Oh yeah, we know that dreaded sentence very well, the one that sends us leaping for the “back” button on our internet browser. “You must include a cover letter to be considered for this position.” Ack–but I just spent all that time on my resume! And I don’t know what the heck to write in a cover letter!
Well fear not, LocalWorkers. If you’ve ever written an essay to apply for anything–a scholarship, college admittance, or a even a reality TV show (The Bachelor, anyone?)–you’re already a pro at the cover letter. You are well on your way to crafting a brilliant resume topper that will make you stand out among dozens—even hundreds—of applicants swooning after that dream job of yours.
Now sit back and channel your inner high school student preparing for graduation…
Where to Begin?
Amid the questionable fashion choices, the prom drama, and that chemistry experiment gone wrong, surely you remember the endless number of applications for schools and scholarships that you endured during your senior year of high school. Some of us typed these essays and long-answer questions on a trusty desktop computer with an 850 lb. beast of a monitor at our service. Others click-clacked away on a good ol’ typewriter. Youngins: Google it. Regardless, there were So. Many. Essays.
Now fast forward to present day. You’re no longer writing scholarship applications, you’re writing job applications, and the process is actually quite similar (with a lot greater potential for cash-money amiright?). But don’t panic; the similarity is actually a good thing because you’re an absolute PRO by this point.
Just like your college entrance essay, your cover letter is a great place to talk about what you do best, precisely what you have to offer, and how that impacts their organization (rather than unversity, in this case) in a great way.
If your high school English teacher was anything like mine, she encouraged you to write about some deep, inspiring, or challenging moment in your life and explain how it made you a better person, neatly tying it up with why you would be a good fit for University of _______. With one simple, short story, you convinced your dream school you’re a rockstar who has everything it takes to be a great match for that specific program.
Now really, isn’t that the same thing you need to do with this cover letter?
Yes it is! Therefore, you’re already bomb at this whole thing!
Don’t let cover letters beat you. You’ve got this in the bag.
1. Start with a Relevant Anecdote
If you’re applying for a job at State Farm, include a note about how you were terrified to let your 16 year old son drive your car for the first time, but since you knew you had State Farm, you were able to avoid calling him every five minutes to make sure he was okay. If you’re seeking a job with Target, talk about how you loved browsing the aisles for Lisa Frank school supplies as a kid and how, even as an adult, you rely on Target to keep you struttin’ your stuff in style. Make it authentic and personal, and add just a hint of brag in there. You’re trying to sell yourself, after all. I mean, come on–you’re already the perfect fit for the job, you just have to convince them of that fact.
2. Don’t Get Carried Away
Now that you’re in the mindset of expressing yourself, be sure to match the formality (or lack there of) of your letter to the personality and vibe of the company. If you’re applying to a spunky startup, it’s a-ok to be a bit more casual and free with your language and examples. If you’re applying to a conservative accounting firm, you should probably keep a lid on your over-the-top creative side. Above all else, make yourself stand out in a positive way.
3. Tell ‘Em What’s In It for Them
It’s great to tell a company about yo’ fab self (after all, they’re trying to measure you up as a candidate), but be sure to frame your skills and experiences in terms of how much the company would benefit drafting you to their dream team. What’s in it for them if you come on board, and what are they missing out on if your boots go walking over to another company? Never give the impression that you “just need the money.” Write clearly, bluntly, and with confidence. You’re perfect for the gig already, now they just need you to tell them why.