I had sworn off sharing more examples of real-life resumes and cover letters for a while because when I’ve done it in the past, I’ve found it supremely frustrating that people want to tear them apart and quibble with details. But a reader just sent me a cover letter that I can’t resist posting, especially because it comes with a “before” version and the “after” version she created after reading the cover letter advice here. As she says herself, the difference is dramatic.
I present it here with these caveats, borne of experience with previous samples:
- The writer has kindly allowed me to share this here as a favor, after I asked her permission. Please remember she’s a real person when you’re commenting.
- This writer’s voice is her voice. It will not be your voice, and that’s part of the point.
- There is no single cover letter in the world that all hiring managers will love or that would be the right fit for every employer and every industry, and that is surely true of this one too. But I love it, and I receive letters every week from people telling me that moving in this sort of direction worked for them.
- Do not steal this and make it your own. It works because it’s so customized to the writer. It’s intended for inspiration only — to provide an example of what all the advice here can look like in practice.
(And to protect the writer’s privacy, I changed her name, the name of the employer, and other identifying details.)
Here’s the before version. It reads like 95% of the cover letters out there. Like those other 95%, it basically says, “I know I need a cover letter, so here are some paragraphs of blah.” You can imagine multiple candidates for this position submitting this letter; there’s nothing especially personalized about it.
Dear Hiring Manager:
Your posting on LinkedIn for a Sales and Marketing Coordinator recently caught my eye, and I think you will find I am an exceptional candidate for this position.
I am an accomplished administrative professional and a junior in the Marketing & Management program at Riverrun University. Over the past ten years, I have provided high-level support in a variety of industries and across multiple functional areas. I am now seeking a position that will make the most of my administrative experience while offering additional opportunities for personal and professional development.
In exchange, I offer exceptional attention to detail, highly developed communication skills, and a talent for managing complex projects with a demonstrated ability to prioritize and multitask.
My accomplishments and qualifications are further detailed in the attached resume. I welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss the value that I can bring to your organization.
Here’s the after version. It’s awesome. It tells us who the candidate is and why she’s great at what she does. And she’s genuinely enthusiastic. This isn’t a generic letter; it’s a letter about her.
Dear Hiring Manager:
It is with great enthusiasm that I submit my application for the position of Sales Coordinator for the Westeros Castle Project. As an administrative professional with over ten years’ experience, I know my diverse skills and qualifications will make me an asset to the Westeros project team.
As you will see from the attached resume, I’ve built my career in a variety of roles and industries, mostly in small companies where I was not just the admin but also gatekeeper, technology whiz, bookkeeper and marketing guru. I’m not only used to wearing many hats, I sincerely enjoy it; I thrive in an environment where no two work days are exactly the same.
In addition to being flexible and responsive, I’m also a fanatic for details – particularly when it comes to presentation. One of my recent projects involved coordinating a 200-page grant proposal: I proofed and edited the narratives provided by the division head, formatted spreadsheets, and generally made sure every line was letter-perfect and that the entire finished product conformed to the specific guidelines of the RFP. (The result? A five-year, $1.5 million grant award.) I believe in applying this same level of attention to detail to tasks as visible as prepping the materials for a top-level meeting and as mundane as making sure the copier never runs out of paper.
Last but certainly not least, I want you to know that I’m a passionate Westeros fan and a longtime supporter of the new castle. I’ve been following the new castle movement since the earliest days of the original “Save the Tombs” campaign, and I am so excited to see this vision becoming a reality. I’ve already checked out the new castle website, and the renderings of the new throne and great hall are stunning, to say the least – I particularly love the vintage murals and art featured throughout the building. Nice touch!
In closing, I am thrilled at the possibility of being involved in the new castle almost literally from the ground up, and would love the opportunity to meet with you and discuss the value that I can bring to the Targaryen organization and the Westeros Castle Project. I appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you.
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