this is a resume and cover letter that work

by Ask a Manager on November 14, 2013

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A reader recently shared with me the resume and cover letter she used to get a new job, and I liked them so much that I got her to agree to let me share them here.

Note: Do not steal these and make them your own. The reason they work is because they’ve so customized to the writer.  They’re here for inspiration only — to provide an example of what all the advice here can look like in practice.

I also want to note up-front: I’d tweak some small things about this (for example, I wouldn’t include typing speed on the resume), but that’s not the point. The point is that this is an excellent illustration of a cover letter resume that will excite a hiring manager — the cover letter because it’s personable, explains why the candidate is interested in this particular job, and makes a compelling case for why she’d excel at it beyond what’s on the resume, and the resume because it shows that she has a track record of getting things done.

So when you’re wondering what it really looks like in practice when you do all the stuff I talk about here — it’s this.

Here’s a link to the cover letter and resume. (It’s a PDF. And to protect the reader’s privacy, I changed her name, the names of her employers, and the locations.)

If you’re not writing your cover letters and resume like this, you must, must start. I hear all the time from people who made this switch and suddenly started getting interviews. It makes a huge difference. Do not make me beg you.

{ 250 comments… read them below or add one }

Sascha November 14, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Your edits are beautiful. I’d totally hire Dany. And she can bring her, um, pets to work.


Jessa November 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm

I’m with you, I’d hire her especially if she brought her pets.


Anoners November 14, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I love that you named the person Dany Targarean! So good.


Stryker November 14, 2013 at 3:15 pm

XD I cracked up when I read the edits! Took me a second to realize you’d not only changed her name, but everything else, too. Now I want to write a modern-day Song of Ice & Fire as a war of the hotel chains!

Seriously, though, I enjoyed the letter & the resume. I’ll be reformatting my own letter a bit if I don’t get this position I’ve been gunning for!


RB November 15, 2013 at 8:54 am

Add me as another delighted reader with the Game of Thrones homage.

And yes….that cover letter was aces. It should save her from a beheading or two.


Lizabeth November 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I want to visit the hotels in Westeros, VT…do they have any ski slopes nearby? Great cover letter!!!


Jessa November 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Of course there’s skiing – Winter is coming.

(sorry I had to.)


Stryker November 21, 2013 at 8:02 am

I just sprayed coffee out my nose reading that. Thanks, Jessa… lol


Diet Coke Addict November 14, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I have been working a month at a mediocre job I got with a mediocre cover letter. I discovered AAM just a week after I got it. I am going insane thinking about all the crappy cover letters I sent to the jobs I really wanted, but didn’t get. Now in a year or so when I’ll be moving again, I am incredibly excited to start applying like THIS.

In the meantime I’ve been practice-writing cover letters, beefing up my resume, and educating friends going on interviews on the Gospel of AAM.


Anonymous November 14, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I can fully attest to what a difference AAM’s advice has made in my ability to land interviews and even an amazing opportunity. Not to mention the e-book “How to Get a Job”.

I highly recommend the e-book and reading the interviewing section of this site.


Kevin November 14, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Me too! I feel like I owe a commission an getting the job I have now.


Elizabeth West November 14, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I recommend it too. It definitely helped me, especially in preparing for interviews.


Windchime November 14, 2013 at 4:02 pm

I have a son who is searching for a job. I think I will point him towards the e-book. Thanks for reminding me about that.


Kevin November 14, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Thank you for posting this example. This is probably covered in what you would tweak but I have a couple of questions:

1) Would you keep the resume to one page?
2) I agree the cover letter shows passion and a particular interest in this position but do you get turned off by the writer telling the hiring manager what they need and “I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you soon.”?


Jen in RO November 14, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I was thinking these exact two things. In my opinion, 2 pages is OK, but the letter felt a bit pushy. Obviously the hiring manager loved it though!


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I was fine with the length. “I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you soon” isn’t my favorite sentence, and if I were editing the letter I’d take it out, but in the context of a fantastic cover letter it’s not a problem at all.


Lacey November 14, 2013 at 7:02 pm

I’ve got to admit, I was pretty surprised when I started reading the letter that you loved it so much.

I mean, the passion and interest is great, but having read your blog regularly for a year, I would have thought the whole tone of the letter, in telling the hiring manager what they need, goes very much against your ethos. Without hunting around for specific examples (because I don’t have time), I am pretty sure you have actually told people not to do this in the past, with your reasoning being that you can’t possibly get inside a hiring managers head and it’s presumptous to try. You also often counsel against being very ‘salesy’, and this is about the most ‘salesy’ letter I’ve ever read, next to posting a bottle of wine and a personalised calendar.

I’m thrilled it worked, and I’m sure it would appeal to plenty of hiring managers, but I’m pretty confused about how this lines up with a lot of the advice I’ve read on your blog.


Lacey November 14, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Ok, I’ve just read all the other comments and feel bad about mine. To clarify my main point, you say below:

“I’m posting it to say “here is someone who applied all the advice we talked about and the end result is great.””

I actually feel like this post contradicts what I understood to be your advice in many scenarios, which is that you shouldn’t tell the hiring manager what they need, or assume you are the best person for the job (you are very, very strong on that, and the letter – or at least my reading of it – goes against that advice).

I think a lot of comments are coming from the perspective that this just doesn’t seem to fit with our understanding of your recommended approach to writing cover letters.


Marie November 14, 2013 at 8:00 pm

I agree. I also thought the usual recommendation was against this kind of a pushy letter. I can’t stand pushy people selling themselves. I have chosen not to interview applicants like this and not hire applicants who spoke like this in interviews. I once had one who said she would “help” me by questioning everything and pushing me to allow her to try things “her way” so she could “improve” them. No thanks- aside from being insulting to me by suggesting I don’t know what I’m doing, the jobs I hire for take a lot of education and take years to learn well enough to understand what we do and why we do it the way we do it. Coming in and “trying things her way” without having a basic understanding of the job is a recipe for disaster and she was immediately removed from my list of candidates who I planned to send on to interview #2. Maybe that works in a sales job but try it in a professional environment and see how fast you are shown the door.


fposte November 14, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Funnily enough, I know AAM also reads Query Shark, and this comes up on Query Shark sometimes too–the query that breaks rules and works anyway, and it frustrates some posters there because they’d been paying so much attention to learning the rules and they feel like they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes.

And I get it. I love rules; they’re nice and quantifiable (and easy to catch other people out on :-)). But the rules are never the whole story, in writing or in life. You can avoid split infinitives, employ the predicate nominative (gag!), know when you can hyphenate an adverbial compound, and still be a bad writer, just like you can learn the “It’s wrong to tell a lie” rule and end up ostracized for telling your grandmother she looks fat.

The guidelines for resumes and cover letters are basically shortcuts to this: let the hiring manager know you, know what you’ve done, and know what’s special about you, and do so in a way that makes it as easy as possible for her to know what you could do for her organization. What rules you can bend and break while doing this will depend on you, your field, and the hiring manager, and there’s no guarantee–but then there never is, no matter how closely you follow the most conservative guidelines. You might say what’s good here is also what some people are seeing as its weakness–this letter is so vivid that it gets the writer as much dimension as a partial interview, because it gives such a clear sense of the writer and her approach to the work. If you don’t like it as a hiring manager, that’s a fair rejection–you’ve really seen this candidate. And if you do like it, you have much more clarity about this candidate than you usually do at the cover letter stage–it thoroughly illuminates the candidate.


Lacey November 15, 2013 at 1:03 am

I really like the idea of a letter giving enough information to be a partial interview, illuminating the candidate. This is definitely what I have learned about writing cover letters from AAM.

I recently went through an interview process and came within a whisker of getting the job – a really fantastic, amazing job that to be honest I didn’t think I had a hope of even being interviewed for. I’m sure that AAMs advice played a part in me getting as far as I did, and if it were not for the fact that someone close to the hiring manager (professionally) recommended someone at the last minute, who turned out to be a stellar candidate, the job would have been mine.

fposte, I completely agree with your comments.


cecilhungry November 15, 2013 at 10:03 am

I also read both AAM & QueryShark (and I’m not even working on a novel!). What you say about the way they work is spot-on. Great advice for two very different scenarios, and in both places, sometimes breaking the rules works better than following them (And I recommend QS to everyone, especially any novelists looking for an agent!)


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Yeah, this is tricky — because the reality is, she did it well here. It’s sort of like the only other real-life cover letter I ever published here, where that writer also broke some of the normal rules (she actually talked about her kids!). But she did it well, so it worked. The closest comparison I can think of is with writing in general — you can break writing rules if you know them, you do it intentionally, and you do it skillfully. The same thing is true here — she didn’t come across (to me) as inappropriately pushy or salesy; the letter was great enough that sentences that maybe would have come across differently in a different letter came across fine here.


Lacey November 15, 2013 at 1:12 am

Times like this I realise how rule bound I’ve become. 15 years as a tax lawyer will do that to you ;-)


Rachel November 15, 2013 at 2:37 am

+1. I was also very confused by AAM’s enthusiastic approval of this. I’ve been reading her for years and I’ve also seen the same trend in her advice, which was to NOT do what this candidate did a lot of. The whole “let me tell you what you need” thing really put me off – probably because AAM has taught me not to do that – and the rest of her letter just seemed too salesy.

But hey, she’s sitting pretty in her new job right now, so I guess all’s well that ends well!


AlisonW November 15, 2013 at 10:26 am

I completely agree. The cover letter reads too salesy to me, and it’s not even particularly well-written (too many contractions, incomplete sentences, etc.). I was surprised, too.


Diane December 4, 2013 at 9:11 pm

I’m glad I’m not the only one. I fail to see why this cover letter and resume is outstanding.


Sharm November 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I can see why you feel that way, but I’ve been a hiring manager for several positions before, and to me, this reads as trying wayyyyy too hard. I would not have put this person in my “Must Call Back Immediately” pile.

I guess my question is — as the person states at the top of her cover letter, hiring managers get hyperbole like this all the time. I don’t see why this stands out.

I am not trying to be a contrarian, but for me personally, I would never feel comfortable writing such a letter because it is so over-the-top salesy. (And I’m in marketing.) That’s not my personality. Is this the way it has to be done? That’s discouraging because it simply is not my voice nor style.


anomnomnomimous November 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I’m glad you felt that way too. Admittedly, I’ve never been a hiring manager and don’t have a ton of experience yet, but the whole tone of the letter was a huge turn-off for me, and I didn’t care for the resume either. What happened to keeping it to one page, to cutting out the “objective/profile” paragraph at the top, etc? Plus, I thought we were supposed to put our results with the jobs in which we achieved them for the full chronological style- is this how we’re supposed to do them now? :/


MousyNon November 14, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Same. I’m very confused…


Zahra November 14, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Objective, cut. Profile, keep.

Objective is all about what the company can do for you.

Profile is about what kind of added value you’re bringing to the table. It’s a snapshot of your accomplishments.


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 2:48 pm



Kevin November 14, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I also wouldn’t put this in my must call back immediately pile. The tone of the letter felt immature and that the applicant did not have the experience necessary for a management position.

I also think telling the employer that they’re likely to clean house is a bad idea. Hey I know you completed a takeover and will be laying off a lot of people, I would like to use this opportunity to help with the restructuring.


Zahra November 14, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Well, if you’ve been following the company for a while and noticed a pattern or even read statements as to their MO, I feel like it isn’t so jarring to read.


Michael November 14, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I had a similar reaction. I think what rubs me the wrong way is that the applicant is telling the manager what she thinks the manager needs. Kudos for being assertive, but the manager knows what she needs. You need to show her what you have, and I would say that only about 1/3 of the sentences in the cover letter are showing that.


