here’s a real-life example of a fantastic 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. This is a fantastic example of how someone without a ton of work experience (she’s still a student!) can make a compelling case for why they’d be a good hire. When I talk about how your cover letter should present info about you that’s not in your resume, this is what I’m talking about.

The caveats I’ve learned to give when sharing these:

• The writer has 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. This one works for the writer’s particular context. 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 show what the advice here can look like in practice. (Every time I print a cover letter here, it ends up plagiarized all over the internet.) Stealing it will doom you to terrible job search luck for the next decade.

First, here’s some background from the writer:

I thought you might like to hear that I followed your advice for writing a cover letter, and it worked out great! I was applying for an internship with a fairly prestigious organization and there’s some big competition for getting any kind of work with them. I have a pretty decent resume, but I’m still finishing my degree and have limited experience in my field, so I knew I’d need to sell pretty hard to have a shot.

Well, a couple weeks after I sent in my resume, I got a call from the hiring manager: their internship was already filled, but they thought they had an actual position for me with the organization that they thought I’d be a perfect fit for! When I went for the interview (where I used a lot of your tips to really wow them), they specifically told me that they’ve never received a cover letter like mine, and really emphasized how much it had impressed them, so much so that they wanted to find a spot for me with their organization.

Today, I got the call with an official job offer, and I’m absolutely over the moon. Thank you for your wonderful advice; this has given me my first step into the field I’ve studied for, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Here’s the letter, with identifying details changed.

Dear Hiring Manager,

It’s with great enthusiasm that I am applying to be your next Intergalactic Service Intern. I know that my background and expertise would serve the Mars Agency well and leave a lasting impression in your client management department.

I’ve worked in some level of customer service since I was young, moving my way up from cashiering to supervisory and office positions. My positions went beyond simply giving change with a smile and a thank you; for many of my customers I become friend and confidant, a familiar face with whom they could discuss their day and all its ups and downs. In my long tenure at Starbucks I knew hundreds of customers by name, knew their jobs, their children, their lives—I was there to support them beyond a transaction, living up to our core value of becoming a second home. My experience there helped shape me as a person, and I still keep contact with some of my customers and coworkers to this day.

I carried these values over to my volunteering, allowing profession to grow into passion. At the Saturn Wildlife Exhibit, I prepare specimens in an open-air space that allows the public full access to our work. My days are spent speaking to children and adults alike about the exhibit, specimens, and local flora and fauna, stoking enthusiasm and awe for the natural world in the process. My interpretive conversations show a new generation that natural science is fun, exciting, and accessible to everyone.

Beyond my love of working with people, I also have a broad and expansive set of technical skills. Working at the Saturn Veterinary Clinic doesn’t just afford me client interaction and puppies to adore: every day I’m on my feet and on the move, dealing with complicated system processes and problem-solving on the fly to help ease the workload of our six doctors. Scheduling, cleaning, pet wrangling, sample collecting—you name it, I do it. I have a knack for wearing many hats, and revel in the challenges of new experiences.

I’d be thrilled with the opportunity to learn more about this internship, and would love to talk to you about the contributions I can make at the Mars Agency. Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Warmest regards,

(name)

{ 203 comments… read them below or add one }

    1. MW

      Yes – thank you (and the letter writer) for posting this! A real life example of your advice put into practice is SO helpful!

      Reply
    1. Fortitude Jones

      Yup, same. This is very well-done – I feel like I know this person without having ever met her, and she’s delightful. Good job, OP, and good luck with the new position!

      Reply
    2. NotAnotherManager!

      Me, too! I am a sucker for a good cover letter, and I see so few of them.

      This is a really great letter, and I’m grateful the LW shared it!

      Reply
  1. Save One Day at a Time

    Thanks for sharing! It’s so voicey and professional. LW, congrats on going in for an internship and coming out with a job! That’s awesome

    Reply
  2. Delta Delta

    I really like this letter. It explains a lot about the writer that you wouldn’t get from the resume and it seems to be in the writer’s authentic voice.

    Also, I’m switching to the Saturn Veterinary Clinic.

    Reply
    1. hermit crab

      Yeah, on top of the great letter, I really love the space theme. Being an Intergalactic Service Intern sounds fabulous!

      Reply
  3. always in email jail

    Congratulations, LW!
    As a hiring manager, I find the most intriguing/effective elements to be the ways she ties her entry-level positions into the broader missions of the organizations she has worked for and volunteered with. I love that she was able to illustrate how she helped the agencies fulfill their mission/core values!

    Reply
    1. Knork

      I know I’m in the minority, but I find that aspect to be…too much. I’ve worked plenty of service jobs, and if you tell me that working at Starbucks “shaped you as a person” I’m going to be deeply skeptical. (Or kind of concerned about how malleable you are as a person…)

      I would want to hear that your time in retail taught you great customer service and a strong work ethic, not that everything was a huge love-fest.

      Reply
      1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD

        I felt the same, so we are a minority of 2. What field do you work in? I wonder if it might be related to us being in roles where effusiveness isn’t a positive?

        Reply
        1. desktroid

          Congrats for the success of your covering letter. I, however, am a retired naval officer (30+ years) now working in a large multinational defence and corporate training company doing work I really enjoy. Unfortunately, I personally would find this almost “too enthusiastic” or “trying too hard” or something like that.
          Having said that I certainly don’t want to be a downer. Perhaps it’s a generational thing and I’m just some old grouch – who knows.

          Reply
          1. Just Employed Here

            Or a cultural thing (or I, too, am a grouch).

            I manage a customer service team as part of my work, and I would be a bit put off by the level of enthusiasm and gumption shown here. Although I have indeed formed warm, human connections with some of my customers over the years, I don’t think that’s what customer service is about. Being friendly, yes, but this sounds almost like fraternizing. But of course we don’t know what the internship / job was in this case. Plus I’m in a culture where interpersonal distance is the norm.

            Anyway, this is what worked for this organization, which is exactly what a cover letter is about!

            Reply
          2. So long and thanks for all the fish

            I’m in my 20s and agree with you, though I think this also might be mostly field-based. I’m a scientist and as I was reading I was just so skeptical, like “where is the evidence of your skills?” It’s the kind of letter I feel like gets written when I don’t have anything concrete to offer.

            Reply
            1. Intergalactic Service Intern

              That’s the sort of information I include in other cover letters, actually! This is specific to interpretation; our job is to inspire, less through education and more though the connection to an open and engaging adult who can be viewed as a mentor-type. I have the science education to back up everything I’m teaching — but the execution is what they’re really looking for. In my cover letter for research and field work positions (as I’m expected to do both for my degree) I emphasize my attention to detail, rigid adherence to procedures and lab safety, and my ability to work well with any team. It’s all about my audience and knowing what they need.

              Reply
              1. FabJobTag

                Your letter is brilliant. I’m a baby boomer, so my love of your letter isn’t a generational thing. I have received thousands of job applications over the past 30 years and would love to have someone like you working for my company in a customer service, marketing, or editorial position.

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                1. Intergalactic Service Intern OP

                  Thank you so much, that’s so nice to hear! I really appreciate it!

          3. Scott M

            I was going to say the same thing. Was a bit too much. But then perhaps that was what the employer was looking for.

            Reply
        2. smoke tree

          I’m thinking it shows this LW knows her audience. I volunteer at an aquarium, and this cover letter would go over really well with them. They’re really big on enthusiastic customer service and making a connection with guests, since education and inspiring people to feel more personally connected to the ocean and conservation are big parts of their mission. From the details given, I’m guessing this position may be for a similar type of organization.

          Reply
          1. ThatGirl

            Yes. Knowing your audience is a huge part of writing a good cover letter! It wouldn’t work for every position/organization and that’s sort of the point.

            Reply
          2. Intergalactic Service Intern OP

            It is indeed in a similar field, good catch! It’s a large nonprofit that’s very well known in our area; the department I’ll work in needs people who are both knowledgeable and SUPER engaging, which is why I added 12 gallons of pep.

            Reply
        3. Knork

          I actually work for a fairly warm-and-fuzzy nonprofit with many public-facing positions. I value experience in service/retail when I’m looking at resumes. But based on my own time manning cash registers and waiting tables, I think the real benefits are learning how to work hard, how to be patient and diplomatic, how to handle the less glamorous aspects of a job like that without losing positivity.

          Tell me how it made you resilient and customer-service oriented, I’m impressed. Gush about making a lot of emotional connections, not so much.

          And I like how she describes working at the vet clinic a lot–switching gears easily, wearing a lot of hats, doing the hard/gross stuff–that’s great.

          Reply
      2. always in email jail

        I mean, I don’t take it at face value. To me it demonstrates that they understand that even a cashier is the face of a brand, and one bad experience can turn a grumpy person off of a company. When hiring entry-level people and interns, I think it’s really important that they understand that they are representing your agency, and that “small things” like a pleasant demeanor and good phone etiquette make a huge difference in how a client perceives your agency. I thought the writer did a great job of illustrating that while yes, these were entry-level positions, performing them well impacted customers’ perception of the agency or brand as a whole.

        Reply
        1. NotAnotherManager!

          That was how I read it, too. I work in a professional services field, and that understanding that any external touch (client, government entity, etc.) is representative of your organization is something I’d love not to have to teach someone coming in.

          Reply
          1. Always in email jail

            “Any external touch is representative of your organization” is such a good way to word it! I will use that in the future :-P

            Reply
      3. Kelsi

        It really does depend on the person and the job! I’ve had entry-level jobs where I really did love my repeat customers and coworkers and they shaped my outlook, and I’ve had entry-level jobs where the only thing I learned was how to vent my rage on inanimate objects to keep from venting it on live human beings.

        It also probably depends a lot on how much of a people person you are–some people are going to make deeper, more lasting connections even in basic service jobs because that’s the kind of personality they have. (I, on the other hand, will sadly forget everything you said to me the minute you are not in front of me and also what your name is, but I do that with everybody because I’m a forgetful faceblind introvert)

        Reply
      4. Vortex

        While I cannot attest to working at Starbucks, the food service industry is a bit different. When you work at certain places you do get to know the regulars and chit chat all the time. It’s expected that you remember regular’s orders but you do quite often develop relationships with customers. They probably grew close to regulars regardless of it being a core tenant of the organization, they’re just smart enough to tie it back to that.

        And depending on the time they took the job, it does shape you. Waiting tables at 15 yo definitely changed me from someone who couldn’t say boo to a stranger without anxiety attacks to a person who excels at small talk and has a steel trap memory for minutiae. (Because some people’s orders, let me tell you.)

        Reply
        1. Intergalactic Service Intern OP

          That’s exactly how it was for me, too! While I did err on the side of hyperbole due to the field I’m entering, honestly my retail work did have a huge impact. I’m actually an introvert by nature, and was very awkward and anxious with people growing up. Retail positions let me craft a persona, in a way, of a very outgoing and approachable person; I can apply that now to just about everything, from work to school to general, everyday interactions. If I hadn’t had the experiences I did, I wouldn’t have been able to develop the sort of client-facing personality that’s helped me do really well in life. I wasn’t super young when I started Starbucks (early 20s) but I did work there for 7 years, and I’d already been working in similar environments since I was 16. It doesn’t define me, but it absolutely left its mark.

          Reply
      5. KTB

        Not all service jobs are the same. Starbucks has explicitly positioned itself as a “third place,” and the baristas are expected to get to know their customers. While the skill set is completely analogous to other service sector jobs, the company culture and emphasis on relationship building is somewhat unique.

        Agencies in particular are extremely client-focused, so her careful emphasis on her relationship building skillset makes a ton of sense, and is a very savvy move. I can safely say that this cover letter would have gotten her hired at the last three organizations I’ve worked for, and that they would love the relationship building aspect.

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        1. Melonhead

          The people who work at my local Starbucks have no idea who I am, not do they seem inclined to care. That’s just fine with me.

          Reply
      6. OP Intergalactic Service Intern

        Oh Lord have mercy, it was NOT a total love fest, let me tell ya — but the position I applied for is specifically in environmental interpretation, and there is a massive emphasis on connecting with people beyond an educational sense to “inspire,” as it were; there’s an entire, science-backed model on the impact of a warm and open adult mentor in kids and young adults that will impact their environmental behaviors as adults. So my big push for this letter was less “I’m a hard worker with a good ethic” (as that is an undertone, and evidenced in my resume and references) and more “I can connect with people on a level that will make a difference”.

        Of course, shaping me as a person is hyperbole — but I also think that it’s important as a service worker to emphasize that these aren’t throwaway jobs where the only thing you learned is how to smile and nod while being shouted at. In an environment where personal connection is mandatory (it’s in their mission statement), I really did hone my ability to connect with people no matter their background, and no matter how sour or demanding they might be. I learned how to be funny and friendly in a huge variety of situations, even when I was tired and worn down. My whole business persona is now designed on being open and charismatic; I wouldn’t have learned that in a different environment than that. A lot of that was based on my determination and not Starbucks itself (I have plenty of unhappy experiences with the company itself), but emphasizing your connection to a company looks really good when you’re trying to enter a new one.

        Reply
        1. Retail Mgr Escapee

          I think you’re awesome! I do think that sometimes (frequently?) people tend to discount the skills you learn from customer service work, so the fact that you highlighted those skills so eloquently in your cover letter is fantastic. I’m also 100% biased, since I left a store manager job to work in museum education, so…

          Anyway, please keep posting here; I’m really excited to see more about all the amazing work you’re going to do!

          Reply
          1. Intergalactic Service Intern OP

            Fellow escapee, hello!! It’s SO frustrating when our work is discounted. I supervised so I absolutely feel with you — and I’m looking at possible museum-type work so that is extra awesome! I’m so glad you got out and got into something so amazing. The skills we learn in the grind of the machine are worth a lot more than many people want to give credit for.

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        2. Bulbasaur

          I loved that bit. The whole letter says “future CEO” to me. You managed to make working the counter at Starbucks sound inspiring and fulfilling and even tie it back to the mission statement! I’m not surprised they wanted you on their team.

          Reply
  4. A

    Wow! This is such a perfect example of how to bring “you” into an application while being perfectly polished and professional. Thanks for sharing Alison and LW!

    Reply
  5. FancyNancy

    I love that! It sounds enthusiastic in a 100% genuine way, and highlights the many ways that the LW went above and beyond their duties.

    Reply
  6. Marzipan

    Not sure how other UK readers feel but I always find the tone of examples on here to be somewhat different to what I’m used to. Not dissing the LW’s letter at all – clearly, it did the trick! Just interested in how presenting oneself effectively translates to different contexts.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      UK readers frequently say here that they find the tone of a lot of my sample language and the sample cover letters I’ve printed here to be too effusive for them — it seems like a clear cultural difference.

      Reply
      1. PhyllisB

        The solution to that is to ask a UK reader to submit a cover letter that worked for them!! It’s true that different countries/cultures value different styles.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’m not equipped to judge what works well in other cultures. (And just “it got me hired” isn’t enough to know something was really good. I actually have a lot of people send me cover letters that got them hired, but the majority are sort of fine but not great — not letters I’d present as exemplars to others. This one was though!)

          Reply
        2. Washi

          I actually would love to see this! For Brits or other English speaking countries. (Or non English speaking too, but the translation might be tricky.)

          Reply
        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Perhaps the Brits could post an example (or examples) that they’re authorized to disclose in the open thread, and other Brits can weigh in on whether they found the letters effective? Or maybe it could be an “ask the readers” topic in the future?

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I generally am not a fan of people posting cover letters in the open thread, because most of the examples I see people giving of “good cover letters” are not what I would endorse that way … and so if the open thread does that, I’d feel obligated to wade in and talk about them (because otherwise people assume that seeing them in an AAM context gives them some sort of endorsement, if not from me than from the readership) (and also then I feel like a jerk).

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      2. Lobsterp0t

        Yes but also no? I think it depends on sector – I work in charities and this tone has always worked for my letters here, but I have definitely evolved it as the roles I seek get more senior. I think a lot of the ones we’ve seen here are values-y as opposed to more dry. If someone shared a successful corporate letter it might look rather different, i am guessing .

