How do I write a cover letter?

The dreaded cover letter.

Every time I consult with someone they let out a long groan and have quite a bit to complain about on this one-pager.

What are the most common complaints I hear about cover letters?

  • “I hate writing about myself.”
  • “I don’t know what to write!”
  • “Does it even matter?”

Sure, there’s a huge grumbling on the internet to just quit it already with cover letters, but for now they’re still widely required when applying to that job or internship you want.

Instead of spiraling or letting yourself use these complaints as a roadblock to your success, let’s create some structure to crafting the perfect cover letter so you can free up that head space (and time) to be more productive!

Top 3 Tips for Crafting the Perfect Cover Letter

  1. Tell a narrative, don’t simply repeat your resume.

    Your resume and cover letter go hand in hand. They complement each other.

    Since resumes are filled with bullet points and the what, cover letters bring your resume to life with the why.

    Telling a narrative doesn’t necessarily mean telling a specific story. It means narrating what makes you, you, why you’re qualified for the job, and how you’d add value to their organization through this position.

    In other words, don’t create your cover letter by just weaving together your resume into sentences but narrate why you and the company would make a great pair.

    Okay, but what’s the narrative?  It’s the big picture: Why are you applying and how will you add value to their organization?

  2. Write to a real person.

    At first that may sound dumb, but you wouldn’t believe the number of “To the Hiring Committee” or worse, “To Whom It May Concern” cover letters there are.

    A coworker once told me if they ever see cover letters addressed that way, it goes right in the trash. I’ve never actually done that, but I absolutely dock the applicant a few mental brownie points if I see that.

    Why? Well, honestly, it’s just lazy.

    Best case scenario is the posting has a contact person to address your cover letter to but if not…

    We have this cute lil guy called, The Internet. And we know how to use it.

    So pop on that company’s page (which you should have done waaay before writing your cover letter) and check out their staff page. Login to LinkedIn. Google, at the very least! Find the person who would potentially be your boss. And write them a letter.

    Note: Some people say it’s okay to write to the HR manager, but I find the mindset I get into when writing to my potential boss is a lot more personal and lets me tap into relevant examples.

  3. Demonstrate relevant value.

    If you’re in that rut of thinking, I don’t like talking about myself. I don’t know what to say! I’d challenge you to shift your mindset. In a lot of ways it’s a narrative about them and your partnership with them.

    Whether you’re stuck behind that mental blocker or not, the key is to not only show how awesome you have been in your past positions but how awesome you will be in this specific role with this specific organization.

    So how do you actually do that?

    • Do that fun split screen thing and have your draft next to the job description.
    • Pull out specific aspects of the job description that you’ve had great experience with in your previous positions. Bonus if you have stats or examples of  actual results!
    • Showcase how that experience will prove you to be an asset in the specific role you’re applying for.

Bonus tip!

Please, please save your resume as a PDF unless specifically requested. Word or Pages files can be edited and don’t look as professional. And none of this PNG/JPEG business. Those file formats are intended for photos and such!

Now that we’ve hit the essential, big picture elements, let’s write it!

Lucky for you, I’m giving you my…

Super Easy Cover Letter Recipe Template

  1. Introduction
    • Address the letter to your potential boss.
    • What position are you applying for and with what company?
    • Why is their company awesome? What drew you to the position?
    • Succinctly state why you’d be a great fit.
  2. Body paragraph(s)
    • Narrate your journey.
      • Pull out specifics from the job description that align with your experience.
      • How did you see results and how will you deliver results?
      • Don’t have results? Swap with passion for that element or add what you’ve learned.
      • Remember, it’s you + them. What’s the value add?
  3. Conclusion
    • Bring it back to the position and company.
      • Drive home succinctly how you’re confident you’d be an asset to the company.
    • Be sincere.
      • Thank them for their consideration and invite them to reach out if they have any questions or would like any additional resources.
      • If you know they’re hiring for many positions, you can mention you’d like to be considered for any positions they think you’d be a good fit.

Feeling overwhelmed? Sometimes it helps to have a pal walk alongside you. Let’s work together.