Nov 05 2011
Earlier I linked a cover letter that was both modest and confident. How can a cover letter be both?
1. Any claim that you can back up is not immodest. For example, J.K. Rowling can modestly and honestly say that she has been the most successful fantasy author in the world over the past decade or so. Granted, you’re probably not as accomplished in your field as she is in hers, but you almost certainly can back up some claims about your qualifications for a particular position, based on your work history, letters of reference and (as a last resort) your educational experience. (If you can’t come up with some evidence of your qualifications, why are you applying for the position?)
2. If you must make an opinionated claim in your cover letter, at least have someone relevant back up the opinion. For example, “I’m the best writer at my company” is much less persuasive than “In my last performance evaluation, my supervisor wrote I was ‘the best writer in the company.’” If you just give the reader your opinion without any reason to believe that your opinion is actually correct, it will probably sound like empty bragging. Alternately, you can give evidence to back up your claim. For example, instead of saying you’re an awesome writer, you might say “I’ve been published in The Onion, Martha Stewart Magazine and Heavy Weaponry“* or have received awards A and B, successfully performed crucial job responsibilities C and D at a previous job and/or accomplished goals E or F. It’s probably not that hard to find and/or do something remotely impressive. For example, if you write a blog that’s had even 20,000 readers, that’s a start. (As a point of comparison, I reached 20,000 readers after about six months of decidedly clueless high school blogging. If you wanted to, you could probably do it significantly faster).
*If Martha Stewart Magazine had more articles by authors published in Heavy Weaponry, I might actually read it.