Working in Japan

Your Cover Letter Needs YOU In It

Your resume is like the business section of the newspaper when it comes to your job applications. It does the heavy lifting of organizing and presenting your experience and education to reflect how you’re the

Your resume is like the business section of the newspaper when it comes to your job applications. It does the heavy lifting of organizing and presenting your experience and education to reflect how you’re the perfect candidate for whatever position has drawn your attention.


Your cover letter, on the other hand, is more like the style section. It’s not restricted by bullet points or neatly organized headings, so you have a bit more freedom to show your awesome personality and voice to a hiring manager.

The content on your resume might ultimately be what makes or breaks your chances for any job, but a great cover letter can set you apart from your competition by showcasing what makes you different from all the other candidates.

To take advantage of the opportunity that a cover letter allows, you are going to want to inject some of YOU into your cover letter. What you want to do is make it an epic showcase that will excite any hiring manager enough to read through your resume one more time, and keep your application out of the “No” pile.

Here are some ways to go about doing just that:


Your Cover Letter Shouldn’t Be Your Resume.

You already wrote a resume; your cover letter doesn’t have to pull double duty. Don’t waste the page space rehashing your education history. Your cover letter can cite items on your resume, but it should clarify and expand your skills and experience as they relate to the position for which you’re applying.

You do not want to run through every bullet point on your resume. There’s nothing people hate more than having their time wasted, and asking a recruiter to read two versions of your resume won’t make you any friends.


Be Personable.

Personality is what wins interviews. If the hiring manager can’t wait to meet you, he or she will make sure it happens as soon as possible. So while you don’t want to write like you’re talking to your best friend, writing a bit more casually than in your resume is definitely a good idea.

If you have a humorous (and short) story that ties into how you came across the job, or how you fit perfectly for the position, by all means share it! I know more than one applicant who had a great story that got them into interviews. A funny example is how one of my friends’ first contact with their future company was the result of a computer virus she got from one of their ads. The hiring manager found the story hilarious, and that’s why she got called in for an interview.


Keep It to One Page.

Nobody is going to read anything you write on the second page of your cover letter. So, you’re obviously best off keeping everything to a single page. You don’t want to dilute your awesomeness anyways; focus on a couple of great characteristics and hammer them home.


No Negatives!

When asking out someone out for a date, it would be pretty foolish to tell them about your epic morning breath, right? This seems like common sense, but I still see negative points written in cover letters all the time.

  • “I know I’m a bit older than most applicants but…”
  • “I might not be as experienced as is required in the job ad but…”

No. There is absolutely zero reason to point out your weaknesses. Should they exist, Hiring Managers will be able to find any deal-breakers in your resume. Anything that isn’t patently disqualifying can be talked over later. So don’t make it easy for them to shove your application in the “no” pile. Showcase only your strengths.


Find Your Hook, and Showcase It.

What makes you special? When starting to write your Cover Letter, come up with an answer to this question and craft everything you write around it. Everyone can write words like trustworthy, hard-working, a great problem-solver, etc. But there is only one YOU. Your job when writing your cover letter is to get what makes you special into words on that page.



Once you think you have a finished cover letter (assuming you have time to spare), take a day away from it. Then come back and read it again.


Ask yourself:

  • Is there enough ME in this cover letter?
  • What’s my hook? Is it easy to find?
  • Am I someone that I would want to work with?
  • Do I sound EXCITED to work at this company?


If you can honestly answer “yes” to each of those questions, your cover letter is ready to upload on, and to start doing work to get you an awesome job.

I'm Charlie and I've been in Japan since 2012. I started Live Work Play Japan to help foreigners in Japan to find their own version of success. I also wrote "The Smart Guide to Teaching English in Japan" which you can get on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle book.

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