Smart tips for writing an engaging cover letter

When you’re looking for investment banking jobs or other careers in finance, your resume and cover letter are typically the two documents you spend a great deal of time working on. While many job seekers view resumes as a short and succinct way to advertise their education and job experience, few people take on the same attitude about cover letters. Writing a strong cover is one of the most dreaded aspects of an employment search because many people balk at what types of information to include, how long to expound on the details and how to separate their cover letters from a competitive group of applicants. To add on more pressure, most job seekers are aware that their cover letter will be used by employers to not only judge their writing ability and communication skills, but also their overall background and likelihood that they match the company culture.

Writing a cover letter is basically a sales pitch to employers, meaning that in order to be successful, the letter must be engaging, persuasive and stand out from other ho-hum applications. With these goals in mind, consider the below tips to help spice up your application and submit a strong letter.

1. Know what makes you different from other applicants
A cover letter is a chance to brag (subtly) about your career or education experience, and specifics will help set you apart from other job seekers who may have similar backgrounds. Telling an employer you’re a “hard worker with a strong work ethic” says nothing about how you can be of unique value to the firm. But an example of how you worked on a short project or special assignment and successfully completed your tasks before the deadline can demonstrate your work ethic and get your message across in a more provocative way. Therefore, lose the generalities and focus on real-life examples of how you have contributed to a previous job. Giving numbers and other concrete facts can only work to your advantage.

2. Make it personal
One of the first mistakes you can make starts with your opening line: Addressing the reader. Stiff and formal language, such as “To Whom It May Concern” is outdated and demonstrates that you were not willing to go above and beyond to find the hiring manager’s name. Most companies, even if they don’t post information about a specific person or department to which seekers should direct applications, have a human resources page or other tools you can use to find the manager’s name. It may even be better to call the company and simply ask who the hiring manager is. This small gesture shows that you take initiative and are truly interested in the position. It’s also important to follow this personalized stance throughout your cover letter. For example, common lines such as “I am thrilled to apply to this position” is one that is read time and time again by managers. Coming up with more creative and engaging ways of addressing the manager may help you stand out from the crowd.

3. Use the job description’s​ language
Many companies use certain keywords to highlight the specific skills and talent levels they are searching for in an ideal candidate, and finding examples of how you exhibit these candidacy desires can help you earn points with hiring managers. For example, if a company is seeking someone with leadership skills, discussing a project that you headed up and highlighting the number of members on the team and the ways in which you led them will allow you to sneak in those keywords.