How to Show Personality in a Cover Letter

It’s always safe to include a cover letter when submitting your resume or job application, even when a position does not specify that a cover letter is required.  The problem is that cover letters take time to write because you really do want to think about why you want to work for that organization and how you could benefit them.  

It’s tempting to use a traditional structure for your cover letter and simply insert a company name where needed, but you’ll most certainly be wasting your time if you do this.  Employers will read right through it and you will have lost yet an hour or two submitting another application that you won’t hear back from.  They want to know there’s an interesting person on the other side of that letter who may actually be great to work with.  So how can you deviate from the norm to really showcase more of your personality? Read on.

Establish a Connection

Right out of the gate, explain your connection to the organization.  If you’ve had contact with the organization through a meet up, networking event, info session, or informational interview, say it.  You should explain how much enjoyed hearing from or meeting someone from the organization and a bit about why that influenced you to apply.  If someone recommended that you apply or referred you, mention him or her as well.  

Give Examples

A common mistake that I see on cover letters is when people simply restate what is on their resume.  Don’t do that. Instead, explicitly say what skills or expertise you have and provide an example or a story of a time when you demonstrated that.  Quantify your concrete accomplishments here so that the employer can see the impact of your work.  Connect it back to the position you are applying for by explaining why it is relevant or helpful to this new organization.

Use Appropriate Language

It’s best to err on the side of caution and write with a formal tone, but be careful that you aren’t getting stuffy or using played-out buzzwords.  Use plain English that people can read quickly and understand.  For example, instead of writing:

“I’m a forward-thinking, innovative engineer who is seeking to utilize my skills to disrupt the automotive industry.”

Try something more like:

"As someone who’s always loved cars, I’m excited about the opportunity to apply my engineering skills in manufacturing design to the auto industry."

You want to make sure that you address the major skills and qualifications that the employer is asking for in the job description, but use your own words to do so.  Nothing is worse than simply re-reading the job description that has been copy and pasted into a cover letter.

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Cover letters that show your true personality take time to write, but are worth it in the end.  Employers will recognize your sincere approach and appreciate the effort you put into the application.