This is your resume.
This is your cover letter.
You wouldn’t want to eat a cake that just has the recipe on the box, would you? A cover letter hooks people in and gives them a taste of what’s to come.
Adam Dachis wrote a good article for Lifehacker on how to write an engaging cover letter.
What’s his first piece of advice? Do your homework.
When you’re writing your cover letter, knowing your audience can help you do this. You may be applying for a job because you want any job, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a little research and find something you like and respect about your prospective employer. Doing so will give you the opportunity to connect with them in a very brief moment and help you avoid getting stacked in a pile of generic applicants.
This is where telling a good story comes in to play. Say something you admire about the company. If it’s an advertising firm, mention one of their campaigns that you liked. If it’s a production company, mention one of their films. Show that you know the company and what they are all about.
Put yourself out there. It’s sort of like asking someone out on a date. They’re probably not going to go out with you unless they know something about you. I like the way Dachis puts it.
Who you are matters. It’s true that some companies are mostly interested in hiring people who will simply get the work done, accept a low salary, and never complain, if you’re applying for a job you’re actually going to like then chances are you matter. Put a little of yourself into the cover letter. You’re not sharing your disease history. You’re sharing your personality in a way that’s relevant to the job you want. It’s fun. It’s an excuse to be honest, and you increase your chances of getting a job, too.
So how do you structure your letter? It will be slightly different for each letter you write. Start off with an introduction to how you heard about the job or the company. If it’s a well-established company with a professional culture, stick to formality. If it’s an organization that’s more relaxed, feel free to be more informal. Remember to do your homework on the company before you type it out.
Second, show what you can bring to the table . Show, don’t tell. Anyone can be a “hard-worker” or a “team-player.” Show it. For example, instead of saying you work hard, mention those nights at the Free Press where you were up until 2am making sure the layout was just right. Or if you’re a team-player, mention your work with Ad Lab with a team of people.
Third, tie it together. How do your skills, experience, and personality benefit the company? Just saying that you’re an excellent photographer doesn’t do much for them. Mention that you think your photography skills could improve the company website. Talk about the hours you’ve spent blogging about food and how you would bring that same dedication to the company. Talk about how you’re on top of the latest technology trends and how that could help the company stay on the cutting edge. This part is about them.
Finally, mention that you’ll be in touch. And do make sure to follow up.
One last piece of advice from Dachis. He writes that companies basically want to know three things:
- You’re smart.
- You’ll get things done.
- You’ll fit in well with their corporate culture.
Make sure these come out in your cover letter.
Cover letters can be mind-numbing. However, if you do your homework and some self-reflection, the process will be a piece of cake.