How to Show Personality With Your Cover Letter Tone
In most any job market, hiring managers receive dozens of applications for every job they post. But in uncertain economic times when a lot of people are out of work, they may receive hundreds! This means that your application must truly stand out among all the others to get noticed.
So, how do you show that you’re the best candidate for the job? A resume’s standard format can be limiting when it comes to helping you differentiate yourself from other equally-qualified candidates. Fortunately, a unique cover letter tone that shows your personality will help your application rise to the top.
For most job applications, the cover letter is your sole opportunity to go beyond your skills and education to connect with the reader and show them a slice of who you really are. It’s important, though, to strike a balance between showing your personality and remaining professional.
How to Show Personality in a Cover Letter
Here’s how to write a unique cover letter that’s personable and professional, without being overly formal.
Grab Their Attention
The quickest way to send the hiring manager into a deep snooze is by beginning your cover letter with an impersonal, “To whom it may concern.” If you’re serious about wanting the job, making the effort to find out the person’s name is the first step to a personable cover letter. After you know who to address your letter to, it’s time to open with a creative introduction.
If you’ve ever started a cover letter with, “My name is _______, and I am applying for the ______ position at _____ company,” you’re not alone. The thing is, that’s not going to separate your job application from the tons of others that are currently sitting in a folder on your prospective boss’ computer. Try instead to begin your cover letter off with a (relevant) story about yourself or an experience you had that relates to the company or position.
Fake It Till You Make It
Part of the challenge of writing cover letters is that you’re trying to sell yourself to someone who doesn’t know anything about you. This can lead to a dry, overly formal cover letter packed way too full of skills, job titles, and overused, cliche phrases (“I’m a hard worker who goes above and beyond”) that say nothing about you.
What if you flip the switch and pretend that the hiring manager already knows you’re great, that you’re worthy of the job, and that you’re exactly what they need? In fact, the hiring manager is so convinced of your greatness, they just want to know more about you! What are your goals? What inspired you to apply? What about your personality makes you a great fit? What new ideas can you bring to the table?
This mindset enables you to climb out of the drudgery of listing all your skills and really dive into what sets you apart from the rest.
Match the Tone and Voice
You should always write your cover letter in a respectful but conversational (read: not robotic) voice. But it’s also essential that your cover letter tone and voice matches that of the company or industry you’re applying to. For example, the tone of your cover letter for a corporate banking position will likely need to be more traditional than one you’d write for a hip tech startup.
You can still use personal stories and examples to show your personality in both, but you may want to save your funny story or out-of-the-box ideas for companies that display the same kind of lightheartedness on their website or in their own communications.
Show How You’re a Culture Fit
You can deduce a lot about a company’s culture by exploring its website, blog, social media posts, and even its job descriptions. This kind of information can give you much insight into the company’s values, activities, and collective pastimes—and how you can show you’re a culture fit.
Does a recent post mention beloved virtual employee trivia nights? Briefly talk about your love of trivia in your cover letter! Are annual in-person retreats central to the company’s mission and culture? Let the hiring manager know how much you value yearly meet-ups with your team. Is remote work a defining principle of the company’s culture? Explain your experience with and dedication to working remotely. By showing these aspects of your personality within the cover letter, the company will get a better understanding for who you are.
Give Personal Examples
Sure, your resume has a summary of qualifications and a clean and concise synopsis of all of your previous work experiences and skill sets. But that doesn’t mean you need to regurgitate it all in paragraph form in your cover letter. There’s no doubt about it: skills and experience are what will qualify you for a job. But if you show how you’ve used those skills in your cover letter, it might mean the difference between the “maybe” pile and an interview.
Stay Positive and Professional
No matter how tempting it may be to take an apologetic or snarky cover letter tone to stand out, resist the impulse to say anything in your cover letter that may come across as negative or sarcastic.
