The content of most cover letters that come across recruiters’ desks are bland and unexciting. They sound like everyone else’s letters. I call them gray. And gray doesn’t stand out. It just blends into the background. Get the hiring manager’s attention with this cover letter tip.
Cover Letter Tip: Add Some Color!
Start with a Splash
Even the first paragraph of your cover letter can make you stand out. Sure, you need to tell them what job you’re applying for, and where you found out about it, but you don’t have to end there. To get their attention, say something about what you understand about the company’s needs, and why you’re the person to meet those needs.
Most people don’t take the time to tailor cover letters, so any mention of specifics about the company you’re applying to will distinguish you from your competitors.
Time for a Paint Job
The “gray” cover letters I tend to see include language like this:
“I believe my skills and qualifications are a perfect match for the available position.”
“I have spent the last ten years gaining experience in X. At job A, I did B, where I gained experience in C. At job D, I did E, and gained experience doing F. At job G, I did H, and learned J. I therefore feel that I would be an asset to your company.”
I hope you agree with me that it’s time for a makeover!
Painting Your Passion
Stop blending into the background! Your cover letter is a valuable opportunity to paint yourself in bright, eye-catching descriptions–as someone who would bring personality and flair to a position, or true problem solving or negotiating skills, or, at the very least, some passion.
How do you do that? Tell a story that shows them who you are.
If I were writing a cover letter, for instance, I might talk about how I won the trust of a contract manager who had been ready to pull a contract from my organization. One of my clients wrote about how he successfully negotiated a conflict at work and obtained payment from a customer who was refusing to pay. Another wrote about his quest for the perfect problem to solve.
These stories will catch an employer’s eye and paint a picture of a real person, with experience and attributes that reach beyond a list of resume bullets.
Take My Advice!
I’d like to share with you the following letter, which I received from a student at the University of Wisconsin:
I feel like a naive kid who was suddenly given a cover letter awakening.
I took your advice and changed almost everything.
I am ashamed to call the last documents I sent you “cover letters.” I wouldn’t have wanted to interview me. Sad.
In these new cover letters, every sentence gives information that cannot be gathered from my resume. I really tried to pour some personality and passion into these and keep the reader’s attention. I can actually be proud of these letters.
This student says it well. Give them new information, NOT a regurgitation of your resume. Pour in some personality (purple?), passion (red?) Throw in some anecdotes (green?) And you too will be able to say you are proud of your cover letters.
With this cover letter tip, you’ll be a lot more likely to get that interview, where you really get to show them who you are.
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