No personal marketing material is complete without a cover letter. A strategically composed cover letter can be the motivating factor behind the reader’s decision to call you for an interview. As a first-person narrative, the cover letter provides you with the perfect opportunity to develop your own voice and demonstrate your knowledge, qualifications, and experience in a more engaging way.
Seeing as there are minimal rules to writing a cover letter, regard it as a creative means to capture your audience’s attention. Using a template is not going to fly if you want to get noticed. If your cover letter’s introductory paragraph starts the same way as everyone else’s, then the reader is likely to stop there. Although all the components of your cover letter are important, it’s imperative that your opening captures the readers interest and encourages them to continue reading.
Cover letter writing is my favourite component of generating a client’s personal marketing collateral. The flexibility afforded in this document allows me to tap into my client’s unique story and make his or her achievements sing! Here are some methods I’ve used to help my clients stand out:
1. Elicit an emotional response from the reader right away.
Fear is a strong emotion, and when it comes to recruiting the right candidate there is a lot at stake. Perhaps this is a risky maneuver, but play into the reader’s fear response by highlighting a negative consequence that may occur if the wrong person is selected for the role. Leading with fear demonstrates that you know the industry and/or role well enough to foresee where problems can arise and understand what actions need to be taken to prevent them. Ultimately, you want to turn that fear into a sense of relief by showcasing how your knowledge, qualifications, and experience make you the right candidate for the role. With you on the team, those negative consequences will never come to fruition, and instead the company will flourish because of your abilities.
2. Tell a story about how you’ve persevered to achieve a goal.
Everyone loves to route for the underdog. A personal narrative that demonstrates your ability to stay on track, adapt to new situations, and overcome adversity portrays your strength of character and creates a connection with any reader who’s been through similar challenges. Very rarely is it “smooth sailing” when it comes to work-related projects and goals, and managers want to hire candidates that will face obstacles head-on with a positive attitude. Use your underdog story as a vehicle for describing how your personal traits and prior experiences will steer the team / department / company in the right direction. Your capacity to overcome previous challenges, along with your ability to relate to others, will make sure you come out on top.
3. Make the connections between job criteria and your experience painfully obvious.
If you’re applying to a job in response to an ad, and you meet all or most of the criteria, then why not cut right to the chase? Create two columns, with the job criteria listed in the left column and examples of how you fit the bill in the right column. This layout makes it super easy for the reader to visually identify that you have the right skills for the job.
4. Wow the reader with your commitment to the company’s mission and values.
Do you have a specific company or organization that you are just dying to work for? If you do, then how effortlessly can you vocalize why? If you’re struggling to justify why you’d like to work at a specific company, then you need to do more research. A good starting point is to go to the company website and check out their mission, vision, and values. Spend some time thinking about how your principles mesh well with the company’s, and then use this as the framework for your cover letter. As qualified and experienced as you are, sometimes the hiring decision can boil down to culture fit. Establish that you hold the same ideals while simultaneously impressing the reader with your knowledge of the company.
Take this one step further if you’re aware of the product you’d be working with/on. Highlight your knowledge of the product by drawing parallels between its features and the experiences you’ve had with similar products. Depending on the role, your product knowledge sets the stage for your sales strategy, ability to troubleshoot with clients, further development of its features, etc. Do the research most people are too lazy to do, and you’ll have a lineup of interviews.
5. Let your intrinsic motivation do the talking.
For some readers, it might not be enough that you get $#!+ done on time. Rather, they want to know what drives you. It’s about more than simply stating you are passionate about some aspect of work. You need to explain what satisfies you, and how this internal satisfaction keeps pushing you forward. Employee engagement can be a huge area of concern for some companies – they want to attract and retain talent. Convey that you are in it for more than a pay cheque, and your impetus for internal reward will put the impetus on the reader to call you.