Woman working at her laptopIf you're applying for a job, you're probably not the only person qualified for the position. How can you stand out among the competition before an employer even gets to meet you? One technique you can use to your advantage is to write an attention-grabbing cover letter. Check out these tips and tricks for writing a winning cover letter!

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First Impressions: Writing a Stand-Out Cover Letter

Nov 24, 2020

Woman working at her laptopLet's be honest. If you're applying for a job, you're probably not the only person qualified for the position. How can you stand out among the competition before an employer even gets to meet you? One technique you can use to your advantage is to write an attention-grabbing cover letter. Today's blog post offers some advice and a few tips to get you started.

What is a cover letter? A cover letter is a one-page document that introduces you to a potential employer. Your resume describes the facts of your work experience (either paid or volunteer work), while your cover letter gives the hiring manager some insight into your personality. While your resume tells what you did, the cover letter gives you the opportunity to describe how you did it.

Tip: For example, rather than stating that you have strong communication skills, provide the details of a particular problem you were key in solving and how exactly you used your communication skills to solve it.

Do I need to send a cover letter? Yes, you should include a cover letter with your job application whether the company requires it or not. It can help you catch the hiring manager's attention!

What should be in my cover letter? There are 3 basic elements you need to be sure to include: 1) how your experience meets the job requirements; 2) how your skills match the job requirements; and 3) why you want to work for this specific employer.

Tip: Every cover letter needs to be unique to the particular job. There are templates online that can guide you, but there is no one size fits all. You have to do the work to research the company and understand the job requirements.

Remember, your cover letter should be customized for each job application. Be sure to adapt it for each particular company and include keywords from each job description.

Should I disclose my disability in a cover letter? Disclosing your disability in a cover letter is up to you. If you decide to do so, employers may ask you to fill out a job application that includes a formal opportunity to discuss your disability and accommodations you may need on the job. Whether or not you disclose your disability, focus your cover letter on the skills you have that make you a great fit for the job.

Questions about your resume?

Check out Resource Roundup: Resume and Interview Tips.

How do I organize my cover letter? Below is a simple structure you can follow.

  • Heading — includes your full name, phone number, email and the date
    • Tip: Add your social media profile (e.g., LinkedIn) if relevant to the job.
  • Addressee — the name of the hiring manager, company and business address
    • Tip: Researching online (e.g., Google, LinkedIn, company website) to find the name of the hiring manager shows you've done your homework.
  • Greeting — specific to the person you determined was the hiring manager
  • Opening paragraph — briefly talk about 2 or 3 of your accomplishments that are specifically relevant to the job. Tell your story.
    • Tip: If you have results that can be quantified, e.g., I increased production by 10%, this is the place for those.
  • Second paragraph — identify the key elements of the job requirements and explain why you're the best person for the job. Where do your skills and the job requirements overlap?
  • Third paragraph — explain why you want to work for this particular company. What is it about this one company that you admire? Their product? Their inclusive culture? Be specific about why this is meaningful to you.
  • Conclusion — thank them for reading your letter and put the ball in their court. For example, you could end by saying you'd love to discuss your experience with them.
  • Closing — use a formal sign off such as Best Regards, Kind Regards, Sincerely or Thank you.

Now What? You're almost done! Just a few final tips.

  • Edit your letter to be sure that it is only one page.
  • Proofread your letter. Make sure there are no typos or errors in spelling or grammar. Better yet, ask someone else to read it over for you.
  • If you're sending your resume and cover letter by email, consider including the cover letter in the body of the email message itself. That way, you save the reader an extra step and your letter is more likely to be read.

About Ticket to Work

There's a lot to consider when job searching, and it can be tough trying to do everything on your own. Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) Program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work. The Ticket Program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

By participating in the Ticket Program, you'll have access to a wide variety of services from Ticket Program service providers that offer free short-term and long-term supports to help you find and maintain employment. Many can help you work on your cover letter and resume!

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket Program, visit choosework.ssa.gov or call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket Program Find Help tool.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket Program, visit choosework.ssa.gov or call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket Program Find Help tool.

Receive Ticket Program Texts

If you're interested in receiving text messages from the Ticket Program, please text TICKET to 474747. Standard messaging rates may apply. We'll send updates from our blog, identify steps on the path to employment and more. We hope you'll find this new way to stay in touch helpful. You can opt out at any time.

If you're interested in receiving text messages from the Ticket Program, please text TICKET to 474747. Standard messaging rates may apply. We'll send updates from our blog, identify steps on the path to employment and more. We hope you'll find this new way to stay in touch helpful. You can opt out at any time.

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