Recruiters have seen the same cover letter countless times. If you are one of those people sending in a slightly modified, copied and pasted template form letter, don't expect a response. Hoping your name gets pulled out of a hat is not the way to land a job. These days, human resources departments generally have a plethora of mediocre cover letters to wade through, so taking risks can give you an edge over other applicants.
As you try to put together that perfect cover letter, the key is to find a balance between taking risks without seeming like a liability. Most human resources departments aren't looking for a wild card, but they aren't looking for a drone either. The hiring manager is trying to find someone who will mesh well with the other employees, so it is important to let your personality shine through. Consider the general tone of the organization potentially hiring you. Know when to use humor to your advantage and when to keep your cover letter serious.
Cracking a good-natured joke or using sarcasm in your cover letter is certainly a risk, but it is one that can pay off in the right setting. For example, if you are applying for a job as a writer for a satirical publication with that kind of tone, it would be foolish to send a dry, monotonous cover letter. However, a highbrow law firm may not respond positively to the same approach. Professionalism doesn't always mean boring, but keep your audience in mind.
Forbes recommends selling yourself to job recruiters by telling an anecdote that relates to your potential position. Naturally a long-winded life story is only going to bore the reader, so keep it concise. Your cover letter should be brief and readable, while still capturing the reader's attention. Telling a story that relates to the industry you are applying for turns you into a real person, rather than just another name.
Another way to make yourself stand out to the hiring manager is to describe a positive experience you have had with the company. If you have not had any direct interactions, there is nothing wrong with going out of your way to make one happen! For instance, if you are applying to work as a chef at a restaurant you have never been to, make a reservation. Talk to the server about how great the food is. Now you have something to write about in your cover letter. You can even mention the server's name and how she recommended the most amazing dish. This proves your interest in the company, while also showing that you get along with current employees.
These simple ways of humanizing yourself may seem risky, but in the age of the Internet, anybody can sound like a rigid professional, and most recruiters realize this and appreciate realism. The way that hiring works is constantly evolving, and that includes how you approach your cover letter. Take risks, but remember that going too far can be detrimental. Professionalism does not have to be sterile, so let your cover letter breathe.
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