As important as it is to have a clean and tidy CV, your cover letter is essential when it comes to selling your skills. The letter is where you get to show your personality, tell your story and prove you’re the perfect fit for the role.
But how do you make sure the hiring manager remembers yours by the time they get to the bottom of the pile?
The first sentence of the first paragraph needs to be strong, clear, and make the reader want to keep reading. The “My name is _____ and I’m applying for ____” format won’t win you any points. Open with an accomplishment or key skill that will make you stand out, and don’t be afraid to get creative. The goal is to make yourself instantly memorable.
Play up your passion
Showing off your skills is great, but how do you stand out from the dozens of other candidates with those same skills? Show that you are passionate about the role and the profession.
Consider where your skills and interests intersect with the job description. Write about how you love creating buildings that will stand for decades, or how you find improving infrastructure a rewarding responsibility because of the positive impact it will have on people’s lives. You want to communicate to the hiring manager that you’re not only capable of doing the job, but also that you genuinely want to do it.
Show how you fit the brand
As well as showing your passion for the role, you also want to get across that you already eat, sleep and breathe the company’s brand. Research the business and find some specific points that you like about it, and include these in your cover letter.
Go beyond what the company does and look at what it is. What sets it apart from its competitors? Why do you want to work for it specifically? Showing that the company is already a part of your life is a great place to start.
Use dynamic verbs
Word choice is very important in a cover letter. Simple changes can give that extra punch you need. You want to demonstrate that you played an active role in the successes you are discussing. It’s the difference between “I was on the team that…” and “I oversaw key aspects of a project with a team that …” Using action-heavy verbs shows you’re someone who gets things done.
Tell a story
It may seem like an odd thing to do in a job application, but telling a story is a great way to make your cover letter stand out. Studies have shown that stories are 22 times more memorable than facts, which tend to be dry and forgettable on their own.
Take the reader on a journey that they will never forget, even if it’s just a few short sentences. If you’re not sure what to say, try writing about how you reached this point in your career, touching on highlights and building up to explaining how this role will continue your story. This can be a great way to show off your passion or how you’re living the company brand.
Use numerical evidence
You will need to include facts at some point, and it’s best to provide quantifiable evidence whenever possible to support your accomplishments and skills.
For instance, consider the difference between “I have worked as a project manager previously, on a variety of projects” and “I have worked as a project manager for five years, overseeing more than £100 million of projects through to completion”. Backing up your claims with facts makes them more concrete and will help sell you as a good choice for the hiring manager.