If your cover letter includes correct spelling and grammar, clear organization, and smooth, logical sentences, that’s great. And it’s a strong first step toward an interview invitation.
But as it happens, these details won’t really draw much attention to your candidacy unless they’re missing altogether. And in that case, the attention they attract won’t be the kind of attention you want.
It’s a good idea to work hard to meet the minimum expectations of your reviewers, but if you’re successful, these efforts will only bring you into the middle of the pack. To truly stand out, you’ll need to surprise your readers by making the kinds of moves your competitors won’t. Consider some of the tips below.
Organize your story on your own terms.
Include all the information a cover letter needs —like a description of your experience and a summary of your credentials—but tell your story in your own way. Start by going back to the distant pass and explaining that you’ve had a passion for this business since you were a child. Or start by describing a recent workplace experience that showcases your natural leadership talents. Begin your story at the beginning, the end, or somewhere in the middle. Make your own decision.
Find out what employers expect to hear, and then tell them something else instead.
Most employers expect candidates to praise the company, for example. But if you have some pointed, constructive criticism to make and a brilliant solution to offer, now may be the perfect time to do so. You may offend your readers a little bit, but you may also inspire them to solve the problem by hiring you.
Break a rule.
Or two. Or all of them. Learn how to write a perfect cover letter and then break every rule in a strategic way that fits your personality, your intentions, your working style, and your personal goals. If you’re told to keep your cover letter under one page, but you’d rather frame your message in 10, take the risk. When it comes to formal job applications, respect, convention, courtesy and tradition usually win the day. But sometimes they don’t. And besides, they’re boring. Calculate what you have to lose, then be bold and put it all on the table.
Say something self-deprecating and honest.
This is similar to the advice above, and it relates specifically to a cardinal, unbreakable cover letter rule: never say anything about yourself that’s less than glowing. You’re selling yourself, after all, and nobody wants to buy a product that has a single imperfection. But there’s a difference between selling a product and selling a human asset, and sometimes an acknowledgement of your human weaknesses can make others respect you more, not less.
A perfect cover letter is only perfect if it works.
You can study and memorize cover letter rules all day long, but in the end, the only successful cover letter is the one that lands you an interview. If yours isn’t getting the job done, it may be time for a change. Visit LiveCareer and review some samples that stand out in the best possible way.