And how you can fix it
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:
- Plenty of weird and funny pieces of in my portfolio
- 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.
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.