Bringing Heart to Your Cover Letters
Cover letters are meant to express a bit of your personality and entice employers to read your resume and invite you to an interview.
Often, though, cover letters fail to make a personal impression because they are missing a critical element: your values and how they can benefit the employer. Today’s blog post is all about bringing greater richness to your cover letters to address how you will “fit” with the company culture.
Why are you applying for the job?
You want to express your excitement about a position with a company, but it's equally important to convey why you're excited. What is it, exactly, that is exciting about the job? Why do you want to work for that particular company?
Compare these two examples:
- “I’m excited about the opportunity of working with your company and the position really interests me.”
- “ABC Company’s encouragement of employee growth mirrors my commitment to lifelong learning. Working for a company that understands that staff education ultimately creates happier workers and satisfied customers are just two of the reasons why I’m excited to apply for this position.”
The first sentence says nothing about why you’re interested in the position or the company. Remember that some of the most common interview questions are, “Why are you interested in this position, Why do you want to work for us?” Employers ask these questions because they are concerned that you’re just looking for a job, any job and that their company holds no real interest for you and that you may just leave if something better comes along.
The second paragraph shows that you did some research, that the company’s value of education aligns with your own and that you understand why education is important. It also shows that there are more reasons why you’re interested in the job, which you can then discuss further during an interview.
Express What’s Important to You
Let employers know what you love doing, what your strengths are, what accomplishments you’re proud of and why and most importantly, how these will benefit the company. You'll make a much greater impact to a potential employer by speaking directly from an honest place in your heart. Compare:
- “I have a lot of customer service experience and can work well under pressure.”
- “Working in a fast-paced environment is fun and I love interacting with new and regular customers. It gives me a lot of satisfaction when a regular customer comes in and I already know what they want to order and get it ready before they even ask.”
The first sentence says that while you are able to work under pressure, the employer doesn’t know if you actually like that environment. The second example explains that you are energized by the pressure and actually enjoy helping regular customers. It gives you a sense of satisfaction to do that. What employer wouldn’t want that attitude?!
Spend time identifying the values you hold most dear and how they shape your attitudes and behaviours towards work. If you value people’s time, then being punctual is a behaviour that reflects this value. If you don’t value time, don’t think it’s important, then very likely you will often be late. Identify your values and how they shape your behaviours.
Research the company’s mission and values
Research a company to find out what their values and missions are, match them with your own values and use this in your cover letter. This has the double benefit of helping you ask good questions at an interview as to how, or even if, they bring to life their stated mission and values. It also helps you decide whether you’d be a good fit for their company culture, which is something they hope to find out about you as well! If your values seem different from theirs, you may wish to reconsider whether you really want to work with them.
Ask these questions when writing your cover letters
- What is this sentence trying to say about my values and what I can offer the company?
- Why is being energetic, efficient, helpful, friendly, analytical etc, important to me?
- How is being healthy, spirited, creative, punctual, collaborative etc, helpful to the company?
Compare these examples. Which one gives more information on values and says more about motivation?
- “I am an efficient person.”
- “I am an efficient person because it’s important for me that the company and its clients can rely on me to provide solutions quickly and accurately. It makes me happy knowing I get work done fast, benefiting everyone involved.”
- “I believe my experience and skills would be a good fit for your company.”
- “While my experience and skills certainly match your requirements, it is my sincere desire to be of service to a company, like yours, whose values of commitment, transparency and integrity so closely align with my own.”
Try using some of the following phrases to give your cover letters more depth and bit more information about how your values match those of a potential employer's.
- “It is important to me to be (punctual, efficient, friendly, accurate... etc) because….”
- “I am happiest in environments where I can (collaborate with, help others, solve problems etc.)
- “I enjoy being (helpful, efficient, analytical etc) and get a lot of satisfaction from solving problems.”
- “Being a person who values (time / efficiency / accuracy etc), I get a thrill completing tasks on time.”
- “I am at my best when…”
Finally, go slowly when integrating new ways of expressing yourself and be sure to assess whether this approach feels authentic and right for you and judge whether it’s right for the position for which you’re applying. Take time to write, revise and ask your employment advisors to help you polish the grammar and structures.