        Reply
        1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD

          I work in a research/data heavy field and people here would HATE the cover letters that work for people in it. We tend not to do a whole lot of personality. It is more a bunch of, “in X job/project (if student intern) I learned the details of classifying the red-tailed llamas which would give me a good foundation in joining your blue tailed alpaca identification team, especially when it comes to ranking by eyelash length and Cuteness Index (CI-US).”

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          1. SpicySpice

            I just love your example! It’s good that there’s a quantifiable CI because cuteness can be so subjective.

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      3. Akcipitrokulo

        Yeah, I’d agree with that! In UK, and would find it a little overwhelming… but it looks like was perfect for intended audience!

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      4. JamieS

        Eh, I think it has more to do with your own bias on what you consider a good cover letter than an overall cultural difference between Americans and Europeans. Also the fact the letter seemed to be for a customer service oriented job probably played a role.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I mean, maybe. What I know for sure is that I get a ton of letters from people who say moving in this direction significantly increased the number of interviews they get, so if it’s my own bias, it’s one shared by a ton of hiring managers.

          And it’s a pretty established thing (outside of this site) that the British often find American speech overly effusive.

          Reply
    2. Scottish style friendly

      As a fellow UK commentator, I agree the tone is very different to what we’re used to, and probably not quite right for a British context. But I’ve used some of the general advice. I remember one of Alison’s piece of cover letter advice was that the tone should be “like you’re writing to a boss you really like”. I’ve worked in the USA, and this letter is more of an American tone for that context, but when I’ve written my UK cover letters, I’ve tried to write to a favorite boss how I would as a British person. It’s friendly, but it’s British style friendly, as opposed to American style friendly. It’s really worked for me!

      Reply
      1. Media Monkey

        also in the UK, and although i don’t see or use cover letters (since my industry is almost 100% done by recruiters/ linked in or personal contacts), i think that letter is really lovely. it is maybe slightly more than we would expect here but in a personality driven industry like mine (media/ advertising) it would definitely make the writer stand out in a good way.

        Reply
      2. Kathleen_A

        Honestly, it’s a bit much from my perspective, too – and I am a product of a friendly, gregarious and occasionally even exuberant culture (born and raised in California, spent most of my adult life in the Midwest). I’m well aware that I am more reserved about such things than many other people, though, and I do still think this is a really good letter. And I completely agree with AAM’s general advice of creating a well-written, customized letter that gives people a real idea what you’re like as a person, which is exactly what we have here.

        Reply
    3. Some Sort of Management Consultant

      It’s a little too much from a Swedish/Scandinavian perspective as well, but the LW just sounds so incredibly nice that it would hardly register if I read the letter in real life.

      Reply
    4. londonedit

      Yes, I agree that the tone is a little over-the-top effusive for British norms – it’s a definite cultural difference.

      I do think though that the general ideas that come across in the letter – making sure you relate your experience to the job/company you’re applying to, giving clear examples, not just saying ‘I love space so I’d be great at this job’, etc – are excellent rules of thumb for cover letters in the UK as well as the USA. The cover letters I write are broadly similar to this one – leading the reader briefly through my career and experience and how it matches up to the job description being advertised – so I think although the language is definitely different, the overall idea is the same.

      Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          To clarify — you’re not really being asked to critique this letter, but if you choose to, you need to be kind about it and remember that there is a real person reading who was nice enough to let me share her letter here (even knowing that it will be stolen from her). And frankly, I’d ask that you account for the facts that (a) she’s applying for a customer service role, and the letter’s tone reflects that and (b) it worked.

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    5. Celia

      It sounds like the job itself might require a high level of American effusiveness. Or maybe the company exudes this type of enthusiasm in its job announcement and the applicant is reflecting their tone.

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      1. Intergalactic Service Intern OP

        So much American effusiveness. Good God, so much. (But it does really important work so I am very excited!)

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        1. Nerine

          How do you stock up on American effusiveness? Does it come in cans or does the powdered version go further? ;)

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          1. Intergalactic Service Intern OP

            You actually keep it in a Cheez Whiz bottle so you can squirt it directly into your mouth any time you forget to be loud and terrifying to non-Americans. Though it does also come in a liquid form that can be ingested by wearing it in one of those drinking hats with the straws that go right in your mouth, that works pretty good too.

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    6. Rezia

      I’m in the US and this is more enthusiastic than what I would write, but I think it’s great considering that she’s applying for an internship. I always want interns who are excited about the role, because they often don’t have a lot of experience. Their passion is what sets them apart and helps them go the extra mile.
      For a higher level position, perhaps a more sober tone would make sense, but I love this for an intern. I would hire her in a flash.

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      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I think it also matters that OP was applying for an internship in a customer service-oriented department (or at least that’s how I read her cover letter). The degree of effusiveness is high, even in the U.S., but as you noted, OP’s experience level and desired role definitely affect whether the tone reads as “appropriate” or “over the top.”

        (I don’t think OP was over the top—I would hire her as an undergrad intern.)

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        1. Hills to Die on

          Yes, that is important as well. I don’t think it would be as effective as, say, a CIO or something. It would still be strong, but the tone highlights her strong customer-facing personality. You want your content and personality to come across as a match for the job.

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        2. Lucette Kensack

          And it sounds like she was applying to a mission-oriented organization. Nonprofits also have different norms, and expressing enthusiasm for the overall work of the organization (beyond your specific role) is one of them.

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          1. Joielle

            Yeah, this is what I was going to say too. I’ve done nonprofit and public sector work my whole life and this is a perfect cover letter in that context – but I can see how it would be a bit weird in the private sector. My husband works for a big corporation and when we’ve asked the other to critique cover letters in the past, it’s hard to do it in a useful way because the norms seem so different.

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        3. smoke tree

          I may be misremembering, but I feel like a lot of the cover letter samples Alison posts tend to be for roles where personality matters a lot–often someone who is switching careers, or restarting their career, or new to a field. I feel like for a more technical job, there is less leeway to show your personality, but maybe I’m just unimaginative. I also feel that when you have a fair amount of technical experience, it seems a little silly to refer to personality quirks in a cover letter–for example, if you’re an experienced proofreader, do you really need to say that you obsessively colour-code your underwear to prove that you care about detail and organization?

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        4. Gabriela

          The internship part of this is key as well. Internship generally implies that you don’t have much experience and haven’t had as many opportunities to build skills, so passion is important. If a college student submitted something more dry that was just a run-down of their skills and experience, it could potentially come off as arrogant. I think this is a fantastic internship cover letter as enthusiasm is pretty important in an opportunity that is designed to be a learning experience.

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        5. Tau

          (sorry, comment early-posted /o\)

          and also in the way that people from a more customer-service or business oriented position can come across as too effusive to people from tech positions.

          So – full points for knowing your audience to the author!

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    7. Sammie

      Irish woman living in the US. Very similar cultural difference and I have really struggled to inject that pep into my cover letters, and even into my interviews and thank you notes. I would not consider myself a particularly reserved person but I see how my peers here talk about the jobs they’re going for and I realize that I have likely come off borderline disinterested to potential employers! I think I’ve found a decent balance now. I’ve ramped up the effusiveness but it’s still at a level that feels pretty comfortable – and, most importantly, sincere – to me. I notice that it helps if I can find something about the company that I’m genuinely excited about or at least intrigued by, which isn’t always possible because, you know, work is work and sometimes you just need a job.

      Reply
      1. JenRN

        It’s so funny though. My experience of the Irish is that they are so enthusiastic in person but reserved in formal ways. I once got a job at an outdoor store in Dublin because I was going through the aisles commenting on the gear to a fellow backpacker. I got all excited about some of it and one of the owners got one of the other sales people to come over and tell me to bring my resume by (formality that he couldn’t/didn’t do it?). But in a classic Irish “it’s who you know” kind of thing my dad (!!!) sent a thank you letter to the owners after I’d left (??) because it “cements the bonds” and that’s how you stay connected to people back home. This explained much for me about (strange) job advice I’d gotten from him. But, sure enough, I stopped back in the shop a couple months later and they told me about the letter (I’d not known, I was mortified, for the record: Canadians don’t do this). They’d loved it. “Ah sure, yer da seems lovely” etc etc. 3 years later I went back to Dublin for a summer and got my job back “no bother”. So tanks a million da’!

