Insider tips for writing the perfect cover letter

Posted on July 29, 2015 at 6:00 am

By Aileen Luppert

Insider tips for writing the perfect cover letter by Aileen Luppert | Spokane County Library District

I have never applied for a job without the help of one of my favorite people—Aunty Eve. I trust her, not only because she is my brilliant aunt, but also because she happens to have one heck of a professional human resources background. Eve has been an HR maven for a slew of impressive agencies, including: Chiat/Day Inc., USAID, and Salt Branding. She also wrote a book, Rules for the Road, that I have taken career advice from for years.

Despite my recent career development training, every work-related blog I have written I submit with a tad of insecurity. I always wonder, “What would Eve say?” After publication, she gives me a stamp of approval, even if my post lacked her special brand of sparkle and insight. Only then can I breathe a sigh of relief.

For my next piece (this piece), I wanted to write about cover letters. This time I chose to get tips from my personal employment guru before I started writing. Cover letters can be an important key to successful employment. They are usually the first impression an applicant makes on an employer. A cover letter demonstrates and articulates who you are in a way a resume cannot.

Since cover letters are so important, I wanted to ask Aunty Eve for her professional advice before I wrote anything. I asked her what tips she would offer to an applicant drafting a cover letter. Her response was so … well, it was very her. It was so hilarious, clever, and perceptive that rather than sprinkle her quotes into my writing, it’s worth sharing it in its entirety. Please enjoy the following insider tips on writing the perfect cover letter from HR Extraordinaire, Eve Luppert.

I say you need three paragraphs:

Paragraph 1: The “I’ve done my homework” paragraph

This is where you say “I know about this company, and it’s cool, and I would love to work there.” It is more than saying, “I need a job so give it to me.” The difference is kind of like asking someone to the prom by saying, “I don’t care who I go with I just need a date” or asking someone because you like them specifically. In other words, use flattery.

Paragraph 2: The aren’t I perfect for you paragraph

This is where you really want to use all the words the employer used to describe the perfect person for the position (detail-oriented, fast-paced, etc). Use these same words to describe yourself. For example, a new worker might say that “when I was organizing the parents’ weekend I discovered the importance of being detail oriented.” Or, “I didn’t know what fast-paced really was until I was working at a Starbucks at 8:45 am, when everyone is running late for work.”

Paragraph 3: The aren’t I smart, interesting, funny, clever, and special paragraph

Here is where you talk about the stuff that makes you interesting that is not on your resume. If you love to snow ski, play mahjong, or whatever, mention it and why you like it.

Then ask for the interview and say thanks.

If you are funny, be funny. If you are not funny, don’t be funny. The letter is to help the employer see if you and the company have similar sensibilities and styles. Not every company is right for every person – just like dating.

Oh, and don’t steal a cover letter off the internet. I can tell you that more than once I’ve seen a very clever cover letter and put the person in the “to call” pile, only to see the very same cover letter from someone else a few resumes later. That is an automatic no-go for me.

Here at the library we can help you put Eve’s insider tips into practice! Take advantage of the great online resources at your disposal like CareerOneStop and JobNow. You can also check out the Resources for Job Seekers section of our website. If you’d like to go over your cover letter or resume in person, it’s easy to make a Book a Librarian appointment for one-on-one, personalized assistance.

Aileen Luppert

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