How can a good cover letter help you stand out from the pack?

Having a diploma or degree won’t guarantee you a job, but it will give your application a better chance of being considered by an employer. Experience in your chosen field will certainly improve your chances of getting a job, but you’ll still face competition from other applicants with similar experience. In many ways, the secret to being chosen for a job over other similarly-qualified candidates lies in your ability to stand out from the pack – and what better way to highlight your value than by writing a top-notch cover letter?

To be sure, I’m not talking about a long-winded document that just reiterates the information found on your CV, or that only talks about your personal qualities (such as your organizational sense, or your punctuality). These are subjective opinions that don’t carry the weight of concrete experience.

Be precise about what you include in your cover letter

First, you need to take the time to read about and understand the position you’re applying for. Ask yourself: what is the employer really looking for? Use your cover letter to answer this question and stick to the essentials.

Then, connect the dots.

  • Certain needs on the part of the employer may be very specific, such as a strong understanding of a particular customer market, a software program, or a challenging subject. Dig deep into this question and visit the employer’s website for clues.
  • Have you already worked in the industry in which you’re applying for a job? For example, a marketing specialist who has already worked for a company that sells candy could emphasize their experience marketing “pleasure” – a skill that could be exported to another industry, for example alcoholic drinks.
  • Is there one company in particular you want to work for? Explain to them how their company’s work or mission is a major motivating factor for you. Identify what the employer is interested in and show them that you understand their perspective.

One example might be: Because I already practice the Steiner-Waldorf model with my own children, I will bring real enthusiasm and experience to any position that involves these principles. Here, the applicant shows that she has a strong understanding of the educational approach taken by the school where she is applying for a job.

Once this part is completed, choose your top two skills – the ones that distinguish you from the crowd and that are also sought by the employer – and present them in the subject of your letter.

Example of a strong cover letter

[Name of employer],

*Important: it isn’t necessary to put this email into a context. Write directly to the body of the email and mention the title of the position you’re applying for in the subject line of the email.

1st paragraph: Start with a phrase that will catch the attention of your future employer. This could include some of the explicit requirements mentioned in the job posting, or a reference to the job title. Then, put your top skill front and center by putting it into the context of the position being offered and explaining how your experience relates to the job you’re applying for.

2nd paragraph: Lead into your second skill and work it into the context of the position you’re applying for as well.

3rd paragraph: This last paragraph should be very short. Explain that you would like to meet with them in person to discuss your candidature in more detail.

Once you’re finished, read over your letter one last time. Everywhere you’ve written the words “skills” and “knowledge”, try to change these words for what you really want to say. This is an opportunity to revisit the keywords found in the text of the job offer, on the employer’s website, and that relate to the industry you’re in. Be precise and specific.

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