Stryker November 14, 2013 at 3:23 pm

See, but she was showing an awareness to what she believed the job required. My understanding is that many folks apply to positions without realizing what the job might entail. With this cover letter, OP makes clear what *she* expects the position to be, and clearly, it was in line with the HM’s expectations, as well, not to mention showing a ridiculous amount of research on the company AND (apparently correctly) interpreting the greater ramifications.

And as others have said, if it wasn’t on-point, she wouldn’t have been there. In fact, I think this is an excellent example of self-selecting what jobs are for you. Think about it: if she’d not done that and it turns out the styles/expectations were dramatically different, then she’d be in a sorry situation that we all watch Alison coax others through every day.


Anon120 November 14, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I really think this cover letter would only work in some industries. An IT manager wouldn’t appreciate this as much as a sales manager, I’m sure.


fposte November 14, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Most good cover letters will only work in some industries, though, because they’re tuned to the tone and needs of their specific situation.


Victoria Nonprofit November 14, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Good point!


badger_doc November 14, 2013 at 3:07 pm

I agree–it wouldn’t work in engineering either. Way to sales-pitchy.


Contessa November 14, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Absolutely. If I got a cover letter like this when I was hiring a law clerk, I would have been turned off by how casual it is. People in other industries (such as customer service) might be looking for this type of attitude, though.


Kou November 14, 2013 at 2:02 pm

This is how I feel, too. People always say to go more informal and try not to be so stuffy but I am just *stuffy* dangit. At least in writing, I sound like Humbert Humbert. In person less so but it’s just because there’s tone and demeanor to dial back my weird, overly fluffy word choices.


fposte November 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Given that I think Lolita is one of the most beautifully written books in the English language, I would never restrict you from sounding like Humbert Humbert :-).

I think the point isn’t so much to make sure you’re casual as to make sure you sound like you. I’m on the formal side myself, so my chatty style is going to sound more formal than some people’s formal style. But I think if it *is* your natural and normal voice, you’ll wear it comfortably in a letter in a way that somebody more accustomed to writing informally won’t; when they write in a way they’re not used to, it’s stiff and stilted, not simply polysyllabic.


fposte November 14, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Addendum: do keep in mind that people often read these things quickly, though, so make sure you don’t lean toward the dense end of your communication style. I write for academic audiences in some venues and trade audiences in others, as do some of the people I edit, and given the nature of our trade readers, I do a lot of “debulking” of my writing when I’m editing myself for trade. Shorter sentences, fewer clauses, getting to the point faster, that kind of thing.


Kou November 14, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Good point above! It can make a person sound painfully pretentious, though, so I do try to dial it back. I do a debulking edit of most things, too.

I’m trying especially hard to tone it back recently, as I noticed it seems this is more and more common in the younger/less experienced people I work with. Department chairs? Brief and casual. Medical students? Lots of justifications and more stilted language. I definitely think there’s something to the idea that direct writing with a personal tone lends to an air of confidence and expertise.


Sadsack November 14, 2013 at 2:13 pm

I hope for your sake that your similarities to Humbert Humbert are limited to your communication style!


Kou November 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Hahaha, they do. But for obvious reasons I do try to avoid making the comparison too often.


Elle D November 14, 2013 at 2:15 pm

This isn’t really my voice or style either – I would personally feel a little silly writing something in this tone. I think the cover letter still has merit for those of us who prefer or need to use a more formal tone though. “Dany” demonstrates genuine interest in the company and explains why she would be good at the position rather than just reiterating the content of her resume. I think the key is to incorporate those elements into cover letter that accurately reflects your industry or personality.


MissDisplaced November 14, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I thought the cover letter was a bit over the top, and also a bit on the long side.
I don’t know… If you’re a hiring manager wouldn’t this seem a little long to get through? They lost me a bit a after the second paragraph. I always thought the letter should quickly state why you’re interested in the company/position and why you are the best fit or your skills/experience match. Maybe that’s a bit more formal and less human-voiced than this one, but I think this wouldn’t quite work for me unless I knew the hiring manager.


fposte November 14, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Well, you never want to argue why you’re the best fit, because you have no idea who else is applying.

Some of this is job-dependent, it’s true, but I’d say it’s pretty common that places asking for cover letters do so because they get something from them, and they’re not going to see that in, say, a two-paragraph cover letter that just redeploys information already in the resume. I rely a lot on cover letters in hiring, and this one isn’t too long for me; what you’re describing would probably be too short, because I would have no idea of your communications style from that.

This cover letter doesn’t have the kind of voice that I would favor, but it’s not written for my field or for me; the things that are strong about it and that would impress me even with its not being tonally right for my field are its vividness and its clear understanding of the industry, the company, and the company’s current challenges. This applicant has seriously done her homework, knows what she’d be getting into, and is excited to do it. That’s something that would impress me even across a voice that wasn’t the custom in my field, and if it’s right for the field–which I suspect it is–it’s a seriously impressive cover letter.


Riki November 14, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Same. This letter is a little too hokey for my taste. However, I think the important thing to take away is that the “voice” is not generic, not to imitate this particular writer’s voice. This is clearly not a form letter the writer found online and cut/pasted. It is very clear that they are interested in that specific job at that specific company and their personality really comes through. These are all good things and you don’t need to go overboard in order to communicate them to your reader(s).


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Her letter stands out because her voice comes through, she’s genuinely excited, she’s done research and knows what she’d be getting into, she’s thought about what the job will take and is excited to do it.

I think a lot of you are discounting the importance of voice. Her voice will not be your voice, nor should it be.


John November 14, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I absolutely agree. It felt authentic, not like a boilerplate, fill-in-the-company-and-job-title letter.

I would definitely interview her, because she comes across as intelligent and buttoned up. She is someone I’d want to meet.


AdAgencyChick November 14, 2013 at 3:13 pm



Anon November 14, 2013 at 4:02 pm

I actually know her in real life! She really is a fun person to meet. With company names, etc. changed, it exactly matches a friend of mine. I know she reads AAM, and that she just got a new job like this. Pretty exciting. :) She actually helped me with my resume too, so I’m glad to know you approve of her skills.


Emily K November 14, 2013 at 2:55 pm

I’ve done quite a bit of resume screening over the years. The tone of this is salesy, but it’s not relying on salesy-ness to convince me, so I wouldn’t be especially bothered by the tone, certainly not enough to screen her out. She demonstrates an understanding of our businesses practices and shows me how she would fit into them.

Sales-y without substance, right in the No pile.
Sales-y with substance, and I’ll just chalk it up to personality. And especially in the hospitality industry I’d would bet that kind of demeanor is welcomed. Soft sales are a key way to increase revenue, but many customer service employees, especially young ones, are too timid to sell things. You have to write it into a script if you want them to say it. But someone who shows she feels comfortable selling her own candidacy in a very direct fashion is probably also someone who will think to upgrade the client to a better catering package or reserve a larger room block, etc.


Leslie Yep November 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I really like these compelling examples of more qualitative achievements! Thanks for posting, and thanks for sharing, Danaerys, Mother of Dragons! Good luck in your job search!


OP November 14, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I’m glad it helped! Something that I know can be very hard for people in less number-driven fields is showing concrete examples of what you’ve achieved.


Anonymous November 15, 2013 at 9:02 am

This is always my struggle with my resume and cover letter. I work in non-profit accounting, and I lot of what I do is routine. I manage the financial end of over 30 grants, but it’s not like I have a lot of accomplishments. We received a great audit with no recommendations or findings, the year after I was hired, for the first time in several years. It’s not an accomplishment because that’s what we SHOULD be doing. Received over 50% of the grants we applied for? That was more on the grant writer, I just did the budget. So I always end up just listing tasks, and I don’t feel like that comes off as well. Maybe it’s just because I’m fairly new to the industry (just graduated 2 years ago).


Ask a Manager November 15, 2013 at 9:50 am

Those are both accomplishments and both belong on your resume. They’ll paint a picture of you as someone who does great work, not someone who just goes through the motions.


Anon November 14, 2013 at 1:15 pm

It seems like most of the sample cover letters that have been posted here have a fairly informal tone, which is probably fine for some fields. But what about the very formal (large law/consulting firms, banking) industries? I can tell you that this style would never fly where I work. It’s too bubbly. How do you inject personality while maintaining the requisite formality? (Especially since most of us in my field are decidedly NOT bubbly but Very Serious People, and often feel a bit awkward around bubbliness.)


Anon Accountant November 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I was wondering this also. Some employers in my field tend to be more formal and the bubbly tone of the cover letter would be a turn-off to some hiring managers.

I’d love to read how to add some personality into the cover letter for those of us hoping to land jobs in a field where more formality is expected. My coworkers and I don’t get bubbly until happy hour. :)


Malissa November 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm

You are right bubbly doesn’t work for an accountant. But the part where she talks about the company and what she’s researched–brilliant. If you apply to a public company make reference to their annual report. i.e. “I see in your 2012 report that your company puts an emphasis on matter X. I can appreciate that because in my last position I worked a lot on X.”
The best thing I’ve found to do is to tell a short story from your experience that matches up with something in the ad. Such as if you see they want somebody with knowledge of computerized accounting systems. I would write In my last job I was the project manager on the conversion of our legacy software system over to PIA software system. In this processes I not only learned how the information should flow through the system but also how to deal with people who are resistant to change.


Victoria Nonprofit November 14, 2013 at 1:47 pm

I was just going to ask about that. Having been a reader for several years, I write cover letters similar to this (but in my tone, which is more formal, and for my level of seniority/scope of work/etc., which is higher than this example). Recently I’ve been advocating The Ask A Manager Way to my husband, who is in business school and transitioning to a career in consulting. His response was that this absolutely wouldn’t fly. I’d love to hear from others with that background!


Elysian November 14, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I agree with you – I work in law. I’m not a hiring partner, so I don’t know what they’re thinking I suppose, but I can’t imagine this tone appealing to them. I know people aren’t robots, but they are, like Anon said, Very Serious People, and I think that some of the colloquialisms here wouldn’t work. In a Business Formal profession, I feel like one might need a more ‘business formal’ cover letter.


Elizabeth West November 14, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I think you absolutely have to tailor it to the job/industry. Doesn’t Alison say repeatedly that you shouldn’t be using the same cover letter for every job?


fposte November 14, 2013 at 2:36 pm

I think the Magic Question has tempted people into hoping that there’s a similarly Magic Cover Letter. Unfortunately, there’s not.


Joy November 14, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I have recent job-hunting experience in the legal field, and I’ve been quite successful, thanks in no small part to AAM (which I substituted for the advice from my law school’s career center). When I write cover letters, I have three main goals:

1. Really display why I’m interested in THIS particular job/firm.
2. Highlight the experience and skills that aren’t on my resume, explaining how they’ve given me a good grasp of principles that apply directly to the job.
3. Show my personality by demonstrating enthusiasm in a professional way.

Some things in Dany T’s cover letter are similar to what I write (if I’ve been reading up on the firm or following it in the news, I might mention X award or Y case and tie it to my interest or fit for the position).

Other parts are over-the-top for the legal industry, IMO (I probably would never use an exclamation mark in a cover letter, I start with a much more standard introduction without the sales-y language, and I aim for about 2/3 page instead of a full page). But I think what Alison is pointing out is that the candidate convincingly expresses her interest, explains why it would be a good fit in a way that makes sense, and shows some personality to stand out.


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 2:53 pm

You tailor it to the industry, yes. But people regularly think they need to sound more formal than they really do. The most compelling writing is conversational, not stiff.


Anon November 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I see that, and I agree that the put-on tone that some (especially very young) people use is awkward and not compelling. But it would be great to see a sample cover letter from a stuffy industry, just to see how to let your personality shine through while adhering to industry expectations.


