Demonstrate Integrity Cover Letter

Before you read this chapter, try the CV Tips cover letter test. We'll send you a result, so you can check your current ideas about cover letters.

The cover letter is more than a ritual of the job application process. It's one of the few flexible elements in that process.

The problem for job applicants with the standardized formats is that everything tends to look very much the same. The opportunity to make your application stand out is restricted.

A cover letter allows you to add value to your application. You can provide information above and beyond the restrictions of the advertisement, and show enthusiasm and actual initiative.

You're painting a picture of yourself for the employer. You need to paint an interesting picture, something people want to look at, on its own merits.

You're also self-advertising.

What makes an ad interesting?

Content, and how it's expressed. People edit out things they think useless or unnecessary. The forget things that look average, and they react negatively to anything of poor quality.

So stick to the point, but make yourself clear. Make it obvious that you've done your homework, and put in some genuine effort in your application.

Content and expression

The most basic function of a cover letter is to say:

'I have the qualifications, skills, and experience you want. I'm good at my work, and I can prove it.'

You have a reason for wanting this particular job:

I have career goals in mind which this job can provide.

Now you add some category killers, to give your competition a standard to live up to:

'I'm a real contributor, and I can prove that, too. I add value to my job. I really care about the quality of my work. I'm not only a team player, I'm a team builder. I can show how I handle relationships in the workplace, and with clients.'

Remember, you're not doing this entirely for the mental exercise, and neither is the employer.

This is pure hard sell.

It's covering a lot of angles, and it does matter that you get your message across as clearly as possible.

The lines above can be adapted to most jobs. Just say 'I can demonstrate/show from previous experience/ �'.

Don't re-use the same expressions, if at all possible.

Enthusiasm, personal qualities, and initiative

This part of the letter is basically setting up the employer for your CV and your accomplishments.


Also known as 'interest in the job', you relate your work to yourself, your personal hobbies, skills, and previous work.

It's not 'just a job', it's something you value.

(So does the employer. Remember that. Employers don't need apathy.)

If you work in any industry, you do have some relationship with the industry. You may be an association member, an amateur in the field, a tradesman or a professional. As a worker, you also have preferences, and it sometimes helps a lot, to emphasize your preferred area of work.

Note: If you've got a low end job, you may not be able to get too worked up about being a janitor or a waiter, but you can show enthusiasm for going upscale, and that you have the skills to do it. This also covers your interest in the position.

Personal qualities

This is extremely important.

Many jobs emphasize 'work ethic', 'personal integrity and strong ethical standards', and other personal characteristics, like honesty. Some also refer to responsibilities, meaning the personal view of those responsibilities.

Think about that.


Partly because they feel the need to add qualifiers to a job description which legally binds them to a situation when they employ someone.

However, there's a far more plausible reason.

Self defence. Some jobs are dependent on being able to trust people. The employer needs to be able to exercise judgment, and you can assume that anyone who can't handle the ethics issues probably isn't good enough for the job, by definition.

The requirement for ethical standards allow them to make the rules. It gives them a lot of discretion about how they handle applicants.

Legally, if a dispute arises about an application, it's up to them what those ethical standards are, and any other characteristics.

As far as the job application is concerned, it's a very important qualifier.

It can also mean, 'We're not kidding.'

In terms of cover letters, it also means 'We'll trash any application which doesn't address ethical standards and prove to us the applicant knows what we're talking about.'

You do need to consider personal qualities to be as important as essential criteria, which they sometimes are.

Don't ever underestimate the importance of personal qualities, when they're mentioned in a job advertisement.

Most people do.

When addressing these issues, do more than one line, and provide some depth and meaning to your response.

The (very) basic approach is that 'I work according to my personal values/religious values/professional standards.'

Add to that your own personal beliefs and feelings on the subject. You have your own ethics, obviously. People do set standards for themselves and others.

You can say 'My personal ethics are the standards by which I work and live', or 'My personal integrity in the workplace can be demonstrated by� (give examples of positions where you've been entrusted with personal responsibility.)


Initiative was mentioned in the preceding chapters regarding the CV. It also needs to be evident in your cover letter.

In the advertising trade, it's called a 'teaser'. It's a direct setup for your CV, and you need here to mention some actual achievements where your initiative can be shown, in context with the position, and your career goals.

We said earlier that your reasons for wanting the job are important to the employer, and you need to stay with that logical path.

