Good advice– on anything these days– is hard to find. But in no area is it so woefully inadequate as cover letters for creative professionals looking to thrive in creative careers.
What's so wrong with cover letter advice for creatives? In general, it is a call to mediocrity. And for positions like marketing, design, writing, and social media, mediocrity is the kiss of death.
We live in an economy paying top dollar for ideas. No one wants a marketer less creative than their competitors, or a designer dependent on overused conventions. HR managers are sick of reading boring dreck: so pique their interest, command their attention, take a risk, and land that interview.
Stop Wasting The First (And Most Important) Sentence in Your Letter
Please, for your own sake, don't throw away your opening sentence on an introduction. Your name is on the bottom of the letter, isn't it? Your name is on your resume, right? Don't insult the reader's intelligence with a "my name is __ " introduction followed by a statement of interest. You're clearly interested in the job, because you're writing them a letter.
Pick the very best tidbit of experience you possess that demonstrates your ability to do the job, and start there.
Don't Write to Be Skimmed … Write to be READ
Recruiters and HR managers do, in fact, skim cover letters. But anyone who tells you to help them along by writing for easy skimming has completely missed the point.
Recruiters skim to cull boring and uninspired letters from their inbox. If they don't see anything interesting in the skim, your letter goes swiftly and smoothly into the junk pile. If you pique their interest, they read your letter again.
You may think you're respecting their time by writing an easily skimmable letter with keywords and short, simple paragraphs, and you are: You're telling them they shouldn't waste it on you.
I don't want to decry the merits of writing a letter that's easy on the eyes. Short paragraphs, subheadings, and good organization are all signs that you know how to engage with a reader. But don't focus on writing for skimmers like you're writing some listicle. Find places to grab the reader.
Give them a reason to stop skimming.
Then, keep giving them reasons. Be bold and confident, without being boastful. Be sharp and witty, without trying too hard to tell jokes. Think about what makes your experience and skillset unique and write that.
Personal stories lend power and credibility to your job search, and set you apart from the crowd as an individual who can make analytical connections.
Skip the Part About Why You Want the Job
While everyone else comes up with a b.s. reason about why they want the job, you should be writing about what you bring to the table. They know what you get with a career at their company. It's their job to know. Job applications are an exercise in personal marketing. Focus on your features and sell them.
Close your cover letter with a convincing reason for them to hire you. Find a way to encapsulate the fact that you're a perfect fit. Then add a call to action that indicates that you're ready for next steps, but doesn't assume anything. Invite them to get in touch; don't demand their cooperation.
This post was written by Ben Steele. A version of it previously appeared at Capitol Standard
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