Everyone knows that a cover letter can make or break your chance of being considered for a position. It shouldn't. It's intended to lead the employer to review your résumé and provide additional information to be considered for the job. Read on for the top details hiring managers want to see in a cover letter.
A great first sentence: A great first sentence is the key to getting the attention of a hiring manager. Starting your cover letter with something like, "Congratulations on your recent award” demonstrates familiarity with the employer, making it clear that the candidate has done his or her homework. It is very important that you tailor that first sentence to the person or the company.
Personalization: No one likes getting a "To Whom It May Concern" letter. If the company does not provide the name of person, you have a couple of options. You could leave off the salutation completely, forget the guessing games and spend that time focusing on how your qualifications should get you an interview for the position. You could call the company and find out to whom to address the letter or you could address it, "Dear Hiring Manager," which isn't the end of the world.
Matching qualifications: You probably have a list of your best skills that you pull out for a cover letter. The cover letter is where you should go deeper by paying attention to that job description. Pick out exact words you can repeat in your letter so that you are, essentially, speaking the hiring manager's language. Find in your own skill set those features that the company wants the most.
Blog links: Even if you're lacking in job experience but you've been blogging about your industry, don't be shy about including links to your posts as that shows personality in cover letters. Blogs give the hiring manager more insight into the kind of professional a job candidate is. Also, applicants who provide a link to the blog in the cover letter, rather than letting hiring managers discover it while doing internet research on them; convey a type of openness about themselves and their work.
A "why": Don't just share your work experience in your cover letter. A cover letter will stand out if it explains why you are valued at your current job and with your clients. You can also explain to the hiring manager why you're a good fit for a job. Study the job description to glean what the company is looking for, and figure out how to best position yourself for the role.
Creativity matters: If you really want to have an effect, do something no one else is doing. For example, one innovative applicant who wanted a job with a presentation software company used its presentation software to create an original cover letter. While it might not be a feasible solution for every job you want to apply for, certain companies may appreciate the extra thoughtfulness and creativity, and give you a leg up.