Cover Letters are Like First Dates: 5 Ways to Behave

We’re just going to put this out there: dating sucks.  The anticipation, nervousness, second-guessing, all seem to add up to days of churning stomachs and lack of concentration.  “Might this be the one that sticks around?” “Maybe I’ll find my dream match!” “Who am I kidding, I should probably just cancel.”

We could go on with the mental narrative but will spare you the trauma these familiar statements will inevitably trigger.  If you’re wondering why we’re touching on such a, well, touchy topic in an employment blog, we need to break it to you that first dates are much like cover letters when it comes to the potential for life-changing success in equal measures with crashing and burning with a dear john inspired “its not you, it’s me” rejection.

Want to know how to hit it off rather than leave your interview or application with a cold shoulder from a potential employer?  Here are 5 ways to behave to make an excellent cover letter first impression.

  1. Respect Tradition

You know how your friends scoff at the idea of showing up with flowers and insist that holding doors is “so last century”?  Maybe you think that garlic and spinach entrees are a sure fire way to end up with a successful first kiss? Much like dating standby advice, certain cover letter traditions stick around for pretty good reasons.

Your job application and cover letter isn’t the place where you want to buck tradition.  Using creative or colored fonts or submitting a haiku on why you’re the best candidate in the world are tactics that are more likely to see your resume head straight to the recycling bin.  Keep thing simple and sweet with a 12 point font and three paragraph format that candidates for years have used with much success. After all, there’s a reason those “friends” don’t have dates of their own or lucrative careers for that matter.

  1. Butter Them Up

Everyone appreciates a compliment and the same is true when it comes to potential employers.  You know how you would learn everything you could in a 10-minute google search on professional cycling to impress a date?  A little bit of research on your interview prospect goes an equally long way. Be sure to add in details in your cover letter specifically catered to the job, listing, and company.  Let the employer know the qualities that drew your attention to their job opening in the first place. Don’t forget, however, that it’s easy to spot false flattery.  Keep the buttering up to an acceptable, minimalistic, and honest level for the greatest impact.

  1. Meet Them More Than Halfway

They say all great relationships start with compromise and that includes marriages of the employment variety.  If you’re out on a first date with a vegan, you wouldn’t take them to a brazillian steakhouse to impress. Likewise, many candidates will fail to have one, two or more qualities that may have been included in the job listing.  

Failing to tick every box isn’t a recipe for instant rejection, however.  Instead of focusing on the way you aren’t a good fit, your cover letter should call out your strengths and the areas in which you’d be the perfect match.  Address your skills and experience that are applicable to the job listing and save the space that you were planning to devote to your high school job at Uncle Danny’s Hot Dog Hut.  

  1. Don’t Oversell Yourself

We’ve all had that one awkward first date where the person on the other side of the table just can’t seem to stop talking about themselves.  You know the type that drones on and on in such a self absorbed manner that they miss your subtle nod for another glass of wine and then, finally, the check?

In your cover letter, don’t be that pretensious moron who never scores the second date or even a respectable handshake goodnight.  While you should certainly call out your qualities in your cover letter, showing is always better than telling when it comes to believability.  Keep your cover letter one page and brief and consider listing out accomplishments, positions and real world certifications rather than lauding on about how awesome and amazing you may be.

  1. Don’t Be Presumptuous

We close our dating meets career advice column with a particular valuable tidbit.  We all remember from our childhood days what happens when you a-s-s-u-m-e, right? When you intersperse comments such as “I know what you Like” or “this is just the first date I’m sure” into your social encounters, chances are it’s the last time you’ll be sitting down for a meal, much less hearing from the person.

In your cover letter, much the same logic should be applied.  Instead of mentioning how you will follow up with the employer, instead, try writing that you’re looking forward to hearing back.  Offer to be helpful by supplying additional information that may be needed and certainly never set any dates or expectations for responses.  If you’ve nailed the rest of your cover letter, and have a solid resume to back it up, chances are a quality employee, or date for that matter, will be jumping at the chance to follow up.

Long story short, whether in the dating or interviewing world, play things cool, calm and professional for your best shot at long term success.

Article Updated from the Original on September 22, 2018