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Creating a Standout Cover Letter: Dos and Don'ts

When it comes to job applications, your resume provides the facts, but your cover letter offers the story. A cover letter is your opportunity to convey your skills, experiences, and enthusiasm directly to a potential employer. It acts as a personalized introduction, giving you the chance to highlight your suitability for the role and demonstrate your genuine interest in the position. In this guide, we'll delve into the nuances of crafting a compelling cover letter that sets you apart from the competition.


A young black woman working on developing a powerful cover letter

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is your unique opportunity to introduce yourself to a potential employer beyond the confines of your resume. It's like the opening chapter of a book, where you can showcase your personality, skills, and enthusiasm for the role. Think of it as a personalized note, addressing the hiring manager directly and explaining why you are the perfect fit for the job. It's a chance to tell your career story, share your accomplishments, and express your genuine interest in the company. A well-crafted cover letter not only demonstrates your qualifications but also your commitment to the position and organization, making it an essential tool in the job application process.


The Difference Between a Cover Letter and a Resume

In contrast, a resume is a structured document that serves as a comprehensive summary of your professional history, qualifications, and achievements. It's typically concise, focusing on key details such as your work experience, education, skills, and accomplishments in a standardized format. While your resume provides the facts and figures that outline your career journey, the cover letter provides the context and emotional connection, giving you the opportunity to stand out and make a memorable impression beyond what can be captured in a resume alone. Together, they form a dynamic duo that presents you as a well-rounded candidate poised for success in your desired role.



Do's and Don'ts of Constructing a Cover Letter

The "Do's and Don'ts" outlined in this guide offer invaluable insights into crafting a standout cover letter. Understanding the psychology behind these recommendations empowers you to create a compelling narrative that sets you on the path to job search success.


Do: Tailor Each Cover Letter Tailoring your cover letter for each application is crucial. Address the company's needs and demonstrate how your skills align with their requirements. Use keywords from the job description to show that you've thoroughly read and understand what they're looking for. Tailoring your cover letter shows the employer that you've invested time and effort into understanding their needs. It demonstrates your genuine interest in the company and role, making your application stand out. By addressing their specific requirements and incorporating relevant keywords, you're aligning yourself closely with their expectations.


Don't: Simply Reiterate Your Resume Avoid simply rehashing your resume in your cover letter. Instead, delve into specific experiences that demonstrate your qualifications and how they relate to the role. Your cover letter should complement your resume, not duplicate it. Repetition of your resume in the cover letter can make your application redundant and unengaging. Employers might assume you lack the ability to communicate effectively or that you're not genuinely interested in the position. This misses a valuable chance to highlight your personality and explain how your experiences make you an ideal candidate.


Do: Highlight Achievements Use your cover letter to highlight specific accomplishments that relate to the job. Showcase how you've contributed to past projects, exceeded goals, or solved challenges. Quantifiable achievements grab the reader's attention. Showcasing your achievements directly demonstrates the value you can bring to the company. By quantifying successes and detailing how you've contributed in previous roles, you provide concrete evidence of your capabilities. This not only captures the reader's attention but also positions you as someone who can deliver results.

Don't: Use Generic Language Steer clear of using generic phrases and clichés in your cover letter. Be authentic and specific about why you're interested in the role and how your skills and accomplishments align with the company's mission and values. Relying on generic phrases and buzzwords can make your cover letter sound insincere and generic. It suggests that you're not truly invested in the position and might be using the same cover letter for multiple applications. This lack of personalization can deter employers from considering you seriously.


Do: Address Employment Gaps Positively If you have employment gaps on your resume, address them openly and positively. Briefly explain how you used that time to develop skills, pursue relevant courses, or engage in volunteer work. By openly discussing these gaps and sharing how you utilized that time, you communicate a strong sense of initiative. Employers appreciate candidates who are candid about their career journey and can transform what might be perceived as a setback into a testament of your adaptability and dedication. Addressing gaps positively underscores your commitment to ongoing self-improvement and adds depth to your narrative, giving employers confidence in your ability to navigate challenges.


