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The Cover Letter (and/or LinkedIn Message)

Posted May 9, 2017

The cover letter will never go out of style or cease to be of importance in the application process. A well-written cover letter, or LinkedIn message, for that matter, can literally be the added attraction to the application package that grabs the attention of the hiring manager. This additional bit of communication gives you an additional opportunity to display your personality, values, passion, or grace. It is an opportunity to say something more than will be demonstrated by your resume alone.

What should the cover letter NOT say? It should not say, “Attached please find my resume. As you can see, my experience qualifies me for this position. . .” This is a cover letter destined to be discarded.  You might as well not expend your energy toward the task at all if that’s all you’re going to say. It also should not be too glib or too vague. Don’t assume that the person reading your letter and resume understands who you are and/or why you would be just the right fit for the position. It is your job to tell the reader at least these three things: 1) why you are attracted to this company and position; 2) what in your background has prepared you for this position; and 3) what you believe you can bring to the position and to the company.

Here is an example of a LinkedIn message/cover letter that resulted in the applicant getting a job as the head of marketing with Kathryn Minshew, cofounder and CEO of the career advice and job listings site, The Muse, in 2012. It was reprinted in the New Rules of Work, the book Kathryn Minshew wrote with her cofounder and COO, Alex Cavoulacos:

Hi, Kathryn,

While slightly out of place, I attended the Women 2.0 conference yesterday. . . and had the chance to see you pitch. I was blown away by you, your team, and most of all, your company.

I spent six years at Seamless.com, working closely with amazing leaders like Jason Finger (whom you know well). I see such amazing potential in your company, and I would love to be a part of it in any way. My primary focus is in marketing, with a lot of experience marketing to the same corporations and users you seem to be attracting. I’d love to tell you more about how my skill set could help you all reach and exceed your current growth goals.

Congrats on all your current success. Again, I’d love to find a time to chat more about the company and how I could help.

Best, Eliott

In an interview with Business Insider, a German-owned American news site, Minshaw broke down exactly why Eliott’s message was so compelling to her:

  • He included something personal — that he’d seen her speak at a conference.
  • He said something nice about her — that she and her team blew him away.
  • He made it clear that he was excited to work with The Muse specifically, and not just any company.
  • He included two sentences about his background, which was just enough information for her to see whether he’d be a fit.

Always remember that the purpose of the resume and cover letter is to get an interview, not to get a job. The purpose of the interview is to have as authentic a conversation as you can manage to have, not to pretend you have skills you don’t, or that you like tasks you don’t — or you might end up with a job you can’t stand.

Finding the right job is very similar to finding the right partner on Match.com. You want to find the right job, but you won’t if you don’t tell the truth or if the employer doesn’t. Then you need to have an authentic conversation about who you are, and if not enough commonalities exist, you need to move on. Ultimately, you have to have the right match, or it won’t work for either party.

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