Cover letters are a dynamic tool for job seekers. It’s one of very few parts of the hiring process that you can change on an application-to-application basis, catering the letter to who you’re writing to and how you feel about them. They can show off your fit for a role, display your creative side, or showcase your passion for the company or its products. How you choose to write a cover letter can make all the difference.
Beyond the compulsory “research the company so that you can relate to them” process, it’s important to recognize that writing a cover letter can be approached in many ways. Most of them, however, fit three archetypes.
Here are three different ways you can write your next cover letter.
The bog standard (ordinary, regular) approach to writing a cover letter is advisable for companies that you’re not passionately interested in but could imagine yourself working at. These letters are for the roles that fit your experience but don’t inspire you -- a potential job that’s above average, but not spectacular.
Writing your standard cover letter doesn’t mean it has to be boring, and it doesn’t mean you don’t need to do your research. What it does mean is that you shouldn’t make any false appeals to the reader about why you love their company. When your “passion” lack honesty, it’s easy to see through, and you can and will be tested on your “love” and knowledge of a company or its products.
It’s okay to not be super passionate about a company. Your bog standard cover letter should instead focus on the reason you were drawn to the role. Whether it’s because the job description is a perfect fit for you or because you’re particularly excited about the type of projects you would work on, make that drive the primary selling point for why you should be given an interview.
Focus on yourself, your qualifications, and how easily you’d be able to slot in and start working. Show only honest enthusiasm and write toward that specific reason you were drawn to apply. Chances are, that honesty will be noticed.
The passion play
Do you really love the company? Or are you really passionate about an industry? Maybe you’re a lifelong video gamer and you want to join your favorite games developer. Or maybe you’ve been drinking the same brand of coffee every morning for a decade and just can’t imagine starting your mornings without it. Perhaps you’ve heard about their team and how they work together and can’t wait to be in that workplace environment.
Whatever your passion for the company may be, if it’s real, showcase it. Hiring managers admire candidates who care about the company that they’re hiring for and have invested their lives and work into. When the qualifications of two candidates match up, the person with more knowledge or excitement will win out.
Here’s the key, though: don’t lay it on too thick. You want to come across as passionate without overdoing it and sounding wacky. Talk about why you’re a big fan, but keep it concise and professional. And relate your passion back to the job and the projects you’d be working on if you were hired. Talk about how it all connects to your professional or personal history.
By doing this right, you’ll be able to show that you’re a good fit both professionally and culturally. You’ll show the person on the other side of the room that you’re not only eager to get started but that you’ll be a quick learner. And you’ll differentiate yourself from the crowd of standard resumes that are pouring in.
The “ideas (wo)man”
Sometimes, it’s not the role or the company that excites you as much as an overflow of ideas for what you’d want to do in your first few months on the job. It may be a drive to innovate, manage, or an excitement for how to move a project forward.
The simple fact of it is you can’t stop thinking about all the possibilities. Perhaps you want to engineer new and exciting optimizations you’ve learned in the past to make a new app faster and better. You want to be the general manager for New York because you know how well this product will do in your hometown. You want to handle business development because you have the perfect sales pitch for getting other companies on board and a unique understanding of the business.
Translating these ideas into your cover letter can be the difference between being a boring candidate and an exciting prospect. Hiring managers want to be able to imagine you in the role as early in the hiring process as possible, and they also want you to imagine yourself in the role. That way, the interview is less about boring questions regarding your work history and more about what awesome things you could achieve with the team you’re interviewing with.
So if you’re bursting with ideas about how to improve a project, what direction to take your job in, or how to bring an old initiative back from the grave, go ahead and use the cover letter to talk about it. Even if those ideas never come to fruition, the simple fact that you’re already conceptualizing yourself in the role and have ideas on how to impact the team immediately shows a drive that hiring managers find extremely attractive in prospective candidates.
Your cover letter can and should be different across the various jobs you apply to. After all, you apply to each role for different reasons. Using the same document for each application can only hurt your prospects at getting hired. So use a bit of creative flair and take advantage of your honest motivations for applying. Translate them into concise cover letters and you’re sure to impress a few hiring managers along the way.