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Jobs: Cover letter 2.0

The traditional format is over. Do these things instead

We all have the same thought when we sit down to start writing a cover letter: “Does anybody even read these things anymore?”

Sure, many hiring managers don’t, but plenty of others still do. You’re better off having one at the ready than looking like you failed to complete a critical element of the job search process.

But, let’s get something clear here: Just because you need one of these formal letters doesn’t mean you need to stick with the boring “To Whom It May Concern: I’m writing to express my sincere interest in blah blah blah” lines of the past.

There are a few unique, creative things you can do to get yourself noticed by the hiring manager.

1. Address it to someone specific

Do some digging to find a specific person you should address your letter to, whether that’s the name of the hiring manager or even the head of the department you’re hoping to work in.

You don’t want “Dear Sir or Madam” to be the first thing someone sees when skimming through your letter. At this point, that’s a surefire way to get tossed into the trash.

2. Start it off with a story

Getting started can be the toughest part. After all, your introduction really needs to hook the hiring manager and encourage him or her to keep reading.

Using a personal anecdote or captivating story is a great way to start your cover letter. Perhaps your childhood lemonade stand ignited your passion for sales and quality customer service. Or, maybe a recent life-altering moment inspired you to change your life and your career.

Whatever it is, find something interesting and craft a narrative around it. Your compelling story will not only ensure your cover letter gets read, but will make you that much more memorable.

3. Try a different, creative medium

From video messages and catchy songs to flipbooks and interactive games, resumes and cover letters have definitely begun to reach outside the limits of the traditional and expected. You’re no longer restricted to just ink on paper.

Of course, this tactic works best if you’re aiming to work in a more creative capacity — remember, successful applications are all about knowing your audience. But if you think an organization would appreciate and admire your unique approach, go for it! If nothing else, you’ll definitely be talked about.

4. Mirror the prospective company’s culture

This is another opportunity for you to get creative and show that you truly understand (and appreciate) the culture of this specific company. For example, a prospective Buzzfeed employee turned her cover letter into a full-blown Buzzfeed-style article.

Not only was her cover letter catchy, it demonstrated that she just “gets it.” Remember, hiring managers are not necessarily looking for the most accomplished candidate, but the one who would be the best fit. If you can use your cover letter to show that you’d be a seamless addition to the team and their existing culture? You officially have your foot in the door.

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