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    8. Hills to Die on

      I am in the US and this cover letter (albeit fantastic) is not my writing style. I think my cover letter/s come across as positive, upbeat, and energetic but they are also far less effusive than this. I did have someone call me about a job based solely on my cover letter, so I think I am doing a good job with it. But yes, you should definitely use your own voice and what works for you in your culture and just for your personality.

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    9. BRR

      I’m in the US and I think it’s different compared to a lot of other US cover letter advice and also the cover letters that I’ve read when I’ve been a part of the hiring process. To be clear, I think this cover letter is awesome. Even after reading AAM for years, I still get nervous on submitting a cover letter with this tone.

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    10. Manon

      Even as an American I struggle to balance AAM’s advice about what a cover letter is for – giving a snapshot of who you beyond what can be seen on a resume – and the sample language printed. Every sample letter is far more bubbly and effusive than I am and I feel so over-the-top trying to write with a comparable voice.

      I’m never sure if I should just write with my own voice and risk employers thinking I’m an unenthusiastic dullard or write in a voice that doesn’t really feel like my own.

      Reply
        1. Rezia

          Manon, if it helps, this sample letter shows the letter writer’s personality – which is not yours and not mine.
          Maybe think about some adjectives you’d use to describe your best traits, e.g. organized, thoughtful, smart, calm amidst chaos, reliable, sincere, etc and see if your sample letters reflect that.

          This letter writer is, to me, bubbly, enthusiastic, friendly and extroverted. Those traits don’t describe you – so find your own voice to convey your traits!

          Reply
        2. So long and thanks for all the fish

          I know this isn’t a particularly reasonable ask, but if possible could you share one at some point which does show more of a subdued personality that you also consider a great cover letter? If I recall correctly, most of the cover letters you’ve shared with us have been fairly close to this in tone (or at least far more effusive than would be appropriate for my field).

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yes! I can only share ones people send to me and offer to let me share, and there aren’t a ton of those (and most in that group are more “fine but not great” — not strong enough that it makes sense to share them as an exemplar). But I will keep an eye out for that in particular.

            (I do see them in my actual hiring work, but those aren’t people offering to have them shared!)

            Reply
            1. Vemasi

              I feel like bubbly and effusive people might be self-selecting to be the ones to send you successful cover letters? Like, the kind of person who would be inspired by their excitement at getting a job to share their methods with everyone at AAM. Also, those who are at more senior levels, and thus might end up writing drier letters that discuss much more specific, experience-based things, might be somewhat less likely to be excited into sharing (since they probably 1. have written more letters in their lives, and 2. are less likely to attribute their success so much to the cover letter, as their experience carries more of the load than with these younger applicants, who have little experience and thus have to wow with an exciting cover letter).

              Do you welcome people to submit successful cover letters/resumes, on the off chance that they might be good examples for others? I’ve considered it before, but thought that it would be more of a nuisance given that I didn’t have a question, and wasn’t certain that it actually was a fabulous letter to begin with.

              Reply
            2. JamieS

              This is probably pretty obvious but have you tried asking for them in a tweet or something? More subdued people are much less likely to just volunteer letters if they weren’t requested.

              Reply
          2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

            I would also appreciate this if possible. Although I am American I find the examples I’ve seen similarly rather effusive for my personality. I mean, I’ll admit to being a bit dour and overly serious but I struggle with applying the examples to my own life because I’m just not that enthusiastic about anything, ever. I’d love to see a great cover letter from a grouch like me!

            Reply
    11. Bagpuss

      I’m another UK person and it does feel a bit over the top in tone to me, but I think the content, the way that she sells the experience she has, with specifc examples, would be pretty effective here, too.

      I do tend to mentally ‘dial down’ the tone of letters etc I see here to allow for the cultural difference. !

      Reply
    12. Sandra Ohhhhhh

      Yeah, we have a very different set of expectations over here. I’m delighted for the OP that this worked for them (and it sounds like this isn’t just a US vs UK thing but also to do with the nature of the role they applied for) but as a Brit my eyebrows were getting higher and higher as I read. This… would not be a successful approach anywhere I’ve ever worked. I actually often find it very uncomfortable reading AAM’s recommended language, as it tends to an emotive over-intensity that makes me feel very weird about the person saying it.

      Mostly this just makes me glad I never followed through on younger me’s desire to move to America, though. It took me a long time to realise how very different the countries are culturally!

      Reply
      1. Deb Morgan

        I’m the flip side of this coin (American who thought it would be fun to move to the UK, but never did). Every time a cover letter example is posted here, the UK readership doesn’t like the tone. I would definitely (however inadvertently) bother the heck out of people over there… Ah cultural differences!

        Reply
    13. Lilysparrow

      I think the usefulness of the example is precisely because of its specificity.

      In a different sort of position, especially for an experienced candidate, quantifiable results would be more relevant than enthusiasm and gregariousness. For a more reserved national or corporate culture, working within those norms is part of being a good fit.

      But for this position (sounds like customer relations in a mission-driven org), the attitude & people skills are a huge selling point.

      Reply
    14. marmalade

      Same here – I’m from NZ, and the tone of American writing/speech can often come across too effusive or salesy here. Most of the letter would actually go over pretty well here, I think, but the part about Starbucks was just … too much.

      In my long tenure at Starbucks I knew hundreds of customers by name, knew their jobs, their children, their lives—I was there to support them beyond a transaction, living up to our core value of becoming a second home. My experience there helped shape me as a person, and I still keep contact with some of my customers and coworkers to this day.

      Congrats though, OP, it is a great letter!

      Reply
  7. CatCat

    This is awesome. Knocked it out of the park. It’s professional and conveys both skills AND personality. It’s not all dry or boring, but really adds an extra layer of depth to what I assume is contained in the resume. I mean, I assume working at Starbucks is on the resume with the attendant skills associated with the job, but not “I was there to support [customers] beyond a transaction, living up to our core value of becoming a second home.” Wow, that’s a great addition.

    Reply
  8. SleepyTimeTay

    This just blew me away!! Amazing cover letter, LW! I might have to save this as future inspiration!

    Reply
  9. The Man, Becky Lynch

    I would hire you nine times, dear LW. Nine times!

    I like the personalized tone, it stands out among the very generic cover letters that I see when I’m lucky enough to even get a cover letter submitted.

    Reply
  10. kc89

    Not to nitpick, but isn’t this-
    “I know that my background and expertise would serve the Mars Agency well and leave a lasting impression in your client management department.”

    something that is recommended we don’t do, since we don’t actually KNOW that?

    Just wondering if I’ve misunderstood previous advice, or if this is just one blip in an otherwise great letter.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Eh, a blip. It’s not the way I’d write that, for the reason you say, but it doesn’t matter when the letter is taken as a whole. (And to be explicit about this — with all the real-life cover letter examples I publish, there are things where I might write it differently, but they still work well overall.)

      Reply
      1. Jake

        I think this is the most missed concept by job seekers. The isn’t a magic formula that you can break down, create a checklist, complete the checklist and all of a sudden you note have a great cover letter.

        People checking application materials are looking at them as a full package, not analyzing every sentence and entry individually.

        Reply
  11. That One Person

    I really enjoyed this. For me, reading this, I think what especially wins out (well aside from some good accomplishments overall and how she treated her jobs in the past) is the personality in this letter. Even “puppies to adore” in regards to the vet clinic feels more like personal phrasing than stuffy and robotic writing. It has a warm element with a hint of what we all wish could be our job =P Its nice though to get a sense of the person behind the writing and to avoid being too formulaic (or run the risk of sounding robotic) and can be hard for people to achieve in varying regards.

