If you want to write a great cover letter–one that resonates with a hiring manager and lands you an interview–you’ve got to show who you are as a human being. That means removing the business jargon and posturing, and sharing who you are as a person.
You need to expose yourself by taking it all off. (Or at least most of it!)
Finding work often requires creativity and ingenuity. Sometimes people get jobs in spite of who they are, but most often, you get a job because of who you are, the first taste of which comes in your cover letter.
I’ll get back to cover letters shortly. But first, a story.
Years ago, I hired Erin Donley, who operates Erin Donley Communications, to help me get clearer about my business communication. She reminded me that people didn’t connect with me because I’m an expert; people connect with me because I’m a human.
I studied the interactions on my Facebook business page, and I learned something important. When I tried to sound like an expert, my posts didn’t get responses. But when I was playful, silly, and sincere, the responses and connections would come easily.
The thing is, I have never worn the expert suit well. I’m smart and skilled, but I’m not a traditional intellectual. I am, however, playful, silly, and sincere. I am a word nerd. I have a high cheese factor and an undying love for Neil Diamond. I have relentless hope and unabashed appreciation for the sacred. So basically, when I’m not being myself, my communication doesn’t work. When I am, it does.
So, back to those cover letters.
Expertise matters. Experience and education matter. Let your resume reflect all those qualities. Your cover letter is your chance to relate on a human level with your potential employer and colleagues. Give them a good look at the person behind the awesome credentials; let them connect with you as a human.
That means you have to uncover your cover letter. Take off phony language; take off the kissing up; take off the “right things to say.” Reveal yourself. You can still be professional and clear about yourself as a qualified candidate.
Here are some examples:
- If you’re a naturally funny person, let your humor show on a topic connected to the work you’re applying to.
- If you’re a fact nerd, what did you learn when researching this job that really excited you? Share it.
- If you’ve got mad design skills, pay a specific compliment to the company website.
- If you’re an awesome collaborator, mention some of the things that impressed you about the bio of your employer and/or potential colleagues, in terms of your future work together.
- If you’re a family focused person, share something about your beloveds, like why you’d be proud to tell your ten-year-old who shares your love of math that you’ve found a way to make math a part of your daily work.
Trust in the strengths and uniqueness of who you are, and use them to your advantage in your cover letter. Let your truest and best self be the one who gets that job.