How to Make Your Cover Letter Sound Less Formulaic

John Scott
Posted by

Writing a great cover letter is both an art and a science. You need to cover certain information, such as your qualifications and how they match up to the job requirements, but you want to avoid writing a letter that feels as if you just plugged in words in a generic mix-and-match formula. Use these tips to help your cover letter look fresh and unique.

Personalize Your Cover Letter

It's understandable if you think the cover letter isn't important. After all, don't job recruiters and human resources department just toss the cover letter aside to go straight to the resume? As it turns out, that's not necessarily true. Many job recruiters use the cover letter as a way to get to know you. To let yourself shine, start by personalizing your cover letter. Find the name of the person who will be reading your resume and address your letter to them personally. If you know someone at the company, or if you have references the recruiter will recognize, mention them in the letter. If you have unique experience with the company you're applying to, make sure to mention it up front. The recruiter expects to read the same old cover letter formula, so break out of the box in your very first paragraph by making your letter personal. Send something that could only come from you.

Be Specific

The problem with the typical cover letter formula is that it tends to make your letters generic and vague. Avoid this trap by being as specific as possible early in your letter. Don't use standard phrases pulled from "how-to-write" sites, and pinpoint your specific successes, achievements and accomplishments. Include awards, job titles and any other facts and figures that apply directly to the job requirements for the position you're applying for. If you have a lot to say, break it up into multiple short paragraphs to make your cover letter easier to read.

Don't Forget to Follow Up

Too many generic cover letters end with a bland statement thanking the job recruiter for his consideration, thereby placing the entire process solely in his hands. Instead of doing this, take a little of your destiny back into your own hands by making your own suggestions for a follow-up meeting. Mention that you will get in touch with the person reading your cover letter, and give a date sometime in the next two weeks when you plan to follow up. Make sure your own contact information is clear, so it's easy for the recruiter to follow up with you first.

Applying for jobs often seems like an impersonal and faceless activity. Remember, you are not just a bland, generic applicant. You are the answer to the job recruiter's problem. Personalize your cover letter and fill it with specifics that make you stand out from the crowd.


(Photo courtesy of stockimages /


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch