Crafting an innovative cover letter
Over the past years, I have often spent time going through resumes looking for hidden talents.
One of the common problems I have noticed is that many applicants have cover letters that do not do them justice. Many applicants overlook the importance of a good cover letter email as this is the first thing a hiring manager will see in the mailbox before reading the resume.
I hope to share some tips from an employer’s perspective on how to draft an innovative cover letter which may increase your chances of securing an interview with your dream company.
Avoid using a template
The most common mistake is using a standard template, where the applicant sends the same cover letter content to every company.
Make sure you customise your cover letter content for each job application to capture the reader’s attention. If all you need to do before sending your cover letter to another company is to change the company name in the content, then it is considered as a template.
Write an eye-catching subject header
Depending on the position that you are applying for, instead of using a conventional subject header like “Application for [Job Title]” or “[Job Title]”, think creatively and word it differently by borrowing the concept of a click bait, where the subject header attracts attention and encourages the reader to click on the email to find out more.
For example, as my game company is notable for our Holy Potatoes! game series, some of the creative subject headings I had received are “Application to be a Spudling (Concept Artist)” and “Holy Potatoes! A Job Inquiry!”. Both examples are eye-catching subject headers which show that the applicants have done basic research about the games made by my company.
Writing something creative which shows that you know what you are applying for will make you stand out from the rest.
Understand the company really well
Make sure you do your homework by performing a thorough Google search about the company that you are applying for. Research into the company’s products or services and try to understand their vision.
If possible, go the extra mile to find out more about the company’s working culture and selection requirements, either from someone who is already working there or has worked there before.
After doing your research, tailor your cover letter content based on the information you have found. An additional benefit is that by the time you are shortlisted for an interview, you will already be fully prepared with knowledge of the company.
Craft the content with the company in mind
When drafting the content of your cover letter, ask yourself this question first, “Why does this company have to hire you?”. Once you have this question answered, organise your email in the following manner.
First, start the email by stating the position you are applying for and express your deep interest in this position.
Next, describe your core competencies, key character traits and other skill sets relevant to the job. Be concise and show enthusiasm in your words.
Lastly, give suggestions on how your skills can help to improve the company’s products or services. Show that you are a valuable asset and talent not to be missed.
If you are a fresh graduate, you can include how you plan to make up for your inexperience. Show that you are willing to learn on the job.
If you are looking for an internship, apply early and indicate your internship period. This will give ample time for the prospective employer to consider your application as there may be administrative work and documents required to be completed prior to the internship.
Never send a cover letter email with only one or two lines, or one with poorly-formatted content. This will not leave a good impression of you as it speaks about your poor attitude and lack of sincerity when applying for the job. Show that this job matters to you.
Be clear of your intention
Do not phrase your application as a question, for example, “Is the position still open?”. You will sound doubtful of yourself, and the question is unlikely to get answered. You need to be confident when delivering your intentions in applying for the position.
If you are applying for an internship, do not mention your needs to meet your internship requirements. The company is not obligated to fulfil your needs. Instead, state your intentions why you have chosen the company and what you hope to learn from the internship.
Show your portfolio
Showcase all your best personal works to leave a good impression of yourself. It is preferable to send links to your portfolio instead of attachments especially if you are applying for art related jobs and sending art portfolios as attachments can be quite big.
To spice up your portfolio, you can include works more relevant to the company you are applying for. In the context of the game industry where I come from, the following are some examples of what you can include in your portfolio:
- For artists, you can come up with concept art based on the company’s existing products or services to show your creativity and diversity.
- If you have participated in any Game jams or projects, you can show the games you have made to bring out your talent in production, game design, programming, art, sound, testing etc.
- If you have made your own games, you can send links to the platforms or websites. You can also send your own development blog if you have one.
- If you are a fresh graduate, the chances of you and your classmates sending similar portfolios is extremely high. Present something that you have been working on your own during your free time as this is a good indicator that you have been applying what you have learnt in college. If you do not have any, you should consider starting to build your own portfolio soon.
(Optional) Give an offer
Give an offer to go on a probation (or with lower pay) as an additional paragraph. This may sound radical, but this will further justify your confidence in the abilities mentioned in your content. This gives an additional reason for your prospective employer to consider you for a trial (assuming you pass the interview) and results in a win-win scenario.
You get to learn invaluable experience from the company during probation, and the company can use this time period to further assess whether you are a valuable asset. If the company is happy with your performance and you like the job, the company may make up for the lower pay by offering a better full time salary package.
It is the same concept as giving out a product trial for your customer to try out the features; you are the product owner, and the employer is your customer who pays you. You can choose whether to accept or reject this customer, and the customer (employer) can decide whether they like the product.
Always keep in mind how you can differentiate yourself from other applicants, after all, there can be more than one applicant for the same job or internship. Every company has their own unique way of shortlisting candidates and it is hard to predict the outcome.
Writing an innovative subject header, customising your cover letter content and having a unique portfolio can at least spark the reader’s interest to find out more about you.
If you have a career direction and future plans in mind, you may only need to apply for a new job once or twice in your lifetime, so why not give your best shot from Day One?