EP 1921 I answer this question posed to me through Quora.

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I received a question through Quora that I thought I would address.

“Is it better if my cover letter is informal?” The person continues on to say, “ I mean most cover letters must follow the same format again and again. Maybe, and informal cover letter is better.” So, here’s my thoughts on that subject.

1. I really don't know what you mean by informal. I have a sense of what the traditional cover letter does (“I’m forwarding my resume to you because I saw a position advertised for such as such. I believe my experience with Wawa makes the exceptional candidate for this role. I look forward to hearing from you about next steps”). In this regard, it is a tired useless letter because it really does very little to demonstrate your fit.

2. To me, a more effective cover letter in the formal style starts off with the same opening sentence (“I’m forwarding my resume to you because I was referred by so and so or I saw position advertised or I was told that you're looking for . . . Whatever it is, you do an opening sentence along those lines. From there you continue by saying, “my understanding is you're looking for someone with this experience. Let me demonstrate how my background fits.”). Then, in the left column, you put down what the skill is being sought. In the right-hand column, you indicate how long and how recently you work with that particular skill. From there, you conclude by saying, “I look forward to hearing from you about next steps. If I don't hear from you a few days, I will put in a call to you.” Very simple.

3. The notion of an informal letter is perplexing. What's the point of the informal letter? The point of a cover letter is to demonstrate your fit for a role and to do it in a way that complements both your resume and your LinkedIn profile. Remember, they both have to be congruent because firms check your LinkedIn profile, as well as your resume and if they don't see these things matching up there, they reject you just because you have different information on your profile than you do on your resume.

4. So, without demonstrating something that indicates that you fit the role in your cover letter, without having a resume that backs that up and a LinkedIn profile that does that as well, you are not going to get the interview, whether it's a formal work or informal. The notion and informal cover letter, “Yo, bro! I want you to look at my resume because my homey, Ramesh, told me you were trying to find someone.” That’s not going to work.

So, I'll simply say just give firms what they're looking for. Make it clear. Make it pre-chewed and predigested. By that, I mean make the fit obvious. That's going to get you the interview. Its not the style of the cover letter, it’s not the style of formatting of the resume. It's how you demonstrate that your background fits what they are looking for. Everything else is BS


JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter
JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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