    Reply
  12. Puggles

    This is a wonderful cover letter. Professional, yet friendly and light. The puppy part gave me warm and fuzzy feels.

    Reply
  13. EtherIther

    Great job! And it reminds me of some of mine, I’ve had success using Alison’s advice too! Congrats LW! :)

    Reply
  14. Hardcore parkour

    I wish I had that kind of relationship with my barista. Cinnamon dolce for the win!

    I also wanted to offer my praise for the organization of this letter. Each paragraph nicely conveys one central idea with an appropriate amount of detail and is not too long. I do a lot of editorial work, and it takes work to achieve that balance.

    Reply
    1. BethDH

      Yeah, I was thinking something similar. Specific individual elements might not be convincing alone, but they come together with such good flow that the overall argument is powerful.
      I think that’s especially important for people who are early in their careers or changing fields to notice, because a lot of things people are commenting about in this letter (tone, being “over-friendly”) are among the few things you can do to set yourself apart in early jobs in fields that rely on customer relationships. OP is saying that what set them apart in their field is the ability to build relationships, and the letter shows how they were able to do that during small-talk type interactions. The tone and the claims to experience align really well.

      Reply
    2. Hardcore parkour

      There is one teensy point that I would adjust, and that is the phrase “since I was young.” If this applicant is still in her 20’s, a lot of people who will be reading this would consider her to be young still. People can have hangups about age and experience, and some might not be totally pleased at the idea that a 20-something doesn’t believe herself to be young (we must seem ancient to her!). I would instead say how many years I have worked in customer service.

      Reply
      1. Intergalactic Service Intern OP

        It’s funny, I didn’t even think of that! I’m actually a returning student, so I’m in my 30s; I forget that most college students graduating are 20-22. (My department has a lot of older students too, we average 30-50 interestingly enough.)

        Reply
        1. Hardcore parkour

          Ah, good to know. It’s truly a non-issue in the context of such a nice letter, but you never know when your application is going to be read by Kelly from The Office. “No, no, no no. She’s young, okay? Because if you are saying Hillary Swank isn’t young, then you are saying that I am not young. Because obviously I am not as young as Hillary Swank!” [runs away in tears]

          Reply
  15. Bagpuss

    Nice! I can see why she was offered the post, the letter comes over as genuine, and the way that she’s actualy managed to present the work at Starbucks so it genuinely shows what skills she gainsed is very good .
    Congratulations to her on her new post.

    Reply
  16. TW

    This is really good, thank you for sharing. I have a background (career and education) in writing and I am surprised at how hard cover letters seem to be for people. They just freeze at the thought of writing. Sincerity and a reasonable amount of enthusiasm go a long way, as someone who has had to read a good number of them over the years. ALWAYS SUBMIT ONE!!! So many lackluster resumes have made the cut because of a compelling cover letter.

    Reply
  17. John Thurman

    Wow, so enthusiastic! I would’ve guessed the response to that would be “simmer down a little” haha I’m recalibrating

    Reply
  18. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD

    I must be a huge outlier, because I don’t like cover letters with overly gushy and enthusiastic tones, which is not to fault to OP’s letter, but maybe no letter is perfect for every hiring manager? I don’t care if your love of something lead you to developing skills for dealing with complicated system processes and problem-solving, so I just skimmed the letter thinking, “How super for you, but quit with the fluff. I want to know this job gave me X, Y, and Z specific technical skills and P, R, and Q specific workplace management skills”. I wonder if it is somewhat field related since I tend to work in a more analytic/research oriented role?

    Reply
    1. Bagpuss

      I think perhaps it sdepnds a bit on the field of work, and maybe also the role.
      I think for someone who is at the very start of their career and doesn’t yet have a lot in the way of technical skills, this is pretty effective.

      What I get from the letter is that she maybe doesn’t yet have the specifc skills forthe post, but she knows that, she’s giving information about general skills she has got which may be adapable for the specifc workplace, and also addressing dome of the assumptions which might be made about the type of work she has done in the past – she comes over as pretty self aware about her level of skill, and that’s a big plus.

      I’d also expect toee things like specifc skills relevant to the job in the CV/Resume .

      I do think that the fact she was applying for an internship is relevant to how effective the letter is.

      Reply
    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      And that’s actually awesome because it means that they’re probably not a culture fit either, so it’s a good first flag there!

      Whereas the typical generic summary of their resume gives me the “I can read your resume, give me something else or just don’t bother with a cover letter at all” reaction. And have found people with those cover letters also spill over into the vague, not much deeper than the resume surface interviews that do not result in a job offer kind of setup.

      Reply
    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yep, from the intro: “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. “

      Reply
      1. goducks

        So true. Which is why as a frequent hiring manager, I hate when friends and family ask for advice on their resume and/or cover letter when applying for jobs. I have to give a million disclaimers of “this is what *I* like to see, but there are people who really prefer this other thing, that drives me up a wall. And without knowing the individual preferences of the person who will see your resume/cover letter, you cannot know if it will resonate”. I encourage them in all the most generic ways (clarity, brevity, clean formats, etc.), but there’s just no universal way to get a manager’s attention (and sometimes the screener likes different things than the hiring manager so people get weeded out before they even hit the right person).

        Reply
    4. Intergalactic Service Intern OP

      This is definitely a field related thing! Along with this work, I’m expected to get field work and research experience as well; my cover letters for those are direct and data-driven, with emphasis on my field experience, rigid attention to procedural detail, and my ability to mesh with a team in often hot and miserable environments.

      Reply
  19. Not A Manager

    I think this cover letter is great, and part of what makes it great is the effusiveness. Reading between the lines (which I’m sure LW’s resume makes explicit), she worked at Starbucks, she volunteered as a docent at a science exhibit, and she was an aide or assistant at a vet clinic. These are all great jobs for an undergrad and are fine on a resume, but they don’t “speak for themselves,” as it were, regarding her actual skill set or abilities.

    In my opinion, the letter doesn’t actually tell me a lot more about LW’s hard skills. What it shows me is that she is able to write well, present truthful information in a positive and appealing light – which involves careful analytic skills in itself – and that she sounds like a person with a great personality and sense of humor.

    This cover letter is really like an audition, and it’s just terrific.

    Reply
  20. Hiring Mgr

    I like this letter very much, but I think much of what makes it great is the writer and her personality. I don’t know many Starbucks type of retail workers who are that dedicated to their jobs that they know all the customers (and their kids) names or still keep in touch with them :) That unique style spills over into her writing and it just sounds very genuine

    Reply
  21. Amethystmoon

    This is a good cover letter. But what is one supposed to do if one is an introvert? Just never apply for a customer service job? Technically, all jobs require customer service to some extent, because at a minimum, you have people internally who you are doing work for.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      You use the cover letter to talk about evidence that you’d excel in the role (beyond what’s on your resume). Your evidence will be different from this OP’s evidence, and that’s as it should be!

      Reply
    2. Elsajeni

      I don’t think this has much to do with introversion/extroversion. I’m an introvert, I’ve had some similar jobs to what the OP has described in her letter, and the only parts of her letter I couldn’t 100% truthfully say about myself are “I still keep in contact with some of my customers” (not really an introvert issue, just… not my style) and “my love of working with people” (okay, this part is probably introversion-related).

      I do feel pretty strongly that you don’t have to be an extrovert to work in customer service, or to be good at it or even enjoy it! You may find it more tiring or more difficult than if you were an extrovert, or have to work a little harder to pitch yourself to a hiring manager (if you feel you can’t honestly say “I love working with people!”, for example), but like… I love customer service! I like people pretty well and find it extremely satisfying to Solve A Problem for somebody! I just also need a nice quiet lunch break where no one bothers me.

      Reply
    3. alldogsarepuppies

      Introvert/extrovert refer to how you recharge your energy, not if you are good with or like other people. Plenty of introverts can excel in customer service and plenty of extroverts don’t thrive serving strangers even if they do get their energy from time with friends.

      Reply
      1. Former Help Desk Peon

        Yes, this! I’m an introvert, but I’m really really good with customer service, public speaking, small talk, etc. And then I go on my lunch break and hide so I can do a crossword.

