How to Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out

Written by: Lucy Walters
Published on: 8 Apr 2021

When applying for your next pharma job, you’ll likely be asked to write a cover letter to support your application. This is your opportunity to expand on - rather than repeat - what’s in your CV and put your key skills, experiences and achievements into the context of the role. It’s also your space to convey who you are as a person beyond the skills and qualifications you hold.

Above all else, your cover letter is your chance to stand out as a candidate. Whilst there might be hundreds of applicants who hold a similar qualification to you - for example, a degree within the Life Sciences - your specific skill sets and experiences will be unique to you. Focus on what makes you special, and why you can bring something different to the role.

Here are our top tips on making your cover letter stand out, and on making every word count…

Research the Company Beyond the ‘About Us’ Page

Whilst it’s important to outline why you want to work for the hiring company in your cover letter, don’t simply rely on ‘About Us’ pages, as this is the first place most applicants will go to. Make this section of your letter stand out by researching some of the company’s key projects, developments and achievements, as well as the work it does beyond the department you’d be joining.

Research the Role Beyond the Advert

Similarly, go beyond what’s listed in the job advert to find out more about the role. Some companies might have a blog with entries written by employees about what it’s like to work there, and what their jobs involve. You can even reach out to employees on LinkedIn where appropriate to find out what the job is really like, including aspects that are both demanding and rewarding.

Mirror the Company’s Voice

Hiring managers will be looking to see if you’d fit in with the company culture as well as if you have the required skills and experiences for the role. When doing your research on the company, take note of their online voice and try to mirror this in your letter.

Use the Hiring Manager’s Name

If possible, address your cover letter to the hiring manager directly. Especially if you have to go beyond the job advert to find their name, this will show a genuine interest in the role and that you’ve tailored your application towards it instead of using a scatter-gun approach.

Introduce Yourself

Include a short, snappy introduction that explains who you are, what you do, what you’re looking for and the key things that make you a strong candidate. It’s unlikely that hiring managers will read every cover letter from top to bottom, so write an introduction that will make them want to read on.

Keep it Easy to Read

Generally, companies will expect cover letters to be no longer than one page. Don’t try and use a smaller font to cram more information in, or try to change the margins and spacing between paragraphs. You’ll need plenty of white space to make your letter easy to read and to highlight your key achievements.

Focus on What You Can Bring, Not What You Can Gain

Tell hiring managers exactly what you can bring to the role, and don’t waste precious space talking about what you can gain - they already know this! Be careful not to overuse ‘I’ when starting sentences, and remember to focus on how you can meet the needs of the organisation, rather than how great this opportunity would be for you.

Be Specific About Your Achievements

When talking about your skills and experiences, use specific examples of where you’ve demonstrated these and how you can achieve something similar in this role. Instead of saying generic things like ‘I work well in a team,’ describe a situation where you worked like this; outlining the role you played, the results you achieved, and the lessons you learnt.

You can even throw in some stats to put your achievements into context. Below are some examples for different roles:

  • “I grew sales in my region by 100% in 18 months” (Sales)
  • “I increased our website traffic by 80% in 6 months” (Marketing)
  • “I implemented a new program that reduced time spent on X task by 50%” (IT)

Focus on the achievements that best demonstrate your potential, and be prepared to back up these figures with evidence if you’re invited to an interview.

Use Keywords

Use keywords from the job advert/description to guide the hiring manager through your key strengths as a candidate and to show that you clearly understand the requirements of this specific role. This will also help you to get past any scanning software used by recruiters to filter out applications that aren’t as strong.

Don’t Be Negative

Always focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. Instead of saying things like ‘Whilst I don’t have experience in…’ talk about the transferable skills that your previous experiences have given you. For example, you might not have used a specific computer program that’s mentioned in the job advert, but you might have used something similar in your last role, or you might have a high level of computer literacy that means you can learn new programs quickly. Whatever it is you might be missing, try to put a positive spin on it. 

End With a Strong Summary

Finish your letter with a short, snappy summary that affirms why you’re a great candidate for this role. If a hiring manager has hundreds of applications to sift through, they might even go here first, so make sure to summarise everything that makes you unique.

Write With Purpose…

Throughout the process of writing your cover letter, remember your goal: to land an interview. With everything you include, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does this show my strength as a candidate?
  • Does this specifically relate to the requirements of this role?
  • How does this skill/experience/achievement make me unique?

Following the above advice and taking the extra time to plan and create a well-researched and tailored cover letter will help you to stand out as a candidate and is certainly an investment worth making.

Visit PharmiWeb.Jobs for more careers advice, or to start searching for your next pharma or Life Sciences job.