Cover letters are often considered the most tedious part of the job search process. Finding a voice or the right talking points can be difficult. Frequently, students do not know where to start. What results, are cover letters that are bland and generic written from templates or recycled from other jobs.
One trick to help students understand the importance of a personalized cover letter is to compare writing a cover letter with asking someone out on a date. When asking someone out on a date you want to make them feel special while selling yourself at the same time. It’s the same for writing cover letters.
The first paragraph of your cover letter is to make the employer feel special. Writing, “I’m applying to this position because I saw it on Indeed” is a lot like approaching somebody with a line of, “You’re single, I’m single and both live in the same city. We should go out on a date.” Ugh, can you hear how bad that sounds now?
To catch somebody’s interest, you should hook them with a line that makes them feel unique. In dating you might say, “I’ve seen you in class and noticed that you ask intriguing questions.” On your cover letter you could say, “I know the reputation of XYZ in the community because of your involvement at this year’s conference. I noticed you make a strong effort to promote your values of sustainability.” The goal here is to tell the employer you have eyes on them specifically and they are not simply another fish in the job posting sea.
After you’ve sparked their interest, you now need to sell yourself. Build yourself into the conversation by creating a shared narrative. “I was fascinated by the question you asked in class as I have been thinking about the same issue.” With your second paragraph, you are now building yourself into their company and sharing in their vision. “The themes of my projects during my program have been environmentally-related by thinking about how sustainable practices can make businesses more profitable.”
Traditional cover letter writing follows by providing specific demonstrative examples tailored to important aspects from the job posting. Afterwards, make the judgment call between how much you talk about yourself or keeping it short, sweet and relevant. No one likes a rambler.
To close things up provide a quick recap and try to make plans. “So yeah, I think you’re pretty cool. How would you like to go grab a coffee sometime? Here’s my number.” Do the same call back in your cover letter and wrap it up. “Your vision for sustainability coincides with my own future goals. I would welcome the opportunity for an interview. You can reach me at xxx.xxx.xxxx.”
Using this dating metaphor with students can help them understand the risks of using a generic cover letter and the benefits of finding a personalized voice. Encourage students to make genuine connections with each application. Generic opening lines fall flat in the dating world as often in the job search world. We all want to feel special, including hiring managers.
Masters of Teaching, HBK
Sciences, Tourism & Arts Co-operative Education Coordinator Career Education Department |Thompson Rivers University
Masters of Education, RCC
Career Counsellor | Career & Experiential Learning Department |Thompson Rivers University