        I look at my customer service/people facing time as being “on stage”; I do best at jobs where I can have at least as much time off stage, but my stage persona is such that even a lot of long time coworkers don’t get that.

        Reply
    4. NforKnowledge

      I feel like most of the examples AAM has given of excellent cover letter have been in this vein: effusive, bubbly, using the phrase “wear many hats”, applying for a position where extroversion is a big plus…
      What about for jobs/fields/people where this isn’t the case? I have trouble imagining how I would write my own version of this type of coverletter because none of the apparent positives apply at all.

      Reply
  22. LSP

    This is so bizarre. I literally just did a search on AAM for good cover letter example.

    This site is such an amazing resource! Thanks for all you do, Alison!

    Reply
  23. HigherEd Person

    Wonderful cover letter!

    I just received one where the opening paragraph was a flowery description of the person walking in the rain and reflecting on the professional journey which lead them to this moment. They then concluded the paragraph with “My name is First Last, and I’m applying for your Assistant Teapot Coordinator.” Ya know…because their name wasn’t already in bold at the top of the letterhead.

    ::head desk::

    Reply
    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      That’s such an awkward way to end a letter. You sign off with a salutation, so they know your name, maaaaaaan. Along with the letterhead if you’re using that and it’s attached to your resume but I guess they’re going along with some kind of “say it as many times as possible so it really stick sin someone’s mind!”. I don’t remember you for the reasons you wish I did, please just don’t.

      Reply
      1. HigherEd Person

        It was really really cringey. I won’t post it here (even though I’m like 99.9999% sure they don’t read this blog b/c THEN THEY WOULD KNOW BETTER), but ya know…just in case.

        I also once had one that opened with a description of the spring weather – something about “The trees are blooming, birds are singing, and everyone’s thoughts turn to the Higher Ed job search…”

        On the other end of the spectrum, I also get ones where they misspell the name of our institution or put in the wrong institution, so they got that going for them…

        Reply
    2. Intergalactic Service Intern OP

      Oh Lord. Just thinking about reading that gives me enough second-hand embarrassment to choke on. At my current office, we once received a cover letter where literally every other word, I am not kidding, was followed by an emoji. Needless to say that was passed around to every single person working there to gawk at in horror!

      Reply
  24. Ms Cappuccino

    This is a great letter. I wonder if it would work in the UK where people are generally more formal (at least this is the impression that I have.)

    Reply
    1. Confused Publisher

      I think it would. I got my current job (in a stuffy, formal environment in London) through using my version of this letter. Mine wasn’t quite as effusive – I’m a few years older than the OP – but it was very much tailored to me, and written in a style that is very much mine (I’m thinking especially of word choices and a humorous phrase or two).

      Reply
  25. peace peaces

    Its a good letter. I could imagine its effectiveness and her very personable and bubbly personality straight through it. My complaint is with the curse aam puts on those who copy parts of it at the end. I am not saying that for myself, its a letter that wouldn’t work for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. But how absolutely nasty and not really even funny, even if it was meant that way. Don’t post it then. She didn’t create the phrases in a vacuum.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      What’s absolutely nasty is stealing someone else’s work word-for-word and presenting it as your own! Which routinely happens with cover letters posted here. I stand by my curse of people who do that.

      Reply
      1. Washi

        When I was hiring for a particular position, I was looking at past applicants, successful and unsuccessful, to calibrate what my bar should be for a good cover letter. In the application of one successful applicant (she got the job) I recognized a cover letter from your site! It was almost exactly the same with just a few cosmetic changes for the organization name, etc.

        I alerted my supervisor, but to my surprise, she wasn’t bothered. That particular position required sending out a lot of template-based emails and she said that using a template for a cover letter didn’t seem like a big deal to her. I was horrified though and think it shows a lack of ethical and professional judgement to copy a cover letter word for word.

        So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m finding this thread very interesting because I would also curse someone for plagiarizing, but clearly not everyone would.

        Reply
    2. PizzaDog

      Someone who would copy this word for word is doing themselves a huge disservice – there’s a big AAM readership, and not to mention, if the cover letter doesn’t match the interview or the wording / tone of the resume, this letter is a Google search away.

      Reply
      1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD

        Yep. Shoot, even look at the comments. It would fall flat with certain people in certain fields, even in a beginning, undergrad intern role. because there is no one CL to rule them all

        Reply
        1. smoke tree

          Yes, and apart from being specific to the letter writer and her personality, a good cover letter is also written for a specific audience. As many people have noted, the tone and style of this letter wouldn’t be appropriate for every field or region or position, but I suspect it was perfect for the organization the letter writer applied to.

          Reply
        2. peace peaces

          I mentioned that thoughtfully in my comment. I think her cursing people is still highly ineffective and mean spirited. Oh well. I try to write a response that covers those things and people go right over it. When most people say copying it, they usually mean any part of it and anything styled like it also.

          Reply
          1. Not A Manager

            I don’t actually think that’s what “copying” means. You seem very well-meaning, so maybe it seems highly unlikely to you that someone would actually copy all or most of the letter, just substituting their own job title instead of the LWs.

            Reply
          2. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool

            Meh, I think its a sense of humor thing. I highly doubt anyone (maybe besides you?) thinks Alison has actually cursed them, it’s so obviously a joke I don’t quite get the offense. She’s just saying don’t plagiarize.

            Reply
      2. peace peaces

        I did not say word for word. I agreed with that. Please read what I did say which was a part of it. I really don’t even mean actually copying it. I just don’t know that putting such horrible designs on people makes a lot of sense.

        Reply
        1. Lisa

          You didn’t say word-for-word, but AAM did. The curse doesn’t apply to those who don’t plagiarize. People who plagiarize deserve the consequences. Don’t plagiarize and you won’t get cursed. It’s that simple!

          Reply
        2. alldogsarepuppies

          If we are going to nitpick words, Alison never said curse. Maybe palagrasing and not doing the work yourself has the natural consequence of a bad job search?

          Reply
    3. Jessie the First (or second)

      Wait, “don’t post it then” – you mean, don’t post it if you don’t want people to plagiarize? As if being posted means people should feel free to plagiarize – yikes!
      Posting the letter gives people real life, concrete examples of good writing, and illustrates general advice with specific examples. It’s a good way to help people figure out a difficult part of the job process. Yes, some people are obnoxious and will plagiarize it – but let’s not let those people be the reason we can’t have nice things, yeah? The “curse” is to remind people, some of whom apparently need reminding for some reason, that stealing someone else’s work is wrong.

      Reply
    4. Lilysparrow

      A prophecy isn’t a curse. People who plagiarize off the Internet are going to get caught. Or they’ll wind up in a job that’s a terrible fit because they presented themselves inauthentically. Or both.

      Reply
    5. Genny

      There’s a difference between coincidentally using some of the same words or phrases and copying someone else’s work. Using “Beyond my love of working with people, I also have a broad and expansive set of technical skills.” verbatim isn’t a great idea. Communicating the idea that you both love working with people and have a wide array of technical skills is fine (if both are revelant to the job you’re applying for).

      Reply
  26. Midge

    It makes me so happy to see someone in college using AAM’s advice to get job offers! I didn’t discover the blog until about 5 years post-grad, and I think those five years would have looked very different if I actually knew what I was doing when it came to applying for jobs. Way to get a jump start on your career, OP!

    Reply
  27. Stella70

    In the spirit of discussion, may I respectfully submit that this tone and style of writing will not feel comfortable for many people and will not be so highly thought of by many others. Personally, as a writer at heart and a former manager, I feel it’s “gilding the lily” and I would have encouraged the applicant to pare it down a bit. However, AAM loves it and it was successful, so that shows there is absolutely no advice that can be given that will fit every situation, applicant, manager, and so forth. If this tone feels strange to you, please seek out other examples to inspire you.
    If you use someone else’s voice and are not chosen to interview, will you wonder if you would have had a chance if you had just presented your best self?