Anon Accountant November 14, 2013 at 3:07 pm


This is exactly what I’m looking for. A sample cover letter from a traditionally “stuffy” and “formal” industry that shows a candidate’s personality.


badger_doc November 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I’ll see if I can dig up an example of my cover letters. I am an engineer and haven’t had an issue getting interviews when I’ve applied for jobs. I’d like to hear AAM’s opinion of my cover letter too. Hopefully she will share!


Holly November 14, 2013 at 1:29 pm

“I’ve been following Stark Investments’ progress with interest for several months…”

Iron Man or Game of Thrones? :)


Anonymous November 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Read the rest and it should be clear! :)


Laufey November 14, 2013 at 3:46 pm

I totally went to the same place on my first read-through. Then I though, huh, just one Marvel reference in all of that Fire and Ice? Then I read it again and hit my head against my desk. Doh!


Mama P November 14, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I adore AAM and almost always agree with her completely. This letter, however (like the other sample cover letter she posted) reads a bit too informally and presumptively to me (I really don’t care for the “you need someone who” wording.) I prefer a more straightforward, matter of fact style. I’d probably call this person in, but be on the look out for any signs that this person thought too highly of themselves to be a truly productive team player.


Mama P November 14, 2013 at 1:30 pm

But I agree the illustrative examples are quite good.


Sara M November 14, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I think it demonstrates what Alison has been trying to say: there is no one Dream Cover Letter and Resume that will work for everyone. She’s saying, “This cover letter and resume really worked for me and I want to show you.” They are examples of _one_ way to do a cover letter and resume that will work well for many people.

As a fiction writer, I run into this a lot. Newer writers are always looking for ways to write a story that “everyone will love” and that work for every reader. It’s impossible. Even the bestsellers don’t work for everyone, and in fact some people hate them.

There are some number of things that do work, and a much larger number of things that don’t (just like writing fiction). All you’re trying to do when writing a resume & cover is follow some general principles that work and match your style. What works on Wall Street isn’t right for a small non-profit, and what works for an effusive salesperson doesn’t work for an engineer.

If you look at enough samples of good resumes, you’ll eventually see some patterns that you can use in your own.


Elizabeth West November 14, 2013 at 2:10 pm

As a fiction writer, I run into this a lot. Newer writers are always looking for ways to write a story that “everyone will love” and that work for every reader. It’s impossible. Even the bestsellers don’t work for everyone, and in fact some people hate them.

Yep. You can’t follow trends, either, because by the time you’re ready to go, that ship has sailed. This was a good example. Just as we need to develop our own voices as writers, resumes should be the best reflection of each person’s professional self.


The Clerk November 14, 2013 at 2:22 pm

If you look at enough samples of good resumes, you’ll eventually see some patterns that you can use in your own.

I agree with this; someone might be able to get a couple of hints from this one, but maybe the rest doesn’t work for them for whatever reason. This has a lot I can use because I’m not far into my career, but someone in a vastly different industry might not see anything they can incorporate.

Alison, in light of that, would you consider posting a really good fake resume every so often, for different industries or levels of experience? :)


thenoiseinspace November 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm

This would help me, too! I’m always looking for good sample resumes, but the top hits are always old ones that are way out of date. I know it would be a lot of work, but it would be nice to have some good examples to look at.


Jesse November 14, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Try looking at They’re geared for library professionals, but you’ll find a great mix of letters from those entering the field to those seeking out higher level administration roles.


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Not after this :)

It’s seriously frustrating to see this torn apart. (And even more so when I know that people moving more in this direction will help them get interviews, particularly when I receive nearly a letter a day from someone telling me it worked for them.)


The Clerk November 14, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Well…I can kind of see where that comes from. I mean, sometimes if the OP made a mistake and doesn’t realize it or comes across as arrogant, the comments tear them apart and sometimes it seems like there couldn’t have been any other way that post could have ended. Some people thrive on being able to tear others down. So it’s hard to have it go that way for a while and then have those comments stop for one post. There’s a real person behind this resume, but there’s one behind every letter, too. Besides, I’m picturing Dany laughing all the way to the bank on her dragon. :)


saro November 14, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Well, I’m paying attention and thank you for it. I don’t comment all the time but read (and have read) everything on your site. I’ve lost my writing ‘voice’ and I see that loss in writing cover letters also. My office recently hired a grant writer who has a 100% win rate. When I chatted with him about it, he said he works hard to make sure his writing voice is conversational and not fake. I always struggle with this because I feel like I should write in a different way with things like cover letters and grant writing. I see now that while the level of formality may change, my voice needs to remain the same.

So thanks again. It’s frustrating but I’m learning from it.


Critup112 November 14, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Oh come on. You shouldn’t have posted this if you didn’t want people to critique it. These comments are typical of how people normally discuss topics on your blog. You’re being overly sensitive about this. It seems as though you didn’t want this particular post to be subject to the usual candid feedback that you get on an AAM post. I’m surprised, for someone that talks about humility and owning up to your mistakes, you seem to be having a hard time admitting that you made one here.


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 8:33 pm

I think the letter is great, and I don’t think it was a mistake to post it.

I am, however, feeling pretty damn protective of the person who allowed me to share it, as she didn’t sign up for some of the comments here. As well as frustrated that some of the commenters are missing the forrest for the trees, as someone else pointed out.


Anonymous November 14, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Yeah, criticism can be harsh, but why post the letter/resume if you don’t want an open and honest discussion that people can learn from and apply to their own circumstances? People have differing opinions, and it’s certainly helpful to hear from both sides. I read the letter, and thought it was a little too cheesy/young sounding and it would definitely be inappropriate for my industry (I realize that doesn’t make it a fact, and applicable to all, it’s just my opinion). I came to the comments and found that some other people thought so too. That’s helpful because it gives people more information as to what others think is good/bad in a cover letter (not just what you personally think is good). Hearing both sides is what’s helpful for people in constructing their own application materials.


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 9:41 pm

As I’ve said elsewhere in this thread, I’m all for discussion of the letter and resume. My beef is with the harshness of some responses (“just awful,” for instance), which I just can’t imagine most people saying to someone they actually knew … hence my request for people not to do that. That’s not about me being thin-skinned; it’s about me wanting people to be thoughtful toward the writer, who I asked to share her materials here (a request I’d have trouble making of anyone in the future because I’d be hesitant to subject them to some of these comments).


fposte November 14, 2013 at 10:10 pm

I think one factor is that the provenance difference was more evident to you, who did all the behind the scenes stuff, than to the posters, who just had a slightly different intro, so people weren’t necessarily reading this as “somebody kindly shared something as a favor after being specially requested and should be responded to accordingly.” If you choose to try it again, maybe being more explicit up front about the difference and different expectations?

Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 10:16 pm

That’s a great point.

khilde November 15, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I think the reactions to the letter are, to me anyway, further confirmation of how incredibly different personality styles view things. I totally understood what you meant by “her voice” came through. I totally understood that there are very basic guidelines, but no hard and fast rules for writing a great cover letter. Someone upthread mentioned that they realized they have been taking your suggestions literally, which is why they reacted negtively to the letter–because OP didn’t follow the “rules” you’ve been purporting. So there are the detail-oriented, ‘rule’ followers of the readership reacting to this letter that is written by an informal, personable, big picture sort of person (at least that’s how it strikes me).

Forest for the trees is exactly it: The people who totally get OP’s letter process easier at the forest level and can see it as such; those that are reacting negatively I would bet are very detailed focus people and are getting hung up on minutiae (though they’re gonna get pissed I said minutiae, because they don’t see it that way at all. See? Conflicting priorities).

Guidelines vs Rules. To me, OP followed the guidelines but made up her own rules of how to do it. I guess that’s what I get out of this.


fposte November 14, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Additionally, as a reviewer that trains reviewers, I have to move novices away from “I found a mistake in this book and therefore it deserves a negative review!” Whether it’s creating a book or an application package, writing is a balance, and perfection is impossible. The question is “Where does this writing try to take you, and does it get you there?” more than “Can you find anything wrong with it?”


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Yes, exactly. As I said in the initial post, there are things here I would change if I were editing it, but that’s not the point. The point is look at it as a whole. It’s glorious.


Sara M November 14, 2013 at 1:37 pm

And FWIW, I think the resume is very strong, and the cover letter is bold but appropriate for someone seeking this type of position. The company is seeking someone who can turn businesses around. This letter demonstrates the personality to do that (at least, indicates enough of it to merit an interview).

This resume and cover would not be so good for, say, someone applying to work directly with patients in hospice care.


Erin November 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Dog walker? I think you meant Dragon walker! ;)


Lily in NYC November 14, 2013 at 2:31 pm



Cora November 14, 2013 at 1:40 pm

The Game of Thrones references had me chuckling like a crazy person at my desk.


Jubilance November 14, 2013 at 2:03 pm

I really like the resume and it’s very similar to mine. I really love the use of action verbs. But I cringed at the cover letter – it felt way too casual to me. Am I the only one who thinks of job applications as business correspondence and makes it more formal? That cover letter felt like something I would write to an old friend, which may work in some industries but I don’t think it would work in mine.


Anonymous November 14, 2013 at 2:14 pm

The hospitality industry is weird like that, though.


KarenT November 14, 2013 at 2:58 pm

I agree–I thought the resume was great but the cover letter made me cringe a little. It’s well-written, but the tone was too casual and too pushy. However, I think the OP knows her industry because clearly it worked for and I could see the hospitality industry going for something like this.


Emily K November 14, 2013 at 3:03 pm

It really depends. When I was a resume screener, I was hiring for a small org and would be working closely with the person we hired. It’s nice to get a sense of who the person is that you’re going to be seeing 40 hours a week. Although really in either direction, formal or informal, as long as the person demonstrated competence I wasn’t going to reject anyone just on their letter’s tone. Note also that I was doing this in my mid 20s…perhaps it’s just because my generation doesn’t stand on ceremony as much. What are pantyhose?


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm

I love the tone, and I love conversational cover letters in general.

And while yes, tone will vary by industry, it should never be stiff or even particularly formal. (It shouldn’t be super informal either, of course — but there’s a middle ground between that and formal.)


jesicka309 November 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Once I changed my cover letters from formal to conversational, I started getting interviews.

I work in media/marketing though. My whole job is to tell stories through words.

I’m annoyed with people tearing this CV and cover letter down because I’d love to see more examples of CVs and cover letters that were successful. I think it would be a great section to have once a month or something (eg. a sales cover letter that worked, a engineering cover letter that worked, a freelance artist’s CV and how they laid it out etc.) because I’m interested in how other industries do things.
Stop ruining it everyone.


Victoria Nonprofit November 14, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Yes! I would love to see this!


thenoiseinspace November 15, 2013 at 9:25 am


I’d love this too! (though I doubt we’ll get it now)


Duschamp November 19, 2013 at 9:58 am

This would be amazing! I would absolutely love to see a section like this.


ThursdaysGeek November 14, 2013 at 6:25 pm

And a lot of business writing in general is more formal than communicative. I have to sound like I know what I’m talking about, so I’ll change the word ‘use’ to ‘utilize’ and make sure all my writing sounds business-like. And that is often at the expense of clear communication.

My spouse fights with this when writing lab procedures. Others want to make sure it follows a strict standard and uses appropriate big words and sounds scientific and makes them look smart. He wants it to be read and followed by lab techs.

So, there is a lot of conversation about making sure the cover letter is not too casual, but isn’t the point to get the interview? If it stands out (in a good way) and achieves that, it’s working.