Although sarcasm may be a fun personality trait you indulge in with your friends and family, it doesn’t come across well in writing, and can seriously turn off hiring managers who aren’t fans or don’t understand your humor yet. Keep your personal anecdotes and stories positive, and stay away from making any assumptions about the company or the person who’s reading your cover letter.
Above all else, no matter your cover letter tone, keep everything professional. Make sure it’s well-written and error-free, and always avoid common cover letter mistakes.
Cover Letter Tone Examples (Before and After)
We know it’s not always easy to translate a “how-to” into a “done that!” so here’s an example of a traditional, impersonal cover letter, and how it can be revised into a personal, unique, engaging cover letter that gets you that interview.
Dear Hiring Manager,
I saw your LinkedIn posting for an Accounting Administrator, and I think you’ll agree I am the perfect candidate for this position.
I am an accomplished administrative professional and am enrolled in accounting courses at State University to expand my knowledge in the field. Over the past seven years, I have provided high-level administrative support in a variety of industries, including accounting and finance. I am currently looking for a position that will enable me to use my administrative experience while also providing additional opportunities for personal and professional development.
I am a detail-oriented multitasker with exceptional communication skills and a talent for prioritizing and managing complex projects.
Please see my attached resume for more details on my experience and qualifications. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the value I can bring to your organization.
Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager. Does the above cover letter grab you and give you insight into who “Jamie” is and why they’re a good fit for the job? Does the cover letter tone feel personable and engaging? Unfortunately, no. More than likely, this looks like every other cover letter you’ve ever seen—and will go into the “no” bin,.
The following cover letter does a much better job of demonstrating Jamie’s enthusiasm for the company and the position, how her skills have led to results in the real world, and what she can offer.
Dear Ms. Wilson,
It is with great enthusiasm that I submit my application for the position of Accounting Administrator for ABC Foundation. As an administrative professional with over seven years of experience, I’m confident that my skills and qualifications will make me an asset to ABC Foundation’s accounting team.
As you can see from my attached resume, I’ve built my career in small companies in a variety of roles where I was not just the administrative coordinator, but also the bookkeeper, account representative, and client relations coordinator. I sincerely enjoy wearing many hats and thrive in an environment where I can work on varied tasks.
In addition to being flexible and responsive, I’m also a fanatic for details, particularly when it comes to preparing reports. One of my recent projects involved coordinating the preparation of a 50-page financial report for an RFP, where my duties included collecting numbers, proofreading and formatting spreadsheets, and making sure the finished product conformed to guidelines. (The result? A two-year, $750,000 grant award.) I apply this same level of attention to detail in everything I do—from tasks as visible as preparing agendas for top-level meetings to behind the scenes tasks to keep the office running smoothly.
Last but certainly not least, I’m a longtime ABC Foundation fan and supporter of your “Feeding the Community” campaign. I’ve been following the movement since the beginning, and I am so excited to see this program continue to grow. I’ve already checked out the campaign’s goals for next year on your website, and am incredibly impressed with your continued outreach and plans to scale!
I am thrilled at the possibility of being involved with your organization and would love the opportunity to meet with you and discuss the value that I can bring to ABC Foundation. Thank you kindly for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Now, take a moment and digest how this cover letter made you feel. Rather than an anonymous job seeker tied to a bland cover letter, you can really see how Jamie might just be the ideal candidate and a strong culture match. In fact, you may even be ready to hire her before the interview!
The Right Balance of Tone, Personality, and Professionalism
Most employers aren’t looking for cookie-cutter employees who follow the herd and do their tasks just like everyone else. They want workers who bring personality to the table and match the company’s culture, which is why hitting the right cover letter tone is so important.
For many jobs, cover letters are essential components of the application process that give the hiring manager a glimpse into why they should give you a chance. Writing a professional, customized cover letter that also lets your unique self shine through gives you (and the employer) the best of both worlds!
Need help writing the perfect cover letter? FlexJobs’ Career Coaching team can give you the personalized advice and guidance you need to find (and land) your dream job.
Don’t forget to share this article with friends!