Crafting a stand-out cover letter: tips for non-native english speakers

Welcome, learners and aspiring professionals!

In our rapidly globalizing world, companies are increasingly on the hunt for bilingual talents. 

Your ability to speak more than one language isn’t just a line on your resume—it’s a unique asset that can set you apart in the crowded job market!

But what happens when English isn’t your first language?

How do you ensure that your cover letter not only communicates your qualifications but also captures the nuances that make it stand out?

This blog will delve into actionable tips that will help non-native English speakers pen cover letters that not only impress but resonate. 

Whether you’re just starting your career or looking to make a transition, these insights will ensure your application rises to the top of the pile. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

1. Start strong

Let’s face it: hiring managers sift through a mountain of cover letters daily, so you need to make yours stand out right from the get-go.

it’s tempting to stick with the tried-and-true “I’m applying for X position”, dare to be different. Imagine the impact of a statement like, “Being a devoted [your profession], I was instantly drawn to the role at [Company Name].” It’s bold, direct, and showcases your genuine excitement for the opportunity. This kind of enthusiasm can be infectious, making your application memorable amidst the piles of others.

Here are other strong openers that you can use:

  • Reference a personal connection or experience: If you’ve had any interaction with the company in the past, mention it. For example:

After meeting your team at the [specific event or conference], I was inspired to apply for the [specific position].

  • Express genuine enthusiasm: Companies appreciate applicants who show genuine excitement about the role. For instance:

I’ve been a long-time admirer of [Company Name]’s commitment to [specific value or mission], and I’m excited about the chance to be a part of it.

  • Show immediate value: Lead with an accomplishment or a skill that’s directly related to the job. For example:

With a proven track record in boosting sales by 30% at my last job, I’m excited to bring my expertise to [Company Name].

  • Use relevant news or company achievements: If the company recently had a significant achievement, milestone, or news, you can reference that to show you’ve done your research. For instance:

Congratulations on [Company’s Recent Achievement]. As an experienced [Your Profession], I’m excited about the possibility of contributing to such a forward-thinking team.

2. Customize for the job 

Delving deep into the job description is crucial. It not only helps you understand what the company truly seeks but also allows you to highlight how your skills and achievements resonate with those specific needs.

Remember to sprinkle in company-centric details, perhaps referencing a notable milestone or an intriguing project they’re spearheading. Such nuances illustrate your dedication and proactive research. Moreover, instead of a broad overview of your experience, draw parallels between your professional journey and the company’s current needs.

For instance, explain how your familiarity with a particular tool or strategy aligns seamlessly with a project they’re undertaking. And whenever possible, addressing the hiring manager directly by their name can weave in a touch of personalization that generic salutations miss. 

All in all, while crafting a bespoke cover letter might demand more time and effort, the returns in terms of making a lasting impression are immeasurable!

3. Highlight your achievements 

Highlighting achievements in your cover letter is a crucial aspect that can set you apart from other candidates. Let’s dive right into it:

  • Quantify results: Use numbers to demonstrate the impact of your work. This offers tangible evidence of your contributions.

Increased sales by 25% in Q4 of 2022.

Reduced production costs by 15% by implementing a new inventory management system.

  • Showcase career progression: If you’ve quickly advanced in your career or have been given increased responsibilities in a short time, highlight it as an achievement.

Promoted to team leader within a year due to my contributions to key projects.

  • Highlight project successes: Mention projects that were particularly successful or had a significant impact on the company.

Spearheaded a campaign that reached 20 thousands  users in its first month.

  • Recognitions and awards: If you’ve received any accolades or awards, either from the company or from external bodies, mention them as evidence of your exceptional work.

Awarded Employee of the Month three times for consistently surpassing targets.

Received the [Industry-specific award] for innovative solutions in the field of [specific area].

  • Highlight soft skill achievements: While hard skills and quantifiable results are vital, soft skills can be equally significant. If you’ve achieved results that demonstrate leadership, teamwork, or other soft skills, mention them.

Cultivated a collaborative team environment that resulted in a 30% decrease in employee turnover.

Introduced communication workshops, enhancing inter-department collaboration.

  • Show how you overcame challenges: Achievements aren’t just about successes; they can also be about the challenges you’ve overcome.

Navigated the team through a challenging transition period by implementing effective change management strategies.

Overcame budget constraints to deliver a project that exceeded stakeholder expectations.

  • Client or stakeholder feedback: If you’ve received positive feedback from clients, stakeholders, or even colleagues, and it has been documented or recognized, it can be worth mentioning.

Recognized by key clients for consistently delivering above and beyond expectations, leading to repeat business.

Remember, your cover letter should tell a story that your resume can’t. While the resume might list your achievements, the cover letter gives you the opportunity to elaborate on them, provide context, and truly showcase the impact you can bring to a company.

4. Use action words 

Using action words, also known as action verbs or power verbs, in your cover letter and resume can make a significant difference in portraying your experiences as proactive and impactful. These words convey a sense of initiative, responsibility, and accomplishment. Let’s delve deeper into the importance and application of action words:

The power of action words: 

  • Creates a dynamic image: Action words help paint a vivid picture of your achievements, making your responsibilities and accomplishments come alive. For instance, “managed a team” provides a more energetic image than “was responsible for a team.”
  • Clarifies your role: Action verbs can offer clarity about your specific role in a task or achievement. For example, “collaborated with a team” versus “led a team” gives a clear distinction of your position within the group.
  • Quantifies achievements: When paired with quantifiable results, action verbs can make accomplishments stand out even more. For example, “Increased sales by 20%” provides a clearer picture of your success than simply stating “Responsible for sales growth.”