Emily K November 15, 2013 at 1:25 am

Disciplines and classes protect their turf by developing specialized language–jargon–that limits how many people can understand what’s being said. It eliminates competition and gives security to those already in the know, and that’s about all it does. Your example of utilize for use is a classic case. You don’t have to be smarter to use the bigger word, and the bigger word doesn’t lend any meaning the smaller one doesn’t. You just have to have a better vocabulary to know the bigger word, meaning you got educated at a better school, in a better neighborhood, came from a better economic background.

After leaving academia I went into marketing, and it was a strange transition learning to write in a way that’s meant to be quickly understandable by the average person instead of the type of writing I’d spent my whole education and academic career learning to write, that stiff, jargon-loaded, goes-on-a-page-too-long style. It’s such a shame we don’t teach young people to write for utility, and instead teach them bourgeois writing as thought it’s a status symbol.


Kerry November 15, 2013 at 3:07 am

I have to sound like I know what I’m talking about, so I’ll change the word ‘use’ to ‘utilize’ and make sure all my writing sounds business-like. And that is often at the expense of clear communication.

This is really counterintuitive to me. Wouldn’t clear communication and simple language make it sound more like you know what you’re talking about, not less?


ThursdaysGeek November 15, 2013 at 11:23 am

Nope, because if you can use the jargon (see EmilyK’s post), then obviously you’re more in the know than those limited to simple language. Sure, it’s often at the expense of real communication, but sounding smart is more important. (He especially complains when some people trying to sound smart say things incorrectly, but if it’s obtuse enough, not everyone will be able to tell that it’s wrong.)


E.R November 14, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I found the cover letter a bit “let me tell you what you need” myself (agreeing with those above) but it is still leaps and bounds stronger then the typical ” I am hard-working , motivated self starter” types that I used to write when i was just out of school

Since I started writing in a conversational tone, for cover letters, I’ve definitely seen my response rate increase. I’m still kind of proud of the one that i wrote for my current job.


Anonymous November 14, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Thanks for posting this, this will help me a lot!

I could never figure out how to list achievements rather than just job duties, because I’ve only had stupid minimum wage jobs and how much can you really achieve in those? All the examples I’ve seen before were like “raised sales by 10 million dollars” or “saved the company and the world” and gave up on the idea.

Its cool seeing how someone who’s also had low level jobs put that idea into practise.


Elizabeth West November 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I had the same problem. Alison’s book and this website (comments especially) were a huge help.


Victoria Nonprofit November 14, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I agree – I thought her bullet points were really illustrative. There are lots of jobs (not just minimum wage jobs!) where there aren’t clear numeric accomplishments to list. Her examples were helpful to me too!


Anon November 14, 2013 at 3:31 pm



Elysian November 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Totally agree. I also found that really helpful. I don’t think I ever would have put down things about my “reputation as x” or how I did something in “several” situations because the advice I always got was to quantify things. I always thought if I couldn’t calculate it, it shouldn’t be on there. Obviously, if I brought in a million dollar client that saved my company from bankruptcy, or something, I could list that. But something like “reputation as a quick and efficient researcher” is true and perhaps helpful.

That said, I assume if I put on something that has my “reputation” at issue I’ll need a few examples to back it up by the time I get to the interview.


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Yes, you absolutely can and should do that, if you can back it up!


Lindsay J November 15, 2013 at 1:47 am

Yes, this is something I’ve struggled with a lot. It’s difficult to feel like you have achievements doing retail and other similar work, when all the examples you see are office/project work based. The types of things the OP used as bullet points helped a lot as far as illustrating what some bullet-points of my own might be.


Jess November 14, 2013 at 2:16 pm

It appeared to me as if the letter writer was trying to cover up for a lack of experience/qualifications with the cover letter and 2-page resume. And I actually think they succeeded. The impression I had from the cover letter was of someone much more experienced (albeit somewhat young) and that impression carried over as I initially scanned the resume. It was only upon a *much* closer reading and rereading of the resume that I realized how weak their qualifications were (at least for what I assume is needed for a hotel management position – not my industry though). Although it’s not my tone or style, this certainly gives me strategies to think about for the future- especially when applying for jobs that are a stretch. Impressively done.


Windchime November 14, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Weak qualifications? Wow, this seems pretty harsh. Everyone in management started out in non-manager positions. After I read your post, I went back to review the resume. I’m not in the hospitality trade, but it appears to me like she has spent plenty of time learning the trade. Obviously her hiring manager agreed because she got the job.


Jess November 14, 2013 at 4:50 pm

I actually intended my comment to be a compliment. Based on her cover letter I had already formed an image of someone with more substantial experience. All her experience seemed to be entry-level and the types of positions that are often filled by people who aren’t necessarily looking to move up in the hospitality industry, so that past experience doesn’t automatically lead me to think she has the knowledge base for management. So yes, her formal qualifications on paper are weak. But she was able to successfully communicate to the hiring manager that she had other qualities (such as a deep knowledge of the trade) that make her better qualified for the job than her actual background would indicate. That’s a really, really difficult thing to do.


Lindsay J November 15, 2013 at 1:49 am

Yes, me too. I went back and reread everything when I got to the line about not having hotel management experience because the impression I had of the letter writer prior to that was of an experienced, high level hospitality manager.


The Clerk November 14, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I really like this, particularly since I’ve been looking to break out of the retail/receptionist rut and she makes it sound good.

One thing, though. The “Key Results” and “Profile” at the top seem a lot like an objective to me. Obviously it worked, but would you recommend against that in favor of just wading into the experience?


thenoiseinspace November 14, 2013 at 2:34 pm


I thought the same thing! I’d love for Alison to weigh in about this in a little more detail. For example, if adding this would mean having to remove a job experience entry to keep it to one page (for those who haven’t been working long enough to warrant a second page), which should we keep?


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I refer you to Zahra slightly further down! (Who will refer you to me, but this is faster.)


OP November 16, 2013 at 10:55 pm

I had a lengthy comment here and it vanished as I was posting it, so I’ll try and replicate it. Incoming plug for my industry here!

Hospitality can actually be a really great launching pad for people who have been in that retail/receptionist area and want to make a career without having to go back to school. At the moment, it’s one of the few fields that still trains from the bottom for the most part; some managers have degrees in hotel management or MBAs but a lot don’t, and quite a few don’t have college degrees at all. Despite the recession, it’s actually been a sector that’s been growing fairly well, compared to some.

Generally speaking, if you have prior customer service experience, they’ll look for you to add on a year to two years of hotel experience before letting you transition to management. Going to front desk is the most common transition in from retail, but there are quite a few possible areas. After that, your first management job is normally a lead or supervisor position. This is normally a position where you do have significant responsibility—hire/discipline authority, and a number of areas that are under your purview, but there’s often a number of managers above you with whom you’ll be working.

The advantages are that a lot more hotels offer benefits to full-time employees than retail stores, as far as I know. In my area, the average pay is a bit higher for entry level front-of-house hotel staff at least, though not a huge amount higher. There’s also a lot of room for advancement and a lot more areas to advance into. For example, a medium-sized hotel might have a general manager, an assistant general manager, a sales manager, one or more front office leads, one or more maintenance leads, one or more housekeeping leads. A large hotel will have more levels, and may also have a food and beverage operation, with the associated managers. And the fact that there’s still a willingness to train from the ground makes it far more accessible than a lot of fields right now.

The thing I personally love about it is that because the hospitality industry itself is so competitive (it’s not unusual for there to be a dozen hotels in a five-block radius), there’s still a lot of innovation going on, and a willingness to experiment and try new things. This will vary from hotel to hotel, but the industry as a whole has to keep pushing the envelope because there are always more room nights to sell than guests in any one area.

The downsides, of course, are that you have hotel guests much longer than you have someone visiting an office or a store. A guest might be on the premises for eight hours or longer, and some of them make you very aware of it. Anything can and will happen. You will come to dread the phrase “soiled linens”. If you don’t cope well with the unexpected and with change, it’s not a good field for you. Also, managers are normally on call 24-7. Someone locks their keys in a closet? Someone throws up in the pool? You might get a call at 3AM and have to come in. Especially as an entry-level employee, but also as a low-level manager, you will work nights, weekends, and holidays, including ones you usually get off even in a retail environment (such as Christmas or New Years’ Day).

If you do decide to have a look at it, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to ask a lot of questions in the interview. There are some really amazing hotels, and there are some really, really awful ones. Look for one where the team meshes, and ideally where the manager’s willing to develop his or her teams’ talent.


Jaimie November 14, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I nearly always agree with AAM, but this is not one of those times. I think the resume is well done, but I would not interview this person based on the cover letter. The examples in that letter are good, the research is good, the level of interest is good. Overall, I get what AAM is saying about customization.

But the tone is pushy and immature. And it’s not just the part where the applicant assumes that she knows what the hiring manager needs. Even the opening paragraph is off-putting.


TL November 14, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I feel like for a customer-service position, though, you’d want someone who is solution-driven and cheerful. So the attitude of “I see you have a problem – open position – and here I have a solution – myself” seems really great for the hospitality service.

It is industry-specific, but the letter-writer knows her industry and it worked.


fposte November 14, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I think also that opinions here may depend on hiring experience. I think if you haven’t had much hiring experience, you tend to compare cover letters to hypothetical cover letters in your head rather than to the real gamut that you get when hiring; it may also be that some people with seriously executive hiring experience never see anything but brilliant application packages. My hiring tends to fall toward the early end of careers, so I think I’m seeing a lot of people at a similar stage to our sample provider, and her sample definitely has a savvy that isn’t common at that stage.


Jaimie November 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Noted, TL. I guess if you need relentlessly cheerful you’re in good shape with this one. And I get the part about letting your voice come through.

My concern is that it’s a lower level position, and while she says that she’s open to doing things in new ways, the impression I got was “anything you can do I can do better”. I would be concerned about managing someone like this, since she seems so aggressive at an early time in her career. The letter is too direct and too foward for me. Even for junior people, personally I tend to favor applicants who are more mature.


Sharm November 14, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Exactly it. This letter set off so many warning bells for me. I’ve hired for several positions before, and have learned that this type of person just wouldn’t mesh with me.

But, that’s my experience. I can cede that. But the idea that all hiring managers would jump to this isn’t true. I wouldn’t have. It wasn’t posited that way in the original post, but now is being said as such in the comments. That I can understand.


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Who is saying all hiring managers would love this? There’s no letter in the world that all hiring managers would love, nor should there be since part of the point is to screen for fit (on both sides).


OP November 14, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Relentlessly cheerful is pretty necessary in this field, honestly. (You’re not the first person to say that about me, actually.)

I can certainly see your point, and you’re not particularly wrong. I am pretty aggressive, to be honest. The reason this position interested me is because I could tell they were looking to shake things up and that they might be interested in someone willing to upset a few apple carts.


Lindsay J November 15, 2013 at 1:51 am

I would rather have a direct and forward young manager than a timid one who is too afraid to speak her mind or to exercise her authority when she needs to.


Emily K November 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm


The amount of applications I received with a dull form cover letter with our name obviously copied and pasted in a different font than the rest of the letter…the “cover letters” that simply read “In response to your posting on X, please find my resume for the position of Y”…the people who did not include a cover letter at all…and the person who wrote back when I followed-up looking for his cover letter to tell me he didn’t feel that he needed one…

…this letter stands up because the writer, whatever her tone, has convinced me that she understands the job, can perform its duties, and would have a positive attitude towards the work. So, so many cover letters barely accomplish one of those three things.


Marie November 14, 2013 at 8:35 pm

While I would not have hired this person based on the cover letter (way too pushy), I do have to say the fact that it has a cover letter at all and even more so, one that it customized to the employer, is impressive. In my experience, it is extremely rare to receive a cover letter at all. Maybe it is my industry or maybe it is due to our online application system, but I only see about 10% of our applicants submitting cover letters. The PhD applicants seem to be the worst offenders for some reason. Most of them can’t seem to be bothered enough to properly fill out the application so forget a cover letter. I guess they think their education should be enough.


Victoria Nonprofit November 14, 2013 at 3:17 pm

A lot of people (including me) are responding with skepticism to the tone of the letter. But something we seem to be forgetting is that it worked. She got the job. So while (apparently) a lot of people on here say they wouldn’t interview this person, the interviewer that mattered did. She correctly read the company’s style, her industry, and what they were looking for.


academicland November 14, 2013 at 2:22 pm

I am dying to have a place where we share really bad ones! I have a horrible example that I want to show the world but can’t. The person who gave it to me to be their reference just isn’t into feedback on it, but it is so terrible. Can we look at more bad ones? Please?


Sadsack November 14, 2013 at 3:07 pm

that seems a little mean-spirited


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Those tend to be hard to get permission to post :)


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Can we all remember that we’re talking about a real person who volunteered to let me use her materials here and who is now reading your comments? (I asked to share it; she didn’t suggest it.) I’m all for people commenting and sharing impressions, but I’m cringing when anyone is harsher than I imagine they’d be if they were talking to a friend about the friend’s resume.

Also: It worked for her. She got the job she really wanted. And at least other one hiring manager with decent judgment (me) loved it too. So while it might not work for you, it’s clearly working for some people in a position to hire — and so I think harsh judgments stated as absolutes are really out of place here.


Jaimie November 14, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Ooof. Okay.

Sorry if my comments personally sounded harsh. I should say that the drive and determination are wonderful, and I’m glad the cover letter worked for her. I think that making your cover letter specific does help substantially. I know for a fact that doing this helped me get my current job (becaue I recently asked my HR department). Also, I think the resume is great.

I don’t think the comments overall are that bad– I think that people are saying that this particular tone doesn’t translate to different industries or doesn’t work for them personally as a hiring manager. Which isn’t the same thing as saying that the writer is a bad person in any way.


Wren November 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Yeah, I don’t think this is really being torn apart. There is nothing you could ever post that someone wouldn’t say “I would not hire this person because I don’t like the tone.” Most people seem to be saying that this letter wouldn’t be applicable in their industry and a lot of them seem to want an example of one that you like that WOULD fit their circumstances. I think that speaks to their trust in your judgement.


fposte November 14, 2013 at 4:15 pm

But I think some of this comes from people who don’t actually know whether this works in their industry or not, and what they’re really saying is “This is really different from what I’ve been told and it makes me uncomfortable.”


Sharm November 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I have hired for several positions in marketing and sales, and there is no way this person would even get a phone screen. So not all the comments here are hypothetical. It made me uncomfortable because I’ve interviewed people like this person, and they would have been a terrible culture fit.

But, to other people’s points, that was in my particular industry and organization. I’m glad s/he found a role at a place that values this style. There’s some place for everyone, which gives me some hope.


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm

But the fact that she would have been a bad culture fit for you and perfect for others means that the letter is doing exactly what it should — screening for the right fit for her and the employer she’s sending it to. It SHOULD be doing that; that’s part of the point of letting your voice come through. It’s part of what makes it a great letter.

So for people to rag on all the things they don’t like about it misses the point. I’m not posting this to say “here is your cover letter.” I’m posting it to say “here is someone who applied all the advice we talked about and the end result is great.”

There’s no single cover letter out there that will be the right fit for every employer and every industry; by definition, no such letter could exist. You need to be able to look at it and see the parts that she did well that are universal.


Windchime November 14, 2013 at 7:09 pm

I think that’s the problem; people are still looking for some kind of magic bullet cover letter that will fit all situations. And that just doesn’t exist!


TBoT November 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm

On top of losing sight of the fact that the rest of the Internet is real people with feelings, I think a lot of people online miss the fact that the Internet is pretty much always just one step away from a gang-up, pile-on situation.

There is usually just one person, maybe two, behind a post, an article, an opinion, or some creative thing online. But the Internet is legion. That one person winds up facing a sea of other individual people who collectively create a giant pile of negativity through the combined influence of their individual responses.

I would like it quite a lot if people would really consider not only how they would feel if someone said X thing to them, but also how they would feel if 30 or 50 or 100 people in a row said X thing to them, before being negative or criticizing someone publicly on the Internet.


ThursdaysGeek November 14, 2013 at 6:35 pm

So very true. I’ve had questions answered by Alison and the comments, even though completely polite and generally helpful, were still a bit hard to take. It only takes a couple of “why did you do it that way in the first place!?” type questions before we want to start justifying our actions. It’s hard to step back and just listen and learn, and let some of it go.


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Possibly I’m just feeling protective toward the writer, but “just awful,” “immature,” and so forth seem pretty harsh (as well as bizarrely absolute, given the context).


Mints November 14, 2013 at 5:34 pm

I’d like to add one more “thank you” to the pile. I really appreciate the samples


Confused November 14, 2013 at 6:57 pm

AAM wrote she will probably not post another cover letter/resume in the future bc of some of the comments. I agree with some, disagree with some…but overall I find it helpful to see things like this and hope she reconsiders.
Will my cover letter and resume be a copy+paste of this (with a find+replace of my name and previous jobs)? No. But the point is to get an IDEA of what this person did.
It’s like seeing Jennifer Lawrence on the red carpet and wearing an outfit inspired by her’s with changes to account for my body type, brands I have access to, and context. Or seeing a recipe on Food Network and adding or subtracting to make it a vegetarian meal.
I’m sure there are people who did not comment, for whatever reason, but who also found it helpful.


Jaimie November 14, 2013 at 9:48 pm

I think that people saying “this doesn’t work for me” is fine. That is not tearing the letter or the author apart. I just read thru the comments and there isn’t much which is mean spirited.

I also think that you are not giving your readers enough credit. People have said over and over again that they get your main points. Cover letters, when well written and customized for the job, tend to help applicants. This one person’s tone didn’t work for a lot of people. And that’s okay. It is fine to disagree.


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 9:51 pm

I don’t have a problem with “it doesn’t work for me.” I have a problem with “it’s just awful,” “it’s immature,” etc.


Jaimie November 14, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Understandable. But it’s a blog. People write stuff quickly in a spare moment at work. And for me, because substitute “not ready for my sort of environment” for “immature”.

Maybe if you do this again, you could just close off the comments. But I don’t think this set of responses is much different from those posted to a lot of other questions. (When I wrote to you a few months ago, I barely read the comments. I wanted your advice, and didn’t want to be swayed by too many voices)


Kerry November 15, 2013 at 3:36 am

I don’t know, I think there’s a pretty big difference between “doesn’t work for me” and “awful”, that isn’t just down to people writing in a hurry.


Lily in NYC November 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I think it’s great. But I feel the need to warn the OP that since Winter Is Coming, it might not be the best time to work for the Stark family. Unless you like funerals!


Anonymous November 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm

That’s why I applied for Lannister Inc!


Laufey November 14, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Strangely, I was thinking, that it should have been “Lannister Investments” in the letter….I mean, they are the ones with the (literal) gold mine, yes?


saro November 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm

People, c’mon, HOUSE OF DORNE, INC. is where it’s at.


iseeshiny November 15, 2013 at 12:40 am

I hear they do wedding planning, too.


jesicka309 November 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Eeesh no way, when you get close to the top, you have a harder fall. In the Game of Thrones you win or you die….

I’m chilling with Saro in safe old Dorne…..or maybe I’ll go live in one of the Free Cities. Meritocracy! :)


saro November 14, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Yes, Free Cities Cooperative would work too! :)


Laurie November 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Ooh, I loved the ‘Profile’ and ‘Key Results include’ sections at the top of the resume. Seems like a great way to back up a summary section, while also allowing the opportunity to customize based on specific jobs/industries.


Zahra November 14, 2013 at 2:41 pm

About all the comments on objectives: I urge you to go back to what AAM said in past writings:

“Resume objectives never help and often hurt. Not only do they feel outdated at this point, but *they’re all about what you want*, rather than what this stage of the hiring process is all about—what the employer wants. ” (emphasis mine)

” Profile sections or summaries have replaced objectives at the top of modern-day resumes. This is a quick list of the highlights of your strengths and experience, summing up in just a few sentences or bullet points who you are as a candidate and what you have to offer. A well-written profile or summary can provide an overall framing of your candidacy, setting the hiring manager up to see the rest of your resume through that lens.”


some1 November 14, 2013 at 4:49 pm

To me, Objectives are not only outdated, they are redundant.

If you’re answering a call for resumes, the Hiring Manager knows your objective is to get the job they posted.

If you’re cold applying (like a lot of my freelancing friends do), you should be explaining in the cover letter what you kind of work you are looking for from the employer.


Laurel November 14, 2013 at 2:55 pm

I’m a manager in a university setting. In my world, this letter would not get you past the first round of consideration. In the academic world, this tone would be perceived as pushy and immature. Even if the candidate’s qualifications are excellent, I think the tone of the letter would land the application in the reject pile. Furthermore, no one on a search committee would be able to overlook the grammatical problems (there are at least two sentences that aren’t sentences). So, as others have said, this further illustrates the point that what works well in one particular culture does not work well in another.


fposte November 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm

As you suggest, YMMV. I hire in a university too, and I actually don’t perceive the writing as grammatically incorrect–it’s following oral convention rather than written in a couple of spots, but the general skill level makes it clear that that’s a choice, not a lack of knowledge. It’s like my refusal to acknowledge the predicate nominative :-).


Jess November 14, 2013 at 3:50 pm

This. It was clearly a choice. I often do the same when I’m attempting to write in a conversational tone. (Although I’ve always shied away from using this device in a cover letter as my industry is on the stuffier side.) True grammatical errors often stick out like an eyesore and break the natural flow of reading. In this case it effectively served both the informal tone and natural, conversational flow of the letter.


Shelley November 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm

The person who wrote this cover letter and resume is not an academic, and isn’t applying for a job as a professor in a University.
If you look at her resume, she has mainly worked in admin support and customer service. Considering ( and with all due respect) she has no formal University or College listed on her resume she has done a fantastic job in selling herself to the employer.
The point of Alison posting this example was to show a well written cover letter and resume for the type of industry she was applying for.
She got the job didn’t she? Looking at her experience on her resume she definitely got the interview because of her cover letter. She doesn’t have management experience, and would be a deal breaker for a company looking to hire a hotel manager. She obviously researched the company and wrote in a voice that they loved.


Anonymous November 14, 2013 at 3:11 pm

This is for a hospitality job, though. Most of the hospitality managers I’ve encountered are really bad at spelling/grammar. (Really bad is an understatement haha…)


Stryker November 14, 2013 at 5:02 pm

God forbid you start a sentence with a word traditionally used as a conjunction. And people wonder why graduates straight out of college without any practical writing experience typically can’t produce copy worth the paper it’s printed on…


A January 3, 2014 at 5:13 pm

The criticism of the grammar was not about starting a sentence with “and,” it was about incomplete sentences.


Lils November 18, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I have to agree. Just in case anyone lands on this page wanting a resume/cover letter format to apply at a university, I would proceed with caution. Not that this isn’t a good cover letter for hospitality, but I would button-up the tone to write one for academia. They are rightly concerned that you will be able to succeed in academia–in other words, can you play the game?


Lils November 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Also, if I’m remembering correctly, Alison’s examples seem to contain a lot of contractions which contribute to a very informal tone–I wouldn’t recommend that for higher ed.


Ask a Manager November 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm

There’s nothing wrong with contractions in more formal writing; I’ll never understand where that idea came from. I advocate them.


