If there’s one thing that all job seekers have in common, it’s that they hate writing cover letters. With a passion.
But why? It’s not like they’re very long. And when you really think about it, they’re not that difficult. But something about that step between the resume and interview gets people really, really irritated.
In fact, people ask us all the time: Is there any way to make writing cover letters suck less?
Well actually, there is—in fact, depending on what your cover letter pain point is, there are several. So, take a deep breath, relax, and try one of these ideas for making the process a little bit better.
Why it Sucks: You Think It's Boring
To you, the worst part about writing cover letters is how formulaic they feel. You're tired of writing the same letter over and over, slightly tailored for each position, and you're tired of sounding like a robot. Especially if you're working off of a template, things can get dull fast.
Solution: Let Yourself Get a Little Creative
Remember, cover letters don't have to follow a specific formula. In fact, it might help you stand out from the crowd if your letter has a little extra energy and personality. If you get bored writing them, a hiring manager's bound to get bored reading them, right?
So, spice it up! Depending on the industry or company you're applying for, you'll have a little more flexibility in this respect. Hoping for a job at a startup? Making your cover letter more creative—whether you use a spunkier tone, play with the format, or make it more visual—will likely improve your chances of getting a call back. Applying for a corporate position? Stick with the traditional format, but make it more conversational, or include a story about how you first came in contact with the company or how much you love it. Much more fun, right?
Whatever you do, make sure your letter remains professional, well-written, and covers the main bases: why you like the company, why you're a great fit for the job, and how the hiring manager can get in touch when she’s begging you to take the job.
Why it Sucks: Nerves Get the Better of You
When you sit down to write a cover letter, you immediately freeze up from the pressure. I mean, this short letter could make or break your chances of getting a job, right? What if you write the wrong thing? Or make a huge grammatical error? Or don’t present yourself in the absolutely best way possible? With all that stress, it’s no wonder you hate writing these things!
Solution: Imagine You're Writing an Email
While you may have nerves writing a letter that feels so big and life altering, you’re probably much calmer when you write the many emails you send each day. (At least we hope that’s the case.) So, to help with your cover letter jitters, just imagine you’re writing an email to the hiring manager.
Draft it up (you can even write it in your email client, if that helps), state your case as to why you’re the perfect person for the job, and then before you send it off, paste it into a Word document. Make sure it’s not too stiff or too casual, carefully check for spelling or grammar errors, and then let that baby fly!
Why it Sucks: You Hate Writing About Yourself
For you, the worst part about writing a cover letter is that you have to talk about yourself the whole time. You’re not generally one to brag, so detailing all of your accomplishments in a letter feels unnatural and uncomfortable.
Solution: Be a Ghost Writer
Imagine you’re someone else writing a letter about yourself. Think from the perspective of a friend, mentor, or previous employer—someone who would only sing your praises—and then write the letter from her point of view.
If it helps, you can even write the letter in third person (i.e. “Erin would be a great fit for this position because… ”). Just make sure you’re very careful about going back through and changing it to first person when you’re done!
Why it Sucks: You're Just Burnt Out
You’ve been job searching for a while now, and if you start typing, “Dear hiring manager,” one more time, you might just chuck your computer out the window.
Solution: Pace Yourself
Each part of the job search takes effort, but cover letters are especially tough—making people like you without ever meeting them and articulating perfectly why you’re a fit for the job is no small feat.
So, don’t put too many of them on your plate at once. Instead of sitting down for a morning and swearing that you’ll bang out five cover letters, take them one at a time and do other things in between. Even if it’s other not-so-awesome tasks like doing the laundry or plowing through your inbox, the mental break will help you come back to the next letter a little more refreshed. Or, for a more fun break, or set up a reward jar and treat yourself to a little something every time you send one off.
Okay, so we doubt anybody will ever be excited about writing cover letters. But with the help of a few simple mind tricks, they don’t have to be as bad as you make them out to be. Use these tips, get writing—and you’ll have some interviews lined up in no time.
Photo of man working courtesy of Shutterstock.
Erin Greenawald is a freelance writer, editor, and content strategist who is passionate about elevating the standard of writing on the web. Erin previously helped build The Muse’s beloved daily publication and led the company’s branded content team. If you’re an individual or company looking for help making your content better—or you just want to go out to tea—get in touch at eringreenawald.com.More from this Author