The Cover Letter: An Opportunity to Show Authenticity

  • April 13, 2021

By Helena Mello

If you are an avid iJOBS blog reader and aspiring job applicant, you have certainly needed to write a cover letter. While not always essential, many job openings recommend that you write one. A cover letter may be overlooked by some, but it is a great opportunity to sell yourself beyond the resume.

You can find articles with great advice about cover letters across the internet. One article from Science Mag details 10 recommendations to make a “decent presentation” with the “employee’s needs (…) in mind,” while another from the same magazine describes important steps to writing a “winning cover letter.” These – and others – focus on the ultimate goal of any cover letter: show that you are the perfect match for the position. These articles bring valuable information to the reader; however, I want to focus on one point that they have missed: a cover letter must be authentic.

Everyone should (and hopefully does) strive to write a flawless document without typos or grammar mistakes. And certainly, some applicants will share a few factors that will be mentioned in their cover letters.  However, regardless of similarities, I don’t think there is a guide to writing an authentic cover letter. If all letters read the same, how will the recruiter distinguish between candidates?

"(...) a cover letter must be authentic."

The cover letter must talk about you: your accomplishments, your ambitions, your skills. It is your opportunity to expand on your resume’s bullet points and key words. In this sense, a cover letter must show originality. How can you accomplish that?  On this note, I want to share two main aspects that have made me better at writing cover letters:

  • Don’t be afraid of using “I”

Many applicants avoid writing sentences that emphasize the subject (themselves). They tend to focus on the action and “hide” the subject behind a huge accomplishment. This is common in academic settings where we are used to focusing on the outcome rather than the pathway. Consider reviewing your sentences and emphasizing your contributions. For example, instead of “the project I was part of got an award,” you could write “I got an award for my work on this project.” Remember: the recruiter is interested in your journey and not in your data.

  • Be specific

An authentic letter will imprint your personality and make you relatable to the reader. Your goal is to have the reader learn who you are through your writing. So, you should avoid clichés and vague statements. For example, writing that you are “greatly interested in this position” is obvious and, honestly, a bit boring. Consider rewriting as “I am interested in this position because of my background in X that matches the company’s vision for Y market.” Be specific and clear about your skills and how they match the needs of the position. Demonstrate how your background has shaped your interest and culminated in your application to the position. Focus on unique experiences and the skills you have acquired because of them.

In conclusion, the cover letter should sell your abilities to the recruiter. You have to show that you are worth their time and effort, without sounding arrogant. By emphasizing your contributions to your projects and writing an original, credible letter, you will likely catch their interest and land an interview.

Good luck with your applications and happy writing!

This article was edited by Junior Editor Natalie Losada, and Senior Editor Brianna Alexander.