Malissa November 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I get a lot of enthusiasm out of the cover letter. Which is exactly what I would want in a hotel/hospitality position. The author also shows that she knows that efficiency is not the only thing that matters. She’s shown that she’s taken the time to research the business and understands what they need.
I can totally see why she got the job.


Windchime November 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Me too. Dany has done her research, she lets her bubbly and enthusiastic personality shine through which seems totally appropriate for a career in hospitality, and her letter was interesting enough to keep me reading through to the very end.

Congratulations on the new position, Dany, and thank you for agreeing to share your resume and cover letter with us. The naysayers may wish to examine their own cover letters and resumes to see where they can polish things up. I know that I sure would, if I were searching for a new job.


CEMgr November 14, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Great point about the tone being a perfect fit for the industry!


LSG November 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Just to back up “don’t use this for your own” — not only is it bad because it’s so personalized and because “do your own work” is important, but also because there are hiring managers who read AAM. I don’t hire often, but I once got a cover letter (for a writing position) that included lots of language from a cover letter Alison highlighted here… I was not impressed.


JC November 14, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Thank you for sharing AAM! I loved this example. It’s a coherent, well-researched and thoughtful cover letter.

Yes, it is on the sale-sy side, but isn’t a huge part of hiring/job searching selling yourself to the other side?


The Other Me November 14, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Whatever people think of the cover letter personally, it clearly worked for the person who wrote it.

As someone who absolutely hates to write cover letters, I appreciate the example.

Thanks AAM :)


andy November 14, 2013 at 3:57 pm

I got a job at a wonderful U using AAM advice…and specifically I remember reading the original post about this cover letter when I was applying.
In fact I got the first job I applied to after my stay at home stint (2 yrs.) with my son.
…in a totally different field at a U I had been drooling over for years.
So Academia Hopefuls: these methods worked for me. %100 success rate.


Catherine November 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm

“Juicy projects” “perfect fit” “cleaning house?” No, no, and no! After reading the cover letter, the closest you get to something concrete about the writer’s background is that she had a leadership position in a restaurant. Ummm… I just don’t see what was supposed to make me want to contact her for an interview because this would be an automatic rejection from me.

The resume was better, with at least some specific examples, but the cover letter was just awful.

Sorry AAM. You’re still my favourite career blogger, though!


Anonymous November 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm

For a hotel manager job, being bubbly and having managed a restaurant before is huge.


Emily K November 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm

But the concrete things about background go in the resume. The cover letter is for a different purpose. It’s supposed to give me clues to more nebulous things like: does this person seem understand how our business and industry work? would this person enjoy doing the work of this role, or would they be bitter and a drain on staff morale? would this person fit into our company culture and be someone others would enjoy working with? is this person less inexperienced and malleable (an advantage for a position that requires a lot of compliance), or opinionated and savvy (an advantage for a position that requires a lot of independent judgment)?


Jill November 14, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Really, “just awful”? Not “not to my taste” or “not the right tone for my field,” but “just awful”? I would say this comment is just awful as well and demonstrates the problem with crowd sourcing anything.

I appreciate it being posted and there’s a lot here to learn from.


Catherine November 15, 2013 at 11:46 am

Thanks for the comments Jill. I respect your opinion. See? That was easy, and I didn’t have to say anything nasty.

“Just awful” was and is my opinion of the letter. I agree that cover letters do not include the amount of detail in the resume, and that they need to hit on other intangibles, but the language, tone and content would not induce me to even look at the resume because it all felt juvenile and unprofessional. At my organization, we tend to read cover letters first, so this letter would land the applicant in the discard pile.

If she had related her experiences in the restaurant or customer service sector to the hotel position, and the great things she would bring to the role, then it would have shown her relevant experience and made her seem like a qualified candidate – someone whose resume I would want to read.


Catherine November 15, 2013 at 11:52 am

To the OP – I’m truly glad that you got the job you wanted, and that you were able to connect with the employer. Not questioning abilities, here. Maybe it is an industry perspective, so I’m glad you’ve found your fit!


Zahra November 15, 2013 at 9:09 am

Hey, some companies do make a living out of buying fledgling businesses in their field, turning them around through reviewing processes, work/management culture and weeding out people that don’t fit anymore. If this company has a history of doing exactly that, or even commenting that this particular acquisition is heading this way, the OP’s cover letter seems excellent to me. After all, she’d just be telling how she would fit in such an atmosphere and telling the HM what kind of person/qualifications she thinks would fit in such a scenario.


Anonicorn November 14, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Thank you, Resume/Cover Letter Writer, for allowing Alison to post this. It’s so helpful to see real examples of a resume/cover letter combo that actually work – opposed to what an internet search believes resumes and cover letters should be.


Wren November 14, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Agreed. It is amazingly helpful and giving me hope in a time when I really, really need it.


Susie November 14, 2013 at 4:52 pm

I want to join those saying thank you, LW for agreeing to let your materials be posted here.

I’ve been trying to explain to my husband how he should be writing his cover letters and resumes to get more interviews, and this is exactly the sort of thing he needs to see.

Along with others I can agree the tone of your letter wouldn’t work for the things he applies to, but the content certainly would. Kudos for knowing your industry well and researching the heck out of this company. You do an excellent job of making it clear why you want the job and why you would excel at it which is the whole point.


Anonymouse November 14, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I thought this was great! I also don’t understand the “this wouldn’t work in my industry/for me” commentary. By their nature a cover letter’s purpose is to get you hired for the job you are applying for. And she was hired for the job, so her application materials 100% worked. Letter writer, thank you so much for sharing, and a big congrats on your new job! It’s pretty weird to be inspired by a cover letter / resume, but I am totally inspired and going to re-work my CL & resume now. I think what is so great about this example is that it is easy to see things you can adopt without actually mimicking the author.


Canuck November 14, 2013 at 5:06 pm

I think the discussion here just further proves AAM’s point – that cover letters and resumes should be tailored to a specific job opening and highlight what stands out about you individually.

In this case, I can see why some people find the cover letter a bit off or perhaps unprofessional. For many industries, this letter is not appropriate; but as someone who previously worked in the service industry, I can see why this letter got her an interview. The letter highlights many of the qualities that are important in hotel/restaurant/bar jobs: friendliness, passion, excitement, focus on customer service, and previous experience in the industry.


Chriama November 14, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Soon-to-be new grad here, looking for some advice:

Can someone point out to me the “universal” things we can pick up from her example. Obviously, showing how she knew about the company’s operating procedures and she went to the website and actually understood what she read is great, but what else should I try to emulate?

I’ve always tended to “tell the story of me” through cover letters. As in, give background on situations I’ve been in that make me a good candidate. But most of Alison’s examples just state “as my resume will show, I have extensive experience in these areas” without going on to “prove it” through long anecdotes. Should I aim to be more like that? I sort of get how a cover letter isn’t supposed to be reiteration of your resume, but how much explanation about your experiences is necessary?

For example, I talk about how I’ve competed in lots of case competitions because it shows teamwork and problem-solving abilities. Then I go on to list each competition I was in, what the question was, and what position I placed. Would it be enough to state that I’ve competed in and won a number of case competitions and then put the specific details in my resume?


Victoria Nonprofit November 14, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Warning: long response ahead!

Alison addresses some of your questions right in the post:

The point is that this is an excellent illustration of a cover letter resume that will excite a hiring manager — the cover letter because it’s personable, explains why the candidate is interested in this particular job, and makes a compelling case for why she’d excel at it beyond what’s on the resume, and the resume because it shows that she has a track record of getting things done.

And here’s my take on things she does that would work on me:

- She takes a crack at understanding what the hiring manager is looking for: “You need someone who isn’t wedded to doing everything the way it’s been done before. Someone committed to high standards.” etc. This could go wrong, if she misinterprets what the the hiring manager wants. But articulating what you think they need and how you can give that to them is a strong strategy: it shows you understand them and gives them a structure through which to understand your experience.

- She clearly describes the value she will add: “Every place I’ve worked, my favorite part of the job is looking at how things are done and trying to figure out ways to do it better…”

- The profile and “key results” on her resume highlight exceptional accomplishments – things that go beyond “just doing the job.” As someone mentioned above, when you skim this application it gives the sense of a much more experience candidate than Dany actually is, which is awesome. A hiring manager will be impressed with her credentials, even if her experience is less than another potential candidate.

- With each job, she highlights strong, specific accomplishments. Every line in the section that focuses on the hospitality industry makes me think “She’s really good at her job.”

What I’d change about this letter is some of the superfluous language. Fewer words – especially adjectives and adverbs – are better. Warmup phrases don’t add to understanding. I’d get rid of bits like “So here’s the crux of it,” “every place I’ve worked,” “needless to say,” “really” (before “excited”), etc. I think that’s what a lot of people are responding negatively to here.

Regarding your case competition example: I don’t know what you mean by “telling the story of you,” but generally I think that telling a (short) story in your cover letter is a stronger use of that space than listing awards/etc. So you might talk about a particular case you worked, what the challenge was, how you overcame it, and what the outcome was.

Does that help?


fposte November 14, 2013 at 6:41 pm

I think this is an excellent assessment–you’ve articulated its strengths and identified the areas that are more taste and field calls for your reservations.

Chriama, take my thoughts with a grain of salt because I’m not in business, but to me “the story of you” would come through great with the “I talk about how I’ve competed in lots of case competitions because it shows teamwork and problem-solving abilities” and then would dry up when it hit the list of what you’ve learned from each one. Give me the range and then tell me about a key example that will stick vividly in my mind as snapshot of who these competitions show you as–be the person who kicked butt in Yonkers after her teammate died onstage, not one of the people with bullet points about her proactively kinetic synergies.


yes November 14, 2013 at 7:06 pm

This is the most insightful comment here yet. I think you are right on point on the strengths and weakness of the original letter, especially on what commenters are responding negatively to (which I think is missing the forest for the trees).

To Chriama, I would not list every competition and question in the cover letter. Tell a specific story about problem solving or team work instead.


OP November 14, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I also would like to say I think that’s very good feedback regarding the cover letter. I know I can be wordy (this represents the way I really talk), so in future editions, I’ll try and pare it down a bit more.


Kerry November 15, 2013 at 3:39 am

I just wanted to thank you again for sharing it, and congratulations on getting the job!


Laura November 15, 2013 at 12:59 pm

OP, I can relate. I’m wordy in real life and in writing. But thank you so much for sharing this with us, and congratulations on landing the job.

Also, I really appreciated the conversational tone of your letter. People sometimes think “conversational” = “informal” but that’s not actually true in every case. It takes skill though, to pull it off, and I think you do.

Oh, and check out William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well.” He helped me become more aware of my love of unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, even if I still use them. :)


Mark November 15, 2013 at 10:37 am

I understand some of the duress that this post has caused to some of Alison’s readers because of the ways in which this letter “breaks some of the rules” but I have to parrot Victoria’s thoughts. From my own perspective as a hiring manager, this application package works as resumes and cover letters are intended to act.

The cover letter illustrates forethought and care by the applicant – however she might actually feel, I read it as a candidate who has taken time to try and understand my organization, and who has concluded that she is excited about it. I don’t deny that there is a salesy aspect to it, and yet for myself, it works. This isn’t a zero-sum game for me, and the strengths of the letter are such that whatever weaknesses it has are negligible to me.

The resume illustrates the ways in which she has provided an excellent standard of care and work. The package considered as a whole is compelling to me, certainly compelling enough to make me want to speak with the candidate further. And in that conversation or conversations I can draw my own conclusions about the shortcomings of the application materials – and you can be sure that in interview I would do just that. Screening at this point – truly at any point in the hiring process – isn’t about seeking perfection. That person, that resume and cover letter, aren’t real.

