Hiring managers and recruiters can receive hundreds or thousands of applications for each job opening. Do you think they will take their precious time and read every application carefully? Of course not! They can only allocate a few minutes or even seconds scanning each applicant’s cover letter before moving on. If you’re looking for a job, your cover letter has to capture a reader’s attention right away.

Your cover letter links your resume and application to the specific requirements of the job and the company. But rather than repeating information from your resume, you should grab the attention of the hiring manager by highlighting and expanding on relevant personality traits, strengths and experience. Here are some things you could do to make your cover letter stand out immediately:

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Tell a Story

To grab the reader’s attention, a good story with a stellar opening line is everything. Your cover letter should be your personal narrative, with a spice of your unique characteristics. What is the most interesting and eye-catching thing you did that’s relevant to this job? Use that to guide your letter.

Ideally, the story that drives your resume should fulfil the needs of the company that you’re applying for. If you’re in healthcare, tell them how you helped others and receive the sense of achievement from it. Or if you’re in marketing, a story about one of your successful campaigns might catch their attention. After all, the hiring managers are looking for candidates with ability to achieve results.

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Highlight Culture Fit

It’s often overlooked, but another major function of the cover letter is to show a company how well you’d fit into the company culture. As you research a potential employer, look for culture cues on the company website, social media, and review networks like Glassdoor as well as Google.

If the job posting mentions “team environment,” it might be a good idea to include a recent successful collaboration story in your cover letter to show how easy going you are. If the company wants a “self-starter,” consider including examples of achievement that proves your independency. The tone of your letter can also play to culture.  Your cover letter is a great place to show an employer how you fit into their world, so don’t be afraid to show some personality.

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Be Sincere, Genuine, and Personal

Say why you want the job and/or why you’re keen to work for the company. Perhaps you’re a perfect match for the role, or you’re impressed by the company’s reputation for great products, services or innovation. If you sound genuinely enthusiastic, you stand a better chance of impressing the hiring manager. Rather than a formulaic “I am applying for the vacancy as advertised in …” get straight to the why with “As a sales manager with 10 years’ experience, I’d love to be considered for the position of … because …” and explain your interest.

Your cover letter is a great opportunity to let your personality shine through. Blend in personality traits with the skills/accomplishments that will be of interest — especially if they add extra context to your application. Adding this sort of personal information gives the reader a bigger picture than just a summary of the facts from your resume.

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Keep it Brief

Your cover letter is the bait to intrigue the hiring manager to continue analyzing your resume and application. It shouldn’t take 3 hours to read. 3-5 short paragraphs are enough to draw out your most relevant strengths or achievements and to encourage the recruiters to flag you as a potential candidate.

Keeping your letter concise and tightly focused also proves the good communication and analytical skills that most employers values. A couple of hundred words should be enough to show who you are. Any more than that and you risk getting dull and repetitive, or sounding like you’re bragging about yourself.

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Don’t just repeat your resume

While your cover letter should reference material from your resume, it shouldn’t simply be a word-for-word repeat. Use the cover letter to expand where necessary and discuss your listed experiences from a different angle. Craft the letter to acknowledge the requirements of the role and culture of the organization, while highlighting the skills and experiences that align with the job description.

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