Cover letters may not be popular, but, taken with your résumé and portfolio, they can make or break your application. With that said, we understand the widespread disdain for them. We've seen flawed advice encouraging job seekers to repeat achievements that they may have already highlighted on their résumés, start with gimmicky introductions, or that they must sell themselves in 200 words or less.
If your eyes glaze over while reading your cover letter, then the person who receives it will yawn, too. So let's spruce it up! And if it takes four paragraphs to personalize it, go for it. (But keep it to one page.)
FIRST, DON’T DO THIS:
Don’t repeat the information you’ve included on your résumé in your cover letter. Your cover letter is a space for information that doesn’t easily translate into résumé-style language. Are you detail-oriented? Tell us if you keep a list of jobs you apply to on an Excel spreadsheet categorized by industry, type of position, and so forth. Is your greatest skill in client services? Talk about why one of your teams made you the first point of contact for clients or consumers.
WHAT IS A COVER LETTER GOOD FOR?
A cover letter is less about selling yourself than it is about sharing yourself. Let's say there are people with slightly more experience than you who apply for a job. A cover letter becomes a powerful tool for you to show off your excitement and knowledge for said job. They enable recruiters and hiring managers to understand your ambitions, goals, and motivations. Maybe you don't have as much experience as another applicant. If you can relate your interests or experiences to a particular job, that signals to employers that you sincerely want it.
THE FIRST LINE SHOULD EASE THE READER (AND YOU) INTO THE LETTER.
It doesn’t need to be catchy, and it shouldn’t be gimmicky or a sales pitch. A strong, direct first line that captures your genuine interest in the company and role does the heavy lifting. Address it to the hiring manager and, if possible, the HR associate who will be reviewing your application first. If you can't find a name, Dear Hiring Manager is perfectly fine!
"Dear [First Name and Last Name] and [First Name and Last Name]:
After reading your first blog on what it means to put creativity back into advertising and disrupt the business as usual method for media planning, my view of what it means to be creative radically changed." This says that you’ve done your homework and that you speak their language. Try structuring your intro to demonstrate some research and common values or alignment like this when you’re facing writer's block.
DISCUSS HOW A POSITION FITS WITH YOUR CAREER.
Are you relocating to a new city or changing skill sets? Here is your opportunity to let companies know. One letter we've seen communicate that information well went like this: "I have lived in several cities, traveled in different cultures, and have a sincere appreciation for viewing the world through different perspectives. I'm eager to apply this frame of reference to your clients' needs as a brand specialist in New York City. I'm a creative writer and storyteller, an East Asia-cultural encyclopedia, and an open, friendly, communicative leader. I've been looking for positions that would let me make the most of my unique insights into art, cuisine, and travel, and would be thrilled by an opportunity to learn more about the team and how I could contribute my skills."
AUTHENTICITY IS YOUR ALLY.
Let your personality shine! Think about your values and your goals. "Looking at my desk covered with my early work to today, I feel ready to take the next step. After years of training junior artists, nurturing my team's understanding of abstract design, and receiving positive feedback from clients like X and Y, I want to bring my expert art and graphics skills to nonprofit and humanitarian-based organizations that would let me contribute to a positive mission in the world." This helped us understand this designer’s professional path, disposition towards collaboration, and long-term goals.
FINISH WITH A CALL-TO-ACTION.
After you've shared an aspect of your story, your work habits, and your values, don't overlook your call-to-action. Reiterate your interest. "Company X is incredibly exciting, and I would love to discuss how my skills can support you and the team on your mission to Goal Y." For your final sentence, consider a simple, "I hope to hear from you soon" or "I look forward to speaking with you soon".
GET CREATIVE AND DO YOUR RESEARCH.
Companies and organizations want to hire you as the sum of all your parts. Personality is harder to convey in a résumé and easier to express through a cover letter. Learn about an employer's goals and challenges. Explain how your experience or passion can address them. Do your best to be authentic, interested, and passionate. No interview is ever guaranteed, but this approach will vastly improve your odds of landing one.
The Elysian Team