The guidelines on writing a jaw-dropping cover letter have been explored and rephrased again and again and again. Some experts on the subject advise that we should keep it short cause short is more readable. Others though, suggest that a long cover letter is the better strategy for impressing the reader.
Truth be told, different companies tend to be impressed by different styles and approaches. The art of getting one step ahead of competitors when writing a cover letter can not and should not be limited to simply following a set of rules. Because their effectiveness depends on the “taste” of the hiring company, as well as on the extend of boredness the hiring manager has reached till the moment your cover letter appears in their inbox.
Nevertheless, here are some helpful tips on what would be smart to say and would be smart to avoid mentioning in your cover letter.
1. How to make your cover letter different from your resume?
A cover letter that resembles your resume content-wise is bad by definition. Misled by the desire to state facts about their education and previous job occupations, many people send cover letters that almost verbatim retell what their resume has already set out. When printed out your resume will be most probably stapled to your cover letter, so it’s useless to make them identical – it’s like saying one and the same thing twice. Boring. Redundant. Don’t do it.
What can you do then? Honestly? Well, be honest. Write about who you are, what you’re passionate about, why are you curious for the field you are applying to work in. Tell the reader a story about yourself that emphasizes on your compatibility with the position. Including moderate humour is a good idea. To make your reader smile is actually an achievement in your favour.
What not to write: My name is James. I graduated from Intellectual Property in 2009, then I had an internship in Scotland, I then got hired at this and that company where I worked for a period of 2 years. I don’t work there anymore (obviously). And here I am – a perfect fit for your job opening. Want me?
What to write: I worked (or studied) Psychology (or whatever it is that you’ve studied). This experience taught me how to understand and approach difficult people in a way that nurtures effective communication and minimizes conflicts. It also fortified my ability to give the best I am capable of even under stressful and perplexing circumstances.
2. Do generic statements spoil your otherwise great cover letter?
Well, hell yes. Generic statements can kill an otherwise promising cover letter. A catchy declaration of what you excel at should be based on specifics and not generalities. For instance, when you want to highlight your ability to overcome challenges bravely, refrain from writing “I usually overcome challenges bravely.” Illustrate your statement with a story (preferably a one- or two-sentenced story). Give numbers, name places, be concrete and clear. The benefit of being accurate with facts is that using specifics will actually imply generic statements. To tell a story means to let the reader understand what you’re saying. Speaking in general is the shortest path to sounding uncertain, and thus – unauthentic and unreliable.
What not to write: My previous occupation involved working in a close-knit with the Legal Department. I participated in various processes and activities. I was also responsible for the proofreading and editing of their documentation .
*What to write: *For 3 years I worked as a marketing specialist – I had to write, proofread and edit legal, pharmaceutical, and marketing-related documentation. In addition, I participated in the development of 4 marketing campaigns that resulted in tripling our monthly revenue (quote any relevant number that you can). It was my responsibility to write and edit site contents for the official website of the company (give a link to the website).
3. Is it important to demonstrate your uniqueness and how to do it right?
We’ll pretend that you never asked that question, right? Hiring managers have to go through messy, pedestrian reading matter all the time. So being hilarious is a must. Save yourself the effort to indulge in flatteries for the company and a detailed description of where you studied or where you worked prior to writing this cover letter.
Your personality is not what or where you studied, neither is it based on how much your previous employer fancied your being punctual and diligent. Your personality is engraved in what you love to do most. What a hiring manager really wants to see in a never-ending pile of redundantly polite, monotonous, personality-free cover letters is YOU. Tell them who you are and why you like them. Be sincere, concise, and passionate. Provide a link to your portfolio, blog, website or whatever there is that proves you’re savvy, resourceful, and unique.
What not to write: I am huge fan of your company. I’ve always liked you because you’re commercials are entertaining, your services – flawless, and your CEO is a friend of my mother’s third cousin.
*What to write: *I really loved the marketing campaign you launched last April. I was impressed to see the subtle way you presented beer as tool for people to give their best to the ones they love and treasure. I want to be part of the development of such ideas because they have liveliness, beauty, and that extraordinary ordinariness we can find everywhere, in everything – if we only looked with our heart and not with eyes only.
4. How to sound confident without being outright cocky?
Enthusiasm is classy. Self-promotion is not. Confidence is being sure without being arrogant. Cockiness is being defiant because you’re afraid of being beaten. It points to unstable self-esteem. And we don’t want that, do we? What’s a guarantee to not being taken seriously? If you take yourself way too seriously. It might be useful to remember that suggestion when you feel tempted to boldly declare your awesomeness.
What not to write: I am great at a lot of things. Since kindergarten I was number one. My mama told me so. And my grandma supported her. My English is unbelievably better that the English of all the people I know. And all the people you now. I only don’t have a girlfriend because I am too good for anyone and my mamma told me they don’t deserve such a good, handsome, talented boy like me. I hope you deserve me.
*What to write: *My previous occupation upgraded my verbal proficiency and contributed to the betterment of skills like assertiveness, awareness and unbiased judgement. In the course of the recent years I had the chance to live and work in various cultural environments which helped me to better understand people communicate effectively even under stress.
I dare to evaluate my communication skills as such of a distinguished level, and my analytical and cognitive abilities as advanced.
I do believe that my experience and personal zeal to get the job done adequately would serve as a good reason to join me to the crew of your company.
5. Is it a smart idea to write 5 pages instead of 3 paragraphs?
Great cover letters have one feature in common. They all tend to present relevant information in a nutshell. This means that you should tell the truth and tell it engagingly, yet briefly. Cause the truth is the most powerful asset you’ve got. And it can fit into a single paragraph. Save yourself the effort to riddle your cover letter with ambiguous sweet talk and lengthy references to previous endeavours (remember, you already said that in your resume). Skip the overblown exposition and jump right into what’s essential about you. Guess you get the idea and don’t need an example for this one. Now do you? ?
6. Does poor spelling say we’re just all human… and stuff?
Most probably, the answer is a firm no. Underlined. In red. A common factor that would send your resume into the trash is the presence of illiteracy. Such as the “forgivable” typos, abbreviations, misspellings, and the like. When chatting with your cousin lack of proficiency in writing may be amusing. In a cover letter, it screws you up. If you don’t think you qualify as a reliable editor of your own work, hire a professional, or ask a wordy friend to jump to the rescue.
All of the above does not exhaust the list of things you should and should not include into your cover letter. But it can guide you and it can help you. And remember, sometimes, regardless of what everybody says is right, just being you is the smartest thing to do. You can never go wrong with telling your own story in your own words (just mind the spelling!) – because being you is what makes people want to see more of you. And respectively, get you hired.
Did you find some great strategies for your own cover letter or resume? What were your latest ideas about that? Let us know in the comments and will share them through our Facebook page ?
With love, *