Many job seekers are often shocked when their cover letter receives no response or just a quick, impersonal form email alerting them the company has moved on to other candidates.
While employers are certainly looking for a qualified employee, there is more discretion during the hiring process than you may realize. Hence it’s so important to start out strong with a clear, concise, and most of all, interesting cover letter.
Ready to get started?
A vital first step is to set the stage for your cover letter story.
What’s Your Cover Letter Story
Stumped journalists facing writer’s block are often told to get back to the basics of “The Five W’s”: who, what, when, where, and why. If you are similarly blocked, you can begin by using the same framework for your cover letter.
Essentially, the ‘who’ is you.
This is your intro paragraph and your chance to get noticed. When writing your introduction, it’s important to remember that what you are doing is selling yourself.
How are you different?
Why should potential employers give you a chance?
Assuming that you think of your cover letter as a story, then it makes sense to treat the first paragraph like the opening line of a best-selling book.
Say something provocative. Ask a question. Set up a scenario that compels the reader to continue all the way to the end.
Some sample openers include:
“You wouldn’t think an accounting intern could be the hero, but during my time at XYZ Corp, my attention to detail ended up saving the company thousands in duplicate fees.”
“Did you ever wonder what really happens behind the scenes at your local burger joint?”
“It’s been said that customer service is a thankless job, but in my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.”
You get the idea!
Find a way to highlight something you’ve accomplished or one of the skills you have that align with the responsibilities and experience listed in the job description.
As long as you avoid taking the traditional route with your opening paragraph, you guarantee the person reviewing your cover letter will take a second look.
Step Two: Develop Your Plot
Think of the next three Ws – what, when, and whereas the meat of your story. Here is where you lay out the plot of your cover letter.
A solid strategy involves breaking up your letter into two or more sections, each highlighting a different relevant experience.
Each job, internship, volunteering sting, short-time gig or other experience should be broken out into three elements: what was it, when did it happen, and where.
For example, if you interned at a local software startup, you would include the name of the company, what you did there, when it happened, and why. One or two sentences for each experience should suffice.
Furthermore, if possible, you’ll also want to include one quantifiable “how” (the rogue 6th W). How did you improve, advance, or achieve objectives?
If you have an online portfolio, now is the time to include a link so prospective employers can see what you bring to the table.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Review the job description and highlight any specific skills or experiences described, whether it’s a type of software or a more general talent like “attention to detail” that are relevant to your job history.
Don’t shy away from numbers! If you can demonstrate that you increased revenue by X% or completed Y number of projects, tell the reader about it. Employers want to see that a candidate doesn’t just punch a clock, but actually contributes to the company in a meaningful way.
Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Nothing turns off a potential employer off more than a typo. Also, be leery of too much cut-and-paste! You don’t want to send off a cover letter with the name of a different company or hiring manager.
Fundamentally, there’s no denying the stakes are high, which is why crafting an effective, engaging cover letter is essential.
Sure, the process may sound overwhelming, but with a few tips and a little bit of our help, you can write a cover letter that will make hiring managers take notice.
Ready to finish strong? Check out Upkey and redefine your career.