Don't: Make Excuses for Gaps While addressing employment gaps is essential, avoid making excuses or dwelling on negative circumstances. Avoid making excuses that might detract from your overall message. Dwelling on excuses can raise concerns about your attitude and ability to manage setbacks effectively. By sidestepping excuses, you keep the spotlight on your growth, demonstrating your determination to overcome obstacles and leveraging them as opportunities for self-development.


By understanding the positive and negative effects of each "Do and Don't" when constructing a cover letter, you gain insight into the psychology behind these recommendations. Tailoring your cover letter, avoiding resume repetition, highlighting achievements, and using specific language all contribute to creating a compelling and genuine narrative that captures the attention of potential employers. When you invest the effort to construct a cover letter that showcases your personality, qualifications, and enthusiasm, you set yourself up for success in your job search. Your cover letter becomes an invitation for employers to get to know you beyond your resume, and that can make all the difference in securing your dream job.



2 men shaking hands after a positive hiring experience

Effective Cover Letter Examples

Discover the art of crafting compelling cover letters through these examples. Explore, examine and borrow from these three examples to harness the best practices for crafting your own captivating cover letter and securing your desired position.


EXAMPLE 1: General Cover Letter

Dear Amazing Business,

I am writing to express my strong interest in the Graphic Designer position at Amazing Business Inc. as advertised on the companies website. As an award-winning graphic designer with a proven track record of producing exceptional visual solutions, I am excited about the opportunity to contribute my skills and expertise to your creative team.


Throughout my design journey, I have consistently demonstrated a passion for creating impactful and engaging designs that deliver measurable results. With a focus on both aesthetics and functionality, I have crafted designs that have generated tangible benefits for my clients and employers.


My proficiency in industry-standard design software, combined with my ability to execute diverse design styles and adapt to emerging trends, has enabled me to consistently deliver results that exceed expectations. Additionally, I am skilled in project management, effectively coordinating timelines and deliverables to ensure timely completion of projects without compromising quality.


I am impressed by Amazing Business Inc's innovative approach to design and its commitment to delivering cutting-edge solutions to clients. I am excited to contribute my expertise to your team's creative endeavors and contribute to your ongoing success.


Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss how my skills and experiences align with Amazing Business Inc's vision during an interview. Please find my attached resume and portfolio showcasing a selection of my work. Feel free to contact me at epicdesigner@design.com or 888-888-8888 to schedule a conversation at your convenience.


Sincerely,

Epic Designer


This cover letter stands out due to its compelling blend of quantifiable results, skill expertise, and a personalized approach. By showcasing specific projects with measurable impact, the applicant demonstrates their ability to deliver tangible value. The letter's concise structure, tailored to the company's goals, underscores the candidate's commitment to producing exceptional design solutions, making it a compelling choice for job placement.



EXAMPLE 2: Hybrid Skillset Cover Letter

Davron Bowman Cover Letter Example Heather Crank Cover Letter Example Showcasing cover letter best practices

To whom it may concern,


My name is Davron Bowman. I am a designer with a relentless passion for innovation, an unwavering commitment to excellence, and a proven track record of driving exceptional results. I am eager to join a team or project within Central Kentucky that values creativity, pushes boundaries, and sets new industry standards.


My journey has taken me from startup ventures to renowned global enterprises, where I have honed my abilities as both a designer and marketer, synergizing the two disciplines to create compelling and cohesive brand experiences.


My design expertise spans across various mediums, from print to digital, where I have crafted visually stunning assets that resonate with audiences and leave a lasting impact. My proficiency in the Adobe Creative Suites and latest generative Al software allows me to transform ideas into captivating visuals that communicate brand stories with authenticity and precision.