    Reply
    1. OP Intergalactic Service Intern

      If I were impart anything to anybody (and I do often, I’m an older college student so I try and help out a lot of my younger colleagues) that it’s so, so important to write to your audience instead of making a blanket letter for anything. That’s probably one of the biggest things I’ve taken from AAM, actually! This is heavily tailored to a non-profit that values this level of enthusiasm. I’m also after a research position to work along with this one; that cover letter focuses heavily on my abilities in fieldwork, my dedication to procedure, and my ability to mesh with a team. So if there’s any takeaway I’d push, it’s knowing who you’re writing to and what they want. (I researched this role heavily before I applied; always read up!)

      Reply
  28. Boba tea

    i like this, will take this framework in consideration as a student seeking internship too. i got my resume down but i still struggle with cover letter. i havent written that many since not a lot require it but this is good reference if i need to write it

    Reply
  29. Clementine

    My natural inclination is to be reserved. But I have to admit it’s gone well at job interviews where I felt I was being “over the top”, but probably wasn’t actually. Enthusiasm can be good. Figuring out the balance is tough. I haven’t hired for this sort of position, but I would definitely bring the letter-writer in for an interview.

    Reply
  30. seeker

    Is there anyone you’d recommend to help craft a better cover letter for federal jobs? The HR staff don’t always understand the job requirements, and I’ve heard they rely heavily/exclusively on automated word matching. I’ve heard “paste the job description verbatim into your cover letter,” which I’ve never been able to bring myself to do, but I struggle with writing a human readable version that would also clear the word matching hurdle.

    Reply
    1. Lilysparrow

      Do some reading about copywriting or blogging for SEO keyword optimization. Poorly done, keyword “stuffing” sounds spammy. But it can be done judiciously and come out sounding natural.

      Reply
    2. Genny

      I think the most important piece of the federal hiring process is the resume. Throw out everything AAM has ever said about writing a resume. Federal government resumes are routinely 5-10 pages (if not longer for more senior positions). The descriptions/accomplishments in your resume must match exactly what the job announcement says. Any skills you claim to have on an assessment or cover letter must be thoroughly demonstrated in your resume.

      For instance, if the job announcement says they’re looking for someone who has briefed senior leaders, use that phrase in your resume (Briefed senior leaders on quarterly earning report). Don’t rely on “presented quarterly earning report to management” to count as qualifying experience. If the assessment asks how frequently you’ve done something, mention that frequency in your resume and in every job. For instance, if the fed position wants someone who frequently managed social media and you manned the social media page in three jobs, mention it in all three even if it was minor side duty in one of the jobs.

      FYI, not all departments have a computer read the application material. I know at least one Department that has a human look over every single application received. Also, this advice is geared towards applications from USAJobs and doesn’t apply to jobs for the IC (which uses its own application system), Foreign Service positions (which have a separate hiring process), or internship applications.

      Reply
  31. Massmatt

    Great letter! I like how you showed your personality yet kept a professional tone that was upbeat and in sync with the job you were applying for. And you wove a smooth story about your job experience throughout that was geared towards what the new job is looking for. Too many cover letters just recite the same dry stuff from the resume.

    This letter is also a good example of how to promote your experience gained from entry-level jobs, which a lot of people really struggle with.

    Congratulations!

    Reply
  32. Mel

    Wow. Not just the writing, that’s very nice, but you just don’t see people who are that excited about customer service very often. I totally get why they’d hire her!

    Reply
  33. Lilysparrow

    This is a great example of tying disparate, seemingly unrelated experiences together into a cohesive story.

    And it’s the story that does the selling.

    Reply
  34. ooo

    Hey, question:

    Having worked in print journalism and publishing for most of my career, I’ve always wondered about openings like “It’s with great enthusiasm…” If you’re writing a pitch or a query letter, it’s essential that your first sentence not be super conventional or clichéd. (Like, you wouldn’t open with “According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of…” either.)

    Obviously, this is because in such letters, you’re showing that you understand the need to write creatively and can do so; and pitches and query letters aren’t the same as cover letters. But they’re similar. So whenever someone asks for my help with a cover letter, my instinct is to open with something a little more distinctive or attention-grabbing (though not, of course, over the top).

    IS MY INSTINCT WRONG? Am I overthinking this because of my background? Do hiring managers care at all about the opening line of a cover letter (as long as it’s not for a writing or editing job)? I have wondered this for so long.

    (For the record, I do think this is a great letter, full of clear and concrete reasons the author would be a strong fit for the job. I recently helped a senior academic apply for positions at several new institutions, and oof, such a smart person, but really a challenge to get them to present that kind of objective evidence of their qualifications, even though there was plenty of it. Scientists, man.)

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Something like “I’m writing to apply for your X role with great enthusiasm” is fine. You don’t need a creative opening. It’s basic and it gets the job done. It’s fine.

      Creative opening lines designed to grab attention … are often really bad. They often sound salesy or insincere. Occasionally they’re good! But often not. In general, though, I wouldn’t say you need one.

      It could be different for your specific field though.

      Reply
  35. KarenT

    I love this! I would have hired you too, LW.
    I like the way you outline your relationships with your Starbucks customers–that’s the type of warm relationships we often have to have with our customers, and your fourth paragraph reads as very genuine. The ability to self-start and handle what comes your way is an important skill for our entry level hires and it can be hard to find.

    Reply
  36. Hummus

    I have to say, I’ve been following AAM’s cover letter advice, and keep getting calls from things I’ve applied for! It’s a bit overwhelming, actually. I followed bad advice for years, and I love the freedom to be conversational.

    Reply
  37. Luna

    I have heard that cover letters are not as big a thing in the US as they are in Germany. But I have to say, looking at that cover letter, my very fast response was: tl;dr

    I will look at the resume and see what skills, job experience, etc, there is. But the cover letter seems too long in my eyes, and also… kinda too eager? ‘with great enthusiasm’? Like, calm down, honey. You are applying for a job here, not trying to get me to assign you power of attorney for Queen Elizabeth II.

    I prefer a cover letter that informs me where you saw that I am looking for someone (it could help in letting the company know where the highest traffic for job applications comes from), give a *quick* introduction of yourself, and then list your biggest advantages. (Like how many years you have worked in this type of field; what languages you speak), and then get to the goodbye that includes that you are hoping for/expecting a swift answer.

    Details, and your (professional) life story, will be brought up in an interview and read in your resume.

    Reply
    1. Confused Publisher

      That’s not what a cover letter is for, at least here in the UK, in professional settings, and a cover letter that restricted itself to only what you are expecting to see would get even a good CV binned, unless there was a deficit of qualified candidates. As Alison has highlighted at the top – no cover letter will make everyone happy, or even be suitable for every industry or professional norm.

      Reply
      1. Luna

        Here in Germany, a cover letter is supposed to be akin to a short letter that basically amounts to, “Hey, I saw you had this open position here, and I would like to apply for said position” and a quick overview of you as a person. Most of the time, I think people don’t even *read* the cover letter anymore, let alone the attached resume/CV.

        Reply
        1. Sasha

          Yeah, that’s definitely NOT what they are for in the US. That’s just a waste of everyone’s time and is pointless. It’s super weird to me that Germany has a cover letter expectation but expects it to be a useless formality rather than a meaningful contribution. That’s the worst of both worlds!

          Reply
    2. Intergalactic Service Intern OP

      A lot of what you’re seeing is absolutely field-specific. Enthusiasm IS the job; we’re a large and well-known educational non-profit, and my department focuses on interpretation. We have to be charismatic, engaging, and fun to make the work we do effective. My research and field work cover letters focus on the skills needed for those specific jobs.

      I would argue though (especially as someone who used to do hiring!) that the cover letter you describe defeats the purpose. My years of experience, skills, and history are in my resume; if I got something from somewhere just summarizing what they’re already telling me, with no engagement or excitement, I’d probably pass them over. But if that works for your field, then that works for your field.

      Reply
  38. How to be a good fit

    I am a 20-year veteran of the museum and nonprofit field and this letter reads exactly like something I would write. My cover letters always begin with “It is with great enthusiasm that I submit my qualifications for ___ position.” Even the organization and tone of the letter is exactly what I have written in the past.

