Looking for a full-time job can be its own (non-paying) full-time job. When seeking work, it can feel like drafting cover letters consumes the bulk of your time. “Does anyone even read these?” you may wonder.
While certainly there are cover letters are never read by the HR team, that’s often because they’re boring. If you draft yours with care and creativity, there’s a very good chance that not only will it be read, but it may also land you the coveted interview. Besides the obvious recommendations to write a unique cover letter for every application and to ensure that your letter is typo-free, here are a few additional tips to consider:
Break the Medium
Certain industries may automatically disqualify you if you attempt to break the traditional cover letter format. However, if you are applying for an employer who works to deploy creativity in their work, a “broken medium” cover letter may blow them away.
For example, I know a girl who wanted to work at a social media marketing agency and based on her intel of the company, she knew that everyone there frequently communicated with GIFs. In lieu of a traditional cover letter, she created a password-protected Tumblr page for the hiring manager and wrote the entire cover letter out in GIF-form. The hiring manager loved it. This applicant proved that she understood the social media platform (Tumblr in this case), that she understood the company culture (which loved GIFs), and that her capacity to develop creative content for her cover letter would be the same creativity that the agency’s clients were seeking.
You don’t have to completely break the medium to stand out; a GIF-filled Tumblr cover letter may make you look crazy for many applications. However, consider your industry and think about other unique ways that you can infuse a “fluency” of that specific industry’s language into your cover letter.
It used to be that hiring managers were unimpressed with design elements in resumes. Today, that’s changing. Heavily designed resumes may be extremely appropriate for designers attempting to show their design chops. In fact, in 2013 a web designer named Robby Leonardi gained national coverage for creating such a remarkable and interactive résumé. This is an extreme approach and you may not be a designer. However, for even for the average job seeker, a light design touch like a signature accent color, small infographic, unique font and well-placed bullets can help you stand out from the crowd. Templates abound for the non-designer in need of one; typically, the ones for sale (at a nominal price) are the best.
If you opt to apply design elements to your resume, can you mirror that same font, color and branding on your cover letter? This reflects a cohesive package in your storytelling.
Moving on from the cover letter’s aesthetic, it’s important that the content of the letter is creative and tells the full story of your skills. Remember to “write small” and make this your mantra. While you be tempted to try to broadly explain the many reasons you’re qualified, it’s often better to tell your non-fiction narrative in a spotlighted and creative way. The specific can reveal the universal.
“The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying on the road. You pick the smallest manageable part of the big thing, and you work off the resonance.” -Richard Price.
How can you write small in your cover letter? Rather than speak broadly about your generic qualifications, instead identify a specific example of a challenge in the workplace, how you rose to overcome it, and how that applies to your capacity to shine in this new role as well. Write about how you helped your last employer saves thousands on their holiday marketing campaign or the time you stepped up when your co-worker left on medical leave when no one else would. This will give your application personality and help the interviewer have an inroad to ask more about these examples in person.
Happy job hunting!
Photos by Eun Creative