How do you start a cover letter that has impact? This article shares the single most important thing you need to do, as well as how to start a cover letter, and what to say in the middle and end.
How do you start a cover letter so that it has impact? If you do a Google search on how to write a cover letter or start a cover letter and read what comes up you will find some very sound, very conventional advice. Here is a summary:
- The first two sentences matter most
- Use numbers to quantify the results you’ve created
- Highlight your key accomplishments
- Tell the recipient why you want to be at their firm
- Share your passion for the opportunity
It is all good advice, and if you do it well, at the very least you won’t disqualify yourself.
However, if you ask a career coach, they will tell you that nearly every position available these days has hundreds of applicants, which means a hiring manager won’t spend more than a few minutes on your cover letter, and most likely less.
So how do you stand out with your cover letter? Tell your story. Focus on why you made the moves you did.
WHY WRITING YOUR COVER LETTER SHOULD COMPLIMENT YOUR RESUME
Spending time on figuring out your unique story is critical. Your story is not: first I worked at XYZ consulting firm as an analyst, then I moved on to ABC competitive intelligence firm as a product developer, then…
Your resume tells the story of where you worked and what rolls you had. Don’t rehash that in your cover letter. In your cover letter you need to paint a broad strokes picture of what you’ve done and the essence of who you are. For example:
I have spent my career raising funds for non-profits with large capital planning efforts that have a huge impact on local communities (e.g. EXAMPLE). In the course of that work, I have led large teams, energized volunteers, and had a real impact in the organizations I’ve joined and the people they support.
I am interested in joining your organization because I believe that it may represent the next big step in my lifelong goal of creating a world where a child’s future is more a function of their ambition than who their parents are…
This isn’t perfect, and it usually takes time working with a career coach to nail this, but you get the idea. The cover letter gives a sense of who the person is and what they stand for. In other words, the “why” that is at their essence. The person reading the letter is only going to remember a tiny amount of information about what it contains. Make it easy for them, give them a simple story that they can communicate to others. Rehearse your story, share it with others, refine it, until it is smooth and crisp.
Remember, people don’t care what you did as much as why you did it.
HOW TO END YOUR COVER LETTER
So, how do you end the letter? As a career coach, my favorite closing in a cover letter, thank you note, etc is:
“blah, blah, blah… I look forward to further exploring the opportunity to work together.”
Why does this closing work? The first reason is working with someone is a much stronger positioning than working for someone. It makes you stand out.
The second reason is about supply and demand. Here’s a quick reminder, in case you forgot:
When the supply of something is high, it is cheap (for example, dirt). When supply is low, it is expensive (e.g. gold). And, of course, the opposite is true on the demand side.
When you suggest, “exploring the opportunity to work together,” what you are saying is that there is a limited supply of you and you are discerning.
Do you see what that does? It increases your value by decreasing your supply.
Similarly, this is why there is a huge advantage to applying for a job when you 1) already have a job and/or 2) signal that you have another offer or expect one shortly. Why? You’ve just increased the demand for your services (the other side of the supply equation) and therefore your value.
Now, you might be tempted to put something about another opportunity in your cover letter, but it would likely come across as tacky and/or aggressive. However, in an interview it is fair game. For example, when the time comes for you to ask questions you can say something like, “I’m evaluating this opportunity against another one, so I’m wondering…”
Finally, one thing I’m surprised people don’t do more of is refer employers to a place where they can get more information about them. For example, their LinkedIn profile or a special website they have built just for getting hired.
Think about it, those are canvasses where you can tell your story at length, humanize yourself with a picture, get testimonials from prior employers, etc, etc. It may not be conventional, but why compete conventionally? A career coach can help you set this up.
So, in conclusion, tell a story that is easily summarized and understood, and do everything you can to raise your perceived value in your cover letter by decreasing your supply and increasing your demand. And if you need help figuring out whether you are on the right career path or how to get started, schedule a career coaching session here.
What questions do you have about cover letters, career coaching, or the hiring process overall? Let me know in the comments below.