How to Write a Letter the Boss Won’t Toss

The following was from a previous post.

If you’re reading this post you’re probably like so many others right now looking for work. Needing a good cover letter doesn’t strike many as high on the priority list but it really does matter to many employers.  I haven’t earned a PhD in cover letter theory but I spent more time than I would have imagined looking for work a couple years ago. Allow me to show you some examples for  a successful cover letter – along with others examples from the “NOPE” pile. Let’s begin with a bad example.

“Dear sir,

I am a flaming blood tiger of supreme value to your corporation. I cling to the riverbank of life with claws of professional acumen and can change the course of hydrological currents. You want a man who can meet deadlines?  I eat deadlines for breakfast using a sword forged of future deadlines.”

You would definitely get hired on the spot IF the hiring manager were Dwight Schrute.  Seth Porges, of Forbes, shares a few pointers that should help to improve your cover letter game. The original post can be found here.

1) Don’t repeat your resume

A lot of people write cover letters as if they were paragraph-form resumes. Fact is, your letter will be stapled (or attached to the same email) as your actual resume, so you can assume that they’ll at least glance at it (and probably with a keener eye than your cover letter). Instead, use your cover letter to show personality, curiosity, and an interest in the field you are applying to work in.

Google around for the history of your field or company, and sprinkle some cool historical facts into your cover letter (or even use one as a lead). If I was applying for a job in tech, I might talk about how thrilling it was to see Moore’s law transform technology before my eyes, and how thrilled I am to be a part of this transformation. If I were applying for a job in fashion, I might talk about how much fashion has changed since the 80s (a lot!). Everything has a hidden history. Use it to show expertise and interest.

2) Keep it short

Less. Is. More. Three paragraphs, tops. Half a page, tops. Skip lengthy exposition and jump right into something juicy.

3) Address No One

Sometimes, you don’t know exactly who you should be addressing your letter to. Nix the generic and bland “Dear Hiring Manager” or “To Whom It May Concern”. If you absolutely don’t know who you should be addressing, then don’t address anybody. Instead, just jump right into the body of the letter.

4) Send it as a PDF

Not every office computer can read .docx or .pages files, but virtually everybody can open a PDF file without any conversion. File conversions are bad for two huge reasons. First, they are just as likely to not bother and move onto the next applicant. And, second, conversions can introduce formatting errors. Both are bad.

5) Never ever, ever use the following phrase

“My name is ___, and I am applying for the position as ____”.They already know this, and you’ll sound inexperienced.

6) Close strong

Finish off by quickly (and I mean quickly) explaining how your experience or worldview will help you at the job. That’s key. That’s the closer. And it can be done in one to two seconds. If it goes any longer, you’re just rambling.

The last three come from TheMuse and that story can be found here.

7) Tell a Story

What brings you to this company? Did you used to sing along to all of its commercials as a kid? Did the product make some incredible difference in your life? Do you sometimes pull into the parking lot and daydream about what it would feel like to work there? Stories bring your background and experiences to life, so feel free to tell them. (Just, you know, keep them short and to the point.)

8. Consider Testimonials

If you have great feedback from old co-workers, bosses, or clients, don’t be afraid to use it! A seamless way to integrate a positive quote from a previous manager or client is to use it as evidence of your passion for your area of expertise. For example, “I have developed a keen interest in data science during my years working various political campaigns (as my past supervisor once said, I love Excel more than anyone she knows).”

9. Start With a Template

That said, there’s nothing that says you can’t get a little help. Our easy, downloadable cover letter guide will walk you through, step-by-step, how to create a cover letter that rocks.

Lastly…

10) Never Cut and Paste a Previous Cover Letter

Lifehacker wisely reminds job seekers, in a recent post about cover letters, that “…every time you apply for a job your audience changes. The job changes. Chances are you’ve changed a bit, too. While you can certainly re-use elements from previous cover letters when they are applicable, it’s very important to remember that the exact same cover letter is going to have a different impact on different people. As you go ahead and apply for different jobs, remember that they are different. You’ll want to craft your cover letters to express that.

Good luck!

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