As a marketer, I have a profound understanding of consumer behavior and the art of crafting tailored campaigns that drive engagement and loyalty. I have successfully implemented

data-driven strategies, leveraging market insights to fuel brand growth and achieve remarkable ROI.


I am eager to discuss how my diverse skillset and experiences can be leveraged to drive innovation and success within your organization. Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate my potential and contribute to your brand mission of human connectivity and kindness.


Sincerely,

Davron Bowman


Davron Bowman's resume is powerful in its concise yet impactful presentation. His introduction exudes passion and commitment to innovation and excellence, immediately capturing the reader's attention. Highlighting a data-driven approach, capable marketing skills along with his proficiency in Adobe Creative Suites and generative AI software adds a technical edge to his creative prowess. Davron's closing statement is forward-looking, expressing his eagerness to contribute to the organization's mission of human connectivity and kindness, making this resume a compelling introduction for any Business/Project leader.



EXAMPLE 3: Cover Letter as Part of a Client Pitch

Heather Crank Cover Letter Example Showcasing cover letter best practices

Hello Zachary,


My name is Heather Crank I am a Motion and Graphic Designer and run a small Design Studio called Crahmanti in Bend, Or. I am also on the Programming Committee and create the exhibits for BND DSGN, an annual design conference now in it’s 5th year.

https://benddesign.scalehouse.org/


The Redmond Airport has wonderful LED screens inside the terminal that are the perfect vehicle for Motion Art as well as an opportunity to promote artists from neighboring communities and encourage an atmosphere of delight, curiosity and wonder by all who pass by the screens.


Recently, Amsterdam used a similar concept in their central train station for one day called “Demo Fest” demofestival.com. Denver has also spearheaded a digital outdoor film festival “SUPERNOVA” www.supernovadenver.com

once a year utilizing the outdoor LED screens throughout downtown normally earmarked for advertisements. And New York City has a monthly Motion Art screening at midnight on its outdoor screens called the “Midnight Moment” http://arts.timessquarenyc.org/times-square-arts/projects/midnight-moment/index.aspx


If having a curated array of digital art in the Redmond airport peaks your interest I would love to set up a time to speak with you more about this potential collaboration. Thank you for your consideration.


Sincerely,


Heather Crank



This resume from Heather Crank is exceptionally powerful due to its personalized and engaging approach. By providing specific examples of successful projects in other locations (Amsterdam, Denver, New York City), Heather not only demonstrates her expertise but also paints a vivid picture of what a collaboration at the Redmond Airport could look like. Her vision of transforming the airport's LED screens into a platform for showcasing digital art, fostering community engagement, and creating an atmosphere of curiosity and wonder is compelling. This resume showcases Heather's ability to think creatively, her experience in the field, and her enthusiasm for potential opportunities, making it a standout and appealing introduction for an HR manager.

 

By examining these resumes and understanding how to apply their best practices to your own cover letter, you'll be equipped with valuable insights to elevate your job application game. Whether it's crafting a personalized and quantifiable narrative like Example 1, showcasing a versatile skillset and forward-looking mission like Example 2, or engaging your potential employer with a vivid vision like Example 3, these examples serve as powerful templates for success. Harness the art of storytelling, highlight your unique strengths, and craft a cover letter that leaves a lasting impression, giving you a competitive edge in your career pursuits.



Summarizing the Power of a Proper Cover Letter

In a competitive job market, a well-crafted cover letter can make all the difference. It's your chance to inject your personality, showcase your achievements, and convey your enthusiasm for the role.


By tailoring each cover letter, avoiding generic language, and highlighting specific accomplishments, you can create a compelling narrative that complements your resume and captivates potential employers. Crafting a standout cover letter not only increases your chances of landing an interview but also instills a sense of confidence, accomplishment, and professionalism.


So, take action today and create cover letters that leave a lasting impression – the job of your dreams awaits!


a success checklist for developing a cover letter

Cover Letter Checklist

Personalization: Have I tailored the cover letter to the specific company and role I'm applying for?


