There is no better way for a candidate to incorporate their personality into the application process than with a killer cover letter. When I’m sifting through applications, one of my favorite moments comes when I find a resume that catches my attention and then see that the applicant have a beautifully written cover letter to match that tells me more about them. I’ve highlighted some of the top ways a candidate will stand out to me in their cover letter.
They’ve Done Their Research
The first note I take on a cover letter is whether or not the candidate has tailored the letter to our company, or if this is a generic cover letter that they’re sending to multiple companies. It’s very easy to determine if an applicant has done their research right from the beginning. For starters, if the letter is addressed to our company or our co-founders it shows that they have taken the time to find out who will be reading the letter. They get bonus points if their style of writing matches our company’s voice and culture. Ultimately, we’re searching for a cultural fit just as much as experiential fit. If they’ve referenced our core values or a phrase from our mission statement, it tells me that they have researched our company culture and are familiar with what’s important to our team.
The First Sentence is Out of the Ordinary
If the writer gets my attention within the first sentence, I’m instantly impressed. So many cover letters (including ones I’ve submitted) begin with “My name is Sophie and I believe that I would be a great addition to your company.” While this is a solid format to follow, what I’m really hoping for is a one-liner that will make me eager to keep reading so I can learn more about the person behind the resume.
It’s Not Too Long or Too Short
When a candidate shows that they are considerate of the hiring manager’s time by keeping the cover letter short and sweet, it’s greatly appreciated. That being said, too short is also a red flag. There’s definitely a Goldilocks-level happy medium of cover letter length. Unfortunately, there are just not enough hours in a day to read each candidate’s life story. Therefore, if they keep it to the point and only share what’s relevant and necessary, it’s much less likely to be overlooked.
They Had Fun With It
I remember what it’s like to be on the other side of the application process. Sending cover letter after cover letter is an exhausting process that can be as frustrating and time-consuming as a full-time job. In spite of this, if the candidate has composed an engaging and authentic cover letter it shows me that they are able to stay true to their creative talents even if this is the tenth cover letter they have written and submitted that day. I don't want to read a regurgitation of their resume. I want to learn about what talents and skills they have beyond their academic and work experience, delivered in an interesting format.
I truly believe that you get out what you put it to the application process. If a candidate has shown that they have gone above and beyond to do their research and compose a thoughtful cover letter, it will bring them one step closer to getting their foot in the door for an interview.