With many job applicants competing for limited job opportunities, how can you stand out in a sea of talent? On the average, a hiring manager receives hundreds of job applications and inquiries a day. They sift through piles of documents for the candidate whom they think would best fit the requirements and demands of the new job opening.

Each job seeker tries to sell themselves to prospective companies in hopes of landing their dream job. How do you get noticed by the hiring manager and merit that much-awaited job interview? Here are some tips to help your cover letter stand out:

1) Do your homework

Before you start writing your cover letter, take time to digest the job scope, and research about the hiring manager, the company you are applying at and its corporate culture. Go online, read news about the company or connect with friends working in said firm or the same industry. Let the hiring manager know that you have made an effort to learn more about their organisation.

2) Get the basics right

It all starts with the correct format. Make sure that you have these basic elements in your cover letter:

  • Greeting: Address your letter to the right person.
  • Opening: Write a personable opening and state your reason for writing.
  • Hook: Highlight a past achievement that is relevant to the job you are applying for.
  • Skills: Include a pertinent skill that will prove handy to the job.
  • Close: Thank the hiring manager and communicate your eagerness for an interview.

3) Yes, the K.I.S.S. approach works

The hiring manager receives piles of job applications every day. With such limited time to view each applicant’s documents, it might not be wise to send a cover letter that reads like a life story. Keep it short and sweet. State only the most relevant skills or work achievements.

4) Use bullet points

This is a valuable tool that will help the hiring manager scan through your education history, work experience, and list of skills and achievements.

5) Link to your social media profile and online portfolio

Make it easier for the hiring manager to learn more about you by directing them to your LinkedIn profile as well as your online portfolio of past projects.

6) ‘Authenticate’ your letter

Let your unique and concrete accomplishments shine through. Avoid trite words like ‘team player’, ‘motivated’ or ‘passionate’ if possible. Feel free to use a one-liner reference from a former boss or mentor to back up your credentials.

7) Avoid phrases that put your job application at risk

Refrain from using ‘generic’ phrases such as “To whom it may concern…”, “Give me a chance to prove myself…”, “Here are my salary expectations…” and “The reasons I left my former employer are…”. These phrases can turn off a hiring manager and may put your job application in peril.

8) Tell them what makes the company special

Before trying to impress the hiring manager with your skills and achievements, mention what is it about the company that attracted you to apply for the job opening. Was it the company’s track record of market success, its corporate culture or fabulous office layout?

9) Try the elevator pitch

If you were given only a minute to introduce yourself to the hiring manager, what would you say? How would you put your best foot forward?

10) Feel their pain

Know what the company’s challenges or pain points are (eg. knowledge transfer, employee turnover, high churn rate) and position yourself as a ‘solution’ to those problems.

12) Know your communication style

The way you communicate is a crucial factor in whether you will fit in with the culture of the company.

13) Remember to follow through

Most jobs seekers complete the first part of the job application process (sending their cover letter and resume, and attending the job interview), but only a few remember to follow-up on their application. Consider giving a call to the hiring manager or sending an email a week after the job interview.

14) Show courtesy and good manners

Whether or not you get hired, being polite and appreciative of the hiring manager’s time in the recruitment process will help you to leave a good impression.

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