A tip for cover letters

Posted by Andy Huggins on June 30, 2016

So here's the problem as I see it:

You decide, for whatever reason, that you want to find a new job. Unhappy with current job, looking for a better opportunity, more money, bored, gained new skills, whatever. You do what most people do, you look for job postings that resemble the position you are looking for, get your resume in order, maybe write a cover letter, and ultimately apply.

Simple, right?

Two weeks later you get a call, schedule the interview, go to the interview, one week later you get the job offer.

Simple, just like that right?

Never. Well, maybe for some.

I have often felt that I could be doing more, that I have more to offer, that I could do well in a position with high responsibility. But I have yet to really apply for one since I feel that I don't have the background to support it. However, if people only got positions they had a background for, how are higher positions ever granted?

That question is what I usually dwell on. How do you get the opportunity to get the experience? Chicken and the egg right?

I thought about the last job I applied to, I had my resume, other things, maybe a cover letter. But what about these things stands out? The resume is pretty standard. Sure you could have a slicker design, or maybe you have some awards that you list to tell the new company that other people think you're special. But the resume is just not where you are going to stand out. It's not really intended to. It's a quick breakdown of your history/experience. It's "what you have done."

The cover letter though, this is where I am starting to see the opportunity to really promote yourself. I am starting to think of it as the "what you can do" or even more specifically "what you will provide to the company."

I'll admit, previously, I kind of felt like the cover letter was a waste. But with this new approach of promoting yourself and telling the company what you will provide, it has a much more succinct purpose to me.

So let's go over some Do's and Don'ts

Dont's

  1. Don't say the same old boring shit.
    1. "I have a meticulous attention to detail." - boring
    2. "Previously I have worked on X, Y, Z with Acme company." - oooh wow
  2. Don't regurgitate history details from your resume.
  3. Don't bash previous boss/employers/coworkers.
  4. Don't just change the name of the place you are applying.

Do's

  1. Talk about what you can do.
    • "I saved X amount of time/money by implementing A, B, C" - results
  2. Talk about personal growth.
    • "I researched X, presented to my boss, and was able to reduce bug reports by 10%" - more results, initiative
    • "I attend local meetups to gain exposure on new topics, in doing so, I was able to suggest solutions for new problems."
  3. Talk about desire for more responsibility
    • "I am really excited about the potential of X, and I feel it can provide a great value to the company by increased productivity and cost savings." -
  4. Do look at company information and try to suggest things you do not see them doing. Be sure to do it in a polite way.
  5. If you feel like you could really make an improvement, pull out the big guns.
    • "I know the position listed is for X, looking over your website, I see an opportunity that I would love to discuss with you that has returned great results with my current employer."

The idea is to express a greater interest than simply what they may be looking for. Create an interest in talking to you for an interview. Telling someone what you can provide is a much better approach than telling someone what you have done or where you have worked.