Thursday, January 8, 2009

Write Your Cover Letter As If You Are Writing To Your Best Friend

Many job seekers write stiff cover letters and resumes that sound fake, copied, and trite. They read like every other cover letter that has crossed a human resources manager's desk. They all look the same to that manager, and none of them will get noticed. You hear the same advise everywhere: make your cover letter stand out! I couldn't agree more!

My one piece of advise is to write your cover letter as if your best friend is the HR manager who will be reading it!

This technique will ensure that you don't use trite phrases, that you keep it as short as possible, and that you will not embellish your resume and cover letter. After all, your best friend is very familiar with you so you wouldn't be able to lie. A suggestion derived from this idea is that you should address the person by first name only with no last name if you know the name of the cover letter's first reader. This will make you sound friendlier and closer. If you don't know the name of your first reader, you might consider foregoing the "Dear Sir/Madam" salutation, which sounds very distant and uninvited, so that you won't put the reader on the defensive from the first line. So allow me to provide some examples:

- You won't be using words like "furthermore" that create a structured, stiff read. When was the last time you told your best friend "furthermore"?
- You won't use stiff phrases like "I became versed in the dynamics between customers, consultants, developers, and the final product."
- You won't use phrases like "I am painstakingly detail oriented." Sure, I believe you, even though no one else would.
- You won't use half the page to repeat the jobs you've had and the skills you possess, all of which is already on the resume.
- You won't close with phrases like "I believe I have the experience and passion for which you are looking, so I have enclosed my résumé." A simple "I have enclosed my résumé" will do and will get the point across.

Is this technique going to help, hurt, or have no effect? Some companies will find your style too casual while others might find it too formal. This can work to your advantage as a filter for the type of company that will reply to you. Ideally, you know what kind of job you want and you seek it until you find it instead of just applying to anything and everything that sounds plausible and taking the first offer that is good enough. If you know you want to work in a relaxed environment, you should write in a more casual style, ensuring that stiff companies will not bother contacting you. But my main interest in a more casual format is that it will give your cover letter the much coveted ability to stand out. Until everybody starts doing the same, that is.

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