Photo by Darwin Bell

I admit it: I watch The Voice on television. It’s great for this student of human nature, motivation and manifesting of intentions.

This week, I was struck by how often the coaches urged contestants to channel their emotion, to convey the meaning and feeling of the words, to be fully present to the audience. One said “the audience will feel your passion.”

The singers who got advanced were, in my humble opinion, the most passionate. They were definitely passionate in their delivery – strutting around the stage, making a connection with the audience, using their bodies and voices to convey emotion. And in the pre-interviews, every one of the successful ones emphasized that they HAD to win. The losers were not as emphatic, and tended to say things like “I really don’t want to go back to making sandwiches.” That is  tepid enthusiasm at best.

Also this week, I found myself returning cover letter drafts to clients saying “tell me why you want to work for that company” and “what is it about that organization that excites you?”

Passion is key in job search as well.  If you want to get a job interview, you must show employers that you really want the job. I often tell my clients that employers want “true believers” – people who believe passionately in the organization’s mission, the company’s product, the way the company operates, its values and/or impact.

Cover letters are the right place to convey your passion.  Yet in the thousands of cover letters I’ve read, very few people are able to convey their passion for a job and/or organization. 

It’s not enough to say “I love your mission.” When I put on my Executive Director hat, I say “so what? Lots of people love our mission. I want to know WHY you love it. What does it mean to YOU specifically?” If I don’t know the answer to that by reading your letter, I won’t interview you.  Your cover letter is intended to get me to interview you, specifically.  Why should I interview YOU? I want to know more about YOU before I interview you.

One client got an interview specifically because she wrote about why she believed the organization’s mission was important. J talked about how important it was for there to be an independent chorus to keep the criminal justice system honest, transparent and accountable.  One of the interviewers quoted the letter.  Even if you don’t know the organization she applied to, I think you can tell that she knows what it does and why it’s important.  She actually has an opinion. She put herself into the letter while demonstrating her knowledge of the specific organization.

Passion is how you differentiate yourself from other candidates. Use your cover letter to convey it. Ask the questions I or another employer would ask. Don’t be afraid to say “I want to work for xyz because I see that your work produces this vital impact.”  When you put YOURSELF into the letter, then you convey passion.

In a market where culture fit is more important than ever, you can advance in the process if you meet basic qualifications and then show that you share the employer’s mission, vision, values, purpose – its passion.