here’s another example of a great cover letter

I often get asked for examples of good cover letters, and a reader recently sent me a great one that I want to share. One thing I like about this one is that it’s shorter than others I’ve previously shared and so is a good demonstration of how you can go shorter and still be compelling.

I’m presenting it here with the caveats I’ve learned to give when sharing these:

• The writer has kindly allowed me to share this here as a favor. 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. But I receive letters every week from people telling me that moving in this sort of direction worked for them.
• Do not steal this letter or even parts of it. 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. (Every time I print a cover letter here, it ends up plagiarized all over the internet.) Be warned: stealing it will give you seven years of bad job search luck.

Here’s some background from the writer before we get to the letter itself:

You gave me a resume critique last year, which was very helpful. But I, like many others, originally started following AAM due to your posts on cover letters. Well, I’m sure you get these emails a lot, but I wanted to let you know that your advice helped me land a job!

I’ve been searching for about two years, and I got a call last Tuesday. The manager pretty much started with, “We were very intrigued by your cover letter…” and repeated this about two or three times between our phone conversation and the interview that followed the next day! On Friday, I got the offer! (It’s a very busy time for the company, thus the whirlwind hiring timeline.)

After I got back from work the day I accepted the job, I found an email from another company asking for a phone interview. When I politely declined, they wished me luck, but said I had been at the top of their list!

Here’s the letter, with identifying details changed.

Dear Hiring Manager,

I came upon your listing for a Customer Service Coordinator while browsing Indeed, and it really jumped out at me. It doesn’t seem like a normal customer service job, but one that presents new challenges that even I, a 10-year veteran of customer relations, would find new and interesting. Using my head to solve problems and going the extra mile to satisfy customers come naturally to me, and I’m sure I would be able to continue your company’s tradition of excellence in customer service.

When I work retail, I’m not just a cashier; I am a teacher, a problem solver, and a friend to all my coworkers and customers. Working at Storm’s End especially, I often coached my customers on how to use the new camera they had just bought, or show them all the features of the iPod Touch their child wanted, and helped determine which model was right for them. Even at the Iron Bank, there were times where I would be sitting in the café with a customer who just couldn’t get their Kobo e-reader to boot up. Outside of work, I took it upon myself to become familiar with the products we carried so I could answer any questions that came my way. I’ve prided myself in being the employee managers can rely on, and I would love to bring this dedication to the City Watch.

My initial role at the Iron Bank was to follow up with our clients for executed documents. With very little to go on and no one to instruct me, I was able to devise a process which streamlined my follow ups, allowing me to take on additional responsibilities. My greatest achievement was the document execution escalation procedure I created, which was used by our department. One of my supervisors gave me the moniker of “escalation guru” due to my tenacity in getting affidavits back on time.

I was thrilled to read about this opportunity and am eager to learn more about it. I would love to meet with you and discuss the contributions I can make to the City Watch as your new Customer Service Coordinator.

Sincerely,

Brienne of Tarth

{ 158 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Dawn

    Oh my gosh thank you so much for this! The previous cover letter examples were all amazing, but I didn’t ever feel like they had a style I could emulate so I never felt like I “got” how to write one like them, but this one! This one I “get”!

    Also high five to the letter writer for getting a new job!

    Reply
    1. Lou

      Ditto. This is a fantastic cover letter! It serves as perfect inspiration, particularly with the more casual tone and the ease with which the writer conveys her skills/accomplishments. Thanks for sharing and congrats on your new position!!

      Reply
      1. Sadsack

        Yes, I like the casual tone and the way she conveyed her skills with examples. Tone is something I really struggle with in writing in general, and getting examples if my skills across naturally is difficult as well. This letter is a really good example of that.

        Reply
    2. Alice

      I agree, Dawn. I’ve loved all the other examples, but this one, to me, has an understated enthusiasm that I feel like I “get,” too. She did such a great job!

      Reply
  2. Cafe au Lait

    What a great cover letter. Bookmarking this page for inspiration the next time I need to craft my own CL.

    Reply
  3. Collie

    “Outside of work, I took it upon myself to become familiar with the products we carried so I could answer any questions that came my way.”

    I’ve wondered using similar lines myself and it’s been something I’ve been tempted to convey in cover letters, etc. While I see this as a nod to dedication to the job/industry, I worry that it also might imply the writer is a workaholic, perhaps works (unpaid, illegally) outside of work hours, and can’t manage a work/life balance that will ultimately serve to produce better work when on the job. So, despite how tempted I’ve been, I’ve avoided phrases like this. Am I overthinking or do (some) hiring managers also see this line as a red flag (albeit a very little one)?

    Reply
    1. Collie

      Oh — but I did enjoy this cover letter and feel I’ve learned even more from outside this one line! Thank you for sharing!

      Reply
    2. Not a Real Giraffe

      I think you’re over-thinking it. To me, it reads as a personal interest in the subject area, and a passion for learning more. I’m an event planner and in my downtime, I like to read industry magazines, browse online for new venues, etc. It doesn’t trump my personal life, but it enhances it. I would hope that someone wouldn’t read into this that I had no work-life balance. Some people read books or watch TV; I read meeting mags!

      Reply
      1. ro

        I agree. I read it as more of the letter writer conveying who she was as a person- the kind of person that if you (a stranger) were sitting in a coffee shop struggling to work one of your devices and they overheard, they’d pop over to your table to help. It shows that the letter writer is a person who naturally likes problem-solving and helping people.

        I think the fact that this letter gave you an insight into who they are *as a person* (with skills that happen to make them a great employee) was it’s real strength.

        Thanks for the inspiration! (To clarify- I’m not copying this letter, but I’m in the process of applying for jobs right now and any success story is an inspiration for me right now!)

