Welcome!

Blog Feed Post

The Way You Write Cover Letters is a Complete Waste of Time

Connie Going

Connie Going has spent decades as a social worker and placed over 1,000 children in foster homes. Many times, she has matched a needy child with a loving family. Sometimes, it takes one or two tries to find the perfect fit. And one time, with a rebellious boy named Taylor, she could never get it right.

That’s why, after ten years placing Taylor — unsuccessfully — with different foster families, Connie made a remarkable decision. She decided to adopt Taylor as her own son and let him live alongside her two other children.

Great story, isn’t it? No, I didn’t make it up. It’s the focus of a recent piece by Steve Hartman, the master storyteller for CBS Sunday Morning (the best show you’re not watching).

Here’s the full version of Connie’s story. WARNING: you might sweat out of your eyes a little.

I started this column with Connie Going for a reason. A compelling story in the first paragraph hooked you and kept you paying attention.

Unfortunately, way too many people open a cover letter with:

“Hi, my name is _____ , and I am interested in the position of _____”

Guess what the employer thinks?

“I’ve seen this same cover letter about 400,000 times. Next!”

So, let’s propose a new idea…

Rather than start a cover letter in typical, ho-hum fashion, lead with a personal story that either happened at work or on your free time. It can be dramatic, interesting, unique (like Amanda Munster’s genius savings plan for a first home), exciting or downright unusual.

If the anecdote relates directly to the job you’re after — and the skills it requires — you stand a much greater chance of the employer being impressed with your application.

In other words: a stronger cover letter might just get you hired. 

Why do we reads books? Go to the movies? Watch TV dramas?

Because human beings love stories. They move us, inspire us, transport us and above all… they entertain us. Why should a cover letter be a flat, unemotional document? Who decided they should exist only to regurgitate your resume? To fill up five bloated paragraphs with everything you’ve done so far in your career?

No one, that’s who. No one decided those rules. We all just slowly came to accept them.

***Oh, and you don’t have “Education” at the top of your resume, do you?***

Below, I will show you how to write your own story in the first paragraph of any cover letter for any job. 

There are three advantages to this style:

  • Catch the reader’s attention immediately
  • Demonstrate your ability to do the job in question
  • BE MEMORABLE

How to Write a Cover Letter People WANT to Read

Here’s the process. Feel free to write these answers down somewhere else.

  1. Think of a job you want or plan to apply for.
  2. List out the essential skills that job requires. Some employers ask, impossibly, that you have 500 different skills so try to think of the most important qualities of the position.
  3. Now, the clincher. Look back on your life and think of a moment, a story or situation that exemplifies the type of person the employer wants. Again, it doesn’t need to be something that happened on the job.

For example, I recently did this cover letter activity for a group of college students in Virginia. Almost everyone in the room is in the process of applying for work.

One girl told me she wants to be a nurse. So I asked her: “Can you tell me a story that shows you can handle the challenges of nursing?”

Here’s what she wrote down, paraphrased:

As a teenager, I learned that my grandfather developed Alzheimer’s. While it was painful to watch him decline, I made a point to provide him extra attention, tend to his ever-growing needs and be as much of a caretaker as I could. It wasn’t easy, but that experience proved to me that nursing is my calling. And that’s why I’d like to work in the medical field and help others.

If you, the director of a nursing program, read that paragraph atop her cover letter, would it give you pause? Would you want to then call the girl in for a job interview?

Damn right.

This girl is not a novelist, blogger or any kind of “writer.” So what. The story itself is noteworthy and doesn’t require elegant prose. She simply explained what happened and then started the SECOND paragraph with the classic “My name is ____, and I am interested in the position of ____”

***If you DO want to strengthen your writing, the best way is through blogging, and here are nine reasons why.***

Through the cover letter exercise, the girl realized something powerful:

Personal experiences are our greatest asset, and no one else can claim them.