For all the feelings, etc. flying around this post, I really think that it illustrates in so many ways what Alison has tried to convey about the hiring process. Namely, that it is extremely nuanced, and while there are certainly rules and conventions we couldn’t claim that it was nuanced if those rules and conventions couldn’t be bent or broken at times.


Kerr November 14, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Reading the cover letter and this entire thread has been really interesting.

I admit the letter turned me off and even made me feel depressed. Not because the letter writer sounds like a bad person, but the voice sounds far more sales-y than I would ever feel comfortable being, and also presumptive that she knows the company’s exact needs. It’s dispiriting to think that I’d have to add that much hype and bubble. However, she got the job, and the letter and resume *do* make her sound competent (if a bit pushy and sales-y for my tastes), so it obviously worked for this company and position.

Despite my initial negative reaction, there are things in there that aren’t just hyped verbiage, and which could be applied to any cover letter. The writer obviously did a lot of research, and had a clear and long-running interest in the company. (Although this fact is kind of frustrating, since it’s not something that many – most? – of us could say in a cover letter.) Her paragraph about her research showed that she’s intelligent and able to make sense of the case studies and financial articles, and put data together to come up with (presumably accurate) conclusion.

It’s worded conversationally, and even if that turns me off a bit, I can see how conversational language sounds more approachable and easy to read. Having something to back up her assertions about great customer service (the “binder full of compliments”) is hard evidence for the hiring manager.

The resume was even more interesting than the cover letter, actually. I wouldn’t have thought about adding all the “soft” achievements like the ones she lists in her “Key Results”.

Lots of stuff to think about, and thanks to the OP and Alison for sharing it, even if I don’t like everything about it.

I’d also be interested in seeing a cover letter written by a more formal personality, and/or for a more formal profession, if such a thing crops up in the future.


Jake November 14, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Things I love about this:

1. The research. Not just “hey I pulled this line off your website research” but actual research that shows you truly follow the industry.

2. The passion. You can definitely tell she wants to work for this company, in this industry.

3. The key results section was really cool. I think it was very creative and adds a ton to the resume that would be hard to show without that section.

Things I like about this:

1. Explaining how you feel a need. The only issue is that you had better be correct in what they actually need.

2. Explaining how the fact that you don’t have hotel managerial experience isn’t a weakness. This is a strategy I’ve used successfully before. I’ve found it to be very hit and miss though.

Things I don’t like about this:

1. Too salesy. Hyperbole really really bothers me, even if you try to explain it away. Now, I come from a formal/conservative industry, so in this applicants particular industry this could be more appropriate. I don’t know, but for me it was too salesy.

2. Too informal. This is hard for me to write because I agree with AaM that 98% of cover letters are way too formal, but this one swings the pendulum too far in the other direction for my tastes. Once again though, this may be more appropriate in this industry than mine.

Neither of my 2 dislikes come even close to overshadowing the rest. If this applicant wasn’t radically under-qualified for the job in comparison to other applicants, I’d at the very least give her a call. Now, in the phone interview I’d hope to see the same level of excitement and industry knowledge without it becoming a sales pitch.


Jake November 14, 2013 at 6:41 pm

*Fill a need.

Dang it.


Anonymous November 14, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Reading this blog in Europe I must admit to finding the covering letter of a style I would not expect to receive or like. However the CV is a masterpiece of what I’ve always been taught to look for: Skills, Abilities and Achievements. All indicators as to how well the candidate will fit the post you are trying to fill. Well done to the author and all the best for the new position.


De November 15, 2013 at 12:51 am

Yeah, this totally wouldn’t fly in Germany. But a lot of the resume / cover letter advice on this blog wouldn’t, as would quite some of the other advice. In general, things are much more formal here – I shudder just thinking of calling a hiring manager by their first name or showing up at an interview not in a suit (I am a software developer, usually people here say IT doesn’t require one).

However, some of this is also what I would like to see more of here – a resume focusing more on achievements than duties sounds like it would be much more helpful for the hiring process, for example. Less formal cover letters would also be nicer to write.


Windchime November 14, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Many, many people are saying that the cover letter is “too informal”. Apparently it wasn’t, because it got Dany her new job. So it makes me wonder: Why do many people seem dedicated to the idea that a stiff, formal cover letter is better, even though Alison (who is an experienced hiring manager and knows her stuff!) assures us that a conversational tone is better? Could it be just an old-fashioned idea that is left over from the resume-writing class that we took in high school business class? “Dear Sirs: Please find enclosed my resume in response to your advertisement from Tuesday’s Daily Herald. I would humbly propose to submit said resume as an application to the post. Your humble servant, Windchime T. Peabody, esq.”

OK, yes, that’s silly, but really? I don’t know where we all got the idea that a stilted, formal letter is better.


Lacey November 14, 2013 at 9:13 pm

There are a lot of hiring managers saying they wouldn’t interview this candidate, so I think maybe we all just have to accept that there is a difference of opinion on this approach.


Laura November 15, 2013 at 1:08 pm

I think Windchime is right. Of course there are hiring managers who prefer a more formal cover letter. My guess is that many of them were taught that cover letters are supposed to be formal, and they’ve never given much thought as to why. Some fields require very formal writing in day-to-day work, so it makes sense. Others don’t require it, but think they do. A lot of people find it difficult to be appropriately polite or deferential without striking a formal tone, so they’d rather err on the side of caution, and that’s fine. But I think it’s important to recognize that it is possible to convey respect/politeness/etc. in a conversational tone – but it can be difficult.

Either way, I suppose it doesn’t matter because the hiring manager is hiring for what he thinks he needs, even if he doesn’t actually need it. So, know your field, as Alison says.


Ornery PR November 14, 2013 at 7:56 pm

“binders of compliments.” Love it.


Not Sure November 14, 2013 at 8:33 pm

I would like to see an example of a more formal cover letter. This wouldn’t work for my industry or for my personality.


OP November 14, 2013 at 8:41 pm

OP here.

For those who found this helpful, I’m glad it was useful to you! For those who have questions or concerns, I’ll address the main points here. Please understand I’m not trying to be defensive at all; as Alison said, it worked for me in this case. I’m only posting this to clarify some of the choices that I made in this particular instance, because I think others might find it useful when they have to make similar choices.

1. The letter writer is cocky and doesn’t really have the experience to back it up.

I debated quite a while about whether to include the line about being ‘perfect’ for the job. I finally decided to leave it in, since I had every qualification that they listed, and also had some further useful skills to bring to the table. This is an entry level management position, so no previous management experience was required or requested. Having both hospitality experience and some basic management experience in food service was very helpful in getting the position.

2. The letter writer assumes she knows what the hiring manager needs and it’s off-putting.

This was also a calculated risk. I follow industry news pretty closely for my region, and I keep my eyes on the job boards to watch for patterns. Based on the questions I asked and the answers I got during my interviews, I think I was pretty close to right in terms of what the managers did need. It was a risk, though, since if I’d been wrong, I would have come across as clueless.

I also was deliberately looking for a position where things were in a state of flux, and where I would therefore have a chance to jump in, learn as much as I could, and influence things in a way that wouldn’t be possible when the status quo was more set. I wanted my resume to reflect this.

3. The letter is too casual.

I think this is a case of knowing your field. The hospitality industry still mostly trains from the ground up. While some managers may have degrees in hotel management or MBAs, many more never went to college at all, so it’s not unusual for even official hotel correspondence to be fairly casual. Additionally, since this position involves a huge amount of customer interaction (chatting with guests, making them feel comfortable, and so on), I felt a casual approach was more appropriate to convey the way I deal with people.

4. The letter-writer sounds like a pain to work with.

I definitely have a temperament that doesn’t do well in all environments or on all teams. I am a stickler for doing things right; I like people, but I need the freedom to try new systems and to constantly grow and push myself. I get bored quickly if I don’t get to learn new things often. I’m ambitious, and I don’t like doing things the same way just because they’ve always been done that way.

Conversely, I work extremely hard. I’m not naturally satisfied with good enough. I usually like to research thoroughly to make sure I understand a problem before tackling it. I like to take on extra projects, and I’m very, very good at keeping a lot of balls in the air at the same time.

My goal with this cover letter was to convey my personality, so that the hiring manager would have a sense of who I am. Because I know that I do have a personality that doesn’t mesh well with every team and every situation, I felt it was best to make it clear from the outset who I am and what I’m like. As a result, I feel that we were able to have some very good conversations about what the job would be like and whether it would be a good fit for both of us.

5. The letter-writer’s resume is too long.

Yep, I agree with you!

On the resume, there are a few things on there that I included because they were requested (they specifically asked for 45+ WPM typing speed in the advertisement) and some things because they explained gaps that otherwise looked odd. I think once I get some more accomplishments in this new job, I can pare the whole thing down to one page.

Once again, I’m not trying to be defensive. I offered this resume and cover letter because some of the cover letter examples posted here in the past helped me. In this case, it worked for me. I’m sure I’ll look back on this resume five years from now and wince at it, and that’s all right. I hope seeing an example that worked in one instance will help others, and that understanding my rationale behind the choices I made will help too.


Sydney November 14, 2013 at 9:17 pm

I love both your cover letter and resume. Even though I’m not in the hospitality field, I was excited by your excitement.

Your calculated risks were spot on. Really great work!


OP November 14, 2013 at 10:11 pm

I’m glad you liked it! If it helps even a few people with theirs, I’m happy with the outcome.


Lacey November 14, 2013 at 9:18 pm

What an incredibly gracious response. Thanks for replying.

I posted my original comment then read all the others and felt bad for seeming to have jumped on the bandwagon to criticise.

I think I’m finally getting the point that Alison made somewhere in this thread, that the ‘voice’ you used was perfect for you, and for seeing if this job was the right fit for you. If the hiring manager had the same response as most people commenting here had, then obviously it wouldn’t have been the right place for you.

I’m so impressed at the way you have responded here, and again, I’m thrilled that this approach worked for you. I hope you have a stellar career in your chosen field.


Jaimie November 14, 2013 at 9:52 pm



OP November 14, 2013 at 10:10 pm

It’s completely fine; you don’t get into the customer service sector in a serious way if you can’t take a little heat.

Something occurred to me as you were mentioning that it read as too salsey to you.

It seems to me that there are two kinds of sales. There’s the kind of sales that we tend to think of when we think of used car salesmen and the like, what we might call ‘bad sales’. Bad sales is focused only on the needs of the seller, pushing the product that best fits their bottom line. It’s annoying and also ultimately a poor model because it doesn’t generate satisfaction, which in turn doesn’t help you build a good reputation.

There’s also what we might call ‘good sales’. Good sales is focused on finding the product that both fits the needs of the seller and the needs of the buyer. For example, a salesman who finds the less expensive car that fits the customer’s needs instead of trying to push a more expensive one so he gets a higher commission. While it might generate a lower short-term return, it’s a better strategy because it builds a solid reputation and good word-of-mouth. Sometimes, this might even mean not getting a sale because you honestly don’t have what fits the customers’ needs.

In this cover letter, what I was attempting to do was to find a solution that would fit both of our needs, both theirs and mine, and to do that, I needed to accurately assess their concrete needs, and demonstrate what product (me) I honestly thought could best fit their situation. I think that’s a bit different than some of the letters you tend to see that simply try to create vague needs based on the candidate’s traits. (Are you looking for a motivated self-starter with over five years of sales experience?)

In other words, based on my perception of current events in our sector, my research, and the postings I saw, I believed that there was a concrete need for a person with very specific traits: a desire to work in an environment that needed to be brought up to par, comfort working with people, and an ability to handle a lot of different tasks at once, in this case. And I felt that I had those traits, so I offered my ‘product’ as a plausible solution.

