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When applying to non-academic jobs, the cover letter’s purpose should not be to summarize your attached resume.
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Unique Approaches to Cover Letter Writing

Learn how to strategically use cover letters when applying to non-academic jobs

Photo portrait of Alison Foo, MSc, PMP
Alison Foo, MSc, PMP
Photo portrait of Alison Foo, MSc, PMP

Alison Foo is a career, communication and leadership coach. She’s passionate about changing lives through teaching professional skills. She has worked with graduate students, newcomers, marginalized groups, and professionals from various industries. Her specialty is the clinical and research sectors. Alison is also a clinical research professor. She teaches at Seneca College, McMaster University Continuing Education, and ACCES Employment. Previously, she worked on all phases of clinical trials and specialized in clinical trial management, clinical data management, clinical monitoring, and stakeholder management. When she’s not working or volunteering, she’s spending time with her rescue dog, watching Asian TV, and saving recipes she’ll never use.

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Published:Apr 30, 2024
|2 min read
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Whether you’re a student starting your career or an experienced professional changing jobs, you’ll find unique perspectives and helpful strategies on cover letter writing in my webinar, Strategic Cover Letter Writing

Here are a few tips that’ll help put together an impressive cover letter:

When applying to non-academic jobs, the cover letter’s purpose should not be to summarize your attached resume. Instead, the goal should be to stand out by following these tips:

Generate curiosity

Use your cover letter to make the person who reads your letter want to meet you and learn more about your achievements and/or interesting experience from your application.

Encourage intentional reading of your cover letter and resume

The more keywords they see, the more likely they’ll consider you a potential candidate. This could be the difference between a “no” and a “maybe,” or between a “maybe” and a “yes.” 

I show you how to achieve these and more in the webinar, Strategic Cover Letter Writing. For example, in the webinar, I also:

  • Share psychology-based approaches to cover letter writing.
  • Demonstrate unique strategies using two real-world samples that resulted in job offers (one from a graduate student and one from a professional with many years of experience).
  • Present examples of taking calculated risks to balance traditional cover letter requirements with newer approaches.
  • Provide resources for writing academic cover letters.
  • Offer self-evaluation checklists for basic and advanced methods.

Here’s a sample of my favorite items from the basic self-evaluation checklist:

Is your cover letter written in a professional yet conversational tone? 

The reader will connect to you, and you’ll come across as more likable if they can almost hear you speaking to them through your writing.

Have you used one exclamation mark to show enthusiasm? 

This is one way to display your genuine interest, personality, and confidence.

Is your cover letter tailored to the role and/or company?

A common mistake is using the same generic template for all job applications. This isn’t effective and may even come across as disingenuous.

Lastly, if you’re using generative AI to write your cover letters, be sure to watch my webinar, Using AI for Job Search Strategies: A Career Coach’s Honest Opinion. There, I show you how to leverage AI as the starting point in your writing process and how to revise and improve AI-generated cover letters. 

I leave you with this poem, so you’ll understand my sentiments toward cover letters (JD = job description).

Dear cover letters, 
How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.
If a JD says that you are required,
odds I’ll apply are sure to be bleak.
I’ll do the job well, why hoops to get hired?
You block the path to the job I seek.

Takes hours and hours to tweak and to tweak
that which we know recruiters won’t read.
Why take the risk should they decide to critique?
Give us a chance to hope and succeed.

But it could be easy to try a new technique.
I’m grateful to share the steps I’d advise;
it’s in the recording, so please do go peek.
Help you it will; keep your eye on the prize.