“It is with great interest and enthusiasm that I submit my resume for your review.” Most cover letters are written in this humdrum tone. Cover letters do not need to be so dull, nor so uninteresting. This style of cover letter writing has been around for years; and it’s a trend that has overstayed its welcome.
It’s perfectly acceptable to add pizzazz to cover letters in an effort to
engage the reader in your story. Taking a business approach while adding a
personal touch to the cover letter will certainly make you stand out from other
candidates. But many are skeptical about adding a personal story to the cover
letter because rumor has it that cover letters should be completely
business-oriented. That isn’t true. There are occasions when it is appropriate
to deviate from what others expect to read, and of course, there are times when
you should remain with the “tried and true” method.
When Getting Personal Doesn’t Make Sense
Getting personal can be tricky because most people have a tendency to reveal
too much. Only choose to disclose personal information if doing so will help
sell you for the position. Don’t use the cover letter as a vehicle to make
excuses, to apologize for your current situation or to describe how difficult
the job search has been. For example, the following is not a personal story that
should be fleshed out in a cover letter:
A few months ago, I was laid off and haven’t been able to secure a position
since. I have answered countless classified ads and no one will give me an
opportunity. My bills are piling up and I need someone to give me a chance. I am
a good worker and if you hire me, you won’t be disappointed.
The above introduction smacks of desperation, and although you may be
truthful when saying you’ll do a fantastic job, the reader will think either: a)
if nobody else wants this person, I sure don’t or b) this person will take on
any position just to pay the bills while continuing to look for the right
opportunity. While that may not be your intention, it will be the perception.
When Getting Personal Makes Sense
Not every situation is the same and some situations call for more than just a
reiteration of your resume. If you are currently unemployed, a career changer,
or just have an interesting story to share about your career progression, feel
free to elaborate in the cover letter. The following is an appropriate personal
story to tell in a cover letter:
It is human nature to believe that life-altering events will only happen to
“them,” not us. With this popular notion in tow, we go about our lives doing the
best we know how. Then one day, we are struck with a reality that changes our
view of the world and our purpose on this earth. Each of us has our own unique
life changing events; mine was when my companion was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s
When I made the decision to leave the workforce to tend to my companion’s
illness, I quickly realized there was never enough time to get everything done:
paperwork, doctor's visits, clinical studies, and housekeeping responsibilities.
Even with all that needed to be done, I welcomed the opportunity to care for
him when he needed me the most. In fact, I am grateful I was able to follow him
through his journey. I realize this is a luxury not afforded to everyone.
Because of the experiences I had in and out of the nursing home, I decided to
return to college and earn a master’s degree in Health Advocacy at Sarah
The above is a heartwarming tale of how one’s personal experience changed
their course in life. This particular story is a great sales tool because it
alludes to the empathy and compassion this candidate has for others who are
going through what she experienced.
Recognizing if your personal story makes sense
When getting personal in a cover letter, the key is to focus on a topic that:
a) will interest the reader, b) is relevant to your career objective, and c)
will add weight to your list of qualifications. If you can enthusiastically
answer “yes” to all those distinctive qualities, then your story is one that
should be told.
by Linda Matias