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How to Personalize a Cover Letter to Make It Stand Out

Nilza works as a remote career development and curriculum professional. She's a certified CDF with NCDA and has an M.Ed in student affairs.

Do you struggle to write a cover letter? You're not alone.

Do you struggle to write a cover letter? You're not alone.

Three Ways to Personalize a Cover Letter

Most job applications require a cover letter. How do you make yours stand out?

A well-written cover letter has the potential to help you stand out as a candidate, but it can be daunting to execute. Trying to optimize for this task with a standard letter for any job you apply for can hurt more than help sometimes if a company doesn't see your interest in them. When it comes to cover letters, personalize the content to the job or company you are applying for.

Personalizing a cover letter does not mean you have to write a completely different letter for every job application. However, it does mean you should customize parts of each letter towards the company you are applying for, ensuring your content connects to the job description. Here are simple ways to personalize a cover letter to make it stand out.

1. Name Drop at the Top of Your Letter

The first sentence or two of your cover letter should include the name of the company, the name of the position you are applying for, and how you came upon the position.

For example:

Dear (Hiring Manager, name of employer or individual),

I am writing to express interest in the open (name of position) (John Doe) encouraged me to apply for.

An introduction like this is crucial if you are applying for a position an individual referred you to, as it informs the hiring manager that you have a shared contact. If you are a “cold” applicant or an individual with no connections to the employer, this step is still helpful as it reiterates why you are writing to them.

As a cold applicant, it is likely your resume and cover letter will pass by multiple eyes, so having an introduction that states what you are applying for can be a good refresher to the individual reading. This is especially helpful to recruiters who are hiring for multiple positions and reviewing many documents.

A cold applicant introduction example:

Dear (Hiring Manager, name of employer or individual),

It is with great enthusiasm that I am submitting my materials for application to the (name of position) I discovered through (specify the website, professional group discussion or job board where you found the position).

2. Make a Connection in the First Paragraph

Within the first paragraph, after the introduction, connect to the employer through their mission, vision, or accomplishments. By doing so, you show that you have taken the time to learn about the company and show you are not blindly applying. This step reflects you are highly interested in the specific position or company and not just applying because it is another job to apply for.

This is also an opportunity to indicate how what the company is doing connects to your own interests, career, goals, or accomplishments.

Some examples of how to do this:

“I am captivated by One Earth’s mission to conduct all business operations with sustainability in mind, as I myself desire to live and work in such a way that does not detract from the environment.”

“Made-up University’s rank as the 4th most innovative institution in the United States attracts me because I myself am a pioneer who has been recognized by made-up organization for my groundbreaking research on something important.”

Make the connecting statement genuine. This statement is not intended to suck up to the company. You are trying to show that you are someone who could work with the company and team because you truly associate yourself with what they are doing- you're a cultural fit.

3. Expand on Your Skills and Connect Them to the Job You're Applying For

Your cover letter is not meant to repeat your resume. Instead, it expands upon the skills detailed within the resume. After your introduction paragraph, the next paragraph, or two, should focus on the skills the employer is seeking. Though many jobs you apply for will look for similar skills, review the language in the hiring post you are applying for to ensure you have identified what is important to the company you are applying for.

For example: If you are applying for a managerial position that wants a candidate with strong interpersonal skills, you should be writing points that describe some of the interpersonal skills you possess. A sentence reflecting these skills might read:

"Through thoughtful and effective communication with my team of supervisees, in form of one on one meetings, I ensure each employee receives individual attention to address their needs within their specific roles."

Your resume is a quick highlight of skills, whereas the cover letter picks a few of your best skills and expands on your strength and mastery of them. By focusing on the skills the employer has outlined in their posting you are showing yourself to be an ideal candidate.

Other Cover Letter Tips

Cover letter writing has no exact formula, as individuals and industries vary in advice for crafting them. But, the three techniques mentioned in this article are meant to help you stand out as a candidate. As a rule of thumb, keep the cover letter to one page with no more than 4 paragraphs.

Paragraph 1: The introduction (with a name drop), and explanation of your interest or connection to the company.

Paragraph 2-3: Expanding upon the skills you possess that will benefit the company.

Final paragraph: Expressing your thanks for the recruiter's time in reviewing your application, and asking for the opportunity to further discuss qualifications in an interview.

Once you have written the letter, tap mentors or colleagues in the field or industry you are applying for who can assist you in editing the content. You will be surprised at the grammatical or wording errors you may have missed.

Best of luck to you in your job search.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Nilza Marie Santana-Castillo


Nilza Marie Santana-Castillo (author) from Atlanta on February 12, 2018:

Thanks for reading! Glad you found this usefull.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on January 21, 2018:

That was really useful to read. Writing cover letters can be difficult sometimes, especially when you have to try and sell yourself and your skills.