The hardest part of searching for jobs is self-evaluation, or confidence in your own self-awareness. Many people sacrifice speaking up for themselves for fear of appearing egotistical. One of the most dangerous times to do this is during a job search. However, it is not impossible to get past this mental block. One way to figure out your strengths is to think back to times that people have complimented you. Especially authority figures like teachers, volunteer managers, and bosses. The more you become aware of these compliments, the more you can recognize the patterns between them. For example, your teacher might have mentioned your neat note-taking. Your boss might have thanked you for your attention to detail during a specific task. These compliments both have to do with your organizational skills, and “organized” is a great keyword to have on a cover letter.
As valuable as it is to know your strengths for a cover letter, it might be even more important to be aware of the doubts you have about how well you fit a specific job. You can turn uncertainty into a tool, and all it takes is turning your weaknesses from insecurities to learning opportunities. For example, if you have had conflicts in the past that make you doubt your ability to work on a team, you don’t have to avoid job postings involving teamwork. Try to view a work environment that might challenge you as an opportunity for growth rather than an obstacle. As a result, you will be able to sound much more confident on a cover letter while still remaining honest.
In our previous example where an interactive work environment was emphasized in the job posting, it would be easy not to mention collaborative working in your cover letter at all. Including a sentence such as “I have consistently exhibited good organization in my coursework, and I look forward to adapting to a collaborative work environment” will be more valuable than either of the previous options. This is because it expresses a willingness to work and adapt. This is more believable than someone already being perfect for a position before they even start.
Cover letters are a way to filter applicants in a way that feels more human than a resume. Though it is crucial to remain informative and professional, a cover letter that explains how you perfectly fit a position is less valuable than a cover letter that describes how you are excited for a job. After all, there are so many qualified candidates for any position out there. The decision often comes down to who will fit best in the workplace. Having the self-knowledge to advocate for your strengths, the courage to address the employers’ priorities that you may not yet fulfill, and the ability to write about both of these subjects tastefully will contribute to a stand-out cover letter.