Don't Let Your Cover Letter Blend In

What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can't reread a phone call.”
Photo by cinnamon girl

Agency Spy posted a pretty dead-on universal cover letter that made us laugh because it’s A) funny and B) instructive. Let’s go through it and see what we can learn, shall we? 

Zany greeting no one uses in real life!

Even if you’re applying for a job in a creative field, don’t get too wacky in your cover letter. Your personality should show, but remember that you’re making a first impression, and you should come across as a professional.

Introduction to myself in case you can’t read who this email is coming from. Brief background about myself because the only way I “know” you is by 5 degrees of LinkedIn separation.

You do have to introduce yourself, of course, but try to let your personality shine through. Remember, hiring managers read an awful lot of these things, so you want to make it interesting. Think about your audience and what they want to know about your background, and tailor your introduction accordingly.

Sentence full of innuendo that boils down to me being unemployed. Predictable comment about how your agency and me belong together, ignorant to the fact you are probably friends with several other recruiters I’m sending this exact letter to. Generic compliment that applies to every agency but, for the purposes of this email, “specifically” yours.

We all know we should be writing a new cover letter for every job we apply for, but does anyone actually do that? If you ask us, a lot more people should. Writing your cover letter specifically for the job you want allows you to make a case for why you’re the best candidate for that position. This is a great opportunity to sell yourself; don’t waste it.

Let’s talk about me some more, because I’ve forgotten all of the following information is on my resume, which I made in Microsoft Word even though I call myself creative.

By all means, be sure your resume stands out in a sea of boring Word docs—especially if you’re going into a creative field. We can help.

I’ll make a list here in paragraph form, beginning with the college I went to that taught me nothing applicable to this position. This would be the perfect place for an unfunny joke about how good the football/basketball team is going to be this year! Giant stretch here talking about my experience, because this position I’m emailing about requires 3 more years of experience than I really have.

Don’t waste space in your cover letter by restating your resume. Instead, use this opportunity to explain what those experiences have taught you and why they make you the best candidate for the position. Also, don’t overstate your qualifications. Just use your actual experiences—professional and otherwise—to make a convincing case.

Here is where I mention the name of someone you actually may know in real life, who gave me his business card once in college. I hope the name drop makes you more likely to respond to me, but what I don’t know is that guy I just mentioned got let go 8 months ago. Plus, he was kind of a [jerk]. It is now clear just how desperate I am.

Don’t be desperate. If you do happen to have a connection, you can bring it up in the letter or include that person as a reference, but make sure it’s a good, solid connection and not just some guy you met once. It’s also a good idea to get in touch with anyone you plan to name-drop to make sure that person is OK with it. You don’t want them to be blindsided if they get called for a reference, especially if they have no idea who you are.

A one word, drinking based farewell that implies I’m a fun person, and a wish that I hear from you soon.

“Sincerely” will do just fine. Remember that this is still a professional letter; don’t get too casual.

A warning/threat that I will follow up with another template email in a week if I don’t hear back from you.

It’s fine to touch base, but bugging them can be off-putting. Follow up with care.

I hope at this point that you haven’t realized I’ve spent 30 minutes writing this, but not 30 seconds proofreading it.

Please proofread your letter. Do you really want a misspelled word to be the reason your resume goes into the reject pile?

-First name

And last name. Again, professional. Plus, it can’t hurt for them to read it a couple of times so they remember it.

What’s the takeaway here? Hiring managers see roughly a million cover letters a day (probably not, but we’re sure it feels that way.) Avoid falling into these traps to make yours stand out.

  • Category Career AdviceCover LettersFirst ImpressionResume Advice