Non-Pompous Confidence:
7 Phenomenal Cover Letter Tips
to Highlight Your Skills and Experiences

See also: Applying for Jobs

If your resume is where you highlight your experience, your cover letter is where you show off who you are. It’s an essential component of any job application that’s far too often overlooked by those hunting for a new position.

Your cover letter is a reflection of you personally, and what it might be like to work with you.

It’s a delicate balancing act of putting your best foot forward while still being authentic and true to yourself.

With your cover letter, you can tell a story about who you are, and why you’re a great person to hire. Essentially you need to give a potential employer a glimpse of how you will behave if you’re hired, using words.

If you want to make sure you get the balance just right, here are seven essential tips for writing the ideal cover letter:

1. Address Your Letter to A Person

Anyone can send a letter to a hiring manager that starts with “To whom it may concern”.

If you want to stand out, and show you’ve taken an active interest in the company you’re applying to, do everything you can to find out who will be reading your cover letter. It will also make you look a lot less archaic and formal if you can address the person by name.

However, don’t get too casual and start off with “Hi Rachel”. It’s best to be respectful and use their title and full name, if possible. “Dear Ms Rachel Smith” looks professional and friendly at the same time.

If you can’t find their title or full name, don’t guess. Go with as much information as you can find – without looking like a stalker. If it’s not on the company website or LinkedIn, don’t go any further in your investigations.

2. Make the Opening Sentence Strong

Chances are that you’re one of many people applying for one position. If you don’t stand out immediately, the hiring manager will likely move on after skimming a few sentences of your cover letter – never mind looking at your resume.

Your opening sentence on your letter will make or break this moment.

Yes, that’s a lot of pressure for one sentence, so it’s worth spending a bit more time on this opener. You want to tell the reader why you’re applying for this particular job, at their company. However, you want to do so in a way that shows you genuinely care and aren’t just looking for any job that matches your criteria.

Find a memorable, innovative way to show off your passion for the career you’re in, and the company you want to work for.

3. Don’t Rehash Your Resume

The hiring manager already has your list of work experience, qualifications and important skills in your resume.

They don’t want to read that again in your cover letter.

This is the space for you to expand on this information and show off your personality. A resume is a list, while a cover letter is a story.

Take some time to analyze your skills and add an anecdote or two about how you gained them. Highlighting particularly challenging moments and how you overcame them is a great addition – as long as they’re relevant to the job you’re applying for.

4. Don’t Highlight What’s Missing in Your Skill Set

It can be very tempting to point out that you don’t have all the qualifications necessary for the job, but are applying regardless. This can be highly detrimental, as it automatically puts you on the back foot. As soon as the hiring manager sees that, they’ll put you in the maybe list because there are candidates who match all the criteria.

Instead, clearly elaborate on the skills and experience you have that does match the job description. You can also point out other elements that make you the perfect fit, and why you’d be a great addition to the company.

5. Use the Right Format

It’s unlikely that you’ll be printing this letter out, signing it, and sending it via traditional post. However, that’s no excuse for not sticking to a proper business letter format. You should always include your contact information, the date of sending, and the contact information of the person you’re addressing.

Your cover letter and resume should create an excellent first impression, and using the correct format immediately indicates your level of professionalism.

6. Follow Any Instructions in the Job Posting

Job postings are just the first test that an applicant will face.

Hiring managers list a certain set of elements they require for each application and will immediately cut anyone who doesn’t follow those instructions.

Before you hit send, always check that you’ve ticked each box in the application listing, and that you haven’t gone off script at all.

This takes a little bit of extra work, but it’s worth it in the end. Your application will get binned if you’ve blindly copied and pasted from a previous submission.

7. Adapt Your Cover Letter for Each Application

This brings us to the final point.

Copying and pasting from one job application to another is a big no-no.

A hiring manager will know instantly if you haven’t tailored your application to their job listing and company. Plus, it’s disrespectful to not put any thought or effort into every individual job application, and you can’t expect a company to treat you with respect if you haven’t shown them the same courtesy.

This doesn’t mean that you have to start from scratch with your cover letter and resume each time you apply for a new job. You can write a template, highlighting your best assets, and covering a few anecdotes. Then, take that information and adapt it to suit the specific job you’re applying for. This create-to-fit-approach will showcase the effort you’ve put in.

Top tip

To really stand out from the crowd, mimic the style of the wording used in the job listing in your cover letter. This will create a connection, prove that you pay attention, and that you’re a great fit.

The Skills You Need Guide to Getting a Job

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Getting a Job

Develop the skills you need to get that job.

This eBook is essential reading for potential job-seekers. Not only does it cover identifying your skills but also the mechanics of applying for a job, writing a CV or resume and attending interviews.

About the Author

Lee Anna Carrillo is a community manager at Resumoo, a resume writing service and career resource database.