        Reply
      2. Jaydee

        Yeah, I read this more like how my dad, who was a cost accountant, would bring home booklets to read up on the products his company manufactured. At least half of it was that he was a voracious reader and, while he was never the best student in school, he was constantly interested in learning new things. But it also helped his work because he would occasionally spot an invoice and think – “Wait, the TeapotMaster 500x has a double-barrel spout press, so it takes 6 widgets to manufacture it. Why does this say we used 15 widgets to make 5 TeapotMaster 500xes? I’d better call Wakeen. I bet it’s a typo since he just transferred from team making the TeapotMaster 250x with the single-barrel spout press.”

        Reply
      3. stevenz

        I have a different reaction. It could be read as bragging or sucking up. Also, are you ready to meet the expectations that it will raise by your employer – putting in overtime, working from home, etc? I have had any number of managers that respected a person’s interest in things other than work such as hobbies, their family, not reading professionally-related stuff.

        Certainly, if that’s the person you are and want an employer to know that, fine. But it isn’t guaranteed to be accepted positively by all hiring managers.

        Reply
      4. Lindsay J

        That’s how it read to me, too.

        I applied for a position as an assistant manager in a makeup store before, and I totally mentioned that I spend my time online in message boards talking about new products and that I’m the type of person who will drive around to three different stores on the day a limited edition is released so I can get it, see what the quality is like and learn how to use it, and share that knowledge with the rest of the community.

        Especially with things like electronic devices, (and makeup), those are things that someone really into the subject matter does for fun. There are so many tech “magazines” and blogs online now that highlight the latest gadget, and 99% of the readers of those are not in the business of selling those products – they just want to know what the cool new thing is and if it’s worth getting because that type of thing is fun for them.

        Reply
    3. Shannon

      In the US, a certain amount of self directed continuing education seems expected. It’s what sets the great apart from the mediocre.

      Reply
      1. nofelix

        Yeah I think this is key: it’s the employee’s continued professional development, so it’s not work for their employer even though it benefits them. Learning about the products the company sells skirts this line a bit, depending on how universal the knowledge is.

        So the expectation you want to set is that you may do extra learning when it furthers your career or interests you, not that your boss can give you a product catalogue on friday and expect you to cram it for next week.

        Reply
    4. Anxa

      I struggle with this so much. I am in the teaching field, but hourly. The lines between learning, exploring interests, professional development and work off the clock can be pretty blurry.

      Reply
  4. Lily in NYC

    This is fantastic! And a great example of a letter from someone who is more in a support role – I know many of us in support roles have a difficult time converting our duties into accomplishments in our cover letters and resumes (myself included).

    Reply
    1. Midge

      I was thinking the same thing! She did a great way talking about her accomplishments even though her job didn’t involve more concrete things like ‘increasing revenue X percent’.

      Reply
      1. Dawn

        That’s what I love about it too. I have a ton of accomplishments from my job/ previous jobs but they’re very difficult to put into hard numbers.

        Reply
    2. Adam

      Agreed. I think my resume is about as good as it’s going to get currently. Cover letters are always where I struggle, especially when I’m trying to emphasize how I do such a good job in role that’s rather small in scope.

      Reply
  5. Elle

    I am super impressed with this letter! We rarely get them (even when specified in the ad), and the ones we do get are very generic. I would definitely call an applicant in for an interview that sent this in. Nicely done!!

    Reply
  6. AMG

    The way I have used cover letter examples is to ask myself these things as they relate to the job I am applying for. What about this job jumped out at me? What is interesting about me that would add something unique or specialized to the role? How do my strengths play to the role I’m applying for? What kinds of anecdotes or examples can I provide to support that? Great job, OP!

    Reply
    1. KarenT

      Me too! I’m actually in the middle of hiring someone right now (for an unrelated field) and this is far better than any cover letter I’ve read today!

      Reply
  7. Cass

    I think this letter is awesome, it feels like you are “meeting” the person before even the interview. I find this style compelling, but I’ve been helping my sister write cover letters (she’s a lawyer) and she definitely does not think it’s appropriate to write conversationally in hers. Any lawyers out there know generally if that would be frowned upon or is clear but personable still going to make a good impression?

    Reply
    1. CM

      If she’s applying to law firms or government, I think a more formal tone is better. If to companies or nonprofits, the more conversational tone should be fine.

      Reply
      1. Triangle Pose

        I think a more formal tone is appropriate when applying to companies. I am an in-house attorney at an F50 company, so maybe it is due to the size of our organization, but that is the norm here.

        Reply
        1. Busytrap

          I’m in-house at a 300 person company, and definitely would want informal, if it helps to have a comparison!

          Reply
      2. Turanga Leela

        I’ve hired for a legal non-profit, and this would be too casual for us—we would worry that the candidate didn’t understand professional norms. We would want someone to be a little more formal, although as people said below, you can be formal without being stodgy. (Extreme stodginess is also not good.)

        Reply
    2. Temperance

      Here’s my .02: this is great for a CS position or other, but as an attorney, I would never, ever, ever use a conversational tone. It’s definitely frowned upon.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Every time I post cover letters here, people say it’s not appropriate for lawyers, so that appears to be a thing. But it’s not just appropriate for customer service jobs — the ones where this tone isn’t appropriate are in the minority.

        Reply
        1. Triangle Pose

          What about C-level roles/senior management in large corporations? I feel like for most roles at that level, formality is the norm. I think you can be both personable and formal – the letters you post tend to be more on the casual side.

          Reply
        2. Temperance

          I apologize if I sounded too harsh – I thought this was great! It just wouldn’t fly in the legal community. We’re kind of our own world.

          Reply
          1. Anon Accountant

            I think for specifics on legal cover letters it may be best to find examples from a law school website, maybe check corporette, or online blogs run by lawyers that offer advice on this. I’d recommend checking corporette though since that blog covers workplace matters and she is a lawyer, as are many readers.

