Four Secrets to Winning Entertainment Cover Letters
Reader John K. just sent in the following:
Aside from spelling and formatting, what does a cover letter to a studio, agency, prodco, etc. that makes you want to hire me look like in terms of content?
Ahhhh, John. You have come to the right place. I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of cover letters. Or, rather, I’ve looked at hundreds and hundreds of cover letters.
How many have I actually read? How many have I read to the end?
Of the probably close to 1,000 I’ve received, I’ve read less than a hundred submitted cover letters from start to finish. Why?
Most people do not take the time to make the letter worth reading. In addition to ones with serious type-o problems and red flag formatting, there are some simple things that stop me in my tracks. These include sending me a cover letter addressed to someone else or referencing a job somewhere else and sending me a generic cover letter that could’ve been written by pretty much anyone for any job on the planet. (“The job I have available seems like a great opportunity and you are a hard worker? Wow.”)
Okay, but beyond these (and since you are readers of Your Industry Insider, I assume you are above that level), there are four things you can do to make sure the recruiter/hiring manager/executive gets through your letter and eagerly moves on to your resume.
1. Mention someone I know. If you can find a personal connection to the person doing the hiring, that is a huge plus. It always wakes me up to see, “Your friend so-and-so has great things to say about the company and thinks I might fit in well.”
Maybe you don’t know who is doing to hiring, but you met the head of the company once – or saw him speak at an event. Or you are friends with a former employee. (Just make sure she left on good terms and has good things to say about you). Drop those names in the first line.
2. Tell me why you want to work for the company. This is very similar to the first interview tip I provided in the post on “Three Things You Must Say In Your Entertainment Job Interview.” It tells me you have gained some knowledge of the company, even if it’s just knowledge you gained after you read about the opening online. So if you don’t already have something to say, Google the company name and get the latest news.
After you’ve dropped the names we talked about in Item #1, say something current about the company. “I understand you just promoted four executives, one of whom started at the company as an intern. I think that says a lot about an organization.”
3. Be interesting/personal in a relevant way. If the job requires organizational skills, tell me when you were eight, you cleaned out your mom’s garage in a single day while they were at work. If it’s a advertising department job, tell me that you can remember the trailer and poster of probably every movie you’ve ever seen, even if the movie was terrible. If it’s an agent trainee job, tell me that you’ve known you what you wanted to do since kindergarten, when you traded Pokemon cards with classmates until you had the best collection of rare Pokemon cards in the whole school. You get the idea. Engage me, be memorable, keep my brain awake.
4. Sell yourself. In addition to something personal and memorable, you also want to sell yourself in a targeted way for the job I am filling. Choose two or three qualifications or qualities I am looking for and very, very briefly identify matching experience or qualities you have. If I need someone with strong written communications skills and familiarity with reality television, include, “In my job at UTA, I became the go-to person for two things among my peers: editing drafts of correspondence they were working on for their bosses and giving them background on every reality TV show from “Real World, Season One” through “Amazing Race: Unfinished Business.”
If you follow those four tips, you will not only get me to the end of the letter, but prove yourself to be a smart, savvy, hard-working individual who I should definitely consider for the job. Congratulations!
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