Don’t Be Boring: How To Write A Cover Letter That Can Get You The Job

If you want to land a gig, you have to prove it on the page. Let’s see how to do that by examining Slate editor Katherine Goldstein’s hiring pain points.

Don’t Be Boring: How To Write A Cover Letter That Can Get You The Job

“Many young people seem to have no idea how to apply for a job,” laments Slate editor Katherine Goldstein.


Whenever an entry-level gig opens up, she’s soon inundated by applications not only riddled with misspellings and typos, but more terrifyingly, “what appears to be a fundamental lack of understanding of how to sell oneself to a prospective employer.”

Let’s work on that lack of understanding on how people receive us (what is, in other words, the purest expression of our awesome personal brands. Your Klout score, we can see, gets superceded by the actual interactions that you have with someone who might hire you.

So what does that courting process look like?

It’s all about the cover letter.

Resumes tend to blur together after the seven thousandth or so–the cover letter is your best shot at being singular.

Goldstein, herself a wordsmith, explains why:

Focus on the cover letter. It is not uncommon for me to get 100 applications for one spot, so I’m constantly looking for reasons not to advance a candidate to the interview round. Writing a good cover letter is your best shot at getting noticed. If I hate a cover letter, I won’t even look at the résumé.

And to get noticed, you only need to not be boring.


Don’t sound ridiculously, clumsily stilted.

What’s a guarantee to not being taken seriously? If you take yourself way too seriously: any opener like “With this statement, I declare my interest in the position you have advertised on your website” is to be avoided, Goldstein says; instead, just begin with a conversational yet confident “I’m excited to be writing you to apply…”

Then you can tell them how awesome you are. Like by showing why you’re such a perfect fit.

Show that you’ve done your homework.

If people are applying to Slate, Goldstein says, they should be able to mention favorite writers and articles and brands within the brand. Would-be hires need to show that they know what they’re getting into–and communicate that knowledge to their would-be bosses.

Show that you’ll solve their problem.

You don’t need to be Paul Graham to know that successful companies make stuff that people want–like their problems solved. So, as Goldstein says, applicants need to solve her problem, like hiring a good intern.

The task for the applicant, then, is to make the convincing case that you have the solution: Show that you have the track record to fit the responsibilities and make the life of the person who hired you way easier. This, by the way, is how Google does hiring. So if you can articulate your fit, the search will soon be over.

Hat tip: Slate


[Image: Flickr user Emily]


About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.


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