How many times have you reached this moment? You’re allllmossst ready to submit your resume for some killer opportunity, only to realize, “Cover letter! I need a stinking cover letter.”
I’ll bet more than once. Or, even if it hasn’t happened to you, I’m guessing you still rather dread sitting down and hammering out a new cover letter for each role that you pursue.
And, because you either forget about, dread, or procrastinate that until the 11th hour, I’m going to lay out a wager that you’ve hammered one (or many) out that include at least a few “say nothing” lines.
You do not want “say nothing” lines in your cover letter.
Why not? Because, in spite of the naysayers who shake their fists and wildly proclaim, “The cover letter is dead!” or “No one’s going to read that thing!” the fact of the matter is this—a brilliantly written, on-point, and memorable cover letter can (and very well may) help you clinch the interview.
If you realized how many boring, cliché, or completely redundant to the resume cover letters are circulating on the planet this very minute, you’d understand what a huge opportunity you have in writing a killer one. No one expects them. No one. So when a recruiter or hiring manager comes across one? It’s golden.
How do you make sure you’re crafting something remarkable? For starters, you can kill these cover letter lines:
1. “I Believe I Am Uniquely Qualified for This Position”
Unless you’re a purple-haired juggler who speaks Mandarin and plays the lute—and happen to be applying for a position as juggling lute player (who, ideally, speaks Mandarin and has brightly colored hair), then chances are you are not, in fact, uniquely qualified for that job. By definition, “unique” means the only one. So unless you know with relative certainty that you’re the only person who is entering that race with qualifications like yours, lose this. And, without a doubt, don’t even think about “I’m very uniquely qualified.” That’s both ridiculous and redundant.
2. “Here Is What I’m Looking For”
So many job seekers blabber on and on about what their career or life goals are in the cover letter. And I’m not here to suggest your dreams and aspirations don’t matter. They most definitely do. But potential employers don’t yet care what you want out of this deal. I know this sound heartless, but stay with me here. You’re applying to work for a business that has a business need. They’re not out pounding the pavement looking for someone whose dreams they can fulfill. They’re looking to solve a problem, expand operations, cut costs, drive revenue, and so forth.
Thus, if you zero in on everything you’re looking for at the expense of showcasing what you can walk through their doors and deliver, you’re not only wasting space—you’re squandering an opportunity to show how and why you make perfect sense for that job. And the good news? Your next employer will care what you want out of the deal—after you’ve proven yourself a valuable employee.
3. “While I Don’t Have ___”
The amount of apologizing that goes on in cover letters just mystifies me. Why even apply if you’re going to spend half the time pointing out what you lack instead of showcasing what (specifically) you can contribute as their next hire. If you’re missing a “no way around it” mandatory credential—such as a license or required industry certification—no amount of apologizing is going to save you. Conversely, if it’s not an essential qualification, why shine light on your shortcomings? Instead, shift that beam right on over to the stuff you know you’ll do well on their behalf.
4. “I Have Enclosed My Resume…”
The reviewers of your resume and cover letter probably have a pretty good handle on the whole “If there’s a cover letter, I’ll just bet there’s also a resume attached” thing here. They know the drill. So, while it won’t likely sink you to include this say-nothing line, it’s just wasting space. They will for sure be reviewing your resume. You don’t need to point out that it exists. Also, be sure and use the cover letter to enhance your resume in ways that speak directly to that opportunity, not to regurgitate what they’re about to see in the other document.
5. “It Would Be an Honor to Work for [Wrong Company Name]”
This one isn’t just a matter of wasting space, it’ll land you an immediate spot in the “no” pile. You may gasp to think that someone could be this careless, but it happens all the time, especially among job seekers who use a generic cover letter format and just cut, paste, cut, paste company names in and out. If you’re going to half-ass this effort, don’t expect more than half-ass results. Construct a customized cover—with the correct company name—for every opportunity you pursue.
It’s so easy to get rolling in job search and approach the “apply for job” process like an assembly line worker. But your goal here is to entice a decision maker to the point of wanting to interview you, not to see how many blah cover letters you can robotically crank out into the system.
Take time to showcase why, specifically, you want to work for that company. Outline quickly how and why you will be a great asset to the organization, in that particular role. And be original and engaging. Remember—there are humans involved here.
And us humans? We love a good read.