            My friend’s a lawyer and often tells me the same thing about how different the legal community is from other fields. I don’t mean to chase you off but just want to help you with other resources to help you.

            Reply
            1. Temperance

              Thank you! I personally tend to troll the websites of Top 10 law schools and use their format to help me out. CLs are honestly my least favorite task.

              Reply
          2. Anoning it Up

            I am a lawyer (BigLaw, even!) and definitely used more conversational than the norm cover letters in my recent lateral job search, as inspired by this site. I also used them when applying to judicial clerkships, and got a number of interviews, so they couldn’t have been that bad or frowned upon.

            My lawyer cover letter tone is definitely more conversational than my “opposing counsel” tone or my “brief writing” tone. And it is a tad more formal than this. But it wasn’t (I hope it wasn’t!) devoid of personality. I tried to think of it as having a conversation with a new professional colleague. My conversations with new lawyer colleagues are more formal than conversation I might have with a new retail-work colleague; they’re different worlds in that way. But they’re still conversations and not “Attached please find…”

            Reply
        3. Kiki

          That’s exactly why I found this interesting as a great example of a cover letter for a customer service job. On my field (IT), this letter would be out of the norm/not in a good way. Clearly, cover letters are more field specific than I thought.

          Reply
        4. One of the Annes

          The letter has a natural–not an inappropriately informal–tone. A natural tone is appropriate for a cover letter in any field, including law and government. I’m wondering what the commenters advocating for a “formal” tone in cover letters for legal or government positions mean. If they’re suggesting using bureaucratese and legalese, then that’s bad advice. Plain language is appreciated in all fields. I’ve screened cover letters and resumes for government jobs, and what reliance on bureaucratic language signals to me is that the writer doesn’t have much of a message–that she thinks throwing in some stuffy overused stock phrases will disguise that.

          Reply
          1. Koko

            Yes, I think that a conversational tone is uncommon, which is leading people to think it’s a bad thing – you should just do what everyone else does. And in conservative fields like banking and law, that’s probably spot on.

            But in most other fields, the conversational tone is still uncommon, but I can tell you as someone who has sat on the other side of the table screening applications, they are a breath of fresh air. Even when hiring for Director-level positions, I would get maybe 1 in 100 cover letters that read like this and I would think, “Wow, I could really imagine myself working with this person.” As long as they had impressive credentials (which they nearly always did) the conversational tone didn’t hurt them at all, and in fact usually prompted me to give them more serious consideration simply because they became a 3-dimensional person to me instead of a set of credentials.

            In marketing it’s well known that getting someone to activate their imaginative thinking processes makes them more persuadable, and I think that’s exactly what the conversational tone does. It makes the hiring manager activate their imagination and they become more persuadable.

            Reply
        5. Honeybee

          Yeah, this style/tone would be appropriate for my role (a research job in a tech company). We’d love to see someone with some personality, and I used a similar tone in my own cover letter – which was inspired by some I saw here at AAM.

          Reply
      2. Triangle Pose

        Agreed. I don’t think you’d ever say things like “I am a teacher, a problem solver, and a friend” or ” It doesn’t seem like a normal customer service job” in a lawyer cover letter. The legal profession is more formal in all aspects, and that extends to the cover letter.

        Reply
        1. Annie Ominous

          When you think about it, this makes sense. I kind of want my legal team to be sticklers…

          Reply
      3. Cass

        Thanks for everyone’s input! I see what you mean by not writing conversationally, but I think I can help her out so the writing flows better and isn’t stodgy, if that makes sense.

        Reply
        1. Triangle Pose

          Yes, I think that’s right. A formal cover letter should still flow and not be tedious. I’m sure that kind of help will be greatly appreciated by your sister!

          Reply
        2. Stephanie

          I think it’s possible to be formal and conversational. You would probably just remove some of the less formal things like being a teacher and a problem solver or being excited when you saw the position on Indeed.

          Big takeaways to me from this seem that you want to sound genuine and interested and use specificity.

          Reply
        3. Temperance

          That could actually be a huge help. I’m such a lawyer that I tend to get very formal and stiff and write like a lawyer (short, to the point, etc).

          Reply
          1. Koko

            There’s also this weird tendency people have when writing formally to stop using contractions, which makes their “voice” sound stilted in my head.

            I am interested in this position because it is a perfect complement to my skills.

            vs.

            I’m interested in this position because it’s a perfect complement to my skills.

            The latter just flows easier in my head.

            Reply
    3. Triangle Pose

      Agreed, the letter is great and well fitted to the position! I think for a lawyer though, a more formal tone is needed. You can still be personable in a formal tone, but there are just some phrases in the letter that likely wouldn’t be fitting for your sister’s cover letter.

      Reply
    4. Lawyers are the worst

      Really depends on the lawyer job. I’m a public defender and wrote my cover letter using tips from this site. My chief said it was the best cover letter he’s ever received. If you are advocating for real people, managers want to see some spark. They want to know why you want to help your demographic (injured people, fired employees, poor people, etc.). If you are applying to a gigantic firm, they want a demonstrated ability to follow rules and norms.

      Reply
      1. Putting Out Fires, Esq

        Yeah, as another PD, I wrote a fairly personal cover letter, because I knew I had to say why I wanted this job and that I knew what I was getting into and that I saw ways I specifically could be an advocate for the population (as opposed to someone using poor people to practice on). But I also already knew my would-be boss and the whole interview thing was a formality… So my advice is useless.

        Reply
      2. Koko

        Yes, this is so key. I know a lot of lawyers who went into nonprofit work for debt forgiveness reasons, and that’ a totally different ballgame than a Big 10 Firm.

        Reply
  8. Honks

    Wait, we’re allowed to say “With very little to go on and no one to instruct me, I was able to devise a process…” in a cover letter? I feel like this goes against the written-in-stone “don’t badmouth your previous employer”. I would LOVE to know how caveats work on this.

