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Cover Letters: What is Your “Carrot”?

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I love how a personal story can really bring a cover letter to life. In working with clients on cover letters, I’m always looking for that teaser to grab the reader’s attention. Similar to an interesting fact, news story or piece of information that sparks a lively conversation with colleagues or friends (tasteful and appropriate, of course), I want to know something about you or your experiences that will make me want to learn more. Recently I wrote a cover letter for a client looking to take a new step in her career. After learning more about her background, both personally and professionally, the “aha moment” struck me as she talked about her visit to the Olympic games, two different times. Not only was this timely with the Summer Olympics in London, it was a unique experience that set her apart from thousands of other candidates, and no doubt an interesting fact that would pique a reader’s interest. I was excited to use this in her cover letter, and it allowed me to further highlight her passion and commitment for continuous improvement. She loved the results and happily reported that it helped get her foot in the door.

What does this mean for you? Many job seekers forego the cover letter thinking it won’t help them. I disagree. In my experience, I do think traditional cover letters are often ignored. But, find that conversation piece in your work experience or personal life that you can relate to your career or skills, and a cover letter can easily be like a good book that grabs the reader’s attention in the first few words or sentence. They don’t want to put it down! My cover letter motto: unique, conversational, and short. Dangle the carrot for the company recruiter, VP, or department manager so they just have to learn more about you. And if your resume is equally as compelling, you will be one step closer to your next career opportunity.

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