Updated: Dec 30, 2019
I always find it interesting when I hear about folks who don't submit a cover letter with their résumé when they're applying for jobs. While I don't think it's a wise choice, I can understand why people don't do it:
Some folks may find it difficult and/or intimidating to write about themselves, especially for a job.
Others may feel a cover letter is unnecessary because it's basically the same information on your résumé anyway...right?
Well, not exactly. While your cover letter should highlight your professional experience, that shouldn't be the entirety of it. In my experience with writing many cover letters (both mine and others' lol) I've found that recruiters and hiring managers are looking for more than the average play-by-play of your professional experience.
I mean, think about it. They probably receive hundreds — thousands — of job applications in a week. Which means they've more than likely become desensitized to the same old "this-is-my-résumé-written-in-paragraph-format" cover letter. You gotta be original! And how do you do that?
Simple! Tell your story.
Your cover letter shouldn't just be about what you do. It should reflect who you are. I look at it almost like a pre-interview. It's your opportunity to have the floor. Show some of that personality. Share something unique about yourself. Not too much, but just enough to make the recruiter/hiring manager want to meet — and Lord willing, HIRE — you.
Let me give you an example to give you a better idea of what I'm talking about. Here's one way I see a lot of people begin the first paragraph of their cover letters:
Dear [Hiring Manager Name],
I was pleased to come across your job posting for the [Position Title] with [Company Name]. With XX years in this field, I believe I possess the experience and qualifications that you are looking for in this role.
Although it does clearly state the purpose of the letter (which is good), it sounds kind of robotic, right? It has no umph, no personality. Anyone could easily pop in their name and the position title and call this their cover letter. So how do you make it yours?
Throw a lil sauce on it:
Dear [Hiring Manager Name],
When I first came across your job posting for the [Position Title] with [Company Name], my initial thought was that I'd be foolish not to apply for this role. Beyond the fact that I hold XX years of experience in this field, I have an unyielding passion for serving others, which aligns not only with the qualifications of this position, but the values of your company as a whole.
See that? Professional with some personality. It actually sounds like a human wrote it. It incorporates a personable tone by sharing what your initial reaction was to the job posting while introducing your industry experience and knowledge of the organization's values.
Although essentially both examples are saying the same thing, like my mama always used to tell me, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it."