    Reply
    1. Gabriela

      I get what you’re saying, but I don’t think this is really badmouthing the previous employer. I think it was the easiest way to say “I taught myself these skills with no training” without going into too much detail about the context (which isn’t necessarily relevant) or constructing a sentence that is tortured in its attempts to avoid anything negative at all costs.

      Reply
      1. Annie Ominous

        I’ve used something similar about doing projects with little or no budget. Since I work for a government contractor, this isn’t strange… (Taxpayer dollars and all that.)

        Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I don’t see that as badmouthing at all! It’s presented totally neutrally (it doesn’t sound bitter) and matter-of-factly, as if the letter-writer understands that sometimes those will be the conditions and she’s prepared to roll with that. Sometimes those will will be the conditions and it’s not necessarily a shameful thing, so it’s not like she was revealing a dirty secret of a past employer.

      Reply
      1. Honks

        Huh. This could be a game-changer, although I still don’t think I fully get the subtlety. Thanks folks.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          If there’s a particular sentence or two that you’re puzzling over, feel free to post it here and I’d be glad to try to give you my take on it, if that would be useful.

          Reply
          1. Honks

            I think maybe in situations where I’ve wished I could say “and then I showed up at the biology internship and the PI was on maternity leave and was being covered for by a chemist who hadn’t read the notes” to explain something, the sentence that followed “With very little to go on and no one to instruct me…” was more like making lemonade (“learned lots of odd, one-off-tasks”) than overcoming (“and then I cured cancer anyway”). So instead of a bump in the self-marketing it was an icy crevasse. Maybe I see the light :)

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I think that’s a good distinction — you want the focus to be on what followed the adversity (what you achieved), more than the adversity itself.

              Reply
            2. hbc

              I think you can explain a non-ideal situation without being negative. Not “They didn’t staff up properly and the people there had no idea what they were doing,” but “It was a small lab with someone on leave, so they understandably didn’t have a lot of training set up.” It’s not so much about whether your last place was perfect but whether you come off as a malcontent, whether or not you are perfectly justified in your lack of contentedness.

              Reply
              1. Koko

                Yes – “Cross-trained to provide coverage for other positions when the department was short-staffed for 3 months,” is very different from, “Had to do several jobs at once because management didn’t bother to replace people who quit.”

                “I’m seeking a role with greater stability than my current role, which has chronic high turnover,” is different from, “I’m seeking to leave a workplace so toxic that nobody lasts more than six months.”

                Just present the facts without judgment using value-neutral words.

                Reply
    3. MaggiePi

      I would to. I really like this letter, and maybe it’s the overall positivity otherwise that makes this okay?
      It’s sentences like this that I write and then delete and rewrite and am never sure about. When are they okay?

      Reply
      1. Lou

        I tend to think of it as every job having its challenges, and it’s really a matter of acknowledging this in a neutral way that plays up your strengths as opposed to putting too much emphasis on the challenge itself.

        Reply
    4. themmases

      I think in a situation like the letter writer describes, where you own a process and end up improving it, there’s nothing odd about having no one to instruct you. Because of the circumstance and the overall positive tone of the letter, it doesn’t sound like complaining IMO. It is just underlining that this successful project was carried out totally independently.

      I’ve had job situations like this where there was very little formal structure or guidance, and that is why I was able to do awesome stuff on my own. I often say “As the primary contact/analyst/whatever for The Board…” I’ve also just prefaced my whole description of a particular job by saying that I had a lot of independence and responsibility because the department or program was small/new or the project was just a pilot or whatever the reason was. Those are all pretty positive sounding but I think people who read them know what’s up (i.e. there was chaos :) ).

      Reply
  9. ADL

    Dear OP: I love your cover letter. It conveys a warmth of personality, a depth of knowledge on issues, and you sound like someone I would want to know more about to see if you’re a good fit for the role. Congratulations to you and thank you for sharing with everyone.

    Reply
  10. Lindsay J

    I really like this, too, because most cover letter examples I have seen have been for jobs with measurable metrics like “I brought in $xxx,xxx in new accounts,” or “I saved the company $xxx,xxx by implementing procedure Y”. Most of my jobs achievements aren’t measurable in that way, so it is nice to see the types of achievements that someone in a customer service/support role can highlight.

    Reply
    1. Business Cat

      +1,000,000

      This is really timely for me! My husband works for a large business with a lot of useful metrics to use to sell his capabilities in a tangible way. Helping him with his cover letter and resume made me reconsider a lot of things about my own materials and wish I had more measurable achievements. This cover letter is such a refreshing perspective.

      Reply
      1. Anon Accountant

        Have you changed a process that made your boss say “I wish we would’ve done this years ago”? Do your coworkers default to you on certain things? Does anyone say “since you started here the scanning and filing is up-to-date” and it wasn’t before? This would mean that you kept a busy department running more smoothly. Are you complimented for your ability to relay bad news to others? Are you the go-to person for computer advice? These are things that can make you stand out from others.

        Reply
        1. Product Person

          Yes, there are tons of ways of showing accomplishments that aren’t about hard numbers as in “brought $X in new clients”, or “saved the company $Y by implementing new processes”.

          It’s really not that hard if you block some time to think about why your role exists and what contributions you made. In my case, when I was applying for an IT business analyst position, I’d highlight things like “I’m the analyst that all project managers in the department fought to have on their team because of my ability to write high-quality requirements that helped their projects succeed and finish on time.”

          Reply
    2. Snazzy Hat

      I had this bafflement when I first started writing cover letters. I asked my father for advice on how to quantify accomplishments when one has no access to that information; I worked in retail, so I doubt no one knows just how much money I brought in by suggesting products or saying “don’t buy those pieces of crap, buy these higher quality items that I use at home”. He pointed out that even with such an important job as a forensic scientist, he would never be able to say something like, “Thanks to my findings and expert testimony, I have personally helped put X number of criminals in prison”.

