How to Craft a Stand-Out Cover Letter and Get Hired Beyond Your Qualifications
Focus on the job description and your employer's expectations rather than your own experiences.
Written for TalentEgg by Jennifer McKay
Have you ever found yourself staring down a job description you don't quite qualify for? Don't give up if your desired job feels just out of reach. Here's how to increase your chances of getting hired by writing a great cover letter!
Write from the job description, not your resumé
When most people write a cover letter, they copy info about their work experience straight from their resumé. This might be standard practice, but it's not the best way to write a cover letter.
That's because employers don't want a cover letter about your work experience—they want one about the ideal candidate for their open position. So instead of copying your past jobs from your resumé, try to incorporate all the skills and experience you can from the job description.
You can't change which qualifications you have, but you can phrase your experience in a way that's relevant to the job you want. For example, let's say you're reading a job description for an entry-level role in social media marketing. The position requests:
- Two years of experience using social media to build brand awareness and improve engagement
- Understanding of basic marketing concepts
- Knowledge of Google Ads, Canva, and Facebook Business Suite
You'll discuss as many of these points as possible in your cover letter, using the same language in the job description.
Here's what that might look like:
I'm a driven social media specialist with 2+ years of experience building brand awareness and improving engagement using proven marketing strategies. I have demonstrated skill in utilizing a data-driven approach to secure conversions for Company A. My marketing toolset includes extensive experience with Google Ads, Canva, and Facebook Business Suite.
Even if you don't have work experience with the skills in the job description, you might still have personal experience that counts. What matters is that you can convey your knowledge and value through your cover letter. You aren't asking them to hire you; you're proving why they would be silly not to.
Don't be humble in your cover letter
On that note, your cover letter is where you shouldn't be humble about your achievements. Make it clear how much you have to offer and exactly how much experience you have. Use data to back up your claims as much as possible. If you improved sales by 20% at your last job, say so!
How can you explain that you did the work of three people without being rude? Here's a tip. Whenever possible, avoid making your co-workers look bad. Even if they weren't great at their jobs, bringing them down will reflect poorly on you. Instead, think of creative ways to phrase your talents that make everyone look good.
For example, instead of saying that you did the work of three people, you could say something like:
Trusted point of contact who collaborated across multiple departments, finding creative solutions to complex problems.
By phrasing your skills differently, you can make yourself much more marketable.
Tell it to them straight
Worried about those qualifications on the job description that you're missing? Stand out from the crowd by meeting them head-on!
Let's say the job description requests Google Ads experience, which you don't have. Please don't skip over it. Instead, look it up and see if it's similar to your experience running Facebook ads (or something similar). You might be surprised how quickly and easily you could pick up the skill they requested. Then, you can put on your cover letter. For example:
My proven experience with Facebook ads has prepared me to succeed in this position. My experience would allow me to learn Google ads quickly, and I am prepared to take a course to accelerate my learning if selected for this role.
This doesn't just apply to social media marketing, either! Being confident in your ability to learn a requested skill proves you're driven to improve yourself. It's much better than simply leaving it out.
Add some personality to your cover letter!
Employers read a lot of cover letters. If yours sound precisely like the last three letters they've read, you probably aren't going to catch their attention—unless you have stand-out skills already.
To get hired beyond your qualifications, showcase your extraordinary personality with well-written documents matching your identity. Use examples from your experience highlighting your essential skills and who you are.
For example, don't just write that you "have experience with social media." Write that you're "An experienced social media expert specializing in building clientele with warm and prompt replies." Be careful, though. Too many "ten-dollar words" can make your reader's eyes glaze over!
This can dramatically increase your chance of getting noticed because employers want to hire people they know they can rely on. If you come off as an expert in your field who is approachable and willing to learn, you aren't just proving you're a good candidate for this job. You're also confirming that you'll fit in well with their company culture and be a pleasure to work with.
Create a cover letter that shows why your unique skills are an asset to the job you want, and you'll be considered for positions you never thought possible! So, dig out that old cover letter and make some changes. You'll be surprised how much it'll do for you!
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