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Can Cover Letters That Stand Out Get You Job Interviews?

Hands on a laptop writing a cover letter


Are Recruiters Not Noticing You? Here’s How To Write Cover Letters That Stand Out

Searching for a job is hard.

How many application forms have you filled out only to never hear back from the company? How many resumes have you sent without even getting a confirmation of receipt? How many cover letters did you write without knowing if anyone read any of them? 

How sick are you of the silent treatment?

As demotivating as the silent treatment is, there may be something you can do to break the unlucky application streak. What you need to do is start writing cover letters that stand out—letters that will manage to get past the HR bots and reach the human recruiters, bringing you one step closer to the elusive interview stage. 

This article will help you compose a cover letter worthy of attention. You will learn:

Why Is It Important To Write a Cover Letter That Stands Out?

It’s no secret that recruiters use cover letters to determine who gets an interview. They receive loads of applications—and yours needs to stand out from the bunch. If you want them to give you a second of their attention, you have to submit a cover letter with your application and make it both persuasive and written specifically for the role you’re applying for.

A cover letter is more than just a document that you attach to your resume—it explains why you are the perfect candidate for the position in question. 

Your cover letter is how you promote yourself. It’s the first point of contact a hiring manager will have with you. A good cover letter has the power to make an excellent first impression, increasing your chances of getting interviewed for the role. Consider it a sales pitch—a way to show your personality along with your accomplishments and impress a potential employer.

Is Sending a Cover Letter Ever Optional?

Sometimes, a job ad will say that a cover letter is optional. Still, a candidate who does send the cover letter will have the advantage—they will present themselves as the right fit for the role and the company more successfully with the cover letter than without.

Other times, a job ad may state that cover letters will not be accepted. This could be a test—companies sometimes want to see if you have read the ad carefully, so the information not to send a cover letter will intentionally be placed somewhere near the end of their job posting.

Always follow the instructions. It shows that you read the job ad with interest and that you have strong attention to detail. 

How To Write Cover Letters That Get Noticed

Knowing that cover letters are necessary is all good and well, but what use are they if they go unnoticed? To make sure it doesn’t happen to you, you have to follow some guidelines. 

Your cover letter must be easy to read, no matter who is reading it—a bot or a person. It means you have to step up your formatting game. Submit only well-formatted letters, with lots of white space on the page and easy-to-skim sections.

Your cover letter should do much more than restate what you have included in your resume. The resume merely lists your skills and prior work experience, but your cover letter must state, in no uncertain terms, how those skills and experience would come in handy to you in the desired role and how the company would benefit from having you on board.

That is why using free online templates will not do. You must write your own letter, and to make your cover letter stand out, you need to:

  1. Pay attention to the structure
  2. Be precise and concise
  3. Emphasize your qualities 
  4. Optimize your cover letter
  5. Proofread it before sending
A woman sitting at a desk and brainstorming

Source: Alex Green

Structure Your Cover Letter To Stand Out

In general, your cover letter should have the following parts:

  1. Heading (containing your name, email, phone number, and the date)
  2. Greeting
  3. Main paragraphs (typically three of them)
  4. Formal closing

It would probably be best to create a cover letter outline before writing the letter. That way, you won’t have to write a new document from scratch every time you apply for a job. You can modify the outline you already have to suit each new role you want to apply for.

If you don’t know how to start, you can read some cover letter examples online to see what you should aim for. Use the samples only as a guide and customize them to suit your skills, personality, tone, and the roles you apply for.

Formatting is a broad topic, but here are some general tips that hiring managers will respond well to:

  • Use line spacing to your advantage and split the text into shorter paragraphs to make the text easy to read
  • Don’t suffocate your cover letter with excessive info—stick to the skills and data relevant to the job at hand
  • Use bold formatting and bullet points—these help you emphasize key skills
  • Avoid using:
    • Fonts in colors other than the default black
    • Exclamation points and all caps in sentences
    • Italic formatting
    • Tables, charts, graphs, and images
  • Don’t write any info in the page header and footer—an ATS won’t be able to read them
  • Keep your cover letter up to one page long

Be Brief and Concise

When it comes to cover letter writing, less is always more. 

The sentences should be clear, concise, and short. Why?

If you send a cover letter that consists of one big confusing block of text, the recruiter will eliminate you from the race instantly. They don’t have the time to decipher unclear and disorganized passages to try and find a shred of information that might or might not point them in the direction of a viable candidate.

To stop such fate befalling you and your application, create a cover letter that has three central paragraphs, each focusing on one idea. Here is what each section should look like:

  1. Opening paragraph—Express your enthusiasm for the position and the company. Use attention-grabbing vocabulary and phrases. If you have a referral, this is where you can mention it
  2. Central paragraph—Sell yourself to the employer, and don’t be shy. Emphasize your skills, accomplishments, and qualities. Explain how your experience and qualifications relate to the role you are applying for. Alternatively, if this is an entry-level cover letter, explain how you will compensate for the lack of experience but still excel in the role
  3. Closing paragraph—Seal the deal. Summarize how you can contribute to the company. Thank the hiring manager for their time and consideration. You should also say that you are looking forward to their call

Don’t Be Modest—But Don’t Oversell Yourself Either

Companies want confident employees because they are the ones who perform better and show more potential for growth. So, feel free to brag about yourself but don’t make things up. 

Make sure you can back up all your claims. If you get to the interview stage, you will have to touch upon everything you have written and provide further context, which makes it easy for the recruiter to catch you in a lie or an exaggeration on your resume or cover letter. 

A confident young woman in her office, sitting in front of her laptop and smiling

Source: Andrea Piacquadio

In the cover letter, mention the projects you worked on and achievements that you take pride in. List all your accomplishments in a bullet list and bold everything you don’t want recruiters to miss.

A cover letter that stands out will demonstrate that you can have a measurable impact on a company. Concrete examples, numbers, and percentages will do the trick. Have you brought in new clients? Increased sales? Streamlined particular processes? Grew your company’s social media following? Say it clearly. 

How To Make a Cover Letter Stand Out With Optimization

How do you make your resume and cover letter get past the AI and find their way to a human? Simple—use keywords from the job description to optimize your cover letter for the ATS and add bullet lists and bold formatting so that the recruiter easily notices the most important parts.

Many companies use software to filter applications. These tools scan resumes and cover letters and check how well they match the requirements from the job description. To get past the ATS, you should use the phrases from the job ad and incorporate them in your cover letter. 

To appropriately incorporate these keywords into your cover letter, you have to read the job description carefully, paying special attention to the years of experience, particular skills, type of degree necessary, etc. and make sure they find their way to your document.

This is another reason why sending out generic cover letters is ill-advised. Even if you were a great candidate, you wouldn’t be able to get past the software, and the recruiter would not get the chance to meet you. 

Proofread Your Cover Letter Several Times

Once you have finished writing, read your cover letter from beginning to end. Make sure you proofread it several times, correcting the typos, grammar mistakes, and wordy parts as you read. If you can, sleep on it and reread it with a fresh perspective in the morning. 

A hiring manager holding a copy of a resume and cover letter and talking to a candidate at a job interview

Source: Mart Production

Tailor the Cover Letter to the Role You Are Applying For

If there is one thing that will put recruiters off, it’s seeing that you are mass applying for jobs. When it comes to your cover letter, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Cover letters that stand out share one important quality—they connect the elements of the job you want to get with the skills and experience you have. If you want to be noticed, emphasize what you are particularly good at and point out how it is useful for the role and how it serves the company. 

Two women looking at a resume of a candidate

Source: Cottonbro

To support your claims, include facts and data. If you are applying for a sales position, mention the sales goals you have achieved in your previous role. If you are applying for a managerial role, talk about the size of a team you managed and the successes you’ve had. 

Important Details To Pay Attention To

There are two crucial parts of the cover letter you shouldn’t mess up. Double-check whether: 

  1. The date on your letter is accurate—If you are applying for a job in January, but there is a date from December in your letter, it will raise some red flags with the recruiter
  2. You have mentioned the role and company name in the first paragraph—You must customize your letter to fit the position you want. Make sure to state that you are applying for a job at a particular company and include the exact role

Is an Outline Useful When Writing a Cover Letter?

