Self marketing in the cover letter: how to make a great impression
Writing a cover letter is a big challenge for most applicants. Especially many of us women find it hard to confidently promote our achievements and careers. We are often unsure how to write a cover letter, how to make a great impression.
The important thing for us to realize is that it’s not a bad thing to be proud of our skills, our achievements and our career. I’m talking about this a lot because this is the key issue I’ve noticed not only with myself, but also with female friends, coworkers and clients. We find it hard to openly speak about our achievements and what we do well. It might be that this thing we’re so good at comes so naturally to us, is so easy that we feel almost silly talking about it. It’s the thing that we naturally do well, there’s very little effort involved, so how can we be proud of it?
The thing is that men will talk about their achievements a lot more than women. I recently participated in a workshop about self marketing for women and one of the women told a story about a male coworker. He’d talk in every team meeting about every little thing he’d done. She’d be sitting there thinking: that’s not difficult at all, why is he pitching this to the boss? She almost felt embarrassed for him. In the end, he ended up getting a promotion because he’d done better marketing than she, even if she felt that she was much more competent.
Self marketing is key
When thinking about the cover letter and how to make an impact, this is what you need to focus on. You need to market yourself, your career and your achievements well. I’m not talking about boasting about everything that you’ve ever done. You always need to adjust the cover letter to the position requirements and focus on marketing the aspects of yourself and your career which are most relevant for this position.
Marketing isn’t only about telling everyone how great you are. An important part is to do your research and target your message for your key audience. This is why for your self marketing in the cover letter, you start by thoroughly analyzing the position description. Highlight the requirements which you fulfill and which you can underlay with concrete examples and achievements of your work experience. In the next step you note down the concrete examples and achievements which are best suited to support the message you want to send.
A frequently neglected aspect is to show the employer why you really want to work for them. You need to find a balance between presenting your achievements and experiences and telling the employer why you really want this job. Your cover letter is the only chance to convince the employer that you’re really excited about joining his team. So make sure to bring some authentic motivation, some passion into the cover letter.
How to make this happen? Well, reflect a little on why you’re interested in the position. Whatever motivated you to decide to apply for the job is a good starting point. You should of course also look up the company's website and check out if it looks like a company which you really want to join. While you’re at the website, take notes of the points which attract you most. You’ll need them for the cover letter.
How to make a good introduction?
This is what most people are struggling with - getting this first sentence right. How to introduce yourself and catch the employers attention right from the start? My advice is to start of with why you want to join the company or why you’re really interested in the position. Refrain from using standard phrases like “I’m applying for the position XY in your company.” This is so boring! Remember, the cover letter is all about self marketing and marketing is about promoting yourself in the best way for your target audience.
Your target audience being the new employer, they need to really feel that you’re speaking to them. Don’t copy paste your introduction from a previous cover letter. It won’t work. You need to find a way to directly speak to them in the first sentence. If they use a catch phrase or a certain language or style to promote their position, pick up on it and twist it around to address them in the same way. Otherwise make an opening by highlighting what you find really interesting about the position and the company, e.g. “I’m highly interested in joining your company as XY because we share the same passion for ...”
Time to shine!
Writing the cover letter usually gets easier once you have the first sentence down. Just like a painter is often intimidated by a blank canvas, it can be really hard to get started. As we’ve moved past this stage, we can now focus on really shining the light on your experiences and examples which promote you as the ideal candidate. If you find it hard to write about them, think how you’d tell a friend what makes you suitable for the position. Start with writing that down and don’t worry too much about the wording. We can work on that later.
The important thing is to get the message across why you want this job and why you’re suitable for it. You need to focus on the main requirements of the position and show them how your experience and achievements qualify you for the position. Really focus on the points which you already fulfill and bring your best examples to the table.
If there are certain aspects which you don’t fulfill at the moment, don’t worry about it. Remember that a job ad is usually the description of the perfect employee. In my experience, the chance to find this perfect employee who 100% covers all the requirements is rather small in real life. If you apply for a job requiring certain skills which you don’t have at the moment, it’s important to get across that you’re a keen learner and able to quickly pick up new skills. If you are not a keen learner, you need to explain that you are willing to work very hard indeed in order to learn it. Never lie.
Call to action
If you know a little about marketing, you’ll know that you should always close with a call to action. Obviously you want the employer to get back to you and invite you for an interview. You can close for example like this: “I’m looking forward to further discuss my motivation and qualification personally with you. You can best reach me at …”
Check out my free checklist to support you in the creation of the perfect cover letter.