Job applications and resumes often allow you to write a cover letter. If you write the same generic promises as everyone else, you won’t get the job.
The purpose of the cover letter is make your application stand out. The recruiters and managers will be reading dozens or hundreds of similar letters. So why write the same lame clichés as everyone else.
- “I am passionately committed to quality software.” Oh, really. That should differentiate you from all the other coders who wanted to write buggy software.
- “Diversity and inclusion are important to me.” Nice. Now we can put you in the pile with all the other non-racists. It’s a pretty big pile, you understand.
- “I believe content marketing is the future.” That’s excellent, and everyone else who applies for this content marketing job probably would agree with you.
Generic cover-letter writing includes anything that either (1) any other applicant could write, or (2) you could write for any job you apply to. Such writing clearly communicates, “This candidate is like everyone else and couldn’t put much effort into the cover letter.” That’s not going to get you the job.
Recruiters see hiring as a pattern matching exercise. Let that guide your cover letter.
How can you avoid the generic crap? Start with the things in your background that connect with the job or company. For example.
- “I see myself as a product developer. In my senior year, I used CAD modeling to design a surfboard — using the same sorts of principles your product developers are likely using to design streamlined boats.”
- “I used content marketing to build my resumé consulting business. I’m used to creating content that drives traffic. I would look forward to putting those content creation and promotion skills to work to build inbound traffic your innovation consultancy.”
- “I worked on or managed six hybrid live-virtual events for the drama department at my university. I love the pressure, interpersonal connections, and focus on performance that events demand. That’s why I think I’m a good fit as an events producer for your software marketing group.”
No one else could write these sentences. They connect your skills to the job description. And a recruiter, reading them, will think, “Ah, this is a candidate who not only has what we are looking for, but has put the effort into demonstrating that.”
True, these sentences are self-centered. They include the word “I.” But a resumé and cover letter are where you market yourself. Use “I” without shame, because this is the place to blow your own horn. The key is not to talk about how great you are, but what you have done.
That’s how to stand out.