How to Make Your Cover Letter Shine

Ah, the dreaded cover letter. Many people cringe writing it but truth be told, a recruiter and hiring manager probably won’t spend too much time on it anyway. The key to standing out during their limited attention is to know your audience.

So, in the media realm depending on the tone of the outlet you’re targeting, your letter can be punchy and succinct or a bit more serious; technically it’s not unlike a freelance pitch for a story. David Noble, Ph.D., and author of Gallery of Best Cover Letters, advises, “The more you know about the reader of your cover letter, the better you can tailor its content to appeal to that person.”

While his book provides more than 300 samples of cover letters, the author says to make the letter as personal as possible. That is, avoid the “To Whom It May Concern” salutation and instead address it to a specific person.

His advice? “If you have not been able to make a personal contact, at least do everything possible to find out the name of the person who will read your letter and resume, and then address the letter to that person.” Athough a magazine’s masthead may make it easier for us in the print world, digital outlets may make the name hunting a little bit more challenging. Therefore, cold calling the receptionist is a place to start.

As for how to handle it if a contact suggested you forward it to his or her contact, be sure to “say this in the first sentence of your cover letter.” Mention the mutual contact’s name so you can get past a gatekeeper who may be sorting through the letters.

In addition to the basics like researching the company and tossing in some information like a recent positive news blurb to show you’re keeping abreast of them, end it on a light note. Noble explains, “Toward the end of the cover letter, consider repeating the recipient’s name to convey friendliness and to provide a personal touch.”