New graduates, COVID-impacted employees and the normal churn of job seekers cause a lot of people to be working on cover letters these days. A strong cover letter is a magic elixir that can help you stand out from others applying for the same job. It’s your opportunity to share the characteristics and traits that make you special – and that aren’t listed on your resume.
Too many letters are just a narrative version of the bullets already spelled out on the resume, rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to provide a sales pitch. When writing a cover letter, do so from THEIR perspective – what can you offer THEM? How do you help them solve THEIR problem? Yes, it’s nice that you want to move to that city or you’d be excited to work there, but they are hiring you (in other words, giving you money) to meet THEIR needs, not because you think you’d be great.
Consider the difference between:
I read the listing for XYZ position and want to express my interest in taking this job. I have a degree in ABC and am excited about the opportunity to join the QRS team.
It is with great enthusiasm that I submit this letter of application for XYZ job. I believe I possess the drive and integrity you seek which will allow me to serve your clients effectively and to help QRS become the provider of choice in X industry.
By focusing on the company, you maintain your role as a SELLER (not a buyer) and can frame your letter in such a light. You can share information beyond what is on your resume, focus on the future rather than your past and make the critical connection between what you have done and what you can do.
Too many people spend all their time on their resume and use the same cookie-cutter cover letter for all their jobs. Don’t make that mistake. Whether you’re applying for a job or the one reading the letters, ask yourself if the letter answers the question: “How will this person do the job differently than anyone else?”
If the letter isn’t clear about the answer, you should stop there and hire someone else.
For more on resume writing, see my handout here.