You’re Writing Cover Letters Wrong.

And how you can fix it

Photo via Unsplash

What’s the purpose of a cover letter? To explain why someone should choose you instead of someone else for a job opportunity. Seems easy enough. Why then, does everyone hate them? Because we are doing them wrong.

Everyone writes a cover letter hyping themselves up. Most of us don’t like to boast, so it feels superficial, embarrassing, and inauthentic. We don’t regularly go around telling our friends that we’re a “Hard-worker” as we offer to do the dishes after they cook dinner or that we are “Detail Oriented” when we send a quick text for their birthday. Yet, that’s what we’re told to do when we write a cover letter.

The self-aggrandizing mentality is one we’re taught to take on by our parents or high school advisors (neither of whom are likely to be highly knowledgeable on such a subject). If anything, the advice we get from them is detrimental to writing a good cover letter. People can smell insincerity like sharks smell blood — from a mile away.

A cover letter is not just a couple of paragraphs about yourself and why you’re a great fit with that company. It’s an opportunity to showcase your personality.

I love writing cover letters. Back in 2015, I applied to the Creative Writing Program at UBC and got accepted; honestly, I was shocked. My own writing back then was far from perfect (hell, some days it still sucks). I had good ideas but lacked a good execution. Luckily, I still got in for two reasons:

  1. Plenty of weird and funny pieces of in my portfolio
  2. A weird, unique and engaging cover letter

My cover letter was full of colloquial language (and parentheses, which I’m sure you’ve noticed I love by now). Of course, I still listed my accomplishments, dreams to become a writer, and how much I respected the institution. Those are the obvious things that you’re probably doing in your cover letters.

But you’ve got to add pizzazz.

Photo via Unsplash

Now, I’ve started freelance copywriting and have a decently high success rate in landing clients despite my minimal experience. That’s because I highlight my number one skill in every cover letter I write: my personality! And you should be doing that too.

So get out there and write some stellar cover letters.

Published by Victoria A. Fraser

Freelance writer, podcast producer, and comic artist.

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