Ditch that cookie-cutter cover letter template! We’ll show you both why and how to write a perfect, personalized cover letter of your own that’s sure to land you your dream job.
By: Daniel Lorenzo, Blog Manager at Let’s Eat, Grandma
I want you to think back to your glory days: high school.
Remember what everyone would say when someone asked to copy their homework answers?
“Yeah, but just change it a little bit so the teacher doesn’t notice you copied!”
Well I hate to break it to you, but isn’t sending in a pre-written cover letter template with your job application doing virtually the same thing?!
In the age of Google, it’s just too easy to search “Marketing/Educator/Sales/whatever cover letter template” to get some help on an already stressful application. But you and I both know that’s selling yourself short.
I get it – writing cover letters is difficult, and by no means is it cheating to find a cover letter template to help you in writing one. Using one as a guide is totally okay.
However, no matter how bad you may think your writing is, just sending in a cover letter template with minimal changes will not improve your chances of getting the job.
You’re much better off writing your own, radically personalized letter based on the job description. Here’s why… (and how!)
Cover letters are different from resumes
First of all, your cover letter, while equally important, is much different from your resume in some key ways.
Unlike with your resume, employers are not simply scanning your cover letter to see if your accomplishments and skills hit their desired qualifications.
A resume is meant for showing off how well you did at previous jobs (how broad your skill set is, what your position titles were, etc.). So, it’s appropriate to follow a pre-determined formula to maximize the efficiency of your resume, because it’s more about facts and figures – what your accomplishments say about you.
A cover letter, on the other hand, is meant to show what you say about you! It’s not merely a list of accomplishments. It’s your opportunity to give personal reasons why you desire this specific position and will thrive in it.
You have infinitely more opportunity to showcase your unique personality and passion in a cover letter. And that’s precisely why a cookie-cutter cover letter template won’t say all that needs to be said about you!
Cover letters are used for a lot
On that note, a good cover letter tells an employer many things about you as a candidate that you may not have considered.
Employers use cover letters to see:
- How you express yourself. A full letter can prove to employers (much more than bullet points) that you can communicate well, which is huge in the workplace.
- If you’re familiar with the company. Does your letter show that you know the company’s values, philosophy, history, and current needs? If so, you’ll be much more attractive.
- If your personality is a fit. A resume can’t show whether a person is likable or enthusiastic, but a good story, positive language, and good professional etiquette on a cover letter sure as heck can.
Following a cover letter template word-for-word will not show the employer any of these things.
Cover letters can make you stand out more
Finally, a cover letter offers you plenty of opportunities to make yourself stand out in the mind of a hiring manager.
While your cover letter might still be passed through an ATS system, it remains much more “human” than a resume.
So, you can leverage that human appeal to distinguish yourself. Focus more on trying to tell a memorable anecdote about your experience, reference an important mutual connection, or flex some knowledge about the company than on trying to stuff keywords.
This will get you far more “memory points” with a hiring manager than trying to find a fun font, a catchy objective statement, or an unnecessary graphic for your resume.
Still not convinced? While we’re speaking of standing out, think about this:
If you’ve thought about sending in a cover letter template… how many other candidates have? With a cover letter template, you could be sending in the 100th incarnation of the same letter the company’s already received!
A cover letter template is just a guide
There’s one biggest problem with even the best cover letter template – it’s too broad.
All that a cover letter template does is hit all of the necessary general points for a hypothetical candidate in your field. There’s no way it can make your application sparkle like a personalized one can.
I want to repeat here that you absolutely can use a cover letter template for basic help.
Plenty of good ones exist (like this one from career giants The Balance), but they aren’t meant to be sent in with your only changes being [INSERTING YOUR NAME HERE] and [INSERTING YOUR EXPERIENCE HERE].
A cover letter template like that Balance one can serve as a skeleton for your own. Use it as a tool to organize your thoughts, as well as to ensure that you have all the correct conventions for formatting, layout, greeting and closing, etc.
Write for the job, not the job title
A cover letter template is written for a job title. Your cover letter is written for the job.
Be sure you’re addressing the duties and qualifications straight from the job description, emphasizing your own personal reasons for applying, and clearly stating why you love this specific company and will succeed in this specific position.
Also, don’t be afraid to tell personal anecdotes, start with a catchy hook (especially for creative positions), or put your own voice in to make it less boring to read.
…Just don’t get too cheesy. If you can manage to walk that delicate line between professional and relatable, you’ll be great.
Opportunities for Bonus Points
Lastly, be sure to get those bonus points with little formalities.
- Make every effort you can to find out the hiring manager’s name and address it to her/him (and DEFINITELY not “To Whom it May Concern…”).
- Make a hard ask with something like “I would like to discuss this position further in a formal interview.” Trust me. Be bold!
- If you’re turning it in as a hard copy, write a real, bona-fide signature at the end of that bad boy.
LET US HELP YOU
I hope we’ve convinced you not to send in a cover letter template, but I also hope you’re not overwhelmed by writing a personalized one!
Either way, we’re here to help.
Instead of chucking a bland old cover letter template at you, Let’s Eat, Grandma will set you up with a real, friendly, professional business writing expert. They’ll consult with you one-on-one to write a perfect, personalized cover letter, and help you with any of your other job search materials. It’ll take the stress off and give you real results.