There’s a lot of advice floating around the internet that suggests using bullet points in your cover letter to make it easier for hiring managers to read. And maybe this is effective in other industries, but in entertainment, it’s not the way to go. In our industry, if someone doesn’t want to take the time to read a cover letter, they won’t ask for one – simple as that! You’ll see a posting that says, “submit resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org,” and that’s all you should do. But if the posting is asking for a cover letter, they’re doing so for good reason, and a bullet point-heavy cover letter isn’t going to fulfill the intended purpose.
A cover letter is designed to give the hiring manager added context beyond your resume as to why you would be a good fit for the specific open role on their specific team at their specific firm. They want to understand who you are, why you’re interested in the role, and how your previous experience aligns with the role. If they wanted a list of bullet points, well, they could open your resume! Rather, they’re expecting to see how you communicate your ability to do the role. By crafting actual sentences that illustrate where you developed relevant skills, you’re showing the hiring team that you’ve taken the time to read the posting and concluded that you’re a good candidate. A list of bullet points with your top skills is too generic and cold.
Additionally, hiring managers who ask for cover letters do so to get a sense of your written communication skills. Can you compose well-constructed sentences? Can you tell a clear story of who you are? Can you summarize your experience in a coherent way? If your cover letter is just a paragraph followed by a few bullet points, you’re missing a valuable opportunity to convey your writing, communication, and storytelling skills.
As you apply for jobs, start a brand new document for each cover letter, and write three paragraphs explaining in sentence form why the employer should hire you. Save the bullets for your resume.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan