Cover letters can be tricky. This is also why they are so important. When a hiring manager picks up two different résumés, it’s possible that both candidates will be equally qualified. So how do you make yourself stand out? This is where the cover letter comes into play. A cover letter can be the first chance to show who you are. It is a place to elaborate on your skills and background, maybe even show off that “personality” you claim to have. A cover letter allows for freedom and creativity – and that is why so many are boring. Nobody wants to take a risk. And if you don’t take a risk, nobody remembers you. If done properly, a well-executed résumé can have a company rushing to the phone and calling you in for an interview.

Below is a picture of a cover letter I have submitted to companies across the country. And don’t worry about reading it over just yet, I have highlighted the portions I am going to go over in detail with you. I have also left some spots blank if you would like to use this as a template for your own cover letter.

First Step: Establish Credibility and Why You Want the Job

[text from yellow-highlighted paragraph] Throughout the years, I have spent many hours reading the adventures of historical figures. I have read everything from the chivalrous tales of Don Quixote, to the conquests of world leaders as mentioned in 48 Laws of Power. Unfortunately, many of those stories involve people conquering the world through military strength, something which I am both untrained and ill-equipped for. This is why I am applying for the second greatest adventure: The [insert position] within [insert company].

There’s a simple process for this paragraph: establish knowledge and credibility, assert your ambitions, and express your desire to work for them.

You’ll notice that I am quick to establish my credibility. This is key before any negotiation. You can establish credibility your own way, but I recommend showing off all of the classics you have read. Everybody loves a scholar.

This paragraph is also a classic example of “thinking-past-the-sale.” You see, most applicants are going to beg for the job. They will say they are qualified and then follow up with something like, “I hope you’re willing to accept me for the position.”

I do the opposite. I let them know I am amazing. That way, employers don’t question my credibility. Then, I say, “You know what, I think I’ll work for you.” I let them know I will strive for more, then I reel it back in and confess that I’ll put my skills to use at their company.

Second Step: Support Your Argument

Nobody likes words that can’t be backed up. We already let them know we are qualified. Now let them know again and again.

[from the teal-highlighted paragraph] Beyond my readings, there are a couple of things I do that uniquely qualify me for this position. For one, I have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal. This means I get sharp and intelligent writing brought to my door every single day. Whether or not that newspaper is actually opened and read each morning is irrelevant, the fact that I get it in the first place is quite revealing of my intelligence.

In the first paragraph, I let them know I have read the books of old. In this paragraph, I let them know I “read” the newspapers of today. Besides, half the reason for subscribing to a newspaper is to tell others that you get it in the first place.

Third Step: Give Them Something They Didn’t Even Know they Wanted

[from the purple-highlighted paragraph] Second, I live approximately an hour and a half from your main office. Although this is a remote position and I will not be expected to work at your office, it allows me the luxury of being able to stop by if you need me. You’ll get the benefit of me working for you and you’ll get an added benefit of choosing when you get to see me. I can imagine there are a few people at your office that you wish gave this option.

This purple paragraph is a goldmine of persuasion. Give the employer something they didn’t even know they wanted. I let them know that I’ll work remotely, assuring them that I won’t add to office politics and I won’t be involved in sexual harassment scandals. Need I say more?

I also mention in a previous post that harassment charges are some of the biggest fears for companies in recent years. Be sure to let employers know that it won’t apply to you.

Step Four: Let Them Know You Are a Risk-Free Applicant

[from the green-highlighted paragraph] Third, I get along well with kids. Kids are brutally honest and love pointing out your flaws. This means I will be willing to accept constructive criticism from coworkers and will be more than eager to learn from what they have to say.

An image of a brutally honest child.

Kids have way to much power in society, which means it is probably best to be on their good side. If you can make the hiring manager feel comfortable about you with kids, they’ll know they can trust you with a project.

Let’s recap:

  • Establish credibility and why you want the job
  • Support your argument
  • Give them something they didn’t even know they wanted
  • Let them know you are a risk-free applicant

With these four guiding principles in mind, it’ll be a breeze for you to lock in an interview with your next application. Be sure to let me know what advice you have and how my advice worked out for you.