The point of a cover letter
A cover letter is intended to give you the opportunity to showcase a bit of your personality and your genuine desire to do the job defined in the job posting. The key to discovering how to write a cover letter is to think about your audience: a manager who has seen and heard it all and is tired of reading resumes and cover letters.
Knowing the manager is likely to only read your cover letter if you have written a strong resume, what could you possible say in your cover letter to catch the manager’s attention?
Many people suggest:
- start with an introduction that details the job you are applying for
- explain why you’re a good fit for the job
- close with a statement asking to be considered for the job and include your contact information
While this advice is ok, it doesn’t do much to make your cover letter stand out to your potential employer.
If you were a manager who posted a job opening and received hundreds of applications, how many resumes are you going to actually read? A few dozen? Of those resumes, which cover letters would you read? Which cover letters would you actually remember?
Writing a memorable cover letter
What if your cover letter wasn’t the same boring, “my name is X, I am interested in X position, here’s why you should hire me” sort of script? Instead of following traditional advice, I believe that a cover letter that shares a personal story is more memorable, showcases the applicant’s personality, and sets them apart from everyone else who applied for the position.
For example, if I were applying for a role at Square, a company that specializes in the development of products that merchants can use to accept payments from customers, I would share the story of when I first recognized Square’s product.
In the summer of 2011, my girlfriend and I were visiting a farmer’s market on Whidbey Island, just outside of Seattle, and were about to purchase some vegetables when we realized we didn’t have any cash on hand. We asked the merchant if they took credit cards and, much to our surprise, we were presented with an iPad that had a small, Square, credit card reader attached to it. I was blown away at this advancement in technology and could immediately tell that Square was a company that was changing the world by making it easy for merchants and customers to connect.
My name is _____ and I’m applying for _____…
In this example, I:
- Share a genuine story of my experience with the company
- Showcase a bit of my personality and what I do for fun (going to farmer’s markets)
- Use the second paragraph to introduce myself and the position I am applying for
The third paragraph is where I would weave in a few data points about my competencies and accomplishments as they relate to the requirements outlined in the job posting. This paragraph should’t be too difficult if you’ve already written your resume and include strong, data oriented bullet points.
That’s it! Between your resume layout and cover letter, you now have a well rounded application that places you higher in the applicant tracking system search results. They also make you appear more attractive to recruiters and hiring managers (even those who only spend six seconds looking at your resume).