While resume tapes count for about 90 percent of your job application, a good cover letter can tip the scales if a News Director has you on the short list. Yet 90 percent of those cover letters all look the same.
Your packages tell stories, and your cover letter should tell a story about you; what makes you unique? What drives you, makes you passionate to work in the business? How did you first get interested in broadcasting?
Instead we get a parade of the following (News Director's thoughts are in italics):
"I'm a hard worker and team player." Really? Sez who? You?
"Your station has a long history of providing quality programming." This from a kid who lives a thousand miles away and has never seen our newscast.
"I'm ready to work for you and make a difference." And you'll do this... how?
"I recently covered the President's visit to our city." Along with about 100 other reporters.
"I spent two weeks covering Superstorm Sandy." Covering the aftermath of a disaster is one of the easiest assignments.
"I'm passionate about my work." And I'm passionate about Nicole Kidman.
Get the picture? You're offering your opinions of yourself. Those don't matter, and the ND will get those from your references. The ND wants you to show that you're a hard worker by watching a tape showing the legwork you put into a story.
But the cover letter is another indicator of how well you tell a story, how you can hook the viewer, how you can turn a phrase. So tell a story about yourself but leave the ego out of it. Hook the ND with something that rises above the norm. Something different about you, your family, your past.
"My father drove a UPS truck and during Christmas break I loved riding with him, seeing the smiles as he delivered packages. I hope viewers eagerly await the stories I deliver into their homes."
"Mom read bedtime stories to me as a small child, but when I got too old for Dr. Seuss I asked her to read interesting stories from the newspaper. I loved how she put so much animation into her face and voice, making even the dullest stories sound fascinating, and try to do the same when I anchor the six o'clock news."
"My sister plays the violin as part of the orchestra at Carnegie Hall. I loved the sweet sounds of that instrument when she was a teenager practicing at home. Now she's one element of many, helping to bring something special together. It taught me that a story has many elements; nat sound, great b-roll, clever writing, and solid reporting. I love organizing the parts like a conductor, bringing them together into a story."
So if your cover letter is filled with your own opinions about yourself, toss it, because you'll get a big time eye roll from a News Director. Show the ND you can hook someone with a story, and you'll give yourself an edge.