When you find the right fit, startups can be great places to work in, but this often doesn't eliminate the need for hiring tools like resumes and the dreaded cover letter—even in 2021.
If you're fascinated by the world of technology and want to join a startup that is at the forefront of innovation and growing fast, making a great first impression is key.
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For that, you'll need a cover letter.
A really, really good cover letter.
So, how do you write one that captures the attention of the hiring manager or founder? And what are the steps to jump through the technological hoops of HR software in 2021?
Let's go through each step.
Why Your Cover Letter Matters if You Want To Join a Startup
You may think that cover letters are outdated and, to some degree, they are. But they're also still used by most corporations, and startups are no different.
So what makes for a good startup cover letter?
And how does it differ from a classic one?
Searching for the right position is both a quantitative and qualitative job. You have to strike the right balance between nailing your message and sending out enough applications.
Your cover letter plays the qualitative part of the equation, especially if you're looking to apply for a job at a startup where they want to hire forward-looking individuals.
What Startups are Looking for in a Candidate
Tech startups that are serious about their growth opportunities will want to onboard forward-looking individuals who understand the "chaos" of working in a new environment.
This doesn't mean that a startup is unorganized, it just means that a lot of the processes necessary to handle the type of growth they're going through aren't ready yet.
So the primary thing a hiring manager or founder themselves will want to see from a candidate is the willingness to adapt and make decisions on your own as to what's next.
The primary thing a hiring manager or founder themselves will want to see from a candidate is the willingness to adapt and make decisions on your own as to what's next.
Unlike established firms, startups need to produce results to keep afloat and, therefore, are looking for people with a good amount of confidence in taking ownership of tasks.
(i.e. don't just follow instructions, create them!)
You can absolutely have this type of mentality come through your cover letter and, in fact, it's one of the better places to do so. A cover letter may just be an email for example.
However, don't forget that cover letters are about the value you can deliver to the startup company. They talk directly to somebody in relation to what you can do for them.
Your name, age, and past experiences won't cut it.
You need to go deep into the value you're going to provide instead…
AIDA: The 4 Elements Your Startup Cover Letter Can't Do Without
Borrowed from the world of copywriting (marketing), the AIDA model is perfect for writing a cover letter as well. It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.
These 4 elements can help you shape the way you drive the readers' focus down to having them reach out. After all, looking for a job is a form of marketing yourself to a company.
So, let's look into each of them:
This is the most important aspect of your cover letter—the opening. You can't possibly get a startup owner to hire you if you don't grab their attention first, right?
To write a cover letter that grabs attention, you need to get to the heart of the problem as quickly as possible, and become hyper-relevant in doing so.
Here's an example of a standard opening:
"Dear Mr. [Manager's name],
My name is John and I'm interested in applying to [enter company]'s position as [enter role]. I have extensive experience of [enter subject matter] and believe that my skills would fit well with the type of position you're looking to fill.
I've collected multiple certifications in the field of [enter field] over the years and demonstrated impact in previous roles by working on [enter projects], where I've learned to apply my skills in stressful environments such as a startup.
Your company is interesting to me because..."
And here's an example using the AIDA model:
"Dear Mr. [Manager's name],
Looking at [enter company]'s open role for [enter position], I can contribute to the growth of your startup company in the following ways:
- Enhance the efficiency of [enter process] by applying my skills in [enter field] and communicating changes with existing employees.
- Drive [enter business goal] forward by implementing [enter tactic] and ensuring the effective rollout of each feature necessary.
- Communicate on a daily basis regarding progress made towards reaching [enter business goal] and steps taken towards improving [enter process].
Prior experience of 5+ years allows me to state with confidence that [enter company]'s goal can be achieved in [enter timeframe], advancing your business infrastructure and cementing your position as a leader in [enter industry].
My contribution to your position will..."
The AIDA model helps the reader understand the value they're getting from the very first paragraph, unlike a standard approach where the applicant talks about themselves only.
This will increase your chances of getting noticed in a sea of same-ish cover letters that are bound to end up either in the trash or that will never receive a response.
Grabbing attention is only one part of the equation though; now you need to attract the interest of the reader by showcasing your skills, or the how of benefitting the startup.
This is where you have free reign to talk about your skills, technicalities that may be related to the job, and things that pertain to you in regards to helping the company.
Don't go overboard, a few paragraphs will suffice. Make sure that what you write is pertinent to the benefits you've highlighted at the beginning of your cover letter.
As the hiring manager or founder goes through your cover letter, they're building up a desire for what you can bring to the table. You've literally given them all the answers!
Now you just need to reinforce the message that what you offer is what they're looking for, and you can do so with a simple message such as:
"My goal is to help [enter company] achieve the goals you've set out to hit in a timely manner, and do so while driving innovation from within the company.
This way, the value you'll gain will be shared among internal collaborators, making my contribution a team effort rather than an individual force."
Mentioning the fact that you're willing to share your knowledge inclusively (i.e. without leaving out other collaborators) increases your desirability in a startup.
Why? Because they're just getting started…
The more value they can build internally, the better.
Having somebody state that they will do what's good for the company as a whole going forward is exactly the type of message you have to send through at the Desire stage.
Finally, you want the reader to take positive action towards making your dream startup job a reality. The way you do this is by providing an entryway into your world.
You've grabbed their attention, funneled their interest, and made yourself desirable; now it's a lot easier for you to pitch your contact details rather than just saying "call me."
The key to this step is conciseness.
You don't want to confuse the reader…
Give the hiring manager one place where they can reach you in regards to your application, one only. Don't beg for a reply, simply give your contact details.
After going through all of what you've written that's specifically catered to helping the organization thrive, the hiring manager will likely shortlist you as a potential candidate.
Your chances of receiving a reply this way are 100x higher than sending a generic "I can do this and that" type of cover letter. Use AIDA to drive action!
This may sound like a lot of work and to some degree it is, but you can streamline the process significantly through the use of job search personalization software like LoopCV.
Here's an example of making your cover letter stand out for multiple startup companies without having to write a new one every single time you want to apply:
» Create a forever free account
» Choose a job title, location, and more
» Personalize your email and cover letter for each position
» Active your "loop" to send out personalized cover letters to each startup
And that's it!
You've just created an automatic way to apply to 100s of highly-qualified jobs at interesting startup companies without having to re-do your cover letter each time.
Personalize Your Startup Cover Letter & Get Replies
Your job isn't a joke, and neither is the process of searching for a job. This is why a cover letter is so important even in startup culture… It builds trust in what you can bring to the table.
In a sea of poorly-written cover letters, your chances of getting noticed are slim. But with the AIDA model (and a bit of creative energy!), you can make it to the other end successfully.
With a bit of preparation and a touch of personalization using software like LoopCV, this numbers' game will quickly turn in your favour and lend you the job of your dreams.