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More Than the Average Cover Letter

cover letter
Kirsten Anderson
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Published on August 25, 2015

If you’re like me, you’ve written countless cover letters only to get bored with the same basic (and quite frankly exhausted) cover letter outline: “Hello, my name is ____ and I’m pleased to inform you that I am applying for _______ position. I believe that my experience has prepared me for this role. If you are interested in my qualifications, I am available to reach at ____.”

I write cover letters like this far too often, and while they aren’t ill-constructed, they lack emotion and passion. Personally, my problem is that I have written countless cover letters and all too often receive responses that usually consist of: “Thank you for applying for _____ position. Unfortunately, we have already hired someone with more specific credentials for this role.” Not only is this discouraging, but it makes the process of writing a cover letter something that I dread.

So, after finding a position that I really wanted, I was determined to write an exceptional cover letter that caught the company’s attention. I am now going to share this process with you.

Ask yourself these questions before getting into the writing process:

1. Why are you passionate about the job?

So many times, I have caught myself applying for positions that I don’t even want, and this leads to writing a cover letter that lacks passion. First of all, make sure that you are actually interested in the role and then determine why it is that you want it. For example, try writing something along the lines of:

“I have always desired to work for a company like TOMS Shoes, which strives to improve the lives of children by providing basic necessities because I believe that no child should have to go without shoes.”

This lets the company know that you are on board and aware of its mission- in other words, you’ve done your research and your ambitions match up with the company’s values.

2. Make it personal

Tie in a personal experience that relates to the role:

“I recently went on a mission trip to Haiti where I gained first-hand experience working with children who lacked food and proper clothing. This experience made me realize that I am passionate about helping children around the world gain access to these necessities”

Or: “During my internship at the Department of Education, I gained first-hand experience working with children from inner city schools which made me realize…”

3. Why should they hire you?

I usually find this section to be the most difficult, but crucial none-the-less. Essentially, what sets you apart from the other 350 applicants who applied for this role? As someone who doesn’t enjoy bragging about personal feats, I’m telling you that this is the section to put it all out there; this is the section where you are allowed supposed to brag. Mention your experiences, internships, that time you were in charge of the volunteer club at school or any activity where you took initiative – companies love initiative.

“During my junior and senior years of high school, I was elected President of the Philanthropy Club where I organized activities such as the winter coat drive and volunteering at the soup kitchen. I believe these experiences have given me the tools to be successful as the Volunteer Coordinator at TOMS Shoes because I enjoy leading and encouraging groups of people to participate in activities that benefit others.”

4. Be Creative

While some companies like the cut-and-dry cover letter and resume package, I believe that to stand out, one must be creative in their application. Companies receive hundreds of applications, so why not make yours stand out by doing something like a two minute video or make a personal website?

I recall seeing a young man, recently out of college, who was on the news a few years ago because he had created a “Hire Me” webpage. This webpage attracted attention, which ultimately landed him ten minutes on the news where he was able to continue to promote his webpage (and skills), hence reaching a wider audience and probably landing him a number of interviews. While I’m not saying this is a good idea for every application, it’s important to think outside-the-box to make your cover letter stand out, especially if you are applying for a creative company, such as Google.

Hopefully these tips spark your creativity and get you started on writing a not-so-basic cover letter that stands out from the crowd.

Which tips are you going to try in your next cover letter?

Kirsten Anderson

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