What can Hollywood teach you about writing a cover letter? In Hollywood, there are Big Suits and there are lackeys. The Big Suits have the power to green light projects. But the truth is they never see the great majority of screenplays that screenwriters submit. That’s because the lackey’s job is to screen the daily deluge of projects so only the best get through. Sound familiar?
You may have heard about this before but what you haven’t heard about is coverage. It’s the term used in Hollywood for a brief synopsis of a screenplay that a lackey writes for a busy studio executive. In other words, someone reads a script and summarizes it in a page or two so that the Big Suit can simply read the synopsis first before wasting his valuable time on reading an entire script. If the Big Suit doesn’t like the coverage, he doesn’t read the script. Simple.
But wait, here’s the important part for you.
When the coverage is great, I mean sizzling, the Big Suit will get so excited (and, frankly, a little paranoid about a bidding war) that he’ll often skip reading the script and grab for the phone instead. He’ll go straight to setting up a meeting with the writer. There will be plenty of time later to read the script, but right now he must meet that writer. In short, he’s driven to action.
What does this have to do with writing a cover letter?
Well, you face the same challenge in your job hunt – how to get attention. With 14.5 million people out of work circulating multiple page resumes, hiring managers (recruiters, HR Execs, etc.) simply don’t have time to read every resume.
Here’s how to put the “coverage” secret to work for you. First, recognize that your cover letter isn’t for getting a job, it’s for getting an interview. Second, recognize that YOU’RE THE LACKEY. That may sound a little patronizing at first, but it’s not. It means that writing a cover letter is like writing your own coverage- what screenwriter wouldn’t die for that chance!
So, what do you do? Follow the screenwriter’s lead. A screenwriter would never waste coverage recounting how many years she’s been writing. It’s boring. She gets right into the guts – it’s the story of a high school underachiever who gets stuck back in time trying make his parents fall in love so that he can be born. Now, that’s riveting.
Same for you. Focus on the story of you and how you take action that pays off for the companies you work for. Do that and you could find yourself across the desk from your very own Big Suit on the verge of the next chapter in your great story.