Generic cover letters or fluff-filled ones are as bad as showing up to an interview with a grossly stained outfit. Yes, you wore the suit but you did not show care by having it dry-cleaned and as a result you look sloppy…the same can be said of a fluff-filled cover letter…it’s just plain sloppy. Whereas, writing a thoughtful cover letter shows that you are willing to work hard, you want the job, and you can write. In a time where critical writing is becoming increasingly scarce, you’ll differentiate yourself by writing an evidence-based cover letter rather than fluff. Let’s quickly discuss fluff and then how to write a compelling cover letter.
How to identify a fluff-filled cover letter – You know you wrote fluff when you were able to use the same cover letter for multiple jobs and/or it’s been weeks, you sent cover letters to multiple firms, and no one has responded.
How to write an evidence-based cover letter - Use the job description to inform what vital points you must prove in a cover letter. In the same way, that you provide specific examples during a job interview you should also provide ones that prove you can handle the job and excel beyond a reasonable doubt – this is why I call it an evidence-based cover letter.
Let me take you through an example. Imagine you are seeking a business development opportunity with the following requirements:
You must identify the important key points to tackle in a letter. I may choose the following four points (e.g. sales success, experience in a fast-paced environment, technical aptitude, and competitive nature) because they are different enough to give a prospective employer a broad view of my candidacy, and I have really great examples that I can use to prove that I have these qualities. Here is an excerpt from an evidence-based cover letter illustrating my “previous successful sales experience.” Please note that these experiences are totally fake!
Proven ability to exceed sales goals – As a sales representative for Pfizer, during my first year I exceeded my annual goals by 50% and then during my second year I overachieved by 75%. These successes along with my ability to boost team morale when facing objections is what convinced my manager to promote me to sales lead for the tri-state area. In parallel, as the sole proprietor of my digital firm, Grapes Taste Great, I earned $1M during my first year. The key to my early success was my use of consultative sales methods which helped me offer the best digital solutions based on my clients’ needs.
This paragraph does some heavy lifting. It talks to the prerequisite sales experience, shows that the applicant can handle rejections and even help others do the same. It proves the job seeker can exceed measurable goals and is competitive. Then the second example i.e. as a sole proprietor of a firm demonstrates the applicant’s self-motivation. Now, I’m curious… decision-makers and human resource professionals what do you think about fluff or generic cover letters?