In a recent study, the Addison Group found that only 18% of employers consider cover letters to be an important part of the hiring process. However, consider the following scenario: An employer is recruiting for a fast-paced, growth-focused startup, and has to look at a substantial number of resumes a day. On average, they spend not more than 6 seconds on each applicant, which means, you have very little time to make a good impression and if your resume or professional connections aren’t enough, a powerful cover letter can do wonders for you.
In fact, your resume might not address why you’re applying for a particular position, or why you’re are moving on from your current role. In which case, your cover letter can be a crucial deciding factor in you getting an interview call.
A cover letter gives you an opportunity to showcase your personality, reinforce your interest in the startup you’re applying for, and incorporate other relevant information about yourself that would otherwise not surface in your application.
Let’s take a look at a few ways in which you can make your cover letter stand out from the rest:
Resort to respectful humour
Everyone, including the employer you’re reaching out to, appreciates a good pun, or funny opening line. As long as it’s done tastefully, including a joke in your cover letter can be an exceptional way to stand out from other candidates. Not to mention, a good joke can strategically highlight both your personality and skills without coming across as conceited. So, what is a cover letter-approved joke that you can get away with?
Here’s a quick tip: Think about something you’re extremely passionate about or something you’re fairly good at. Now, if you were to share details about this activity with your friends, family or, they might entertain you with a light-hearted, respectful joke—and that’s exactly the kind of humour you’re looking for. Here’s a good example from The Muse:
“I considered submitting my latest credit card statement as proof of just how much I love online shopping, but I thought a safer approach might be writing this cover letter, describing all the reasons why I’m the girl who can take Stylight’s business to the next level.”
Right away, the candidate’s playful, yet creative personality shines through her words and grabs the employer’s attention. Even better, this person has successfully used humour to get a very important message across to the reader—she likes online shopping and is a well-acquainted with the eCommerce industry as a consumer—which wouldn’t have otherwise come upon her CV or telephone screening process.
Exhibit your passion for the role and the startup
For a growing startup, the employer is more interested in knowing that you’re open to long-term engagement and are dedicated to your job profile and company. Most of all, they’re looking for someone who’s passionate about the day-to-day operations of the job and is excited to grow with the company.
As a result, demonstrating that your passion matches the skillset required for the job is a promising indicator of you enjoying the work you do. According to Harvard Business Review, one of the most common reasons that employees move on from the company is lack of job satisfaction. On the other hand, employees that are hard-wired to excel at everything that comes their way and don’t hesitate to bring their 100% to the table are more likely to stick around for longer and deliver beyond the initial expectations.
Consider including a few lines in your cover letter that showcase your passion. Hubspot suggests the following example:
I’ve been passionate about writing since I was ten years old. My love for writing has led me to write two personal travel blogs, get published in a local newspaper, and pursue two summer internships at publishing firms. Now, I’d love the opportunity to combine my writing skills with my interest in storytelling as a content marketer at Company A.
If you don’t have significant work under your belt, but you’ve been preparing to break into the industry for years, let your employer know. In the aforementioned example, the applicant’s resume probably looks weak, with only internships to account for the professional experience they have. However, with her cover letter, she’s able to let the employer know about her writing prowess, the audience that’s read her work, and how her writing ability has only gotten better over the years.
Outline your most notable accomplishments
Whether you’re applying for a bootstrapped startup that’s looking to scale or a startup that just closed a Series C funding and has plans to expand to other countries—here’s something that you should remember: All employers like numbers. So, mentioning that you’re a “full-stack developer with proven success in API integration and digital transformation” won’t really help your case.
It’s more compelling to offer statistics, so the employer is aware of your knack for problem-solving to achieve long-term results. How exactly did you contribute to your previous company’s bottom line? For example, if you’re applying for a digital marketing position, you must have numbers to show how a Facebook marketing campaign boosted the brand’s social media following, or your blog content improved the organic traffic.
“Over the past year as digital marketing manager at Company A, I’ve generated $30k+ in revenue, increased organic traffic to our blog by 14%, and almost tripled our social media ROI.”
If you already have experience with running your own startup and are wondering whether it’s a good idea to mention your startup in your resume – we suggest doing it. A lot of employers value the skills you develop while trying to build your own company. Even if your company did not do well and you had to shut down.
Sometimes, you might not have enough work experience to report important numbers. In which case, you can offer proof of your accomplishment by talking about the qualitative feedback you’ve got from employers you’ve worked with. How did your previous boss tell you that you’re good at your job?
Consider the following example from The Muse: “My last boss once told me that my phone manner could probably diffuse an international hostage situation. I’ve always had a knack for communicating with people — the easygoing and the difficult alike — and I’d love to bring that skill to the office manager position at Shutterstock.”
If you’re not offering the key numbers to your employers as a proof of success, then, remember to highlight some the notable past performance that you earned praise and acknowledgement for in the form of a former boss’s praise. Here, the applicant’s extremely candid and humorous explanation allows them to brag about accomplishments without, well, bragging. Remember, there’s a very fine line between standing out from other candidates and coming across as arrogant or gimmicky.
The ideal cover letter is supposed to leave a positive, memorable impression of you on the hiring manager—something that a resume alone isn’t always going to do.