Writing a cover letter should start before you start typing

While there are no universal standards for resumes, I feel that there are even fewer standards for cover letters. Now at first glance, you’ll see that there are a few templates out there, Which would suggest some sort of standards… And I would respond saying that many of those templates are not very effective cover letters. The typical “dear Sir or Madam, I’m applying to jobs X at company Y”… Followed by a fairly generic restating of the resume, it’s not effective. My belief is that writing a cover letter should start well before you start typing. But that also coincides with the answer to the question of how do I make my cover letter stand out.

From my perspective, to make a cover letter stand out, you need to do things that make it stand out. Make your connection to the company and role personal.  Research the company. Understand their mission and values. Learn as much about the company as you can. Understand what is happening to them or their industry in the news. And more importantly how you can add value to them. 

Also, connecting with people at the company so that you can understand their culture firsthand. Attending or Volunteering at any events that the company sponsors or is present at. Asking questions to their representatives. And more importantly how you can add value to them.

Then taking all of those activities and seeing how you can package that up in a nice little cover letter that outlines how you can add value to them (And why they should read your resume). 

Yes, all of that will take time. That time you spent, is an indicator to the company that you actually want to work for them. You proactively looked for them and have done a bunch of things to put yourself in the best position to add value to them. Especially given the alternative, which is often setting up your cover letter so that you can search and replace the name of the company and the role that you’re applying to. that level of effort doesn’t sound like you want to be working for the company.  Think about it; if a recruiter sees that the cover letter could have basically been used for any company in that role then how likely are they to think that you’re going to put in a good amount of effort when you get hired with them? 

And yes, it might be that the recruiter Who is reviewing your application ignores your cover letter, and would you rather put in a bit of extra time to increase your probability or provide a generic submission that doesn’t provide any help in you standing out?

Well, what if you don’t have time to do all that? Well just do the best that you can. At the very least you can research the company. Look at ways on how your past experience or previous connections could add value to them.

At the end of the day, your cover letter is an opportunity to let the recruiter and hiring manager know the benefits of hiring you versus all of the features listed on your resume. It can be a great way to differentiate yourself from the piles of other resumes being submitted. And you’ll find that putting in the work will lead you to a higher chance of getting hired.

What is your approach to crafting an effective cover letter?