You’d be amazed at how many cover letters we see that look more like a college admissions essay than a professional job application.
Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve dreamed of working in film. As a child, I used to write scripts and perform them for my family in the yard…
If the opening of your cover letter sounds anything like this, you’ve got some work to do. This type of cover letter typically comes from undergrads applying for their first internship, and if they’re lucky, the hiring manager will look past it -- ”Oh, they seem smart but just didn’t know any better.” But in most cases, this cover letter will get thrown in the trash, or worse, printed out and passed around the office for all the assistants to laugh at during a stressful day.
College admissions essays and cover letters are meant to serve completely different purposes. Colleges are looking for well-rounded individuals with unique backstories who can contribute to a diverse community. Employers, on the other hand, want candidates who have targeted goals and meet specific qualifications. Furthermore, unlike college admissions departments that dedicate months to carefully identifying the perfect freshman class, hiring managers are quickly filtering through tons of resumes to fill a variety of different slots. If you’ve wasted two paragraphs with flowery language about your love of film, they’re never going to get to the relevant part of the cover letter that lists your actual skills. Instead, you should keep your cover letters concise and to the point and show that you’ll easily adapt to a busy office setting. An office isn’t the same type of nurturing environment as a university campus, so it’s time to grow up and save those college admissions essay-writing skills for when you have kids.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan