I've said this before, but writing cover letters is the most boring thing on Earth. And that's coming from me, someone who actively enjoys writing.
I imagine one of the only things more boring than writing cover letters is reading them. They tend to be formal and formulaic and with such limited space, they tend towards generalizations. That can make them hard to tell apart from one another — a real snooze-fest for readers — and can make them even harder to write in a way that stands out.
This unfortunate fact is why I was so excited to read a piece of cover letter advice I'd never considered before: including quotes in your cover letter.
Jessica Hernandez from Great Resumes Fast told Career Sherpa that her best job search advice is "using quotes to prove the significance of your work" in a cover letter or resume.
"Social proof is an excellent endorsement for the quality of the work you do. Ask for short quotes or testimonials from your network, former bosses, or take an excerpt from one of your LinkedIn profile recommendations," she told Career Sherpa. "Using a short quote is a great way to boast about yourself without coming off arrogant or prideful. Which is wonderful for those who are uncomfortable boasting about their wins. It also provides the much-needed proof and validation that employers are so hungry for."
While using quotes may be a bit non-traditional, it is the perfect way to add detail (and a little bit of bragging) to your cover letter in a succinct way — without coming across as over-the-top. Plus, it's way easier (and less time-consuming) to pop a quote in than to illustrate the work you did using the generic language of cover letters. This form of social proof also adds a bit of credibility to your application, which could prove a much-needed boost if your cover letter is sitting in a stack with hundreds of others at a company where you don't have a referral.
Hernandez suggests short quotes that include specific details of how you helped this colleague or manager. Ambiguous statements from colleagues can come across kitschy. Like in a resume line, quotes that include numbers and specific action steps are best, and getting a quote from a decision-maker would be preferable to including a quote from your work wife.
"Avoid ambiguous testimonials like 'John is a great guy. We really value the work he did for us,'" Hernandez said. "Instead, select a recommendation that’s specific: 'John always takes the time and goes the extra mile for his clients. Because of his exceptional client care, he secured a $2M contract with a previously competitor-aligned company.'"
Have you ever tried this trick? Do you have questions about how to use it? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!