Nine Cover Letter Tips to Get You Noticed

By CHARLIE KIMMEL on JUNE 16, 2015

Nine Cover Letter Tips: The Nine Lives of a Cover Letter

Cat and mouse

Finding a job can sometimes feel like a game of cat and mouse. Except you’re a mouse that wants to get caught, trying your hardest to get the attention of the hungry, though very picky, feline. The “cat” has his pick of hundreds of tasty mice. Stop pussyfooting around! Hiding in the cupboard hasn’t been working, so it’s time to put your mousey self out there. It’s time to figure out what kind of cheese the cat prefers. Then present it on a platter, dangle it in his view, and down-right flaunt it in his face.

This proverbial self-exhibition in the resume world is called a cover letter and learning how to write a good one is the difference between landing that job (a.k.a. becoming mouse a la mode) and continuing the job hunt (a.k.a back to the rodent wheel). For a surefire way to get noticed, follow these cover letter tips.

1. No One Likes a Copy Cat

COPYCAT cover letter tips your chances to the wrong side

Don’t repeat your resume. A cover letter is not a repeat of your resume in paragraph form. Sometimes your cover letter will be attached to your resume, so take the opportunity to add more information about yourself. It’s a great way to showcase your personality, express some curiosity, and tell the story that bullet points on a resume can’t quite tell.

One of the best cover letter tips is to research the company and throw in a historical fact about the company. Here’s an example, “I see your company was founded in 1983. That’s the year I was born! I see you’ve changed a lot since then; so have I!” Tell the company how you are a good fit for the new direction they are taking. Remember that the cover letter is not the resume; expand a little!

2. It May Be Time For a Catnap

Cat nap

Keep it short. When it comes to the amount of resumes and cover letters a company will receive, it’s raining cats and dogs! You have a matter of seconds to draw the reader’s attention with your cover letter. The first thing that will turn a reader off is if the cover letter is too long. One page, a few paragraphs long, should be perfect.

Keep in mind that readers will be sifting through lots of resumes. They may become bored or apathetic about the whole process. If it’s after lunch, they may be in a food coma needing a catnap. Keep your cover letter brief. This cover letter example lacks in some of the other cover letter tips we list here. It could definitely be expanded, but when it comes to short, this one nails it.

Short cover letter

3. “Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty…!”

Here kitty

Address the cover letter to the correct person. Nothing screams inexperience louder than a cover letter started, “To Whom it May Concern,” or worse yet, “Dear Sir or Madame.” Research the company and find out the name of the hiring manager. If you’ve searched your heart out and still can’t find a name, consider using the name of the department head. You might even consider putting, “Dear future co-worker/boss/dojo master etc.” Ok, maybe not, but you get the point. When possible, write the letter to someone specific.

4. Stop Pussy Footin’ Around

Cat going for the sausage

Don’t apologize for a lack of skills. Interviewers are highly skilled at noticing gaps or deficiencies in resumes; there is no need to point them out in a cover letter. In this example, the cover letter tips the scales against you: “Despite a lack of familiarity in marketing and sales…” This is a confession to your future employer that you recognize you don’t have the skills necessary to get the job done.

They’ll be able to see if you don’t have experience in marketing and sales. But what they do want to see is how your other experiences can close the gap. Try instead something like, “My extensive experience in fundraising has given me the confidence in approaching people and the tact for asking for money to make me a great future director in sales and marketing.”

Be confident in who you are and what you have done in the past. Even something as simple as “Here’s what I can specifically contribute,” will work. After all, everyone understands there is more than one way to skin a cat. Convince them to see things your way.

5. Is This a Fancy Feast or a Meow Mix Kinda Cat?

Cover letter tips highlight the fancy cat

Replicate the company’s voice and tone in your cover letter. Check out the company’s website and some of the work they have produced. Are they formal in how they present themselves? Or do they seem to present a lighter tone? Try to get an idea of what the company culture, language, and environment are and then replicate that tone in your cover letter.

Maybe a joke or some light sarcasm can fit in with how you present yourself. Telling about your past may be appropriate. At least consider changing the wording and getting rid of the robotic formality of “I wish to convey my skills” or “It would be my pleasure to tell you of my finest attributes” that are so often expressed in a cover letter. Of all the cover letter tips listed, we don’t recommend using this specific one. This letter that dropped the ‘F’ bomb landed the job. Um, yeah, ‘F’ stands for Fancy Feast, right?

6. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Three cats on a hot tin roof

Ask the employer for an interview. It may seem uncomfortable or too forward, but always end your cover letter with a question. Invite the interviewer to take the next step in the hiring process with you. Consider something like, “Can we meet later this week to discuss how I can help your company?” You want the reader to feel like you are ambitious and confident, that you deserve an interview. After all, there’s a cat in hell’s chance you’ll get an interview if you don’t ask for one. Don’t be a ‘fraidy cat. If you want it, go for it.

7. Don’t LET the Cat Out of the Bag

Cover letter tips number 7 is to let the cat out the bag

Have some fun with the cover letter. Your cover letter is an opportunity for you to let loose and be yourself. For some of you, that may be some variation of the ‘F’ bomb cover letter above, but for the majority, it may just be dropping the formality and writing in your speaking vernacular. Tell a funny story about yourself like the first time you tried to use the company’s product. Sweeten the kitty a bit by playing with the format of the letter or even including visuals of some sort. Check out these fun and creative untraditional cover letter tips.

8. Cat Got Your Tongue?

Cover letter tips number 8 is to NOT let the cat get your tongue

Don’t be too embarrassed to brag about yourself. For some reason, writing things in bullet points on a resume feels less like bragging than writing them out in a cover letter. Don’t be shy. You are a glamour puss; tell the whole world! That kind of cover letter tips the scales in the right direction. Think about someone who thinks the world of you and then try to write the letter from their perspective.

Write your cover letter with this thought in mind, “No one is as qualified as I am for this job.” Be proud of your accomplishments and share them in your letter. If you don’t, you’ll surely regret it later. Here’s a great cover letter example using confidence and bravado.

9. You Are the Cat’s Meow!

Wild jaguar meowing represents cover letter tips number 9, you are the cat's meow

Writing a cover letter can be a fun experience, if you take the time to follow these awesome cover letter tips. Remember, for a hiring manager, trying to find the right candidate is like herding cats. Help them eliminate the tomcats in the bunch by writing a really attractive cover letter. Cuz’ once you land the job, everyone will look at what the cat dragged in with fondness and a sense of accomplishment. And why wouldn’t they? YOU are a catch!

Today’s question is not about cover letter tips, but about cats. Do you own a cat? If so, how many and what are their names? Scroll below to let us know!

The Author

Straight from the desk of

Charlie Kimmel

Charlie Kimmel

President & CEO

Charlie Kimmel has dedicated his career to executive search. Charlie is an honors graduate of the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He began his career at Kimmel & Associates as a recruiter in 1990.

Read full bio