It’s time to change how we approach job applications. With a cover letter, employers don’t need to know every single thing you’ve ever done. They don’t have the time and, frankly, they don’t care.

They WILL care and they WILL pay attention if you offer a great story that proves you’re the ideal candidate for the position.

Remember: the same person who likes hospital and courtroom TV dramas is also reading your job application.  

Be entertaining. Be memorable.

Stand out.

I wonder if Connie Going, the kindhearted social worker, will ever re-enter the job market.

If she does, I already know how she’ll start the cover letter.

(This content was originally posted at News to Live By.)

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the host of Fox Television’s "Shelly Palmer Digital Living" television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5′s (WNYW-TV New York) Tech Expert and the host of United Stations Radio Network’s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment.

Latest Stories
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
"We're bringing out a new application monitoring system to the DevOps space. It manages large enterprise applications that are distributed throughout a node in many enterprises and we manage them as one collective," explained Kevin Barnes, President of eCube Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
“Being the one true cloud-agnostic and storage-agnostic software solution, more and more customers are coming to Commvault and saying ' What do you recommend? What's your best practice for implementing cloud?” explained Randy De Meno, Chief Technologist at Commvault, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
From wearable activity trackers to fantasy e-sports, data and technology are transforming the way athletes train for the game and fans engage with their teams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, will present key data findings from leading sports organizations San Francisco 49ers, Orlando Magic NBA team. By utilizing data analytics these sports orgs have recognized new revenue streams, doubled its fan base and streamlined costs at its stadiums. John Paul is the CEO and Founder of VenueNext. Prior ...
Let’s face it, embracing new storage technologies, capabilities and upgrading to new hardware often adds complexity and increases costs. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Seth Oxenhorn, Vice President of Business Development & Alliances at FalconStor, discussed how a truly heterogeneous software-defined storage approach can add value to legacy platforms and heterogeneous environments. The result reduces complexity, significantly lowers cost, and provides IT organizations with improved efficienc...
Continuous testing helps bridge the gap between developing quickly and maintaining high quality products. But to implement continuous testing, CTOs must take a strategic approach to building a testing infrastructure and toolset that empowers their team to move fast. Download our guide to laying the groundwork for a scalable continuous testing strategy.
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
CenturyLink has announced that application server solutions from GENBAND are now available as part of CenturyLink’s Networx contracts. The General Services Administration (GSA)’s Networx program includes the largest telecommunications contract vehicles ever awarded by the federal government. CenturyLink recently secured an extension through spring 2020 of its offerings available to federal government agencies via GSA’s Networx Universal and Enterprise contracts. GENBAND’s EXPERiUS™ Application...
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
Big Data engines are powering a lot of service businesses right now. Data is collected from users from wearable technologies, web behaviors, purchase behavior as well as several arbitrary data points we’d never think of. The demand for faster and bigger engines to crunch and serve up the data to services is growing exponentially. You see a LOT of correlation between “Cloud” and “Big Data” but on Big Data and “Hybrid,” where hybrid hosting is the sanest approach to the Big Data Infrastructure pro...
In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Sagi Brody, Chief Technology Officer at Webair Internet Development Inc., and Logan Best, Infrastructure & Network Engineer at Webair, focused on real world deployments of DDoS mitigation strategies in every layer of the network. He gave an overview of methods to prevent these attacks and best practices on how to provide protection in complex cloud platforms. He also outlined what we have found in our experience managing and running thousands of Linux and Unix ...
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. He cited examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He also highlighted how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable ...
"We view the cloud not really as a specific technology but as a way of doing business and that way of doing business is transforming the way software, infrastructure and services are being delivered to business," explained Matthew Rosen, CEO and Director at Fusion, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
We all know the latest numbers: Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from last year, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. We're rapidly approaching a data production of 40 zettabytes a day – more than we can every physically store, and exabytes and yottabytes are just around the corner. For many that’s a good sign, as data has been proven to equal money – IF it’s ingested, integrated, and analyzed fast enough. Without real-ti...