How to Write a Cover Letter That Gets Noticed

To Whom It May Concern: I’m passionate, motivated, ready to take risks, and I want this job! Fantastic! But that’s not enough. Your cover letter is an opportunity to show employers who you are, not to tell them. It’s safe to say there are probably hundreds of people applying to the same job you are, so make a point to let them know that you are their best new addition. Imagine you’re in an elevator and you only have 15 seconds to tell someone why you’re a total badass. That’s your elevator pitch. Your cover letter is no different — it’s your one shot. Scary yes. But fear not! Here are five tips to make your cover letter stand out.

1. Do your research.

No excuses. If you haven’t researched a company you’re applying to, you’re probably applying for the wrong reasons. If you love the company, research even more! Have they been in the news recently? What does their latest blog post say? Your cover letter should show that you take an active interest in the company’s mission, so you should mention specific things about their company, along with relevant goals and a plan for owning them.

2. Start specific.

Two things. Keep in mind that people hire people. So address your cover letter to a real person. You can find just about anyone online these days, whether it’s through the company website, LinkedIn or Twitter. No more Dear Sir or Madam. If you have a connection at the company, make sure to mention that in the first or second sentence. Remember how your English teacher told you to never write “I am writing this essay about…”? Well, the same rule applies. Don’t be generic; open your cover letter like a champ. Start with exactly why you’re excited about this job and why you have the right skills for it. Then tell stories to prove it.

3. Be your best self.

Don’t be shy! Own your accomplishments. Own your skills. Own your passions. The last thing an employer wants to see is that youthink you are a good fit, or that you might be able to help them. Use active, confident words. This also means showing them what you can do for them. Your cover letter isn’t about how the company can help you. It’s about how you can solve their problems and maximize results, which will, in turn, grow your skills.

4. Keywords are your friends.

You are great and you have a ton of skills, but really focus on the ones that are applicable to this specific job. You’ll easily find out which ones are the most useful after thoroughly researching your target company. A helpful trick is to use keywords you find in the job posting. Those will help you stand out to recruiters and applicant tracking systems.

5. Proofread. And then proofread again.

This should be a given, but proofreading your cover letter and resume is a must. I would do it at least three times and have a friend look over them too. Why? Because even a small mistake can put you in the “no” pile. Make sure that letter is polished! You’ve got what it takes to land a great job. It’s up to you to show that to everyone. A solid cover letter is your first step in doing that. You’ve got one chance to wow the crowd. Be specific. Be honest. Beyou. Sincerely, Nicole

Kristen Hamilton is the Co-Founder and CEO of Koru, the leader in predictive hiring. As a technology entrepreneur and executive with a passion for impact, Kristen has a successful track record driving value for customers and investors. She co-founded e-commerce pioneer Onvia and took it public in 2000. Kristen built the organization to 500 people, raised over $300 million of investment capital, and led the M&A team to acquire and integrate four private companies in two years. Kristen then shifted focus to education and talent acquisition, as head of educator strategy at Microsoft, and COO of World Learning, where she ran operations in 66 countries.

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