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Attention Hiring Manager Cover Letter

Sure, your resume is important. It’s a piece of paper with every single professional detail about you assembled into one organized list. But when a potential employer wants to see more than just bullet points, the first place he’s going to learn more about you is your cover letter —and you don’t want to disappoint.

We asked 10 entrepreneurs from YEC how you you can stand out from the crowd by writing a top-notch cover letter .

1. Pay Attention to Detail

— Brian David Crane, Caller Smart Inc.

2. Write a Dialogue, Not a Monologue

— David Mainiero, InGenius Prep

3. Do Your Homework

— Dan Golden, Be Found Online

4. Lead With Purpose

— Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

5. Establish an Emotional Connection

— Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

6. List Solutions With a Timeline

— Carter Thomas, Bluecloud Solutions

7. Show How Your Skill Set Aligns With My Needs

— Diana Goodwin, AquaMobile Swim School

8. Give it a Human Element

— Marc Lobliner, TigerFitness.com and MTS Nutrition

9. Tell Me How You Can Deliver on Day One

— Rakia Reynolds, Skai Blue Media

10. Show Results

— Phil Laboon, Eyeflow Internet Marketing

Photo of woman working on cover letter courtesy of JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images.

When we’re hiring, we put an ‘Easter egg’ in the application, and any applicant who includes this special detail in her cover letter will be considered. It helps us identify the applicants who pay attention to detail, actually read the post, and are truly interested in the opportunity—not just sending out generic applications to each job they see.

Our former admissions officers and graduate coaches help folks with cover letters every day, so we’ve seen them from all sides of the table. The worst ones have sloppy mistakes and typos, but many of them also show no theme or ‘application person,’ as we call it. If you aren’t engaging your reader, you’re already far behind in the process. At smaller companies, cover letters aren’t just a formality.

I look for cover letters that talk less about the candidate and more about his excitement and knowledge of my company. This tells me you’ve done your homework and that you have the enthusiasm I’m looking for. Yes, I know you really want a job and that this experience will be great for you, but what are you bringing to the table that’s unique to the needs of my company?

Resumes do a horrible job of capturing the story behind what drives people. The cover letter connects the dots. It gives you the chance to elaborate on the purpose that has driven you to select a certain company as the place where you want to make a difference. Most good cover letters lead with purpose and show why a candidate truly cares.

The best cover letters are clear about why a candidate wants to be part of the team and how she developed an affinity for the company. This can take a variety of forms, from explaining your industry or business model expertise to how you’re a passionate user of the company’s products or services and simply want to contribute to the future success of the organization.

The best one I ever saw said, ‘Here are the seven solutions I can bring to your company in the next 30 days and the exact way I will execute them.’ The letter itself was more valuable than many consulting calls I’ve done.

Too often, I see generic cover letters that don’t align with the actual job description or the employer’s needs. A cover letter that stands out explicitly states how your skill set aligns with what the company’s looking for. This shows that you’ve taken the time to understand the organization you’re applying for and that you’ve been thoughtful in terms of thinking how you make a good fit.

Anyone can write a cover letter that says the right things but still makes you sound like a robot. So one that makes the person sound like a human with personality will always stand out. Achievements, education, and qualifications are nice, but every potential candidate will have that. What stands out the most and captures my attention is personality.

Cover letters that really catch my attention are ones that are not overly formal. I want candidates to be themselves and highlight the experiences that brought them to this point. Instead of focusing exclusively on your education and credentials, tell me a story that clearly reveals why you’re an awesome person to work with and how you can deliver on day one.

Showing statistics on a cover page is a great way to complement a resume. It shows an employer that you can achieve results. It also lets the reader know you take pride in what you’ve accomplished.

You’ve put the finishing touches on your resume, found a host of appealing job listings and are sitting down at your computer to apply. Then, you see it and your heart sinks.

*Cues horror film music*

They each require a cover letter.

With so many positions in mind — all requiring unique cover letters — you may be tempted to just give up rather than wrestle with the dreaded “To Whom it May Concern.”

Before you run screaming, here’s a guide to help you navigate the cover letter writing process.

Wait, does anyone still use cover letters anymore?

The cover letter has fallen out of favor among some recruiters and job applicants.

Forty-seven percent of those seeking positions said they didn’t include “a cover letter with their current or most recent job application,” while just 26% of recruiters said they think cover letters are crucial “in their decision to hire an applicant,” according to the 2017 Job Seeker Nation Study by Jobvite (with data collected by Zogby Analytics).

Still, there are plenty of jobs that require a cover letter, and you don’t want to put yourself at a disadvantage by skipping it entirely. Here’s what you need to know:

Tailor it to the job you’re applying for

It can be tempting to use a one-size-fits all cover letter when applying to multiple jobs, but you should ditch the cookie-cutter approach.

Instead of describing the same achievements on each cover letter, show every recruiter that you really do understand how your experience could benefit their company if you’re brought on board.

In your cover letter, be sure to highlight the points that speak to the desired job experience they’re seeking, and explain how what you’ve done directly relates to the job description.

Ditch the weak introduction

You don’t know how long the recruiter will be willing to read over your cover letter, so make the top of it count.

So, if you had to choose between “Please consider me for your sales representative opening” and “Your need for a top-performing sales representative is an excellent match to my three-year history as a top-ranked, multimillion-dollar producer,” there’s no contest, according to Monster.com.

So how do you write a strong cover letter introduction?

Be concrete, succinct and interesting. Give examples of your successes or name your contacts at the company, according to The Balance.com.

In other words, lead with your best foot forward.

Don’t ramble

Time is of the essence when it comes to job applications, and you don’t want the recruiter’s eyes to glaze over in an attempt to read through your letter.

When it comes to the perfect length, the perfect letter is between a half a page and a page long, according to Alison Green, author of the blog Ask a Manager.

She writes that recruiters’ preferences vary, but that “…the perfect length for a cover letter is the amount of space that it takes to explain why you’re an unusually strong candidate for the job aside from what’s on your resume,” Green writes.

Go beyond what’s on your resume

Recruiters can read your bullet points, but they don’t necessarily know how what you accomplished impacted your career — the cover letter is your opportunity to fill them in.

The Muse explains how to dive deeper into how the achievements on your resume have shaped you professionally.

“Instead of just repeating yourself (‘I was in charge of reviewing invoice disputes’), use your cover letter to describe additional details that you weren’t able to squeeze onto the single page of your resume: ‘By resolving invoice disputes, I gained a deep analytical knowledge — but more importantly, I learned how to interact calmly and diplomatically with angry customers.’ A cover letter gives you the freedom to use full sentences — instead of bullet points — so use them to expand upon your resume points and tell the story of why you’re the perfect fit for the company,” the publication says.

Submit it as a PDF file

You’ve worked hard to format that tab indent or bullet point layout just so — so why risk that hard work disappearing the minute your file gets converted from a .doc to a .docx on the hiring manager’s computer screen?

“Not every office computer can read .docx or .pages files, but virtually everybody can open a PDF file without any conversion,” Forbes reports. “File conversions are bad for two huge reasons. First, they are just as likely to not bother and move onto the next applicant. And, second, conversions can introduce formatting errors. Both are bad.”

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