Cover Letter 101: Why It Matters & How Yours Can Stand Out

Cover Letter 101: Why It Matters & How Yours Can Stand Out

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Ladies and Gentleman, class is now in session. A well-crafted cover letter is akin to the first impression a power suit gives.It’s tailored perfection poised to make a connection.

But, is it enough to find out who you’re writing to and avoid salutations like “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam”?

How about a tweaked cover letter template? (Googling it should count for effort, right) Will that do the trick?

Chances are, cover letter samples from the past won’t work. Not today.

Regardless if your cover letter is 3-5 succinct paragraphs or a one-page masterpiece – it makes a difference. It gives a potential employer the chance to see you in a better/different light. More importantly, it gives you free reign to shine or address any discrepancies from the get-go.

This is your moment to motivate a specific action.

A standout cover letter allows you to:

  • Explain how your experience and expertise adds value to the company
  • Showcase your enthusiasm to work and your personality
  • Iron out any kinks or gaps in your resume
  • Pique interest(s) long enough to get to round two: the interview

What you should do:

  • Check your grammar and spelling (use Grammarly)
  • Avoid using mass produced cover letters (this requires more effort that using Copy Paste)
  • Research and learn as much as you can about your potential employer. Call them up for the information you can’t find on the website (the hiring manager’s name, for example).
  • Note when you are planning to touch base with them again ( in a few days/next week/mention a specific date) and remember to follow up.

According to The Interview Guys, you’ll be missing out if you are applying sans cover letter. It is a missed opportunity to craft your pitch in this competitive job market.

On The Muse, Lisa Siva shared how going back to a classic copywriting formula to compose her cover letter made a world of difference. Her amount of interviews went from 0% to 55% real quick.

The winning formula is Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS). It works for all kinds of marketing, including flyers and landing pages, ergo it’ll do the trick for your cover letter pitch.

1. Understanding the problem

It’s not enough to identify the problem, you need to know the critical information that evokes a response. The more vividly you demonstrate that you understand, the more likely you’ll come off as “in tune” with their needs.

Lisa Siva’s Tip: Write a unique opener that says you understand the problem they are trying to solve and that you have the first-hand experience. What you need to do is figure out which is the right problem to highlight.

2. Stirring things up aka Agitate

You’ve got to tap into your emotions. Whether you’re relating to the story of a startup’s hectic workflow or the frenzy that happens during fashion week, for example, you need subtility and a pinch of tact to get this part right.

Lisa Siva’s Tip: Challenge yourself to remind the employer not only of the importance of the problem but how valuable a solution will be. Inject some of your personality into it. Don’t rehash what was mentioned in the job posting or quote anything from the website verbatim.


3. Presenting yourself as the solution

The company is looking for a stellar candidate that will come and/or take charge while knocking tasks out of the park. They will appreciate someone who can hit the ground running, so present yourself as one if you have the real-world experience to back you up. Resist the urge to list out your skills – tell stories that demonstrate them instead.

Lisa Siva’s Tip: What makes you qualified to solve the problem? What is the impression you would like to give the hiring manager? More importantly, what do you want your resume to say about you?

4. Use confidence in your closing 

Whatever you do, don’t try to sprint to the finish line with a quick (but overused) salutation or buzzword. Stuffing is for turkeys, not your cover letter and this is a strategically planned marathon. You can highlight your soft skills with an example or anecdote instead of using words like “take-charge”, “go-getter” or “problem solver.”

Lisa Siva’s Tip: At this point, you can help your chances by writing a line (or two) that not only shows genuine interest but demonstrate your capabilities as well. Don’t just say you’re interested – be specific about which area you’d like to tackle first or learn more about.

Written more cover letters than you care to account for? We’ve all been there.

Even Chris Evans wrote a cover letter to apply for internships back in 1998. A Buzzfeed story alerted us to The Captain’s tweet which read:


This cover letter format works for seasoned professionals, but would it help a fresh graduate? Check back next week for more tips on Cover Letter 101.

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