Contact Information: Is my name, phone number, and professional email address included at the top of the cover letter?


Salutation: Have I addressed the cover letter to the hiring manager or the appropriate recipient?


Opening Paragraph: Have I introduced myself, mentioned the role I'm applying for, and expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity?


Body Paragraphs: Have I highlighted specific achievements and experiences that demonstrate my suitability for the role?


Keywords: Have I incorporated relevant keywords from the job description to showcase my alignment with the role's requirements?


Accomplishments: Have I quantified my achievements and used specific examples to showcase my skills and contributions?


Company Fit: Have I demonstrated an understanding of the company's values, mission, and how I can contribute to their goals?


Closing Paragraph: Have I expressed my eagerness to discuss my qualifications further and indicated my availability for an interview?


Professional Tone: Is the language of the cover letter formal, concise, and free from spelling or grammatical errors?


Avoid Repetition: Have I ensured that I'm not simply restating my resume, but adding valuable context to my experiences?


Unique Insights: Have I provided insights into my personality, work ethic, and why I'm genuinely interested in the role?


Proofreading: Have I carefully proofread the cover letter to catch any typos or errors?


Length: Is the cover letter concise and focused, ideally not exceeding one page?


Signature: Have I included a professional closing and my typed name?


Attachments: Have I attached my resume, ensuring both documents are labeled appropriately?


☑ File Name: Is the cover letter file named in a clear and organized manner (e.g., "Firstname_Lastname_Cover_Letter")?


By using this checklist, you can ensure that your cover letter is thorough, tailored, and polished. A well-structured and well-crafted cover letter, along with your resume, increases your chances of catching the attention of potential employers and landing that coveted interview. Good luck in your job search journey!



Additional Tips for First-Time Cover Letter Writers

  1. Research the Company: Before writing your cover letter, research the company's culture, values, and recent news. Incorporate this knowledge to demonstrate your genuine interest and alignment with the organization.

  2. Use a Template: If you're unsure about the formatting of a cover letter, consider using a template. Templates provide a structure to follow and ensure your cover letter looks professional.

  3. Address Skills and Traits: Highlight not only your technical skills but also your soft skills and traits. Employers often value qualities like teamwork, communication, and adaptability.

  4. Tell a Story: Weave a narrative that connects your experiences and achievements. Share how your journey led you to the current application and why you're excited about the potential role.

  5. Stay Positive: Maintain a positive and confident tone throughout the cover letter. Avoid any negative references to past employers or experiences.

  6. Keep It Simple: While showcasing your achievements is important, avoid overwhelming the reader with too much information. Choose the most relevant examples that directly relate to the job.

  7. Network for Insights: If possible, reach out to current or former employees of the company to gain insights into the company's work environment and culture. This can help you tailor your cover letter effectively.

  8. Read Aloud: After writing your cover letter, read it aloud. This can help you catch awkward phrasing, typos, and errors that you might not have noticed while reading silently.

  9. Showcase Enthusiasm: Express your genuine enthusiasm for the role and the company. Conveying your excitement can make a strong impression.

  10. Practice Patience: Writing a cover letter for the first time might take a bit longer than you anticipate. Give yourself the time to draft, revise, and polish your cover letter.

  11. Ask for Feedback: If possible, ask a trusted friend, family member, or mentor to review your cover letter. Fresh eyes can catch errors and provide valuable feedback.

  12. Stay Authentic: Be yourself in your cover letter. Authenticity goes a long way in making a genuine connection with the reader.


In Closing

Remember, creating a cover letter is a skill that improves with practice. Don't be discouraged if your first attempt doesn't feel perfect. By following the guidelines, using the provided checklist, and incorporating these additional tips, you're well on your way to crafting a compelling cover letter that will enhance your job application and showcase your unique qualities. Good luck

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