- I'm a strong listener.
- I regularly work hard.
- Two days before the meeting with our biggest client, my boss asked me if I could restructure our entire pitch. I rebuilt it from scratch, getting input from my boss and coworkers along the way. Less than twenty minutes into our pitch, the client gave us her business, paying 30 percent higher than our normal rates.
Those first two, I am merely telling you a fact about myself. I'm just saying I am a strong listener —whatever that means — and I regularly work hard. I don't offer any examples; I don't prove these statements with any explanation.
In the third example, I'm not telling you I'm a good listener or a hard worker. Instead, I give a quick anecdote. My boss asked me to do something, I did it, taking notes from others, and then the project was not only successful, but we got paid more, too.
What have we learned from this anecdote? I'm a hard worker (I had only two days to do the project), I'm a good listener (I got notes from coworkers and incorporated them into the project), and, most importantly, I get results (the sales pitch was a success and we made even more money than usual #humblebrag).
That's what your cover letter should be. You are proving, repeatedly, that you are a badass who gets results. You are showing your badassery through simple stories, which you can use to list your past jobs and accomplishments, showing you'd be a great fit for the company you're applying for.
You also want to show that these past skills, whatever they may be, will transition to this new job. More than anything else, the people hiring you care about how you're going to help them get what they need done.
A great cover letter has six basic paragraphs. You've got your Opening Anecdote, your Gimme the Job, your Bing, your Bang, your Bongo and then your Closing Suck-Up.
1. Opening anecdote
Your cover letter needs to start with a simple anecdote that shows you in action and makes the person who's forced to read hundreds of boring-ass, terribly written cover letters want to continue reading yours.
Here's how many cover letters start: "I am writing to you about your open Accountant II position, and I believe I would be a great fit because I love accounting." Boring and obvious. It shows you can't communicate.
Imagine if this opened with an anecdote: "The tax deadline was in a week, and we still had one hundred clients to go. Working at a small firm, that normally meant long nights. But because weeks earlier I'd developed a faster workflow for getting our clients' information into our system, we finished them all in just one afternoon."
It's showing I'm good at my job. It's proving if you hire me, you get a person like this. That's what you want to start your cover letter with.