In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews.
As we have noted in prior posts, cover letters are frequently ignored. A great way to increase the chances of yours being ignored is to start a cover letter with this opener, as many do: “My name is Jon Smith and I am interested in applying for a position with your (insert adjective) firm.” Why is this a terrible opener? Because it is obviously banal, but is also so common that it does nothing to engage the reader. It reveals you to be just like dozens of others. So, if you want someone to read your cover letter, make sure that it speaks to your personal experience:
“Since arriving at Dartmouth-Tuck, I have been solely focused on opportunities in the field of strategy consulting and your firm has stood out for X and Y reason…”
“A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with (name), a managing director at your firm and learned A and B….”
“As I make my career transition, (firm name) has emerged as a tremendous opportunity for me to apply my A and B skills to X and Y challenges…”
These openers above have a voice and add new information about your candidacy that recruiters do not already know from your resume and email address, unlike “My name is Jon Smith…” When you write your cover letter, think about that first line. It is your most important opportunity to engage your reader and hope that he/she hangs on to learn more. Don’t squander that opportunity!