Your cover letter is your introduction to your prospective employer. It’s your first and only chance to make a positive impression. This makes the writing process nerve-wracking for many people, and many applicants choose to go the safe route when writing their cover letter. But you don’t always have to play it safe.
Consider taking a risk when writing your cover letter without drawing attention to yourself in a negative way. A truly creative approach to your cover letter can make you stand out from the crowd. After all, imagine reading a pile of cover letters that all read exactly the same. As you go through the pile, your eyes start to glaze over. A fresh approach can break the spell and bring warranted attention to your application.
Here are six tips to make your cover letter creative and inspiring.
1. Play the Numbers Game
Start your cover letter off on the right foot by playing the numbers game. Managers and employers respond to the practical benchmarks represented by a series of numerical accomplishments. Imagine capturing the hiring manager’s attention by starting your cover letter off like this:
“500 pages. 45 different studies. 18 months. One report. That’s what it takes to bring accountability to the Watershed Management arm of the Environmental Protection Agency.”
Numbers make your achievements seem tangible and practical. You’ll establish a first impression as someone who can deliver real world results.
2. Write Like You’re Already Working on the Job
As you begin your letter, open in a way that feels like you’re already working at the job that you want. Imagine that you’ve been performing for a few months now at the job for which you’re applying. Describe it to your prospective employer as if it has already happened:
“When the opportunity to work at Active Management Solutions came up, I knew it was for me. Finding a company that makes a difference in my field is a major priority for me. The company’s three major projects each speak to my professional and personal goals, and the work done here means a lot to me.”
3. Start Quick
Shakespeare wrote that “Brevity is the soul of wit.” In today’s Twitter-infused world, it couldn’t be more true. Begin your cover letter with a concise statement of who you are in order to stand out from the crowd. Create a short, powerful statement that comes from the head and the heart:
“Sustainable development is my passion. Let me tell you about how environmental awareness changed my life.”
4. Tell a (Short) Story
Sometimes, a personality can be even more important in a new hire than a set of skills. Employers are looking for someone who fits in with the corporate culture as much as they’re looking for someone who can perform a task. Telling a short anecdote will give them a sense of how you might fit in:
“I don’t remember when I first started to love music. It was always with me. When I went to law school, I knew someday I would return to my first love, and that’s how I started in the field of Entertainment Law.”
5. Find a Quote That Reflects You
Quotes can often appear to be a cliché. The last piece you wrote that began with a quotation may have been for your grade school speech contest. Still, a well-chosen quote — one that reflects you and your particular skills — can be a refreshing, clever way to open your letter:
“Albert Einstein once wrote that in life, one should ‘Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.’ As a member of your world-class UI design team, I would consider myself fortunate to be of value.”
6. Talk About Your Self
Talking about yourself may seem obvious in a cover letter. After all, it’s all about you. However, take the opportunity to talk about your self — about what makes up your personality. Employers want to know not only your qualifications and skills, but also your dreams and goals. Tell them not just about the schools you went to and your previous jobs, but about why you chose your career path and what it means to you:
“Usability is a core passion of mine. I believe that for software to change the world, it must be truly usable. That’s why I became a designer, and why I’d like to join your mobile development team.”
When you deploy these tactics with taste and judgment, a creative approach can help your cover letter stand out from the rest. For more cover letter strategies, talk to the staff at your career services department. The staff at the Career Services Department at Vista College is always happy to discuss cover letters. Use their advice and these non-traditional approaches to bring a fresh perspective to your cover letter.
CC Photo by Roger Bakker