How to Write a Non-Traditional Cover Letter
Is the “traditional cover letter” dead? Maybe. You still need one, but not in the tired old cookie-cutter format explaining how you’re “goal-oriented” and an “overachiever.” Many hiring managers are so swamped with hundreds of resumes and applications, particularly in entry-level positions, that they are just looking for ways to reduce the pile.
Some have even been quoted as saying “If I hate the cover letter, I won’t even look at the resume.” He/she may be looking for reasons not to advance a candidate to the interview round at all, in order to make the hiring process more manageable. So maybe it’s time to write something a little different.
A “non-traditional cover letter” is just that. A different approach: expressing enthusiasm, sharing a story that shows how you solved a problem, revealing your personality and maybe injecting a little humor. Don’t be afraid to be a little inventive. Show how adept you are and how you can think outside the box. Hospitality is all about being resourceful and finding creative solutions…make sure your cover letter demonstrates those skills.
Here are some ideas that may help you stand out from the crowd and get that coveted interview spot.
- Make your first sentence a show-stopper. Instead of wasting space saying where and when you saw the job posting and your resume is attached, blah, blah, blah… start out with a declaration of your enthusiasm by mentioning that this job seems like an exciting opportunity to utilize your skills in this position and state up front what you can do for them.
- Share a comment about a news item that you recently saw that involves the company and how enthusiastic you are about the “new eco-friendly approach” (or whatever) the company has embraced. Share how that aligns with your own values and really grabbed your attention in the listing.
- Start off with a story. For example, explain how you got interested in the hospitality industry, for example, “when you traveled with your family to another part of the country.” Find something interesting to say about the experience and craft your letter around that.
- Consider a different medium… instead of a paper letter, maybe you send an emailed video. While that may seem a little outside the norm, think about it. The company can see you “in action” and get a sense of who you are, how you might appeal to their guests and fit into the culture at the company. This is a people business, and you’re showing them (first hand) how you make a first impression.
- Research the company’s culture. Check them out online and read about them in the news. Is this an upscale restaurant or hotel? Do they cater to golf enthusiasts? Are they located near an attraction that dominates the region? Use that information to customize your letter and show the hiring manager you are the right fit for this position… because you “get it.”
- Consider using a totally different format for the letter. It can make the hiring manager’s job much easier if you spell out how you meet the job requirements using a chart. Why not list the requirements down the left side and match your qualifications to the right? It shows you actually read the ad and took some time to think about how you match up. Some hiring managers like this approach since you’ve done the work of showing how your skills make you a fit – you saved them a lot of time!
- Share that you’ve attended a particular event at the hotel multiple times and now see there’s an opening to actually be a part of it. You can mention what you liked about it and what you might do differently from the perspective of an attendee. You already have insider knowledge to share.
- If you’ve been referred by a current employee inside the company, mention your connections up front in a subtle way. You can say you worked together in the past and this employee thought you’d be a good fit for the position. This will likely result in your resume being pulled from the stack and scheduled for an interview.
So, in the next cover letter you write, instead of starting off with the standard paragraph we’ve all used in the past, show the employer who you really are. You’ll both know if it’s a fit and you’ll likely get the interview.