Monday, October 29, 2007

A Kick-Ass Cover Letter

How to write a kick-ass cover letter, in three easy steps:

Step 1: "You're Great!"
Why yes, flattery WILL get you everywhere! If you really want the job, and you want your resume & cover letter to be weeded out of the stack, start by telling the company exactly why you want the job. Why do you want to work for the company? Sure, the job sounds appealing, but why, specifically? (Aside from, "It's the kind that pays.") Why did you pick this job, of all the ones you looked at today? When reading job descriptions, you start to notice that companies use very specific words and phrases to describe their company, the job opportunity, and the person they're looking for. Things like "passionate" and "rapidly-growing" and "deadline-oriented." It's completely okay to parrot these things back to them. In fact, it's recommended. Show them that you not only read the whole job description, but that you were able to pick up with they were throwing down, and it really blew your skirt up.

PASS:
"Dear Hiring Manager:
My name is SusieWantsajob and I’m currently seeking employment in the marketing profession."

YES, PLEASE:
"Dear Hiring Manager:
I am truly excited to have an opportunity to apply for a position with a young, rapidly-growing agency like Click Communications. I love the idea of being able to join a passionate, hard-working team of fellow movie lovers, and put my experience to work in the dynamic field of home entertainment and online publicity."

Step 2: "I'm Great!"
So many of the cover letters I'm reading start here, and it just gets draining. This is why it's Step 2, not 1. Of course you want to sell yourself, and you only have a few sentences to convince your future employer that you're the bee's knees. Again, however, you need to sell yourself based on the job you want. It's great if you've crafted a nice boiler-plate for yourself that you can insert into every cover letter--after all, job hunting is hard work, and writing hundreds of unique cover letters every day can be a huge bummer. So use the things that are important to you in your template, then customize your letter with highlights of specific things about you that fit nicely with the specific job and company. If you're too vague, you're not selling, you're just bragging--and no one's listening.

PASS:
"I am confident my experience fulfilling directives of various projects related to public relations, marketing and promotions could provide much value and benefit to your team."

YES, PLEASE:
"I am familiar with many different aspects of entertainment and internet publicity. I am highly efficient, and organize my time to complete tasks quickly and accurately. I am also a self-starter and can work very well independently or as a team player."

Step 3: "Wouldn't We Be Great Together?"
You're almost done! You've already established that you're hot for the company and the job, and you've described the things about you that are awesome. Now here's where you outline the potential benefit of hiring you. If it's a young company, talk about your desire and ability to help them grow, and grow with them. If it's an established company, maybe mention the benefits of a fresh perspective on their already-strong team. Again, this is a benefit for the company, not you. People who are hiring already know that you want to further your career in the field of your choice, and grow as a professional. Save it. Instead, think about the reaction you had when you read the job posting, and think about what you told your friends and family. If you said something like, "This would be so perfect because I'd get to do this and this! And I'd be super awesome at helping them with this!" Well, then, your Step 3 is already written.

PASS:
I don't have a bad example of this because MOST PEOPLE SKIP IT.

YES, PLEASE:
"I am confident that my experience as a writer and a promotions intern would be a great fit in your growing company, and I am eager to contribute to your organization's success."

So that's it: You're Great + I'm Great + Wouldn't We Be Great Together? = A Kick-Ass Cover Letter = "Hello, Susie. This is Dinah from Click. I'd like to set up a time to discuss your resume further."

Considering how many people don't do this, I kind of can't believe I'm giving away this advice for free. The funny thing about all this is that, to me, this advice is old news. My dad gave me this advice when I wrote my very first cover letter. I must have been a teenager at the time, maybe? But it's stuck with me all these years BECAUSE IT WORKS. If nothing else, going through this process will help tell you if you are, in fact, applying for the Right Job, or just A Job. If it's just A Job, hey--you don't have to do any of this, and maybe people will be blown away by your resume and call you anyway. Or maybe they'll realize that it's just A Job to you, and move your resume to the recycling file. If it's the Right Job, though, then this should be easy.

(p.s. No, to Anonymous in the Comments and anyone else who finds this, I will NOT review your cover letter for you unless we are extremely close family or friends. In which case you have my email. And honestly, maybe not even then. Didn't you gather from all this that I am Very Busy and Important with a small business to run?)

19 comments:

E said...

This is incredible advice! I can't believe no one's commented yet. Very insightful and straightforward.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you have a great dad, too.

Janice Lichtenwaldt - Founder said...

Well said. I suspect this came from some frustrating hiring experiences lately? I hope someone reads this and takes you up on your offer. :)

Dinah said...

First, I do have a great dad! And Janice, it's not so much that I've had some frustrating experiences lately, it's more that hiring is ALWAYS frustrating. I think my next rant is going to have to be about applying for what the job actually is, not what a person may think it is or want it to be. It's kind of stupid how many marketing people think that PR is the same thing.

Random Tat said...

This is rad Dinah! Just what I needed to get a step in. Drinks on me when I land the right job ;)

Anonymous said...

thanks! just the kick in the pants that i needed!

Marcelina said...

Wow. I'm glad I found this entry. Super helpful. This is the best advice about cover letters, ever. Thanks!

JT McHorse said...

This is amazing advice, and in such a fun tone that its easy to read!

Mike DeMar said...

Thanks for the tips!

David said...

This advice is almost 2 years old and it was so helpful and motivating for me. Thank you!

Scott Bland Photography said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
So simple and yet so effective! I've been unemployed for 4 months and hate writing cover letters! Did I mention I hate writing cover letters??? LOL! I'm such a small fish in such a full pond of unemployed fish and haven't gotten so much as a phone call since my layoff! Thank you for the killer advice!

By the way... you have a typo...

Step two...
"writing hundres of unique cover letters"

Sorry, I pick up on typos for some reason!
Cheers!
Scott Bland
Charlotte, NC

Dinah said...

Heh. Good thing I'm not sending myself a cover letter, or I'd be SOL. :)

Anonymous said...

thanks. amazing. and i know i'm 2 years late. ;)

Anonymous said...

Dinah, I need a real kick-ass cover letter and it's true a lot of people don't do the last part. If I sent u mine to review would you check it out?

THE GUY said...

I really like the fact that your writing skills can help a novice writer like me sound GOOD.

Judy said...

I am unsure about how recent the comment really are, but I just want to say THANK YOU! If I get a job with this advice, I will let you know.

Anonymous said...

This is amazing advice! I just came across this--I literally googled "how to write a kick ass cover letter" and this came up! --And it's true to it's title!!

So simple and clear and easy to understand! And you just rocked providing us with "good" and "bad" examples!! A thousand thanks to you! I can really use this in this poor job market! --In fact, I already did--just sent out a cover letter utilizing these suggestions!

Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you! :)

Anonymous said...

Just reread this and just in time, as I need to do one of these today. Was reminded of this post by rappy, so thanks to both of you!

awesome mama said...

i know this is an old post but i googled "kick ass cover letter" and was happy to stumble across this. thank you. it has equipped me with the courage to send off a very kick ass, if not unconventional, cover letter, indeed!