Cover letter guidance: Don't sell yourself, tell a story instead

Here's a big mistake that many people make with their applications – whether they're applying to finance firms for accounting jobs, service positions or anything in between. Many people use their cover letter as an excuse to just repeat all the accomplishments listed in their resume.

That's a bad idea. Hiring managers have already seen the resume – your cover letter should serve to tell them something new. A recent Forbes article offers some guidance on how to avoid this problem. On a list of smart ways to approach writing your cover letter, it advises telling a story pertinent to your talents.

"So, what's your story?," advised the Forbes article. "What brings you to this company? Did you used to sing along to all of its commercials as a kid? Did the product make some incredible difference in your life? Do you sometimes pull into the parking lot and daydream about what it would feel like to work there?"

So why should you follow this advice, and use your cover letter to tell a story? Here's[are] three reasons. 

Your resume already shows off your accomplishments
Here's the first reason you shouldn't use your cover letter to list off your previous experience and accomplishments: Your resume already does that. Think about how many applications a hiring manager needs to go through over the course of a single day. If they see that your cover letter is a repeat of your resume, they may even skip right over it. That's why you need to do something new, like tell a story – you can be sure that'll keep their attention.

Telling a story illustrates your communication skills
Here's another reason why working an anecdote into your cover letter is a must. Communication skills are prized by hiring managers. A worker with communication skills can be trusted to mesh well with other people. That means they'll fit into company culture – and we all know how important that is.

Storytelling is one of the biggest communication skills we have. Whether you know it or not, you're telling stories every day in your office – when you describe previous work to your boss, when you give a presentation, when you summarize a meeting. Showing you can construct an anecdote well in your cover letter sends a message entirely divorced from the story itself: It shows the hiring manager that you know how to communicate. 

Quite simply: A story is more entertaining!
Lastly, this is something to remember: Your cover letter needs to entertain. We already mentioned how busy hiring managers are – you need to write something that transcends all the statistics, and sticks in their mind until the very end of the day. That's how you get called back for an interview. 

"As humans, we love stories far more than we love data sheets," wrote Muse, in the aforementioned Forbes article. "Tell your story."

Find the story that illustrates your greatest strength as a worker, and find a place in your cover letter to tell it. We promise, it'll catch a hiring manager's eye much more quickly than a repeat of all your accomplishments!