(It’s entirely reasonable to debate how successful I was overall in achieving that goal. I was successful enough to get the job, but of course, one can always improve.)

I guess what I’m saying is that it might help to think about salesmanship in a cover letter as neither a positive or negative thing per se. I think it’s more about how it’s being done.


Laura November 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm

These are *excellent* points. No wonder Alison loves you – it sounds to me that regardless of style or tone or any of that stuff, you are showing exactly what we should do in job hunting: *always* keep in mind that hiring is a 2 way street. You knew what you wanted. You learned as much as you could about what they needed. You did your best to bring it all together in a compelling way that was appropriate to your field. Well done.


khilde November 15, 2013 at 4:49 pm

OP – You sound super smart. I think you have a bright future ahead of you. Congrats on the job.


anonymous November 14, 2013 at 10:04 pm

I found reading your cover letter really helpful. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m sorry that this somehow turned into a play-along-at-home version of The Apprentice. I’m really glad that your letter and resume impressed the only hiring manager(s) whose opinions mattered–even though your letter would never get you a callback with the Rockettes. ;-)

Thanks again for giving those of us searching another example of a successful letter. Congratulations and good luck with the new job.


OP November 14, 2013 at 10:26 pm

I’m glad you found it helpful, and thank you for the well-wishes!

And I assure you my dancing ability wouldn’t get me into the Rockettes either! ;)


Jake November 14, 2013 at 10:15 pm

That was a very cool response, OP.

I know you were concerned about coming off as defensive, so I figured I’d tell you that you came across exactly the opposite. You were gracious and understanding.

Like I said in my previous comment, your passion and research outweigh any perceived flaws by a ton, so I’d let any criticism roll of your back. We don’t all come from the same industry, region, background, etc. so it becomes easy for folks to think that the way their industry works is how all industries work.


OP November 14, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Thank you, I appreciate the compliment.

And I’m quite sure that this approach wouldn’t work in a lot of fields, or even in a lot of jobs within this field! As I said, writing about what I believed their needs were was a definite risk, one that would have been unwise if I was applying outside my region or in a situation where I knew less about the company.

I have to say, something that I’m very curious about now that I’ve read the comments in this thread is what a successful resume for a more conservative field might look like.


Jake November 14, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Calling out their needs and how you could fill them was one of my favorite parts!

I just got a job offer with a substantial pay increase and substantial bonus potential in a conservative construction industry. If you’d like to see them, shoot an email to jrscott11022 AT G Mail dot com.

There are flaws in both, so I can’t say they are a “good example” but I can say that they are a little more on the formal and conservative side than yours.

Flaws include:

having a core competencies section on the resume. Still there because I was applying through a computer system that tracks “buzz words” and it was an easy way to make sure the correct buzz words were included.

Education at top instead of bottom. Didn’t even think about it until a recent AaM post where she (correctly) points out that your education is less important than experience, so experience should go first.

Other misc. problems that I’m not aware of I’m sure.

My cover letter has transformed since starting to read AaM though. If you think this one is formal, stuffy and boring, you should have seen what I was using before!


Plynn November 15, 2013 at 11:46 am

Thanks for posting such a detailed reply – I was just on verge of banging my head on the desk at the endless negative comments (and I am *extremely* nitpicky when it comes to cover letters and resumes.)

Things that work for one specific applicant applying for one specific job, using the information cleaned from the wording of the job posting and the reputation of the company, will not necessarily work for another applicant applying for a different job. This is how it’s supposed to be!


OP November 16, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Definitely, and I’m glad you liked it!


ES November 16, 2013 at 1:50 am

This is great background, and (me coming in way late to the party), I’m guessing there would have been less “I don’t like this!” comments with this info.

It really shows the importance of knowing the industry you’re in/interested in and doing your research. Even though I’m not in the same industry, it definitely gave me food for thought for my next job search!

Thanks for sharing.


OP November 16, 2013 at 11:10 pm

You might be right!

And I think that’s something that can always be helpful–not only in getting a job, but in considering whether you even want to apply for a particular job. You might find in your research that you think their business model is unsustainable or that you don’t agree with some of the philosophies they follow or any number of things.


Littlefinger November 14, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Hey Alison–will you be offering that $100 rez/cover letter review again in the near future? Mine helped me get what is one of the most coveted jobs for college grads (Big 4 accounting), but I think they suck regardless. Compared to the ones you’ve held up as good examples, mine are impersonal and borderline pretentious, and I’m interested in getting your take. You know…for the *next* job app.


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Eventually, yes, but probably not in the next couple of months. That said, email me directly and I’ll set one up for you!


a nonny November 14, 2013 at 9:26 pm

I’m getting a serious case of déjà vu here. An engaging, well-written, enthusiastic cover letter full of personality, tailored to the company and industry and that got someone the job they wanted? Wrong, wrong, wrong, that would never work in MY field!

Maybe I’m crazy, but I get the feeling that the takeaway isn’t that you should march straight to your nearest bank, law firm, or academic institution and tell them about your kids and your love of juicy projects…


Manda November 14, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Certain parts of that letter were so enthusiastic that, to me, they came across as hard to believe. Maybe that’s just because I’m laid-back and cynical. I think there’d be a serious personality clash if I were working with someone who’s that much of a go-getter.


Ask a Manager November 14, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Then it’s done part of its job — it’s screened out people she wouldn’t work well with.


Been there/done that November 14, 2013 at 11:07 pm

thanks for sharing these letters and resume. Thanks to your advice, I wrote a personable cover letter. It got me the interview even though I didn’t get the job. Your advice gave me the push I needed to start my start for a new jjob.


ABC November 15, 2013 at 12:28 am

Thanks for posting this – great to see actual examples of “good” cover letters/resumes.
I have a Q: One of the oft repeated points in bother cover letter/resumes is “show not tell”
Would be great if someone could point this out here (a few examples) – I always have a problem doing this for my resume, so if they exist here it will be great to see them in action & understand.


OP November 16, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Here were some things that I tried to do here, in terms of ‘show, don’t tell’.

As I stated earlier, this position was for an entry-level management job. They wanted you to have hospitality experience, but they didn’t expect management experience necessarily. It was also a job in a more full-service style of restaurant than I’d worked at before. I figured that would mean they’d want someone who could get up to speed quickly, and who takes the initiative to figure things out. That was part of the reason I chose to discuss my research process in the cover letter–to demonstrate how I tackle problems.

In this case, I tried to demonstrate that I’m good at customer service by referring to my ‘binder of compliments’ in my cover letter, and by stating in my resume that I have gotten many guest compliments, including on Trip Advisor, which the hiring manager could look up. I also physically brought my binder with me in case they asked for it.

(When I get guest comment cards, I print them or photocopy them for my records. It both helps on days when guests are being jerks to me, and it’s helpful to have some concrete evidence if you need it.)

I also tried to show that I have strong organization skills by describing the cleaning and reorganizing projects I took on, the training method I developed, and the tutoring center I helped to start.

Does that give you any ideas?


De November 15, 2013 at 12:56 am

Thank you for posting this, that was very interesting for me to read, as cover letters and resumes look quite different in my country. I like the whole “achievements rather than duties” approach and the section on top of the resume. Might try that out if I apply to jobs again, to see whether that works here (I work in an in demand industry, so a little experimentation won’t hurt me too much :-))


Jen in RO November 15, 2013 at 4:07 am

This is interesting to me for similar reasons. I’m also in an in-demand position so I actually had *fun* rewriting my resume based on Alison’s advice. (Also, an in-demand position meant that I got interviews without even writing a cover letter. But I did delete my sucky old ones.)


mollsbot November 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Thank you AAM and OP for sharing this! It sparked my creativity and I hope to bring some new enthusiasm to my job search.

Thank you again!


Anonymous November 15, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I can’t write cover letters like that because it feels to me like self-aggrandizement and I’m nigh-constitutionally incapable of such pushiness.

It just doesn’t work for me, since such things always come across as insincere.


anonymous November 16, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Alison, I’d just like to say that I thought both the cover letter and the following discussion were very useful and I hope you’ll consider doing this again (though perhaps with more ground rules for polite criticism). Especially in a tough economy, there are a lot of job seekers looking for a magic bullet approach to writing cover letters that will land them any job. Seeing hiring managers with different jobs and personalities disagree about how well a cover letter works is a really important lesson about how the magic bullet doesn’t exist. This thread was such a good illustration of this point that I’m seriously considering sending it to my interns who will be on the job market soon, and I’d hate to think that this will be the last post like this that we get.


OP November 16, 2013 at 11:35 pm

I’m going to stick my two cents in here one last time, because this was a lesson that it took a job for which I was completely unsuited to teach it to me.

You don’t want just any job; you want a job that will be right for you. And a cover letter that does its job will help screen you from environments in which you wouldn’t work well.

My cover letter clearly would not have gotten me hired at many places where some commenters here work. If people found my cover letter too salesy and pushy, they probably would have found me too salesy and pushy to work with. It would probably only make both me and them miserable.

That’s actually a good thing!

When I first put in this application, I wasn’t sure I wanted this specific job. I was very interested in the company and had been following it for ages, but this specific job was on a slightly different track than the one I’d been pursuing. I decided to look at it more seriously and apply because it was a company I liked, and I was pretty much exactly what they advertised for.

But I also knew that things had been going through a lot of changes since the buy-out. I wanted to be sure that I was walking into a situation where I could help make things better, not where I’d constantly have band-aid solutions pushed on me that wouldn’t let me deal with the underlying issue. That’s part of why I decided to write a gutsy letter, one that pretty much spelled out that if they hired me, I was going to want to fix things. I was going to want to change things. If they weren’t okay with that, then I didn’t see any point in wasting my time or their time.

In the interview, this also put me in a position to really ask the questions I needed answered. I think the fact that I was willing to end the process with a polite “I wish you the best of luck, but I don’t feel this is the right fit for me” actually helped me get the job because my interviewers knew I wasn’t going in with rosy-colored glasses.

If I were going back in time to talk to younger me, I would want to tell myself.

“Job hunting is like dating.

Don’t jump at the first thing that comes along because you’re afraid you won’t get another chance.

Don’t hide who you really are. It always comes out and you’ll be miserable if your relationship was based on someone who isn’t real.

Everyone has more than one place where they can be happy. The movies like to show life as a linear journey where you either find your true destiny, or you’re miserable. The truth is much more complicated. You might be a round peg, but there’s a whole lot of round holes.”

/end soapbox


Jen November 18, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I work for a university and have been on numerous search committees over the years. When I read over the cover letter, I was a little bit surprised that you liked it so much. To me, well the person showed enthusiasm for the position, and obviously tailored the letter to fit the position’s requirements, the tone of the letter seemed very conversational. In my field, I tend to use the cover letters as an example of how well a person can write. When I see things like a lot of colloquialisms, or contractions, I tend to rate the application lower.
Is that old-fashioned of me? I would really like to know. I have been receiving more letters similar in tone to the one that you linked to. Maybe I need to adjust my thinking.


Ask a Manager November 18, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Yes, I think so :)

Good writing doesn’t prohibit contractions — and is usually conversational, too.


typeslowly December 2, 2013 at 6:23 pm

The third paragraph contains a fragment


Ask a Manager December 2, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Yep. And the letter is good enough that it doesn’t matter. I think you’re missing the forest for the trees here.


A Jane January 27, 2014 at 11:39 am

I wanted to come back to this post and say that I’m really thankful for this cover letter example. I did agree with comments that the tone wouldn’t work from some industries. However, I was inspired to think of different ways to show enthusiasm. I’m now hearing back from many companies, and I’m definitely excited to move forward with the interview process!


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