How to Love Writing Your Cover Letter (or at Least Tolerate it)

By Tiffany A. Dedeaux

When I ask about the cover letter portion of an application, most everyone I talk to resists it for the same reason: “I hate selling myself!” This is because those who say this to me are helpers at heart – a service-oriented professional who finds purpose in removing the barriers to success for others. My response? Instead of selling yourself – which makes it so personal – offer to help. To do that, you would need to think of the job announcement not as a Save the Date invitation to a party but as a distress signal for a ship taking on water.

The Job Description as a Cry for Help

Photo by Sebastian Grochowicz on Unsplash

The reason a company will pay good money to advertise a role in their organization is that they need more hands-on-deck to support a project or program that already exists or is being launched. If someone has vacated the role, then it is a matter of maintaining the size of the crew with a clear understanding that every pair of hands or mind matters and can contribute to the success of the whole.

Using this shift in perspective, the job description can help you identify pain points.  If you feel called into service – by applying for the job – then it is your task to pinpoint the opportunity to contribute to the rescue or support mission by echoing industry keywords as if they were a response to an SOS signal in Morse Code. Incorporating keywords into your cover letter also shows how well you can listen and decipher a company’s needs even when they cannot properly articulate them. In this section, you will also want to briefly outline one solution or illustrate how you have and can use the skills that will help the ship – the company – chart its course for the island of success.

Answering the Call

I understand that it is one thing to feel better about writing the cover letter and another thing to do it when you are faced with a blank page. Because I am a fan of simple approaches that make daunting tasks more manageable, I suggest following the Simon Sinek method of inspiring others:  Start with Why.

Why

The first sentence of the cover letter, as I would recommend it, is your why.  Why you are the best candidate or why you are in the industry in the first place.  This is usually aspirational in nature because it can cut through the clutter to get the attention of the reader.  The rest of the first paragraph is for why you are writing to these poor people when clearly they have a lot on their minds.  Be direct so they can hear you through the SOS signal and their own attempts to save themselves.

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

How

Next is the second paragraph, which can also be a set of bulleted content since you may be sending this via email. Here, explain how you can help. Give an example of your approach to assisting businesses and teams, solutions you have devised to overcome challenges or even your unique method of problem-solving that could turn the tide of the situation at hand.

Next is the second paragraph, which can also be a set of bulleted content since you may be sending this via email. Here, explain how you can help. Give an example of your approach to assisting businesses and teams, solutions you have devised to overcome challenges or even your unique method of problem-solving that could turn the tide of the situation at hand.

What

Finally, there is the close. You have just thrown out a rescue line, so it is important to deliver a call-to-action regarding what is next that inspires them to grab onto the lifeline that you have just thrown them. Whether they are in full-on panic mode or simply just extremely distracted with busyness, your message must be clear and to the point so that the company understands that you ‘get it.’  From there, you will be invited aboard to begin assessing the situation in what is commonly known as the job interview.

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

Why This Matters

Hiring is already scary. It has already cost a lot of money.  The company needs to know that you mean it when you say you are interested just as – with a big breath – you need them to know you are here to help.

Speaking of which, I am also here to help. If you still feel as though you need help with your cover letter, you are invited to join me for the next Career Q&A session.

About tadedeaux

Tiffany is an ICF Career Coach and a cross-pollinator of ideas with a background in broadcast journalism, social and ecopsychology, and coaching. Tiffany’s nearly two decades of experience has helped her to identify the power of story in connecting us to each other as well as to our environment. A believer in the power of reflection, practical application, and celebrating victories, Tiffany understands that the more we all live our dream, the more we can model it for future generations.
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