      It really opened my eyes to the fact that it’s okay to not have specifics sometimes.

      Reply
      1. Glouby

        Or that specifics not equals numbers. The letter writer is very specific about their accomplishments and under what circumstances they achieved them.

        Reply
  11. CM

    I think the general tone and structure of this letter are great, and I’ll remember them for the future. Here are some things I liked about this letter:
    – It emphasizes her experience without sounding forced (“even I, a 10-year veteran of customer relations…”)
    – The second paragraph expresses enthusiasm about this type of position and knowledge about what the position actually entails.
    – It implies that she cares about the business as a whole, not just her limited role (“I took it upon myself to become familiar with the products we carried…”)
    – I really like this line: “I’ve prided myself in being the employee managers can rely on…” – I think all hiring managers are looking for this and it applies in just about any situation.
    – Third paragraph gives a concrete and concise example of a time when she showed initiative, achieved something useful, and was recognized for it (and what she achieved was very relevant to the job position she’s applying for).

    Reply
  12. Onomatopoeia

    Seems likes the “I wear multiple hats in my position” approach is a reoccurring theme in all of your examples of great cover letters! So glad I’ve adopted that approach into my own cover letter, although I was uneasy with the idea at first (even though I really do wear so many hats in this position)!

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Oh, that’s interesting! I don’t think that has to be an element, so I think that’s just coincidence — but for many jobs it can certainly be a good thing.

      Reply
      1. Almond Milk Latte

        I definitely don’t think it’s a coincidence. I can’t think of a job that doesn’t involve some multi-hatting. I think recognizing how the multiple hats you wear demonstrate your character/knowledge is what makes them great. If I’m trying to tell you what a great widgetmaker I am, I’ll tell you my widgets are great AND that I do these other things to support great widgetry. When I help my friends write cover letters and write my own work evals and resumes, the inability to identify these other hats is what keeps us down.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’m more thinking that there are jobs where it wouldn’t be the prime thing you’d emphasize — where you’d want the emphasis much more on something really core to the job (say raising huge amounts of money from donors, or whatever, because in some situations it could be more compelling to hone in on that than to cover a bunch of things).

          Reply
          1. JaneB

            though even then, it might be good to be able to show you’d used different strategies in different cases, not only gotten money from donors who fit X demographic and respond to Y type of approach? Multi-hattery can be about being truly great at achieving one core thing because you know loads of ways of achieving it, I think. But it’s probably field dependent and company-size dependent too – maybe a large company would be seeking a specialist in Y to do just Y?

            Reply
  13. The Expendable Redshirt

    Recently, a friend asked me to write his over letter for him. For all the reasons Allison described, I declined to complete the whole darn thing. Instead, I sent the individual links to Ask A Manager and offered to proof read his creation. He had a pretty miffed attitude when I declined to do his work for him.

    Reply
      1. The Expendable Redshirt

        Yeah. I do use the word “friend” very broadly. His personality is a “user”, the guy just walks around life expecting people to do things for him. In order to help this fellow, I needed him to put in some kind of effort first. His reasoning was “I don’t know how to write a cover letter.” Ah ha! here are some resources to get you sarted

        Examples of what a great cover letter looks like are awesome.

        Reply
    1. Josh S

      I regularly offer to review friends’ resumes, and they’re regularly pretty … not terrible, but the run-of-the-mill “here was my job description” bland kind of resume.

      I usually end up re-writing one section/most recent job, and try to encourage them to follow that kind of pattern, giving them resources like Alison’s article on “The #1 question your resume must answer” and other resources from here. Usually some revising around putting education at the bottom and losing the Objective statement too. And I give them a pep talk of, “Your experience is great. I can see hints of that when you say ____ and ____. But it just doesn’t come through the way it should. YOu’re awesome. Your resume should reflect that too. Here’s how.”

      I’ll send it back with comments, and ask to be able to review the 2nd draft. Almost universally, I never hear from them again. I only imagine they think it’s “fine the way it is.”

      Reply
      1. ItsOnlyMe

        Snap! I could have written that. In all my experience of helping, only once can I remember someone coming back to me with edits.

        Reply
        1. the gold digger

          The people who have come back to me more than once – my brother, a former co-worker, a guy I met at a Sharepoint support group session – are the ones who have gotten the jobs they wanted. They have given me the credit, but really, I was just helping them highlight how great they are.

          Reply
      2. Nicole

        What kind of cover letter advice would you give me? I have attempted to write cover letter as such and I have not received any response. For instance, I applied for a position that involved the usage of Microsoft Word and Excel. Here’s the part(which was true) that I wrote:
        Professionally, I have obtained over five years of experience working in office and business settings. In all of my positions it has been necessary to demonstrate proficiency in Microsoft Office programs especially in Microsoft Word and Excel. When I was employed by M&T Bank, my supervisor and team commended my ability to upload, compose, and compute over 200 letters in Microsoft Word in 20 minutes. Is this bad?

        Reply
    2. Michele

      I had a former friend who would ask people to always redo her resume, and when she asked me, I made her sit down and do it while I gave her ideas and feedback. She was taken aback, but did it.

      Reply
  14. hayling

    These are so helpful! My husband is a great writer, and when I was job searching I used his cover letters as inspiration for writing my own. I need to bookmark this and all the other AAM examples as well.

    Reply
  15. Katherine Teapot

    Hi there! I tend to get “I am intrigued by your cover letter” as well and would be happy to send over a couple cover letters I’ve written for both internal and external jobs that have specifically gotten this kind of praise (and gotten me interviews) if you’d like to see them. Let me know!

