In my previous blog post, I wrote about why you should try your hand at storytelling in your cover letter: you want to stand out. I emphasized the importance of making it personal. People connect to people and I, as a recruiter, would like to get to know you, not just read a shorter version of your resume. With this in mind, let’s paint a picture. There you are, behind your laptop or desk(top) and ready to go: you have a hunch of what your story is and you are excited to start writing. You can already see yourself getting this job and you can almost hear the cork pop. Picture perfect!
The blank page sits before you and you have a plan. It is time to sell yourself and you know your strengths. Nonetheless, you might be familiar with feeling fine when it comes to telling your friends why you should be on their team for whatever kind of activity, but you might also be aware of how all of this seems to change when it comes to convincing someone that you are the right person for the (paid) job at hand. Especially if they are wearing a suit. Apart from finding and selecting what it is that sets you apart, tone of voice is often a matter people struggle with. This blog post will provide you with an outline and a couple of convenient examples, which will help you be on your way in no time. So without further ado, let’s deep dive into the mechanics – the works.
The process of writing a convincing cover letter starts with finding the right tone of voice. The best way to go about this is to do some research. Who do you address your letter to? What is the style of the company you are applying for? Usually, this information can be gathered from the (career) website. What do you make of the style? You can learn a lot from a couple of minutes of clicking and scrolling. No matter how flashy a website looks, though, you would always want to be polite. I recommend addressing your letter formally at all times. There are many templates online which you can use to make sure your letter’s layout is decent.
– Behind every story stands a strong storyline and little hooks are off the essence –
We have arrived at the first paragraph
With your headers and primary research done, the outline of your letter is next. Behind every story stands a strong storyline and little hooks are of the essence. The storyline is your coat rack: miss a hook and your metaphorical coat is left to simply fall to the ground. You have to craft your story carefully. Every good letter – or story, for that matter – starts with an introduction. This is the first impression that you make. What I often receive is the generic cover letter of which the introduction commonly looks like this:
Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to apply for the advertised position. As an individual looking for growth and development in the field, I am confident that my interpersonal skills, the knowledge and experience that I have already cultivated match your requirements.
You might agree with me here that this gives me nothing much to go on. I would much rather see something along the lines of:
Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to apply for the Marketing Automation Specialist role as advertised on your website. Ever since I majored in Marketing, I have been eagerly looking for ways to apply my passion for innovation and automation to my work as a digital marketeer. Allow me to tell you my story.
This immediately feels more personal: it tells me something about yourself and gives me a glimpse into your journey. A little bit further out-of-the-box could be, for example:
I admit it. I’m a psychology geek. I have always had an interest in where our behaviors, thoughts, and personalities come from. Since I can remember, I would be in the library sifting through the philosophy and psychology shelves. I am an enthusiastic learner and problem solver. I am patient and compassionate and tend to make others feel at ease. I don’t judge people based on their successes; rather, I see trials and past experiences as an opportunity for growth and empathy.
The introduction is a great place to tell us about (early) career interests, your motivation, and your drive or passion for the role.
On to the bulk of your letter
This part works best for showcasing the skills that you bring. What would you like for us to know and where in your (preferably) one-page letter should this information be located? Select a couple of key messages that you want to bring across and play around with their order in which you present them. The middle part of your letter should be a testimony of your skills and your fit with the advertised role.
Once again, research is key. Which skills are outlined in the job description? Can you find any company values that match your own? The KPMG values, for example, are Courage, Integrity, Excellence, For Better, and Together. CapGemini’s are, to name a couple, Freedom, Modesty, and Team Spirit. These are easy hooks for your stories. For example:
I read that one of your company values is ‘For Better’. This appeals to me because I have been a volunteer for the Red Cross for 4 years, which has taught me to motivate others and to be creative when means are limited. These are skills that I can also apply in my work as your new Recruitment Team Lead.
The middle section can consist of one story, or perhaps a couple of very short stories. Keep in mind that every story has a beginning, a build-up, a turning point and a solution or a result and if you opt for more than one story, do not forget to link them together. Be concise and clean when it comes to your wording. One way to do this is by not starting your story at the very beginning, but somewhat in the middle. For example:
My broad-based background enables me to adapt well to building client relationships. In my current position, for instance, I identified and resolved customer issues with a computer manufacturer, resulting in a $1M contract. Not only did my company win the contract, but its management expressed the organization’s satisfaction by providing excellent word-of-mouth promotion of our services to its subsidiaries.
You introduce your story by referring to one of the skills mentioned in the job description and you end with a clear result. Be sure to always zoom out and connect your story to what the recruiter and the hiring managers are looking for. The relevance of your story should be evident.
– Keep in mind that every story has a beginning, a build-up, a turning point and a solution or a result and if you opt for more than one story, do not forget to link them together –
A long story short
Draw-off of what you know and construct your story carefully. You can always use what you have accomplished so far, or maybe you can link your values to those of the company you are applying for. Looking forward also offers a solid structure for your story. As long as you maintain a formal outline and avoid the use of contractions or popular speech, you can draft a compelling cover letter that is all you without compromising on the tone of voice, length or content. Good luck!
 This is a quote and we (i.e. LSA LINGUA and I) recommend you to skip any kind of contractions in formal writing.  Hansen, K. Storytelling that propels Careers, chapter 6.  Hansen, K. Storytelling that propels Careers, chapter 6.