Cover Letter: By S-T-A-R or C-A-R


Follow these simple steps to visualize, organize, and energize your cover letter.

For those of you who may have missed it, here’s the recap of Phase 1 of the cover letter tri-blogy, Creating your Cover Letter, Gently:

Read the job description carefully.  (Very carefully.)  Contact people you know.  Contact people who know people you know.  Contact people you don’t know at all.  Find out more about life on the inside of  your target company and/or the ins and outs of the target position.   Study the company website. Become familiar with current events and news associated with your target organization. Identify 3 or 4 key characteristics that qualify YOU for this position.

Sit back, relax, and brainstorm ways in which your educational, professional, and volunteer experiences fit within the frameworks of each of those key requirements.  (Keep those key characteristic areas separate for now; they will most likely end up in the 3 or 4 distinct paragraphs in the body of your letter.)

Now, prepare to write about those qualifications and experiences by watching the ‘video playback’ of them in your mind.  Concepts such as “strong foundation in financial analysis” and “teamwork skills” are not static and cannot be effective if they are reduced to static statements on a page.

You’ll want to support your statements about your skills and experience by sharing the dynamism and challenges of the context in which you were working, the resourcefulness and accuracy of your approach, and the real success of your outcomes.

Accomplishment statements often follow a format such as S-T-A-R (SITUATION-TASK-ACTION-RESULT) or C-A-R (CHALLENGE-ACTION-RESULT). Such statements are more succinct versions of the stories you will prepare for your behavioral interview (which you are more likely to land because of your awesome cover letter!)

Nice going. You have gotten through Phase 2 of this Cover Letter Survival Course. You know TO WHOM you are writing and ABOUT WHOM you are writing because you have reflected on both. (Plus, now you know somebody so old-school that she uses “WHOM” twice in one sentence, so that’s something, too.) Next time: Wrapping it all up!