    Reply
      1. OwnedByTheCat

        I’ll send mine too! I posted a while ago about being nervous about advancing to a Director level position from a lower level position. I submitted my cover letter and AAM-Approved resume to three companies and got interviews from all three (and eventually a great job :)

        Alison, if we want to share them with you do you want us to strip out identifying details for you?

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Totally your call! If you do, I may change them again anyway (because I amuse myself with making them Game of Thrones related — in fact, feel free to do that), but either way is fine!

          Reply
          1. OwnedByTheCat

            I’ll send it as is – partly because if you want to share it I want to see what you do with it. GoT forever!

            Reply
  16. LabTech

    Thanks for the great example! I’m in the middle of writing (and struggling with) a cover letter, and part of that is balancing my accomplishments versus what draws me to the position. This is a good reference for where to strike a balance!

    Tangentially, anyone have a more formal way to say “guru” or “go-to person”? I usually apply to jobs in academia, where very formal writing in cover letters seem to be the norm.

    Reply
    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      FWIW when I applied to jobs in academia, I used “go-to person” in my cover letter and it felt appropriate. I’ve seen “subject matter expert,” “department expert,” and similar phrases in cover letters that crossed my desk while working at a university. The word “guru” bothers me the way that some people feel about the word “moist.”

      Reply
    2. Shell

      I would say “authority” if you really had the authority (for example, if you were the team lead/supervisor, so not only did you have the knowledge on chocolate teapots glazing procedures, you also had the authority to tell people to follow your procedures). Failing that, “expert” or “pro” (or professional) would probably work. “Master” may be too casual, though it seems a step above “guru” in the formality chart.

      Reply
      1. LabTech

        Oh, I like this one! I’m hesitant to use words like “expert” because I’m too low in the food chain to claim it (and I’ve often see “expert” used strictly for job titles requiring PhD’s), but the latter fits!

        Reply
        1. Shell

          I agree that the word that is used in job titles tends to have more gravitas. But as a counterpoint, I’ve never seen “expert” used in a job title, but I’ve seen “specialist” used in job titles. So to my ear, “expert” would feel more suitable and “specialist” feels like overreaching, for the same reason you cited. :)

          Whichever works in your neck of the woods!

          Reply
            1. Chris

              It’s interesting how different fields use words differently! In my field, “specialists” are usually low – mid level.

              Reply
    3. L

      “I usually apply to jobs in academia, where very formal writing in cover letters seem to be the norm.”

      This is 100% true for faculty jobs in academia, and my gut reaction is that the tone of the example above is a little too informal even for staff positions in academia. However, I’d be curious what other readers with experience in higher ed think.

      Reply
      1. SJ

        I’m a staff person in higher ed and I agree. I would feel really awkward sending something with this tone out. I do try to make my “formal” cover letters as conversational as possible without sounding TOO informal.

        Reply
      2. SJ

        BUT, I should say I don’t know what the norms are if they’ve changed! I’ve been involved in hiring for one senior position and all those letters were very formal, but that’s not saying they have to be.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          That’s the piece I’m curious about — whether people think they have to be because that’s what they usually see, or whether it would truly feel inappropriate to most hiring managers in those fields.

          I especially wonder because I see a lot of people in a variety of fields who think that business writing needs to be stiff and formal in general (not just in cover letters) and so they write that way, without realizing that it’s usually stronger if they don’t.

          Reply
          1. L

            In a faculty search, a conversational tone like this would, without question, cause your letter to be scrapped. Academic hiring committees are comprised of researchers, and conversational and/or semi-emotional language will be perceived as “fluff” and cause the committee to wonder if you need filler material because you don’t have enough hard evidence of achievement to discuss.

            Personally, I think one of the things that makes it harder to gauge the audience for applications to non-faculty positions in higher education is that lots of universities have PhDs and former researchers in staff positions (i.e., people who are used to the style of faculty cover letters)

            Reply
            1. Honeybee

              Mmm, I don’t know. I’ve talked to some SC members who have complained about how dry, boring, and terrible the cover letters they receive are. I think going too informal might tank your application, but injecting a little style and personality into the letter probably won’t.

              Reply
          2. LabTech

            In my case, I actually prefer the stilted, formal cover letter over a conversational tone, and it’s just a happy coincidence that it seems to be the norm in academia. I guess I can’t shake the formal-school-writing-assignment mode for such an important document. For what it’s worth, though, I try to rein it in a bit by keeping an ear to how it would sound in spoken a conversation.

            Reply
      3. pieces of flair

        I’m in a staff position in academia and I don’t think this letter is too informal. It conveys useful information that wouldn’t go on a resume, reflects the candidate’s voice, and is well-written. I definitely incorporated Alison’s cover letter advice when I applied for my job and tried to make mine less formal and more conversational.

        Reply
      4. fposte

        I think this would be fine for the staff positions I’ve hired in academia. Even in non-teaching jobs, a lot of positions are about working with or for young people, and a sensibility that feels current is a plus–a sensibility that feels current and has some energy is a real plus.

        Reply
    4. N.J.

      You could try something like–I am the internal authority on X subject. Or something like: “subject matter expert”, “I am frequently tapped/selected as the internal resource for x, y, z.”, or maybe “point person.”

      Reply
    5. Ash (the other one)

      I work in pseudo-academia (i.e. an independent research firm) and would love to get a letter like this. You have no idea how many mundane, cliched letters I’ve been reading lately.

      Reply
    6. NN

      I’ve got to disagree with those who say this is too informal an approach for academia. I’m faculty and have been involved in hiring for both faculty and staff positions over the last couple of years, and I’d love to see something that sounded natural and self assured like this. We still get a lot of stilted, overly-formal cover letters, but when we have had more natural sounding letters (& we have had a few the last few hiring rounds), the applicants have turned out to be good communicators (as well as smart, motivated people). I don’t know if it’s because I’m in a health field and being able to make a patient feel comfortable is highly valued, but we put a premium on communication and this stands out (in a good way) to me.

      Reply
  17. Anon Accountant

    I like it! I’m not a hiring manager but if I was her resume would be moved to the interview pile. It shows how she went above and beyond without restating what would be on her resume.

    Reply
  18. themmases

    Thank you for posting these from time to time Alison! I find it really helpful to read a good example of a conversational cover letter before writing my own, just to get in a less stiff and formal frame of mind.

    I also really appreciate the authors who share these. I know they get plagiarized so the original author probably can’t use variations on the one that they shared again. It’s so generous and I’m sure it helps others as much as it helps me.

    Reply
  19. Anon Accountant

    FWIW I used a conversational tone with a super conservative accounting firm and they liked my cover letter. They were ultra conservative.

    I referenced being a grocery store cashier and this is paraphrasing from memory “whether I’m bagging groceries or preparing a client’s tax return it’s about the customer service. I believe in giving the best service possible and my manager often received compliments from customers.”

    The rest of the cover letter was a brief summary of my limited work experience but willingness to learn. I think the OP’s letter can easily be modified if she was applying for a conservative office position.

    Reply
    1. Formica Dinette

      I do a variety of types of business writing and many areas are moving toward using less formal, more conversational language and tone. IMO, that’s a good thing because it’s easier to read *and* write.

      Your cover letter sounds like a good one!

      Reply
      1. Koko

        And I am so happy about that trend. Jargon and overly formal language are a way of excluding the uninitiated from understanding, a holdover from more aristocratic times.

        I remember when a grad school professor who was known as an agitator told us, “If your own mom won’t read your dissertation what makes you think anyone else will? Why are you investing so much energy in something probably 12 people will read? Is this why you went to grad school? Or was it because you wanted to make a difference in the world? Resist cloistering yourself in the ivory tower. You’ll do no good for the world up there.”

        Reply
    2. Rat in the Sugar

      I was wondering a bit about the tone since I’m an accountant, too–I always feel that my writing should be very formal at all times. Of course, I also had a professor in college tell me once in a rather puzzled tone that he wondered why I was in accounting at all as I seemed too “free-spirited” (I wore rainbows and took time off from class to attend music festivals) so I’m always a little worried about coming across as immature. It’s good to know that even conservative firms don’t expect you to always be buttoned up to the neck, as it were.

      Reply
      1. Anon Accountant

        Change the wording to “I’d like to be considered for teapot coordinator and have 3 years experience” etc.
        Instead of “teapot design is my bread and butter” write “my teapot designs have won awards in state competitions” or I am 1 of the most requested designers of 25 in our company by both new and current customers.

        This company was very formal though. Great pay, great benefits but very formal and almost stuffy.

        Reply
  20. Ash (the other one)

    This is so refreshing and great to read. I’m in the process of hiring for a few positions from my team and getting so tired of cliched cover letters. If I have to read another “I am the ideal candidate” again I might just tear my hair out. Congrats, OP. This is wonderful.

    Reply
    1. Anon Accountant

      And I’d venture a guess they aren’t very qualified for the position. The best, most qualified candidates don’t write that in their letters.

      Reply
  21. CMT

    Thank you for another great example! I’ve been repeatedly going back to check the cover letter examples during my job search for the inspiration and motivation. When I’m writing cover letter after cover letter, I find my writing gets worse and I start parroting my resume. So the more examples/inspiration the better!

    Reply
  22. ItsOnlyMe

    Alison thank you so much for this post. I love this site for the honest and caring support you always send out.

    And OP, that’s such a great cover letter! Well Done to you and every success in your new role; your hard work and enthusiasm really shows and by sharing your personal work, you have inspired so many. Thanks :O)

    Reply
  23. justsomeone

    This letter was beautifully written and compelling. I can definitely see ways to improve my own cover letters from it.
    Thanks LW and Alison for sharing!

    Reply
  24. CNH

    Thanks so much for sharing! This cover letter is amazing and congratulations to OP on the new position!

    Reply
  25. DoDah

    Dear OP,

    Please ignore all the negative “this wouldn’t work for me” comments. Your tone and phrasing are wonderfully readable. Thank you for sharing it!

    Reply
  26. Oignonne

    It’s good to see the degree to which a casual, conversational style can work. I tend to be a bit more formal than this in writing naturally (of course it’s different than this example- we are two people with separate voices), but it’s nice to see how a different approach works. The first paragraph was very compelling- after just a few sentences I already felt that I should definitely look into this candidate further.

    Reply
  27. Anon Moose

    The cover letters are so helpful. I know when I was job searching after college, I had very little luck and was discouraged. Looking back, I was writing some pretty stilted formal cover letters.
    But once I started using the tips on AAM I definitely noticed a considerable uptick in responses from employers. Same for my friend who also used them- went from almost no responses to hundreds of applications for over a year to about 4 or 5 a month.
    And now, a few years later, my friend and I will actually be using the tips and some of our own examples at a informal job search workshop for some recent college grads. So again, thanks Alison!

    Reply
  28. Pokebunny

    If OP is so inclined, I would love to know how many hiring managers *didn’t* particularly like it, i.e rejections.

    Reply
    1. Sunshine

      Well that’s tricky, because I doubt that the rejections would explain in that detail. I don’t see anyone responding with “We’re going to pass because I didn’t like your cover letter.” Rejections could be for any number of known or unknown reasons on the employer’s side.

      Reply
  29. Former Retail Manager

    This is a GREAT cover letter for the field mentioned. And BIG CONGRATS to the OP on the new job. After 2 years, I’m sure you’re ecstatic. I hope it goes well for you in your new position and thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  30. KS

    This is a great cover letter. I’ve been applying to jobs, and I am having a really hard time deciding which accomplishments to put in my resume and which to talk about in my cover letter. I don’t have a lot of the specific “reduced spending by x” types of accomplishments, so is it bad to put more of the softer accomplishments like “became a departmental resource for people trying to solve their problems with y” in my resume? Or should the softer stuff just stay in my cover letter?

    Reply
  31. Ruth

    Great job and congrats on the gig! I used AAM advice writing my cover letters for a recent job search and infused more of my personality. It was tough, but paid off. When I interviewed with my now employer (my second week!), the first thing out of the interviewers mouth was “Thank you so much for your cover letter.” She mentioned showing me application to her husband because it was so strong.

    Reply
  32. stevenz

    What I like about the letter is that it doesn’t rely on a lot of jargon. That’s hard to do. It has a light but openfeel, and has some personality in it. I think that’s what got people’s attention – a breath of fresh air from the usual guff. There is a lesson here.

    Reply
  33. Snazzy Hat

    Wow, this certainly helps the internal pep-talks. A friend recently suggested that I’m being too formal and not showing the real me in my cover letters. This letter and many of the comments are giving me a boost of confidence/assurance that I can show my professionalism without being overly formal. I’m the kind of person who prefers a business formal dress code and wants to wear suits and dressy clothes every workday, so I don’t want to get stuck with an employer who thinks I’d fit in with a casual atmosphere. Many thanks to Alison and to our letter writer!

    Reply
  34. Nicole

    This is frustrating. I have written cover letters like the example and have not received a phone call at all!

    Reply
  35. Actuary

    At least in my industry, parts of this don’t work well.

    It comes across a little BS-y (“it doesn’t seem like just another customer service job”). Now, if there was something really specific about it that fit your interests, then saying something like that can be good, but without specifics it sounds like you’re sending this to everyone and it just doesn’t seem genuine.

    Also, I don’t like when people oversell what they did at their job. Like when I see that a college student worked in retail, I’m interested in it and I want to hear about what they did and their job responsibilities and accomplishments, but I don’t want them to pretend that it’s anything more than a retail job- it just sounds like you’re trying to fool me and that you’re not being real. Cut out the fluff and just tell me concrete facts. This isn’t just for retail but for any experience where it sounds like you’re pretending it’s something it’s not.

    I’m mainly put off by these two lines, that just seem a little over the top:
    “It doesn’t seem like a normal customer service job, but one that presents new challenges that even I, a 10-year veteran of customer relations, would find new and interesting.”
    “When I work retail, I’m not just a cashier; I am a teacher, a problem solver, and a friend to all my coworkers and customers.”

    The rest is very good though.

    Reply
    1. Honeybee

      I don’t understand why those two are off-putting. The second one is an example of how she’s gone above and beyond in her job in the past. While working retail, you can very much be a problem-solve and friend to customers – sometimes customers come in and they basically want a surrogate shopping buddy to help them put stuff together, give opinions, or want someone to help them make decisions about what to buy (I do the personal shopping at Nordstrom exactly for those reasons). They do sometimes teach about things, too – I learned about designer denim jean care from a retail worker, also at Nordstrom, and about putting together a capsule wardrobe. And she talked me into coming in for the shopping appointment in the first place by calling me, remembering my name, and remembering the things I said I wanted to buy and that I had just moved into the area and needed a new work wardrobe. I was super impressed.

      These things seem small and insignificant, but they’re the kinds of experiences that make people keep coming back to a place and potentially asking for the same person over and over again.

      And good employers want engaged, challenged workers who will grow and learn in a new environment. That prevents them from getting bored and leaving too soon.

      Reply
  36. Actuary

    The other thing I’ll add is that in my experience cover letters can be a BIG negative but are rarely a positive. For that reason I usually err on the conservative/uninteresting/safe side. Just don’t get thrown out.

    We’ve had candidates forget our company name (use another company’s name), put the wrong industry/field, spelling errors, grammar errors, make it obvious they aren’t native English speakers/can’t write well, etc. Or a lot of times they’re just way too long, way too wordy, or way too informal. Or they mention things they “find interesting about our company” that either have nothing to do with our company, are a very tiny part of our company, have nothing to do with the role, etc.

    The #1 priority when writing a cover letter should be your English/grammar. (Assuming you got our company’s name right.)

    The problem people have when they try to get too “creative” can be that their cover letters end up sticking out/getting noticed in a bad way.

    All this to say the cover letter in the post was generally good- but I think this is good advice for anyone reading. Focusing on not being bad could be more beneficial than trying to be really good.

    Reply
    1. Honeybee

      Eh, I think it depends on who’s reading it and their opinions. I’ve heard from some hiring managers that cover letters aren’t really important to them and resumes are what really matters. And then I’ve heard from some that the cover letter is really what sets you apart in a positive way from all of the other applicants. My own manager, for example, told me that cover letters are really important to her when hiring for a new position and she looks for unique things in them. One important thing for our cover letters is to convey that you love video games because I work for a video game developer. You’d be surprised how many people don’t, but it’s an important part of the job itself and fitting into the culture here.

      Reply
  37. Haley

    Just wanted to say that I have taken your advice on how to improve my cover letters, and wrote what I thought was a really good one this week. I got a call for an interview less than an hour after submitting it! Thank you!

    Reply
  38. Front of the House Manager

    I liked the other cover letter sample (from the girl who was applying for and landed the hotel front desk manager position), but this one feels much more like something I would write to a hiring manager. I have been stalling on getting a new job, but recent events at my workplace are the kick in the ass I’ve really needed to jump on this. I will definitely be using this as a guide and inspiration for new cover letters. Thanks, Alison!

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Before you comment: Please be kind, stay on-topic, and follow the site's commenting rules.
You can report an ad, tech, or typo issue here.

Subscribe to all comments on this post by RSS