Cover Letters as a Differentiator

By eric

I’ve been doing a lot of hiring lately. So I’ve been thinking about how people can differentiate themselves from the pack. It’s an interesting proposition when there are so many people out there with great work and life experience that can help them contribute to and enhance a team.

One of the trends I have been seeing is that cover letters seem to be a thing completed in passing. I think there is a lot of value in a well-written cover letter.

On a day to day basis, I look at a lot of resumes. Sometimes a previous job stands out and makes you a perfect fit for the one you are applying for. Often times, that isn’t the case. And even if that is the case, it’s not always obvious to the hiring manager (and even less so, the recruiter). One of the ways to differentiate yourself or state your case is a hiring letter. This is your freeform opportunity to explain why you are the right person for the job. Or if you aren’t the right person, why you should have a chance anyway.

I am consistently amazed at how many cover letters I see that are simply just a copy/paste. I know that if you are applying to 10 or 20 jobs, then writing a separate cover letter for each of them doesn’t seem practical. But again, this is your opportunity to showcase yourself when resumes/CVs are a stock method of communication of information. If someone gives you an opportunity to separate yourself from the pack, you should use it.

If you are wondering what are some good things to separate yourself from others in a cover letter, I’ll list out a few that I’ve seen that have been particularly interesting. But given how little effort most folks put in, simply discussing what makes you a passionate and curious individual is almost always going to deliver. All these interviews were done as a result of reading the cover letter as many of these folks were borderline being passed on.

  • I interviewed someone who was severely injured in a car accident and their cover letter explained how they used the time to level themselves up and were just looking for an opportunity to show off all their new skills not on their resume.
  • I interviewed someone who explained how they use their time playing instruments to think about how to solve problems.
  • I interviewed someone who didn’t think they were a fit because their previous history mostly involved working in a zoo and nothing to do with software development or product management.
  • I have interviewed a whole mess of designers who have creatively delivered either cover letters and/or resumes that were still very readable but showed that they like to think and act a little differently.

There are lots of possibilities on how to segment yourself away from the pack. Cover letters are just another opportunity for you to do just that.

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