How to write a better cover letter

09/25/2011

A friend asked for some feedback on her cover letter this weekend and the response was well-received, so I thought I’d publish it here as well. I don’t write cover letters, nor do I keep a current resume, but I realize that many of my friends do so without further ado…

In short, most cover letters are too “me” centric.

No one cares about you, people care about how you can help them.

They don’t want to know how cool you are, they want to know how the cool things that you’ve done will make their business more money.

Assuming that the cover letter’s content is strong, it needs to be framed in the following context:

My [specific skill/experience] would help your company realize [goal] by [explanation].

You want to show a confidence in being able to solve specific problems without coming across as God’s gift to business. Every point you make should be strategically tied to something they’ve either said that they need or that you know they need.

The opportunity here is to be less of an appropriately-credentialed cog and more of an experienced thought leader with perspectives to share and leadership to give.

Be dangerous. Make them sweat. But whatever you do, don’t be a “model employee.”

A critical tool in your arsenal of value-demonstration is the ability to craft a narrative around why you want the position, how it ties to what you’re trying to get out of life, and the fact that they would be missing out on a good thing if they didn’t snatch you up.

The above is what separates employees from leaders who are groomed for executive leadership, and the art is pulling it off in a way that is genuine and natural.

It takes at least ten times the effort of a normal cover letter, but it’s worth it.