You have the skills, the experience, the qualifications, the ethics and the career goals which this job will help you to realize, and you've done something worth advertising to the employer.

Use a case directly or closely and clearly related to the position you're applying for, and in a couple of lines add your example.

After stating how the position suits your career needs, you say:

'In my current/previous position describe role, use job title) at (wherever, it refers to info on the CV) I won top salesman/increased profit by 200%/staved off bankruptcy. I found the work very rewarding and enjoyable, and am hoping to develop my career further with this position.'

So your CV isn't going to get dull, either. The employer now has a very good reason to look at it closely.

Try it for yourself.

Write up a cover letter according to this outline, and compare it with your others. Bit different? Interesting? Clearer? Worth reading? Happier about sending it to an employer? Take the test again, see how you do.

The Golden Rule of Cover Letters.

If it's not good, useful, information, don't put it in a cover letter.

What Matters to Me in a Cover Letter

By Marty Nemko

My long-time personal assistant, Lynaire McGovern, is heading off to graduate school, so I placed a want ad to replace her. Of the 100 people that responded, I asked 20 to complete an application. I thought you might find it helpful to know how I chose the 20.

I relied more on the cover letter than on the resume because this job requires little experience or technical expertise. Also, resumes too often contain creative writing.

Cover letters that made it into my top 20:

-- suggested the applicant was intelligent. Sometimes the person conveyed this by having a degree from a hard-to-get-into college, but other times I inferred their intelligence from the way the applicant conveyed information. For example, the job requires the ability to drive a stick shift. One applicant responded, “I grew up driving the most beastly stick shift known to man: an '84 Blazer with the highest clutch plate and the stiffest accelerator ever manufactured.” Of course, that sentence also revealed a personality that suggests she’d be an interesting person to have around.

Note: It is less effective for a candidate to state outright that her or she is intelligent. Such claims, especially without evidence, sound empty. It’s usually best to demonstrate your intelligence by describing one or two challenges you met using your intelligence.

-- suggested the candidate has a good work ethic. One person wrote, “I have always felt a certain zen when doing others' mundane tasks. It goes back to my babysitting days when I would, on my own volition, vacuum and clean the houses--my mother would have been shocked.” This conveys her work ethic far more credibly than the typical, “I’m a hard worker.”

-- suggested the candidate was kind. I’m looking for an applicant who is more of a giver than a taker. One applicant wrote, “I know how important it is to listen carefully, to really understand.” Another wrote, “I get real pleasure out of helping others.” In contrast, other letters focused on what they could get out of the job. One person asked five questions including, “Are hours submitted in an invoice format and is that how payment is rendered?”

-- suggested the person had integrity. This is the most difficult factor to evaluate, especially from a letter. But these responses impressed me: “I'm very honest, even to a fault, I've been told.” and ” I am left alone in other people's homes all the time.”

-- stated the candidate believed he or she was good at and enjoyed each task in the job description. One person wrote, “When I read your ad, I thought I had died and gone to heaven!”She want on to cite her experience with each task.

-- were reasonably well written. I was saddened by the number of college graduates with high-school-level writing skills. This sentence was written by someone with an English (!) degree from Berkeley (!) “Hopefully you will find my interest and qualifications to your satisfaction, for I am eager to learn more about the opportunities of the personal assistant position.” She went on to say she had taught (!) a class at Berkeley on Sylvia Plath. By the way, she spelled it “Silvia.”(!)

-- had no more than one typo in it. I’m not perfect either, but if a person had two or more typos in a short letter in which the person was trying to impress me, it’s a sign he or she is error-prone. I swear, one applicant wrote that she’s good at proofreading and in the very next sentence, spelled dollar “dollor.”

-- Flattery helps; we all prefer to work with people that like and respect us. Candidates who knew of and like my work got a plus. One applicant simply wrote, “ I would enjoy working for a writer whose column I admire.”

-- avoided canned job-seeker language. Applicants actually wrote: “ Please accept the following resume in consideration for the ‘Personal Assistant’ position.” “Objective: Seeking to secure a position in a new field that will utilize my skills, and allow opportunity for growth and new learning experiences.”, and “Result-orientated (sic) administrator who has consistently been able to achieve and exceed organizational goals.” Such language makes me feel I’m not getting an application from a real person but a snow job created by some job-search book.

-- did not tell me their astrological sign.

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