Cover Letter Cues

Above The Law published a hilarious cover letter yesterday that you should check out if you want a good laugh. The guy who wrote it clearly had enough with rejection and decided to let loose a bit. The problem is he’s a lawyer, he sent it to a law firm, and well, law firms aren’t exactly known for their senses of humor.

But, this brings up an interesting point regarding cover letters. Should you incorporate your sense of humor? In the media business, you might be able to get away with a little snark. I can see using humor to apply for a job at the Comedy Channel, for instance. Or, perhaps, for a writer’s job on “Letterman” or “Saturday Night Live.”

When it comes to cover letters, the reality is you really need to tailor them for each job you go for. Don’t make it seem like a form letter. (Snore.) The cover letter is a way for you to express interest in a job, outline key reasons why you are the best person for that job, and show that you can organize your thoughts in a clear, concise, thought-provoking, grammatically correct manner. Just like your resume, your cover letter should draw the reader in and make him want to find out more about you. Here are some key things to consider when writing your next cover note:

Aesthetics—Your cover letter should go hand-in-hand with the look of your resume, featuring the same font. Short is better and definitely keep it to one page.

Templates, Not Form Letters—As mentioned above, don’t use a form letter for your cover letters. Hiring managers and recruiters will see right through them because people make mistakes and forget to make changes to each new version (i.e., forgetting to change the company name you are writing to). If you can’t take the time to write a custom letter, the hiring manager or recruiter will not think that you are serious about THEIR job. Instead, create cover letter templates that you can pull information from. You will need more than one template if you are going to apply for different types of jobs. If you are thinking, for example, of applying for positions in editorial and marketing, then you need to create two templates—one for each that highlights the skills most appropriate for the positions. In the templates, point out all your strengths, achievements, and contributions that pertain to each field in paragraph format. When it comes time to write a cover letter, pick and choose the elements that are applicable and copy and paste them into a letter targeting a particular job.

Be Relevant—With each sales point you make about yourself, tie it back to the job description at point. Make it crystal clear that you possess all of the qualities that the hiring manager is specifically looking for.

Openers—Open your cover letter with a strong statement about who you are. If you are responding to an ad for a writer with 5+ years experience, start the letter off by saying: “I am a writer with 6 years experience working for top 10 consumer magazine companies.”

Closers—When it comes to closing your cover letters, clarify that you will take action to follow-up. Always provide a phone number and email just in case the reader has any questions or would like to contact you. A sample closer might say: “I will call you in a few days to discuss the possibility of my candidacy further. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call me at 212…”

Blind Cover Letters—If you’re creating a blind cover letter (one that is written to target companies on your wish list but is not in response to a particular ad), your goal is to secure an informational interview with a hiring manager in your target department and/or a human resources professional. Clearly state, in your letter that you are seeking an informational interview. After outlining the reasons you are interested in the company, you could write something like this: “I understand that you might not have positions open right now. However, I would appreciate any time you can spare for an informational interview for future opportunities. I will call within a few days to discuss possibilities. Thank you, in advance, for your consideration.”

Carpe diem…

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