Thanks to your college coursework, you’ve developed great technical skills in your chosen field of study – which you’ve highlighted in your resume. So, however, has much of your job search competition. How do you help yourself stand out from the rest of the pack and win gold medal in the form of an internship or job?
Your cover letter.
Think of your resume as the “compulsory” portion of an Olympic event – the element of the sport where everyone demonstrates sufficient knowledge of the basics to be considered for the finals. Most standard resume formats are by default dry and factual – an unexciting recitation of your education, experience and accomplishments that follow the same narrow guidelines and confining rules on what to say and how to say it.
Now, think of your cover letter as the “presentation” portion of the judging… your “style” points that mean the difference between the high spot on the podium – and being just another competitor.
Here, you get to show your potential employer not just what you know, but your personality, sense of humor and how you conduct yourself in the workplace. You demonstrate how you accomplish both personal and organizational goals and list your soft skills in (very) short story form.
For an example of how a cover letter can make a significant difference…
Take two college seniors who attend the same school, obtain the same degree and have near-identical GPAs. They apply for the exact same job, using the same resume format suggested by their career center. One, hearing that recruiters rarely read them, fails to submit a cover letter. The other (the one willing to put in the extra work to catch the judge’s eye) outlines her individual style and soft skills – and provides quantified examples of leadership, being a team player, effective time-management and more.
Clearly, the medal goes to the candidate who – in a well-written cover letter – is able to show exactly how they can benefit the company… and contribute to the success of the existing team.
The Olympic quality job seeker wins the gold.
Everyone else comes in second.
About the Author: Joe Gagliano, a founding member of YouTern and our CMO, brings years of start-up management, strategic planning, marketing and market research experience to the team and his blog posts. Joe, who runs our learning center for interns, also brings a passion for start-ups, entrepreneurship and mentorship to our team. Connect with Joe on Twitter!