If you've read some of our previous blog posts on cover letters, you likely have a clear picture of how your cover letter works with your resume to market your skills and qualifications.
Note that I said "market," not "sell." Your aim is to be assertive about your skills and qualifications, not obnoxious.
Check out these two versions of the same paragraph from a hypothetical cover letter, responding to a job posting for a Budget Analyst at a manufacturing company:
You won't find a better person for the job. I guarantee I know the financial challenges facing your industry better than you do, and I can solve your budget problems. Want proof? I was once asked to comb through my department budget to find $100,000 in savings. Hello! I found $150,000. Show me the money and I'll do the same for you!
I know the financial challenges facing your industry today. Reduced demand for products and tougher competition from lower-cost overseas manufacturers are forcing U.S. companies to take a long, hard look at their budgets. Finding practical ways to trim budgets is one of my greatest strengths For example, in one of my most recent roles, I was asked to find $100,000 in budget savings for my department. By asking tough questions and doing some in-depth research, I was actually able to uncover about $150,000 in budget reductions with no adverse effect on department operations.
Which one is confidently assertive without being obnoxious? Version 2. The writer cites an accomplishment, the end result of that accomplishment, how it aligns with a demand for the job, and how that demand relates to a concern in the company and industry. In other words, the paragraph markets the writer's skills by addressing more directly what's in it for the employer.
Version 1, on the other hand, is a hard sell that comes off as obnoxious. It doesn't link the accomplishment with a qualification for the job, nor does it address how it can help the company. The underlying message in this paragraph is, "It's all about me, and you'd be so wrong if you don't hire me."
Your aim in the cover letter is to help the employer decide they'd be right to call you for an interview. Lead the employer to that decision by taking the assertive approach; don't try to push them with the obnoxious approach.
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