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Cover Letter Tips From Hiring Managers Top

Sure, your resume is important. It’s a piece of paper with every single professional detail about you assembled into one organized list. But when a potential employer wants to see more than just bullet points, the first place he’s going to learn more about you is your cover letter —and you don’t want to disappoint.

We asked 10 entrepreneurs from YEC how you you can stand out from the crowd by writing a top-notch cover letter .

1. Pay Attention to Detail

— Brian David Crane, Caller Smart Inc.

2. Write a Dialogue, Not a Monologue

— David Mainiero, InGenius Prep

3. Do Your Homework

— Dan Golden, Be Found Online

4. Lead With Purpose

— Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

5. Establish an Emotional Connection

— Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

6. List Solutions With a Timeline

— Carter Thomas, Bluecloud Solutions

7. Show How Your Skill Set Aligns With My Needs

— Diana Goodwin, AquaMobile Swim School

8. Give it a Human Element

— Marc Lobliner, TigerFitness.com and MTS Nutrition

9. Tell Me How You Can Deliver on Day One

— Rakia Reynolds, Skai Blue Media

10. Show Results

— Phil Laboon, Eyeflow Internet Marketing

Photo of woman working on cover letter courtesy of JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images.

When we’re hiring, we put an ‘Easter egg’ in the application, and any applicant who includes this special detail in her cover letter will be considered. It helps us identify the applicants who pay attention to detail, actually read the post, and are truly interested in the opportunity—not just sending out generic applications to each job they see.

Our former admissions officers and graduate coaches help folks with cover letters every day, so we’ve seen them from all sides of the table. The worst ones have sloppy mistakes and typos, but many of them also show no theme or ‘application person,’ as we call it. If you aren’t engaging your reader, you’re already far behind in the process. At smaller companies, cover letters aren’t just a formality.

I look for cover letters that talk less about the candidate and more about his excitement and knowledge of my company. This tells me you’ve done your homework and that you have the enthusiasm I’m looking for. Yes, I know you really want a job and that this experience will be great for you, but what are you bringing to the table that’s unique to the needs of my company?

Resumes do a horrible job of capturing the story behind what drives people. The cover letter connects the dots. It gives you the chance to elaborate on the purpose that has driven you to select a certain company as the place where you want to make a difference. Most good cover letters lead with purpose and show why a candidate truly cares.

The best cover letters are clear about why a candidate wants to be part of the team and how she developed an affinity for the company. This can take a variety of forms, from explaining your industry or business model expertise to how you’re a passionate user of the company’s products or services and simply want to contribute to the future success of the organization.

The best one I ever saw said, ‘Here are the seven solutions I can bring to your company in the next 30 days and the exact way I will execute them.’ The letter itself was more valuable than many consulting calls I’ve done.

Too often, I see generic cover letters that don’t align with the actual job description or the employer’s needs. A cover letter that stands out explicitly states how your skill set aligns with what the company’s looking for. This shows that you’ve taken the time to understand the organization you’re applying for and that you’ve been thoughtful in terms of thinking how you make a good fit.

Anyone can write a cover letter that says the right things but still makes you sound like a robot. So one that makes the person sound like a human with personality will always stand out. Achievements, education, and qualifications are nice, but every potential candidate will have that. What stands out the most and captures my attention is personality.

Cover letters that really catch my attention are ones that are not overly formal. I want candidates to be themselves and highlight the experiences that brought them to this point. Instead of focusing exclusively on your education and credentials, tell me a story that clearly reveals why you’re an awesome person to work with and how you can deliver on day one.

Showing statistics on a cover page is a great way to complement a resume. It shows an employer that you can achieve results. It also lets the reader know you take pride in what you’ve accomplished.

Cover Letters That Catch the Eye

By Heather Boerner

Throw away your form letter. These days, getting your cover letter noticed means getting creative. 

"A good cover letter can be the difference between getting a job and not getting a job," said Gretchen Hirsch, writing coach and author of Talking Your Way to the Top. "How you stand out, how you tell your story, is with cover letters."

Consider these tips from hiring managers and writing coaches:

Start Strong

News reporters know most people read only three paragraphs, so they lead with the most important information. You should, too. Start with a relevant professional accomplishment, says Sherry Mirshahi, a resume writer and interview consultant with Interview Roadmap.

"The accomplishment should be aligned with at least one of the qualifications the employer seeks," she says. "This encourages the reader to continue reading and automatically positions you as an expert."

Keep It Employer-Focused

Talk about how the job fits your goals in the interview. Use the cover letter to show how you can help the employer meet her goals, says Alison Farrin, hiring manager and owner of Innovative Pension.

Make sure your cover letter shows that:

  • You've looked at the company Web site and know what the company does. 
  • You can help cut costs or increase profits. 
  • You have something that makes you special and will make the company special.

Farrin suggests the following example:

The description of your company's range of services indicates that you place a high value on quick response to clients but with particular attention to details. In my position with XYZ Company, I was employee of the month six times based on my fast, accurate service record. I look forward to improving on that record with a company that values my skills in this area.

"If I received a resume that took the time to come up with anything remotely close to this kind of thoughtful information, once I picked myself up off the floor, I would be picking up the phone," Farrin says.

Write a 'Charticle'

Short charts in magazines attract more eyes than long articles. So ditch paragraphs in favor of columns, says Malcolm Munro, a career coach and author of Marketing Yourself for Your Dream Job.

In one column, list the attributes the employer needs. In the next, show how you meet them. For instance, if it asks for four years of experience, list that you have six. If it asks for a self-starter, list your experience starting and leading a team and how it increased profits.

Keep It Short

"If you're a hiring manager and you're going through resumes for eight hours a day, cover letters better be real short," Munro says. "No one wants to read a long one."

Keep it to less than one page with lots of white space and in 12-point type. If it's longer, ask yourself if each sentence meets the qualifications in the first section. If not, cut it.

"What you're telling the hiring manager [in a short cover letter] is, 'I'm the perfect fit, write notes here and call me in,'" he says.

Make your resume shine with help from Monster's resume writing experts!

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