Your Cover Letter Should Answer These 3 Questions

resumes + cover letters Jan 26, 2021

Writing a compelling cover letter can tell your story in a powerful way and add important context not included on your résumé. It provides you the opportunity to illustrate your personality and show, not tell, why you'd be a great fit for the team. Because you don't want your cover letter to simply summarize your résumé, answer these three questions within the body of your cover letter to capture the reader's attention.

1. What Are You Good At?

Provide detail about your top 3 competencies that tells the reader the value you bring to the job in a different way than your résumé does. For example, if you're applying for a project manager job that requires being super detailed oriented and you created a color-coded project plan with tasks, and due dates for your latest pantry renovation, most hiring managers what to know that because they can clearly see the attention to detail you'll bring to the work.

Or maybe you have a natural ability to influence without authority, and you're the go-to person for your peers to glean advice from when dealing with conflict at work. Maybe a Vice President consistently praises the way you coach managers through complex employee relations situations and now you're regularly sought out by senior leaders to problem solve performance issues on their teams. All detailed information that you probably wouldn't put on your résumé, but should definitely be on your cover letter.

2. What is A Potential Red Flag that Needs Explaining?

Anything within your résumé that may spark confusion or questions are all things that you want to address and provide context around in your cover letter. For example, if you were laid off during COVID-19, which resulted in a 4-month employment gap, address that up-front. Or, if your work experience is in a completely different field but you're currently studying and working to move into this one, provide an explanation and share why you're making that move.

Without this context, it's easy for a hiring manager to move on because they don't think you're qualified or the best fit for the job. Your cover letter gives you that second chance at saying, "before you put me in the no pile, let me explain why I am a great fit for the job." 

3. What Makes You a Fan of the Company?

Every employer wants to hire people that are excited about working for the company, enthusiastic about the job, and connected to them in some way. They want people who will serve as their brand ambassadors and who are already familiar with their products and/or services. For example, if you're applying for a job at Pinterest, share what you love about being an avid pinner and how you use the platform to prepare for your Super Bowl party, Friendsgiving, and other events. Or maybe, you use it to find some of the best, yet quickest dinner recipes to make in your Instant Pot as a single-mom of 2.

Maybe you're applying for a job at your local hospital, that recently won an award for having the best employee recognition program, and working for an organization that recognizes their first customer is their employees and that's impressive to you. Whatever it may be, this is a great way to show that working for this company means more than just a job to you.

Don't overthink the cover letter writing process. By answering these three questions, the body of your cover letter will tell a very compelling story that captures the hiring manager's attention, helps you stand out, and re-emphasizes why you are a strong match for the role.

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