Examples of action words:

  • Achieved: Suggests accomplishment or completion of a goal.

Before: Met the target for the project.

After: Achieved the project target ahead of schedule.

  • Managed: Indicates leadership and responsibility.

Before: Was in charge of a team of 10.

After: Managed a dynamic team of 10.

  • Designed: Shows creativity and initiative.

Before: Helped in creating a new website.

After: Designed a user-centric website, enhancing user experience and boosting traffic by 40%.

  • Implemented: Signifies the execution of a plan or initiative.

Before: Introduced a new sales strategy.

After: Implemented a transformative sales strategy, resulting in a 25% growth in quarterly revenue.

  • Transformed: Indicates a major change or overhaul that led to improvement.

Before: Made changes to the customer feedback process.

After: Transformed the customer feedback process, leading to a 50% increase in response rates.

5. Be authentic 

Authenticity is a valued quality in professional and personal contexts. It implies being genuine, honest, and transparent in your intentions and actions. In the context of a cover letter, being authentic can set you apart from other applicants who might use generic or overused phrases just to impress potential employers.

Authenticity often demonstrates self-awareness. It shows that you know your strengths and weaknesses. Being authentic reduces the risk of discrepancies between what you write in your cover letter and what you might say in an interview. This consistency can be a testament to your integrity.

Here are some ways you can show authenticity in your cover letter:

  • Share genuine experiences: Instead of generic statements like “I’m a team player,” delve into a specific instance where you collaborated with a team to achieve something notable.
  • Express your motivation: Explain why you’re genuinely interested in the role and the company. Maybe you resonate with the company’s values, or perhaps you’ve always been fascinated by the industry.
  • Acknowledge challenges: Authenticity isn’t just about showcasing your successes. If there were hurdles or failures in your journey that you learned from, consider sharing them. This shows resilience and a growth mindset.
  • Be consistent: Ensure that the portrayal of your experiences and aspirations aligns with your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other professional touchpoints. Discrepancies can raise red flags for employers.
  • Personalize each letter: Avoid using a generic cover letter for every job application. Tailor each letter to the specific job and company, showing genuine interest and effort.

6. Show how you add value 

Your cover letter should be less about what the job will do for your career trajectory and more about the value and unique contributions you’ll provide. Let the employer see that by bringing you onboard, they’re not just filling a vacancy, they’re gaining a valuable asset. In this competitive job market, it’s the candidates who position themselves as solutions to a company’s needs that often rise to the top. 

So, before you send off that cover letter, ensure it resonates with the message: “Here’s how I’ll make a difference.”

7. Keep it short 

In the world of job applications, sometimes less truly is more. A cover letter, though pivotal, shouldn’t read like an exhaustive essay about your career. It’s a teaser, a trailer if you will, meant to pique the interest of the employer and lead them to your resume.

Remember, hiring managers sift through heaps of applications daily, so it’s essential to capture their attention quickly. Stick to a single page, or even better, aim for about three to four short paragraphs.

Dive straight into what matters: your value proposition, a notable achievement, and why you’re keen on that specific role at that specific company. By keeping it concise, not only do you respect the hiring manager’s time, but you also demonstrate your ability to communicate efficiently. So, trim the excess, hone in on the essentials, and let your cover letter be a crisp introduction to the professional you!

8. Include a call to action 

Wrapping up your cover letter is as crucial as how you start it. It’s your moment to transition from a passive candidate to an active, interested professional seeking to further the conversation. Instead of a simple and predictable “Thank you for your consideration,” be proactive.

Use a call to action, subtly nudging the hiring manager towards the next step. Express your eagerness to contribute, saying something like, “I’m keen to delve deeper into how my experience aligns with [Company Name]’s vision. Would love the chance to discuss this in an interview.” This approach showcases initiative and reinforces your interest in the role, leaving a memorable impression as they move on to the next application.

9. Language and grammar 

Let’s face it: a typo or grammar slip can easily sidetrack the impact of your cover letter, especially if English isn’t your first language. 

First and foremost, always proofread. A careful review can catch those sneaky errors that might otherwise slip through. If you’re looking for an extra layer of security, digital tools like Grammarly act as a second pair of eyes to help spot those pesky grammar and punctuation missteps.

However, perfect grammar isn’t the only goal. Aim for clarity. Ditch the jargon and keep your sentences straightforward. Simplicity often resonates more than convoluted language. 

And here’s a pro tip: get a second opinion. Having someone, preferably a native or fluent English speaker, glance over your cover letter can provide invaluable feedback. Their fresh perspective might catch nuances or subtleties you might’ve missed, ensuring your letter is both error-free and impactful.

10. Presentation matters

Last but not least, the presentation matters as much as content. Ensuring your cover letter’s content is compelling is essential, but how it’s visually presented is just as crucial. Opt for a clean, professional layout.

Stick to classic, legible fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. While more artistic fonts might seem appealing, they could detract from the letter’s content or be difficult to read. Space things out—use margins and ensure your text isn’t cramped. This makes it more inviting to the reader and underscores your ability to present information in an organized manner.

Moreover, ensure that the design and format of your cover letter align with that of your resume for a consistent and cohesive presentation. If using headings or bullet points, maintain uniformity in their style and spacing, which further demonstrates attention to detail.

Ultimately, a well-formatted letter sends a strong message about your professionalism and meticulousness!

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IELC Academic Director