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What Color is Your Cover Letter? How to Write a Cover Letter That Gets You

What Color is Your Cover Letter?

Most letters that come across my desk, both at the University of Wisconsin Law School and in my business, are very standard, and rather boring. I equate the blandness of these letters to the color gray. And gray doesn’t stand out. It just blends into the background.

A Little Gray is Okay

I don’t expect a lot from the first two lines of a cover letter. That’s where you tell them what job you’re applying for, where you found out about it, and something very basic about you and your goals. But do say something about yourself by the third line in the first paragraph that will impress a recruiter or employer and make them want to read more!

I don’t expect a lot from the last paragraph. That’s where you tell them your resume is attached and that you look forward to discussing your qualifications for the position. No need to get creative there.

Time for a Paint Job

It’s the middle paragraph or two where “color” comes into play.

The grayed-out letters I tend to see look something like this:

“I have spent the last ten years gaining experience in X. At job A, I did B, where I gained experience in C. At job D, I did E, and gained experience doing F. At job G, I did H, and learned J. I therefore feel that I would be an asset to your company.”

I hope you agree with me that it’s time for a makeover!

Painting Your Passion

Stop blending into the background! The cover letter is your opportunity to paint yourself in bright, eye-catching colors – as someone who would bring personality and flair to a position, or true problem solving or negotiating skills, or, at the very least, some passion.

How do you do that? Tell a story that shows them who you are.

You might write about how you won the trust of a contract manager who had been ready to pull a contract from your company or organization. Or about how you successfully negotiated a conflict at work and obtained payment from a customer who was refusing to pay. Find a story from your work history and tell it.

These stories will catch an employer’s eye and paint a picture of a real person, with experience and attributes that reach beyond a list of resume bullets.

Take My Advice!

I’d like to share with you the following letter, which I received from a student at the University of Wisconsin:

I am ashamed to call the last documents I sent you “cover letters.” I wouldn’t have wanted to interview me. Sad. In these new cover letters, every sentence gives information that cannot be quite gathered from my resume. I really tried to pour some personality and passion into these and keep the reader’s attention. I can actually be proud of these letters.

This student says it well, and the results speak for themselves. This student got called for several interviews and will be working at a top law firm this summer.

Choose Your Colors

Give them new information, NOT a regurgitation of your resume. Pour in some personality (purple?), passion (red?) Throw in some anecdotes (green?) And you too will be able to say you are proud of your cover letters.

You’ll be a lot more likely to get that interview, where you really get to show them who you are.

http://www.TheEssayExpert.com For writing that gets results.

Brenda Bernstein, Founder and Senior Editor, BrendaB@TheEssayExpert.com

If you are having trouble writing about yourself, contact The Essay Expert. Brenda is a Career Advisor at the University of Wisconsin Law School. She holds an English degree from Yale University and a law degree from NYU, and has ten years’ experience coaching individuals and companies on their writing projects.

Brenda’s expertise lies not just in creating an effective product, but in listening closely to her clients’ background and goals. Clients report that the tools they learn with Brenda allow them to undertake future writing projects with confidence and ease.

Specialties: Resumes, Cover Letters, College Application Essays, Professional Bios, LinkedIn Profiles