivations and find a genuine personal connection to that mission. This is KEY, as it communicates the fact that you aren’t only interested for the paycheck. Rather, you are invested in the growth of this company and are willing to work hard in order to further their cause. As always, keep it genuine. Do not force a connection or apply somewhere that is not congruent to your values - it will only make you miserable.
You’ll want to wrap up this paragraph with a single sentence that provides an enticing reason for them to be interested in you. Briefly go over the skills and expertise that you will delve into in the following paragraphs.
Proven successful example:
Hello to everyone at PlaceholderCo!
I was excited to see that PlaceholderCo was looking for a web developer and wanted to reach out. As a professional photographer turned web developer, I understand the importance of incorporating high quality images on a website while ensuring high performance on the front end. It is my hope to be able to contribute to PlaceholderCo’s mission of making the web a more beautiful place through images. I feel I am the perfect candidate for this position as it combines my past experience in design and in creating beautiful public facing web experiences.</i>
Paragraph 2: Frame your winning personality
This is where you get to have some fun and show the company what a kick-ass person you are! Name any interesting accomplishments here in order to establish the fact that you are a unique individual who has been breaking necks and cashing checks their whole life. Valedictorian? Lead singer in a successful local band? Rescue someone stuck in a well? Look into your past and find interesting reasons that will not only prove that you are a successful individual, but also someone who stands out in a sea of applicants. Make sure your final tidbit is relevant to the job you’re applying for. This will set-up the next paragraph where you discuss your relevant skills in detail.
Proven successful example:
I’m a motivated self-starter at heart. My path towards becoming a web developer has been an incredible and diverse journey and I’ve learned so much along the way. I’ve launched a tech review channel on YouTube and was invited to the early-stage YouTube Partner Program at 8k subscribers. I’ve founded a photography business and gained high profile clients including Coachella, Outside Lands, and EDC. I’ve worked as a social media manager at RandomClothingCo and increased engagement by 60%. I’ve successfully put myself through coding bootcamp and graduated as a skilled, versatile developer. Most importantly, I always had fun and stayed positive throughout these ventures. I have a proven track record of entrepreneurial tenacity. No challenge is too great for me to overcome. It is this spirit that I will be bringing to PlaceholderCo.
This content may not seem relevant, but they’re blurbs that made me stand out and seem like an exciting candidate. Every point I made in paragraph 2 has been a huge talking point in my interviews. These fun personal facts are wonderful conversation starters and help you build quick rapport with a hiring manager. You will be surprised how many hiring managers share the same interests and weird hobbies you do! Heck, my current boss and I both love death metal! So don’t be afraid to put yourself and your personality on full display.
Paragraph 3: Frame recent job-relevant accomplishments
This paragraph acts as an overview of your resume, which we discussed in my previous blog post. Go back and read that if you haven’t already! It will teach you how to write a winning resume as well as help you frame this paragraph. Remember to discuss things you accomplished at your previous job, not just the responsibilities you had. Show them that you can excel in the position you are applying to through concrete achievements.
Proven successful example:
Most recently, I’ve worked at FakenameCo, a global B2B SaaS company. I worked as a front end web developer owning their website and serving over 270,000 monthly visitors, which provided an incredible experience working on a enterprise-level website with both technical and non-technical coworkers in a rigid development cycle. I built and maintained all public facing web pages, landing pages, and marketing pages with conversion maximization in mind. I collaborated with the marketing and design departments both in-office as well as remotely with the company’s HQ overseas, and ensured high SEO performance (FakenameCo consistently ranks in the top ten Google results for it’s preferred keyword).
Paragraph 4: Restate and extend.
Paragraph 4 acts as a dessert. It is a small, delicious morsel meant to leave the reader with a good taste in their mouth as they walk away from your application. Wrap things up and express excitement at the possibility of working with them. Let them know that you are ready to rock at a moments notice and crush it in this role. Show the hunger you have for this position and encourage them to get in touch with you.
Proven sucesful example:
I’m excited to begin my next step in my career as a web developer and I know that I could be a great part of the PlaceholderCo team. I am a quick, ambitious learner as well as a hard worker who is ready to make an impact. You can learn more about me as well as the projects I’ve worked on by visiting my personal website. If you think there’s potential for a fit, I’d love to talk more soon.
Kind Regards, Luis Rocha
As you can see, cover letters are an incredibly effective way to convey personality and begin to fruitful professional connection with a hiring manager. It gives you the opportunity to show that you are someone they’d enjoy working with every day and that has what it takes to succeed in the role you’re pursuing. You are now armed with a precise plan to craft your own cover letter that will set you apart from the hundreds upon hundreds of other applicants and put you at the top of the list!
Don’t forget to read my previous blog post that will teach you How to Write a Resume That Doesn’t End Up in the Trash.
I realize that there are more components towards getting you dream job and I plan to lay out a blueprint for you to help you land that job. Make sure you subscribe to my e-mail newsletter or follow me on Instagram or Twitter to keep up with my blog posts and get more tips towards accomplishing your dreams and getting that career that you already deserve.