I was visiting one of my favorite career and workplace sites, Ask a Manager, when I saw a reader ask about how to write a cover letter opening that will impress prospectives employers (Q4 on the post). She had been summarizing the companies’ missions in the opening paragraph, which isn’t the most effective way to go about it. Another reader, Elizabeth West, chimed in and provided a great formula for how to pull values and mission into your cover letter, which is especially important if applying to nonprofits. I liked her suggestion so much that I had to share it here:
Here’s a hint that helps me. Let’s say I’m applying for a job as a development admin with Save the Plants. I have receptionist experience, which is a good crossover (customer service, phone work, clerical, etc.). When I research the company, I make some notes about what I find in the mission statement, website, etc. Not copying what it says, but my own notes. I look at everything, not just their mission. Something like this:
1. Save the Plants. prides themselves on having up-to-date information on current plant research. Hmm, okay, I like that.
2. They do mailings but you can opt out. Nice.
3. Ooh, they do community outreach events where people can bring their neglected, ill, or unwanted plants and get help with them. Cool.
Then I take this and decide how I feel about it, and how it conforms with MY values. Then I would write my cover letter like this:
I was excited to discover that Save the Plants’ company values are in line with my own. In my past experience, I have found that keeping up on current research and information allows me to answer customers’ questions with authority. Your outreach and education programs allow you not only to give back to the community, but to provide hands-on support to the plants in jeopardy. This kind of involvement is exactly what I am looking for.
Or something like that. You can tweak it so it applies to for-profit companies too. The trick is to use your own words to say how you feel about it, and how you can bring something to the table. But first you have to decide how you feel. Then you’ll know what you want to say.
I hope that helps!
So do I.