Cover Letter Tips: How to Write a Stand-Out Introduction

The cover letter is usually the first thing the hiring manager sees, and is one of the best tools creative professionals can use to make a positive first impression. Hiring managers view this document as more than just a supplement to your employment history – it offers insight into your career aspirations and level of initiative. The following cover letter tips can help you convey the right message.

1. Personalize it

Address the letter to the person hiring for the position. Call the firm's main phone number and ask for the name and the title of the hiring manager if it is not spelled out in the job ad. Verify and double-check the spelling of the name and person's title and his or her correct office mailing address. As you begin writing your cover letter, think about your unique qualifications, experience and work history as your personal brand. Your personal brand is also the direction you want your career to take.

Wondering how to beef up your personal brand as you search for jobs and assignments? Check out these personal branding tips for creative professionals.

2. Sell your qualifications in the first paragraph

  • Start strong, with a powerful opening paragraph that briefly describes how you heard about the available position and why you're interested.
  • If you were referred by a colleague, be sure to mention that person's name and title. The manager might know that person and he or she can serve as one of your professional references.
  • Offer the hiring manager a compelling reason to continue reading, such as including a tidbit about the company or a preview of your qualifications.

3. Tailor it to the job

Having researched the firm and the industry through the Internet, trade publications and the library, craft a tightly written cover letter that demonstrates your knowledge of the field and the position's requirements. Briefly explain why your background meets the firm's needs and your pertinent accomplishments. For instance if the position calls for project management or budgetary experience, mention key projects you've led and how you accomplished them within allocated budgets.

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4. Make it unique

One of the most important cover letter tips we can offer is this: Be careful not to rehash your resume in your letter. Instead, focus on key aspects of your background that relate directly to the job. If a project you led helped boost the company's sales, mention that. Be sure to be able to back it up with evidence. Resist any urge to embellish your work history. Make sure your resume and cover letter are truthful and state only what past supervisors will support in the likely event the hiring manager calls your former company.

5. Include a proper closing

Close the letter by outlining your next steps, stating when you will contact the person to follow up, reinforcing your enthusiasm for the job.

6. Edit, edit, edit

Copywriters and other creative professionals are held to a higher standard when it comes to the resume and cover letter. Make sure your copy is tight (cover letters should be limited to one page), that you've used active verbs and varied your word choice. Read and re-read your cover letter for typos and grammatical errors (including the file names, i.e., janedoecoverletter.doc) every time you make a change. Then, have someone else read it. Then, read it one more time.

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For more cover letter tips, job hunting resources and career advice, visit The Creative Group's Career Resources page.