How to write a unique cover letter that stands out

woman writing cover letter

I’ve just started my search for a new job, and I’ve found several companies that I’d really like to work for. How can I write a cover letter that will help me stand out amongst all the other applicants? — Stephanie, Virginia Beach, VA

The thing to remember about job searching is that employers want to fill a position just as much as — and sometimes more than — you want to get it. Therefore, the question you should be asking yourself isn’t “How can I stand out?” but “What are they looking for?” Fortunately, a well-written position summary is a gold mine in this regard.
Here’s how to work it: Comb through the description of the job and the skills/experience required. Then incorporate as much of that language as authentically possible in your cover letter. For example, if the posting says the company wants a “proven track record in creating and delivering successful and cost-effective marketing campaigns” then your cover letter should feature a short, bulleted list that goes something like this.
I have created and delivered successful and cost-effective marketing campaigns, including:
You get the idea.
Don’t worry too much about regurgitating similar language as the description itself. For starters, you’re just being efficient, and, second, if you’re applying to a large company, you have a better chance at getting through the resume parsers (software that employers use to weed candidates based on keywords) if you’re using the right keywords.
Finally, don’t attempt to lead by being “different.” Recruiters have seen all the tricks — the unusual font choice, the questionable attempts at humor — and most are unimpressed. Explain why you’re a good fit for the company’s stated needs and, trust me, you’ll stand out.

Emily Bennington is the founder of AWAKE EXEC, mindful leadership coaching for professional women, and the author of Who Says It’s a Man’s World: The Girls’ Guide to Corporate Domination.

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