5 expert ways your cover letter can make you a top contender

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A resume is the summary of your qualifications, experience, and education but many job candidates may not realize the importance of a cover letter. Creating a cover letter with pizzazz tells the hiring manager that you’re eager, interested and well-qualified for a position. Use your cover letter to describe in detail how you’re the best person for the job.

Create a cover letter that tells a deeper story

Your cover letter can help a prospective employee showcase unique thoughts, experiences or skills that may set you apart from other applicants. “For instance, if an applicant took an intentional career break, a cover letter provides an opportunity to explain the unique experiences and perspectives gained during that break and how they will bring value to the company,” says Paul Lesser, head of talent acquisition, Fidelity Investments, who is based in Boston. “This type of experience isn’t always clear a resume so use the cover letter to highlight it.”

Address the job requirements in your cover letter

Following directions when responding to an ad is the first-way hiring decision-makers know you’re qualified. “My best advice for creating a cover letter that shines is to follow any instructions included in the job listing for the letter,” says Dana Case, director of operations at MyCorporation.com . “Does the employer ask that you answer certain questions in your cover letter? If so, make sure to answer each one, says Case. Do they want to see a link to your writing samples or portfolio included? Don’t forget to provide the links! “Not only will this allow your cover letter to shine and stand out from the pack, but it also shows you know how to follow directions as soon as during the application process.”

Let your cover letter brag and boast about you

A well-written cover letter can show some of your personality and creativity. “ I especially admire candidates who use the opportunity to highlight what makes them the perfect fit for the role, whether that’s an overview of their design skills (with links to their online portfolio), their philosophy when it comes to social media (with links to the pages they’ve managed) or why they love SEO or keyword strategy,” says Elizabeth Spayne, EVP of marketing at talent acquisition firm WinterWyman in Boston. A resume obviously is where a deeper dive into tangible tasks and responsibilities should take place, but for creative roles, says Spayne, a cover letter is where someone can truly shine and set themselves apart from the competition.

Customize a cover letter

Don’t use a cookie-cutter cover letter and just change the greeting and company name. This boiler plate approach will backfire. “It’s important you customize your letter to the specific opportunity. We don’t want to feel you just sent the same letter to 20 jobs we want to know why you really want to work for us, otherwise, it’s a waste of time,” says Brooke Sprowl, LCSW, clinical director and owner of My LA Therapy .

Demonstrate you’ve researched the company

In your cover letter, write a line or two about the company so they know you’ve done some research and preparation. “We usually have 50 applicants in the first few weeks of posting a job so if you’re not excited about working with us and show us that we probably won’t follow up,” says Sprowl. “Talk about specifics about the company and website and what in particular draws you to the opportunity.”