How to Write a Cover Letter That Helps You Stand Out From the Crowd

Your cover letter is almost as important as your resume when it comes to landing an interview for your dream job.  You don’t want it to be too generic — “Dear Sir or Madam, Please consider me for the position of XXX that you have open.”  On the other hand, you don’t want it to be too over the top.

This article lists five common cover letter over the top mistakes.

I always urge members of my career mentoring site to begin their cover letter with a story — something that will catch the reader’s eye.  There are two types of great stories you can use to begin your cover letter.

The first goes to your passion for the position and type of work for which you are applying.  I once used this opening to land an interview for a job as an internal team building consultant…

“I remember the first time I participated in a team building event.  The facilitator helped us figure out exactly what we needed to accomplish, and how we were going to work together to accomplish it.  Right then and there, I knew that I wanted to become a team building expert.  From that day forward, I participated in as many team building events as I could.  I went back to school to get a Master’s degree in communication that focused on group dynamics.  I also took as many professional development courses on teams and team building as I could.”

I went on to discuss the specific position for which I was applying and why I was a great fit for it.  The hiring manager told me that he invited me in for an interview because I demonstrated a true passion for the kind of work I would be doing.

The second type of story goes to the company and its products.  One of my friends lost his father to a heart attack when he was in high school.  His father’s doctor told him and his mother that his dad probably would not have had that heart attack if he had been on heart medication.  Here’s the way he led off a cover letter to a large pharmaceutical company…

“I lost my dad to a heart attack when I was in the 11th grade.  It was a tough time for my mom and me.  It was made even more difficult when our family doctor told me that my dad probably would never have had that heart attack if he had been more diligent about annual checkups.

“The doc told us that my dad’s heart attack was caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure.  He said that he would have prescribed some blood pressure medication for my dad that would have significantly reduced, or even eliminated, the threat of a heart attack.

“Right then and there, I knew I wanted to work in the healthcare field.  I didn’t want to be a doctor, but I felt that I could make a big contribution by working for a company that makes life saving medicines.”

He went on to discuss how he did a double major in life sciences and marketing while he was at university and why he was a great fit for an entry level marketing position with the company.

We both got interviews which led to jobs.

The common sense point here is simple.  Use your cover letter to capture the eye and the imagination of the reader.  Lead off by telling a story — about why you want to work in a specific field, or for a specific type of company — and your cover letter will stand out from the pack.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

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