How To Write A Killer Cover Letter

Leave your future employer impressed, wanting to know more, and ready to hire you!

Writing a cover letter is probably the most frustrating part of an application, no matter what you’re applying for. A whole page? About my professional accomplishments? But also something that sets me apart from the dozens of other applicants? Help!

It’s true: a good cover letter will be a page, it will highlight a number of your professional accomplishments, and it will set you apart from other applicants.

But most importantly: a good cover letter will give future employers a taste of the real you.

Unlike a resume — limited to bullet points and quick descriptions — your cover letter offers a chance to pull out two or three key moments in your professional life and really make them sing.

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Start with a hook


“Hi, my name is X and I’m applying for the position of Y.”

How many times do you think prospective employers read this exact sentence? Answer: a ton! Not only does this phrase start to sound like gibberish to hiring managers, but it’s also quite redundant. Chances are: if you weren’t applying for the job at hand, you wouldn’t be writing a cover letter.

Starting with a hook can feel risky, but you don’t have to be extreme just to make your cover letter a bit more interesting. Here’s an example:

“As a longtime athlete, devoted sports fan, and recent graduate from Wellesley College’s prestigious Sports Management program, I’m thrilled to bring excitement and skill to the [insert position title here].”

See the difference? This sentence tells employers so much about who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and why you’d be a great fit for the position — before even diving into your body paragraphs!

 

Focus on what you learned, not what you did


We’ve always been told that we need to brag about ourselves in a cover letter — and that’s not incorrect. But if you find it hard to land an interview, it may be that you’re bragging about what you did, not how you grew.

A great way to start using this technique is to simply look at the verbs you’re using. Do a “Cntrl, F” search for phrases like “I did,” “I accomplished,” “I was able to.” Are you finding quite a few? That’s okay! You can try:

 

    • I learned

    • I developed

    • I had the opportunity to grow/I grew

    • I enjoyed/appreciated/was excited to be a party of


Not only will a prospective employer be able to see all of the fantastic things you’ve accomplished, but also your experiences. Your cover letter is your chance to show them what you’ve gained from those accomplishments — and what you’d gain from a position with their company or organization!

 

End with a bang — don’t let them forget you!

My basic structure for a cover letter is always:

  • Intro
  • Body paragraph 1
  • Body paragraph 2
  • Conclusion

And most of it is straightforward: introducing yourself (with the hook we talked about earlier), honing in on a couple of professional experiences that have helped you grown (using the verbs from the last section), and then summing it all up…right?

Sort of. 

But consider this: your conclusion will be the final note that lingers in a hiring manager’s mind once they put down your application. You want to make sure your conclusion is memorable, and you can do that by talking about the one thing that sets you apart from all other applicants.

Do you have a personal connection to the job/company you’re applying to or the city the job’s located in? Write a sentence or two about it!

A great phrase to use is:

“While my X qualifies me, my Y sets me apart.”

“While my marketing experience and skill sets qualify me for this position, my total love of Colombian culture and knowledge of Spanish set me apart from other applicants.”

Remember: cover letters don’t have to be so scary. You got this! Now go on and brag about yourself.

*we should note: this post is most relevant to U.S.-style cover letters. Letters of intent or letters that accompany a C.V (curriculum vitae) can be a little different. If you don’t know what I’m talking about… good! Don’t worry about it!

Wondering where to start with your resume? We’ve got you covered! Check our resume guide here.