Some parts of the cover letter are always the same, so you can make one outline and use it for each cover letter you write. Here are the essentials:

  1. Heading—Don’t forget to change the date and the name of the company
  2. Greeting—If you know the name of the recruiter, make sure to address them by their full name
  3. Opening sentence—Remember to mention the company and role you are applying to
  4. Content of the opening paragraph—Focus on your qualifications, years of experience, etc.
  5. Closing—Include a call to action (I would like to discuss [topic] further in person.)

To help you get started, here are some of the common phrases you can use when writing your cover letter:

Part of a Cover Letter Useful Phrases
Greeting To whom it may concern
Dear Sir/Madam
Dear Mr/Ms (name)
Dear hiring manager
Dear recruiter
Opening paragraph I am writing in response to your ad in [newspaper/website]
I would like to express my interest in the position of [role]
Please accept this letter as an expression of my interest in the position of [role]
I have experience in [niche] and have worked at [company name] for the last [number] years.
My education includes a degree from [name of university].
I have been studying [field of study] for [number] years.
Closing paragraph I would appreciate the opportunity to meet and speak with you in person.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sign-off Sincerely
Best regards
Kind regards

The Dos and Don’ts of Cover Letter Writing

Here are a few additional tips on making your cover letter stand out. Replace common mistakes with some better alternatives:

Don’t Do
Focus on yourself and what the job would do for your career
Make excuses for the skills you lack
Focus on your current job
Overdo it with keywords
Dwell on the negative (complaining about the previous manager, long commute time, inability to work from home, etc.)
Waste time researching the company more than necessary
Emphasize how you can contribute to the growth of the company
Discuss the skills you have and explain how they can help you do the job well
Focus on why you want to get that job
Use key phrases strategically
Express your enthusiasm for the role

Job Search Shouldn’t Be So Hard

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median duration of unemployment in December 2021 was 12.9 weeks, which is an improvement compared to the 19.3 weeks in May of the same year. BLS also reports that the unemployment rate has dropped in almost all industries. But although things are getting better, the overall situation is still difficult.

Research shows that only 2% of applicants actually get an interview and that 23% of the currently unemployed people have applied to over 30 jobs within a year. 

You have to compete with many other job seekers and do whatever you can to improve your chances of getting noticed. The competition is particularly fierce among IT professionals, and it’s expected to grow only stronger in the following years. And even when you finally land an interview, it may turn out that you don’t fit in well with the organization due to cultural differences.

A stressed-out young woman holding her head in front of her laptop

Source: Andrea Piacquadio

Finding a job is not a walk in the park, but you can make it simpler—you can try Lensa.

Lensa is a job board aggregator that is powered by AI to help users make better career decisions. It will help you find job openings that meet your salary expectations, desired location, and match your personality. 

Sign up for our app and enjoy some of the benefits Lensa offers:

  • Access to a vast number of ads from many different job boards
  • Possibility to personalize your account and increase your chances to be matched with suitable employers
  • Opportunity to play the Workstyle Game and learn more about your personality, professional strengths, and attitude to work
  • Personalized job ad suggestions—you will receive notifications when an appropriate job position opens

How To Register for Lensa

Register for Lensa in a few seconds and make your job hunting journey more pleasant. 

All you have to do is follow these simple steps:

  1. Go to the website
  2. Type in the desired job title and location
  3. Add your email address
  4. Hit Submit

That’s it! From this moment, you can continue browsing job listings, play the Workstyle game, or personalize your profile. 

To get the most out of Lensa, you can also:

  • Provide your first and last name and mobile number—you will start receiving notification alerts about new job openings
  • Include more specific demographics data, such as desired compensation, education level, and experience, to get even better, more personalized search results
  • Upload your resume—this unlocks Company Reviews and Matching Companies features

Once you complete your profile, you will start receiving job suggestions tailored to your preferences. Your job search will be a much more pleasant experience. Most importantly, you will reduce the time you spend looking for suitable positions and applying for them. 

Source: Peter Olexa

Team Lensa
Team Lensa
Team Lensa is a group of HR specialists, career counselors, and tech enthusiasts dedicated to helping job seekers navigate the employment landscape through actionable tips and insights.

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