Killer Cover Letters: Startup Edition|
First things first: the best startup cover letter is usually not a traditional cover letter at all. It’s a warm introduction to someone important, at your startup of choice, by someone important to that important person. A word of confidence from someone a company trusts is the very best conversation-opener in business. As companies grow, though, they’ll inevitably need more good people than can be mined from the networks of their few employees – my employer, H.Bloom, hired over 25 full-time employees in 2011 alone.
Whoever is reading your application at a startup is inevitably pressed for time, and probably doesn’t even have “hiring” in their job description – at a growing company, everyone pitches in where help is needed most, regardless of whether it’s part of the definition of their job.
To make sure you shine in the few seconds your cover letter spends with the startup, three points are paramount:
1. Highlight results
Startups want doers. There’s so much to be done at a growing company, that vague expertise like “building relationships” and “being proactive” may not prove you’ve got the chops.
Did you snag a client’s national business by servicing his local branch meticulously? That tells us you’ve built a strong relationship. Did you create a new well-received ad product based upon trends you saw in the market? Fantastic – now we know you’re proactive.
When it comes to results, show, don’t tell.
2. Talk normally
Perhaps second only to results, startups look for culture fit. Most startup companies have small, tight-knit teams who spend lots of time together, and that time is more productive – and more fun – when employees actually enjoy being around one another.
Your cover letter is the best place to demonstrate that you’ll be a great culture fit. Trash the stilted corporate-speak for something that sounds more like a conversation – use everyday language and relaxed syntax to describe why you’ll do a good job. If the person reading your cover letter can imagine having a good conversation with you, you’re well on your way.
Don’t know where to start? Sit a friend down and describe to her why you’d be a fantastic hire. Get really into it. Don’t hold back. Have her type out what you’ve said, remove any “like”s or “I mean”s, and you’ll have the beginnings of an eye-catching cover letter.
3. Love the company
Startup employees have to truly believe in the vision and the mission of the company. If you’re the startup type, you’ll likely find something to love in a lot of different startups – most are doing something cool, unique, industry-changing, or all of the above. Tell us in your cover letter what it is that you love about our company. Start the conversation (think of your cover letter as your startup pickup line) by letting us know you’re on board with what our company, specifically, is doing. Everyone at the company is already a big believer in the product or service – and they want to work with other people who believe it in it too.
Why, you might ask, is one cover letter worth all this work? If you’re not the startup type, then it’s probably not. But if you like to bite off more than you can chew (and chew it anyway), can’t wait to work hard, and are always chomping at the bit for more responsibility, the work you’ve put into a great application will pay off several-hundred-fold with a wildly rewarding startup experience – surrounded by results-oriented, conversation-making, passionate-beyond-belief-about-this-company colleagues. Don’t those sound like fun people to work with?
Rebekah Rombom joined H.Bloom, the luxury subscription flower service with studios across the U.S., in 2010. She currently manages H.Bloom’s Customer Experience and Talent initiatives. Prior to H.Bloom, Rebekah worked in content marketing and monetization at SHEfinds Media. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College, and lives in Manhattan.