“How do I write a good cover letter?” I get this question at least once a week. Here’s the thing with this question: There is no ONE way to write a cover letter, and here is why:
- Companies communicate differently: You will see some younger organizations put a lot of emphasis on the cover letter. They may give you some edgy assignment or want you to show your personality. Another more formal organization may call for no cover letter, or you can pretty much tell that the company is more button-up and you should keep it rather traditional.
Aim the TONE of your letter to the TONE of the organization. Go to their website. Do you see the word “awesome?” Keep it casual and open. If their site looks a little more traditional or they are a big public company, you may want to factor that in your tone. Get a FEEL for the organization you are writing to and aim your creativity in the right direction.
- You have to write a different one for every job. Sure you can work off of a master but ultimately, you should be saying something different for each job that you apply for. Why? Because you should reference something specific about that company or the job and why you are a fit. Don’t prepare one standard cover letter. These are custom and taking the time to fit them to role is essential
Reference one of the skills or competencies from the job you are applying for and give a specific example of your expertise or a tangible result you caused in the past that illustrates you are qualified. You may also do this with some of the messaging of the organization. If the organization has a certain mission statement or value that you identify with, you can do that to. You are showing ROLE FIT and ORGANIZATIONAL FIT here. Companies put a much bigger emphasis on culture than they did 20 years ago. They are not only looking for the right person for the job, but the right person for their culture and climate.
- They matter and sometimes they don’t! It truly is a crapshoot. No two hiring processes are exactly alike. You have external recruiters, internal recruiters, smaller organizations that are hiring without any help. You never know exactly who you are writing to, so your best bet is to give it your all without obsessing. Some people put a LOT of weight on cover letters, while others totally ignore them.
Take a breath you, you can do this. If you are having trouble, call up an old colleague or someone you trust to help you speak about yourself. Share the job description with someone who knows and has interacted with your skill set and ask their input. People struggle with speaking about themselves, this is normal. Don’t suffer. Have a few people on hand who can help you get out of your head.