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Writing a Cover Letter That Stands Out

Mar 10, 2021 by Monica Garcia

Now that you have perfected your CV, you are ready to dive into your cover letter! This document works as a complement to your CV and will help you stand out even more in the pile of job seekers. It is also a way for you to naturally include your skills and accomplishments while telling the recruiter or hiring manager some more details about you as a person. 

Not every job ad requires you to add a cover letter but, in some cases, the company you are applying to might want you to include it. This letter should not tell your life story or describe your hobbies but should describe your professional career and highlight why you want the position you are applying for, and why you think you would be the right fit for it.

man in front of a computer

Tailor the cover letter for the job you are applying for

Just like with your CV, you want your cover letter to be unique to every job you apply for! Even if it is tempting to re-use an old version of the letter, you should tailor it for every new position. This will be a bit more time-consuming, but since it will be personalized for the company, it can make a considerable difference in the end. 

In the letter, we recommend avoiding generic sentences like “Dear sir/madam, I am excited to apply for this role". This does not show the recruiter that you are interested in that specific role. Do some extra research on who will read the cover letter and address it specifically to that person. For example: “Dear Janet Andersen, I saw that you are looking for a new customer support agent at Number One Gaming, and I am very interested in the role ”. 

What to include in a cover letter

Since most recruiters will probably only skim it, your cover letter doesn’t have to be longer than half a page. Having about three paragraphs is enough if you use them wisely. As mentioned before, this document should focus on your character, personality, and what accomplishments you have made in your career. Bring up previous jobs or internships that are relatable to the position you want, and mention qualifications, diplomas, or volunteer work that strengthens you as a valid candidate. 

You can search and download a template if you are unsure about the structure or design of your cover letter. However, make sure you personalize it and make it your own. 

1. Start strong

The first paragraph of your cover letter needs to grab the attention of the recruiter straight away. In other words, it has to be captivating, inviting them to read more. Try to think outside of the box. Instead of the classic “Hello, I want to apply for this job” try something like; “I have always loved problem-solving, and if I may say so myself I am immaculate at it. In fact, that is why I was attracted to a job within customer service in the first place”. 

After a strong opening, continue to explain why you are writing this letter. For example, you found the available position, and you were immediately intrigued. Then, give a clear motivation as to why you believe you would be an excellent fit for the role. Highlight the skills and qualities that you have and that you think the company needs. Since you have probably already done this in your CV, this is your chance to explain it more thoroughly. 

2. Why this job?

The most important part of your cover letter is to include why you are applying for that job. The company wants to know why you are passionate about what they do and how you could fit in their team. Research about the company to find out more about their mission, vision, and goals. You may relate to how their story or how they came up with that business idea, or you feel like the direction they are taking the business is in line with your plans for your career. This part has to be genuine and personal so that the employer can tell that you are interested in their company and what it represents. 

Something else that is important to do is to add some of the key terms and phrases that are used in the description of the job ad. If the company is looking for someone efficient, social, and a fast learner - you should include all of these words somewhere in your cover letter when you describe yourself or your skills. 

You can also add a sentence or two to explain why you want to work in the country where the job is. Maybe because you know the language, or it has always been your dream to live and work there. Explain that you are open to new adventures and that moving to another country is not a problem for you. 

3. Finish it with a thank you 

Finally, you want to add a closing paragraph with a final sales pitch and a summary explaining why you are genuinely interested in the role and that you would be happy to discuss it further in an interview

At the very end, thank the employer for taking the time to read your CV and cover letter and mention you look forward to hearing from them. 

checklist for cover letter

Quick tips for your cover letter

  • Format and presentation - your cover letter should be neat and tidy, use the same font as in your CV and make sure it’s uncluttered and has all the proper paragraphs. 
  • Check for grammar or spelling mistakes - it’s easy to miss even the most obvious mistakes when you’ve stared at the same document for a while, so make sure someone else reads your cover letter before you send it out. 
  • Use examples - Add your portfolio - if you have examples of previous work you have done, you can add them here to back up your claims. 
  • If you feel stuck - sometimes it might be hard to know what words or phrases you should use to describe yourself, and you might feel like it comes off as bragging. A tip is to ask a colleague to give you some examples - how would they describe you and sing your praises?  

What to avoid in your cover letter

Just as in your CV, there are some elements that you should avoid when it comes to your cover letter. Here are some examples: 

Giving too much praise - You should not focus only on how good that company is and how well they do. Find areas of improvement and tell them how you can help. For example, it might be the case that the company is not so strong on social media. Then you could mention how you increased your current company’s visibility on Facebook or Instagram. 

Don’t add all your education - If you don’t have any work experience yet, you might think you need to add all your previous education to your cover letter. However, you should instead focus on your achievements and add your most recent educational accomplishments. Think of skills you learned from your education and find a way to connect them to the required skills for the role. 

Being too formal or too enthusiastic - The tone of voice in your cover letter is relevant, but sometimes it can be tricky to know which one is better to use. However, even if you want to sound professional, you should avoid being overly formal in your letter. You want to come across as likable and approachable and not sound like a robot. On the other side of the spectrum, you should also avoid being too enthusiastic or informal. 

woman with a laptop in a bar

If you don’t have any work experience yet 

Many candidates feel like they have to include an apology or an explanation for not having work experience. A sentence like “Although I only have limited experience in this field, I am excited to learn more” is a great way to explain that you don’t meet all the requirements yet, but you are willing to make up for it!

In other words, it is about focusing on your strengths rather than your weaknesses! Maybe you have studied abroad and can bring this up. For example, you can phrase it differently; “I know already what it is to move and live abroad, and I am ready to take the next step in my career”. If you make it to the interview stage and get asked about the previous experiences, you can elaborate your answer based on this point and be honest about how you plan to translate the skills you have for the position. 

Summary

Applying for a job today takes some extra effort from your side, but if you are willing to put in the time, you will be rewarded in the end. Having the perfect cover letter will get you miles ahead of other applicants, and if you manage to find a unique way to describe yourself and your skills, you pretty much have the job in the bag. Think of it as a puzzle where every piece must fit - the structure, the powerful introduction, describing yourself and your skills, the length, and the closing paragraph. 

And when you are finished, check out the open positions we are listing here to find your next job abroad. Good luck!🙌.

Motivating phrase