By now I hope I’ve made it clear why a cover letter is an absolute necessity for your job applications. (If it’s still not crystal to you, though, click here and read again.)
“But, Raegen, with everyone submitting cover letters with their resumes, how will I be able to stand out?” you might think.
First of all, no matter how many times they’re told — even by a caring friend/sister/daughter/colleague/etc. — many people still won’t submit cover letters. Companies I’ve interviewed with have confirmed time and again that many applicants still do not submit cover letters alongside their resumes. So fear not, dedicated job hunter! You’ve still got that going for you.
“But, Raegen, how do I stand out from others who do?” you might still wonder.
1. Hunt down a specific person to address your letter to. Google is one of my best friends in the whole world because 9 times out of 10, I can find the name of the HR person who will be receiving my materials and/or the name of my future direct supervisor, if the job ad specified the title of the person my position would work under. Then I use this little trick I picked up while working as a journalist and perform the following searches:
- “Human Resources” Company Name
- “Human Resources” Company Name LinkedIn
- “Title of Direct Supervisor” Company Name
- “Title of Direct Supervisor” Company Name LinkedIn
If that doesn’t work, I sign into LinkedIn and search for employees currently at the company and sift through that list.
Depending on the size of the company, you may do well to include the name of the city in your search since more than one person may hold the same title at large organizations. You may also be able to find org charts and the like on “About Us” pages if the above searches yield no results.
Why you’re doing this: This communicates that you’ve taken the time to look into this company and the people you’d be working with or for specifically. It shows that you’re willing to put in the extra effort, have no problem researching the company, and have initiative. You communicate all this by writing your letter to a specific person (assuming that name wasn’t given in the ad itself.)
2. Find the company’s mission and/or vision statement and speak directly to it at some point in your letter. Cultural fit is really important these days, so find your prospective employer’s mission statement and see if the company’s vision is something you could really get behind. If not, you may want to rethink applying at all. But if it does jive with you, throw a sentence or two into your letter commenting on the company’s mission and why it matters to you. Have you done anything in your career thus far that addresses that mission? Mention that, too!
Why you’re doing this: This communicates to the people who receive your materials that you’re not just interested in any job with anyone, but that particular job with that specific company because your goals are in alignment.
3. Address the specific requirements of the job posting. While much of your cover letter will likely be the same for each job you apply to (based on the assumption that you’re staying within the same field you’ve already developed expertise in), be sure to speak directly to anything your cover letter template doesn’t mention that the particular posting highlights and values.
Why you’re doing this: This communicates that you’ve actually read and digested the posting. It also indicates you’ve taken the time to customize/tailor your letter to this particular employer.
4. Match the tone of the post. Some job ads are dry and professional. Some are enthusiastic and fun. Some are over the top. Some are laid back. Whatever the case may be, do your best to tailor your letter to match the tone of the ad. Presumably, it’s also the tone of the company.
Why you’re doing this: This comes back to cultural fit. It also communicates that you’ve spent time on this particular effort for this specific company.
As you’ve probably figured out at this point, all of this will take some time to do. This is why I generally recommend only applying to those jobs you are actually qualified for. That’s not to say you shouldn’t aim high. Just don’t waste your time sending out to everyone and their mothers; invest it in creating quality application materials for a select few you think you might actually enjoy working for. Your ROI should be much better in the long run taking this approach.