    What does this mean? Over the years I have had several jobs and contracts within my field and have received an interview for at least 90% of the opportunities I pursue. I have been told time and time again that this is because the cover letter stands out. Her letter shows a clear understanding of organizational culture within the field AND she is able to connect skill sets from outside of the field to the work that she was pursuing. That’s talent right there.

    The tone and candor she used in this cover letter it might not work for all industries, but I think the important takeaway here is that job applicants should understand the culture of the industry they are pursuing, and act accordingly.

    Also, I always thought my cover letters were pretty darn unique and stand out from the crowd. Now I’m a little bit miffed knowing that someone out there has the exact same language. Ha! I wish her the best, she has an excellent start and will do well in her field.

    Reply
    1. Intergalactic Service Intern OP

      As someone going into those exact fields, it’s actually really wonderful to hear that! (And it’s a pretty big honor to hear my letter bears any resemblance to a veteran of these types of organizations!) I’m so looking forward to having a position in a field I’m actually passionate about, after years of just doing whatever work could get me by. Thank you so much for your vote of confidence!

      Reply
  39. LeRainDrop

    I love this cover letter! It feels very personalized and conveys the writer’s warmth and genuine interest in helping people. It’s easy to see why the company wanted to speak with her!

    Reply
  40. DoraJar

    A wonderful cover letter. Congratulations to the writer and I hope everyone can benefit from this example!

    Reply
  41. Carbovore

    I love this and it’s very timely for me as I’m considering applying to something soon that would be considered a new industry/field and so it’s helped me think about common threads in all my jobs and how to talk about them to sell myself. (The “customer service” aspect in particular is extremely relatable to me.)

    Thanks for the inspiration! Will have to brush up on Alison’s other cover letter articles to help me out when I go to write my actual letter…

    Reply
  42. LabManagerGuy

    It’s fascinating to me to read the cover letter examples (good and bad) posted to AAM, and I really wish I had found this site during my last (protracted, multi-year) search for a job better than the one I had.

    I just reviewed the cover letter I wrote more than a year ago that got me the job I have now. The tone is certainly much less personable than the one used in this (brilliant, for the sort of job in question) example, which is fine; I was applying for a role as a manager of scientists, and understatement is often valued! I violated some of the AAM rules for cover letters by reiterating a lot of resume material, but I succeeded (I think) in explicitly linking my technical skills and (limited) management experience to the stated requirements of the job. I had been using more or less the same cover letter for years, but I had put some time into improving it and tailoring it for the specific job prior to submitting it. Were I applying to a new job now, I would probably rewrite large sections of the letter to better display a personality beyond “Serious Scientist” and remove a lot of the discussion of information that is also in the resume. My hope, though, is that I will never need to write another cover letter and that I continue in my current job for a very long time (it is, precisely, the job title and responsibilities I had been seeking for years) or move up to a different or better one within my same organization (since it is exactly where I had most wanted to work all that time). It seems almost sad to me that the cover letter, resume, and interview skills I’ve picked up from reading this site stand a good chance of never being deployed.

    The whole thing reminds me a bit of my experience in dating after my divorce. I set out to learn how to date: How to pick good potential partners, circumvent and mitigate my chronic awkwardness, convey who I am and learn about who they are in the best possible way, and to build real emotional and physical connections. Just when my skills were starting to develop, I found a nearly perfect partner. We’ve been together more than five years, and I’m happier than I have ever been in my life. My dating skills, though, are now in mothballs, destined to never see use again.

    Reply
  43. Shay

    This is a really great letter but I would never see it … the last three companies I’ve worked for, including my current position with the largest tech giant in the world, doesn’t ‘do’ cover letters … no means to upload them and if somehow one is bundled with the resume, it is removed. Alison puts a lot of weight on cover letters and this example shows how it can strengthen a candidate’s pitch, but companies in some industries are definitely shifting away from them.

    Reply
  44. MEngineer

    Awesome. Copying and pasting as we speak and inserting my name at the bottom. Fingers crossed I get the engineering job!

    Reply
  45. Intergalactic Service Intern OP

    Thank you so much for the wonderful comments, everybody, I read every one! (The UK thread is fabulous, I love thinking about how bizarre a letter like this would be over there.) Since it’s come up a few times, the really up-beat and effervescent tone for this is 100% intentional; this company is a major nonprofit in my area, and this specific department is sort of like a roving educational thing where I’ll be interacting directly with the public and getting them engaged with science and ecology. To make it in this sort of position you’ve got to have a lot of energy and be really outgoing. The position I was actually offered is within this same department, but along with public engagement I’ll be responsible for a team of volunteers who we need to ensure are enjoying their time with us while knowing where to go and what to do, as we wouldn’t be able to run without them! They told me they offered me this spot because they thought I would be able to connect with lots of different types of people while using my supervisory experience to keep my team organized and happy. I’ve applied to research and field work roles too since my degree has lots of requirements, and those cover letters are less bubbles, more facts, but still with a warm and engaging tone.

    Also to clear up something with age, I’m actually a returning student in my 30s! I’ve worked lots of different jobs (and I worked at Starbucks for 7 years!), but this is my first one where I’m doing something I’m specifically studying for, which is part of the reason I’m so excited for it. After what felt like a lifetime of going nowhere, I’m finally moving in a direction I’m really passionate about. I read all of Alison’s advice on cover letters — along with the other examples people have graciously submitted — to write mine, and it’s really been amazing the level of response I’m getting because of it. Alison, you are an absolute queen, and I’ve been directing all of the students in my graduating class (younger and older folks alike) to your website for advice. Thank you for all that you do, and for your help in starting my new career!

    Reply
  46. Uncle Waldo

    I agree that this is a fantastic cover letter. It clearly touched on the exact elements the hiring manager sought, and it displayed the intern’s relevant talents and her personality.

    I think part of the reason why it’s so difficult for candidates to write well about themselves is because it is so hard to find good help with such a free-range format. In interviews the questions (from both sides) guide the experience. There’s lots of great advice out there about elevator pitches — interestingly enough with a healthy understanding that there are many types of successful pitches. I have found that there isn’t as much of this understanding when it comes to cover letters. Even among the most well-meaning editors you tend to find a very rigid idea of what the letter should look like, to say nothing of what constitutes as “good writing.” Quite frankly, it’s enough to dilute and dissect any potential for the extraordinary.

    I highly recommend any candidate read William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” — or consult a resource with guidelines that apply across all genres. This will help the would-be writer sharpen her message, avoid clichés, and find her voice. I would start there and then proceed to refine with advice specific to a cover letter.

    One of the greatest cover letters I ever reviewed was rooted in data analysis, so I know it is possible to accomplish a similar effect with different tools and a more reserved manner. The key is to describe your qualifications in a focused way. I find the most persuasive applications are those where the specific examples all show me more than one thing about the candidate (1. She has this hard skill. 2. She has applied it in a comparable and impressive way. 3. She thinks strategically., etc. ) and all work together towards a big picture statement about the candidate — rather than cramming the typical endless list of hard skills into one page.

    Despite debates concerning the tone and specific elements of this letter, I think we can all agree that it made a clear statement about who the candidate is and the value she could bring to the company. That is what makes this piece a worthy sample.

    Reply
  47. Rika

    Thanks for posting this. I’m in a very different part of the world and I’m therefore used to different norms for cover letters, but this is still very useful, especially because I feel like the norms for what constitutes a good cover letter keep changing every few years.
    For example, when I just started job searching half a page with a little more than the basic information was pretty standard. Five years later this method proved ineffective and it got me much further to treat my cover letter as sort of a short press release: immediately cutting to the chase by mentioning the main reasons why I’d be good for the role and not having the whole thing longer than five lines. The idea behind it was that hiring managers have tons of cover letters to get through, that they pretty much just scan a letter for the key points they’re selecting on, that making yours too long would only annoy them and lessen your chances, and that your cv should do most of the talking anyway.
    It worked really well at the time and I got lots of interviews. Now, years later, I’ve started job searching again and find that this method does me no favours at all, and I’m having to figure out cover letters all over again. Has anyone had the same experience?

    Reply

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