Cover letter "rules" are useful, but they sometimes lead applicants into a kind of catch 22. They show job seekers how to toe the line and give managers exactly what they expect, which is necessary. But if candidates follow every rule to the letter, their applications will look just like every other application in the pool.
The working world is full of paradoxes, and when it comes to cover letters, the ideal letter fits in AND stands out. Here are a few moves that slightly bend the laws of professionalism and tradition, but they also inspire managers to sit up straight and pay more attention.
Winning Cover Letter Moves
Here are five moves that will make your cover letter stand out from the crowd:
1. Provide an interesting backstory. According to the "rules," your cover letter shouldn't be too personal. You want to show that you know how to separate the personal from the professional, and it's rarely wise to discuss your age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, family status, etc., in a job application. But if your upbringing and the details of your life have informed your passion for his field, sharing that fact can strike a chord.
2. Make a joke. If the joke is genuinely funny and delivered with confidence, this risk can really pay off. There are many ways to make sure your letter is remembered, and eliciting a genuine laugh can do the trick.
3. Organize your information in your own way. Most correctly formatted cover letters begin with an introduction, followed by a description of how the applicant found out about the position and why she decided to apply, followed by a summarized work history, followed by a recap of all the reasons why her skills are perfect match for this job. But if you feel like that model doesn't work for you, use your own. Tell your story in your own words, and order the details as you choose. Just make sure they're all in there somewhere.
4. Say something other candidates won't say. Negativity, as a general rule, should never appear in your letter. A cover letter is a negativity free zone, and this applies to any comment about yourself, your life, your career, your target company, your industry, and your reader. But if you need to offer some diplomatic criticism of the company in order to emphasize your ability to solve their problems, go ahead. It's a risk, and other candidates may not do this, but you might also get the attention—and the respect—that your honesty and forthrightness deserve.
5. Show off. Most professional, "correct" cover letters walk a fine line between casting a glowing light on the applicant's skill sets and emphasizing that she's pleasant and easy to get along with. So they're boastful, but diplomatically so. They're positive, but also humble. Try breaking this rule by throwing humility to the winds. Toot your own horn. See what happens.
Show the World Who You Are
You have two options when it comes to drafting your cover letter: you can follow all the rules and blend in with the crowd, or you can break the rules and set yourself apart. Actually, you also have a third option: visit MyPerfectResume and use the templates and samples on the site to gain the benefits of both.