this is one of my favorite cover letters ever

Today I’m sharing with you one of my favorite cover letters of all time.

This is a superb example of how to use your cover letter to make a strong case for yourself without resorting to repeating your resume … which is the most common mistake I see people make.

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

• The writer has allowed me to share this here as a favor to me and to readers. Please remember he’s a real person when you’re commenting.
• This writer’s voice is his 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 show what the advice here can look like in practice. Stealing it will doom you to terrible job search luck.

Here’s the letter, with identifying details removed (and marked in brackets).

•   •   •   •   •

Dear Members of the Search Committee,

I am excited to apply for the Director of Content position at [new media company].

After my first week of working in [related field] as an [entry level position] and observing how [employer’s] Program Director managed the station, something inside me clicked and I knew being a program director was what I wanted to do. I think it was the attention to detail — crafting the sound of a station, creating great content, and making memorable listener experiences.

Fast forward to 2019 where recently, I had occasion to fill in as [radio show] host. Imagine my delight when preparing for the shift, I saw a sticky note written by our substitute [other radio show] host and posted in the studio with specific reminders about her delivery — the very attention to detail and opportunities she and I have been discussing since she first began hosting. It was a powerful reminder of my crucial role in working with on-air talent to make sure [my current media company] sounds as good as possible.

From coaching on-air hosts, to upholding [my specific field’s] core values, to something seemingly as routine as [specific task done in my field], it’s all part of managing the station’s complete sound, no matter how that sound is being consumed. I bring this enthusiasm to the job every day because [my field] makes a difference in people’s lives. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning – some days much earlier than others. [anecdotal and relevant due to the specific nature of the work].

I’ve enjoyed visiting [city] every summer for the past six years. As a listener and a colleague, I’ve also enjoyed observing the success of [organization] both during my visits and from afar. I would welcome the opportunity to bring my passion and experience to [new media company]. I look forward to talking with you about ways to help grow [company’s] tradition of exemplary public service in [city].

Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to hear from you soon.



{ 196 comments… read them below }

  1. Rachel*

    Wow, this is so awesome! Bravo, cover-letter-writer! This has definitely given me some ideas for how to think about these moving forward

    1. Fibchopkin*

      Agreed! Kudos to LW- I hope you got the job. Seriously, I really, really love my job, but your letter almost made me wish I was a station manager. It’s so clear that you’re passionate about your work.

    2. Sally*

      I agree! It gives the reader a good idea of who you are and why you want to make the move to the new company. Best of luck!

  2. just a small town girl*

    I’m not even a hiring manager and I want to hire this dude right now! Very, very impressive; subtle where it needs to be and matter-of-fact about skills and experiences.

    1. Duff*

      I was thinking that this letter-writer is female, not a dude.
      I loved reading this level of effusiveness and detail in a cover letter – bravo, letter-writer!

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Alison said in her response that “he’s a real person,” so unless that was a typo, it is in fact a dude.

        1. Donkey Hotey*

          My standard response to “dude is gender neutral” is:
          Try telling rando white guy at a bar that he has sex with dudes and see how well that flies.

          1. JSPA*

            As the “person of no specified gender” meaning is nonsensical in that context, it makes sense for random guy in bar to default to the old standard meaning. Even if they themselves would use it in a gender neutral way in other contexts. (Ditto for “guy.”)

            1. SS Express*

              Using a gender-non-specific term wouldn’t be nonsensical. It would be perfectly sensible to say something like “you’ve slept with a few people”, so why not “you’ve slept with a few dudes”? …unless “dudes” isn’t the gender-neutral term people say it is.

              Masculine isn’t the default setting.

              1. Ann Nonymous*

                No, no it is not. Let’s throw “dude” as the equivalent of “person” in the trash where it belongs. I vote that we use “woman” as the default for “person” as it very obviously contains the word “man” in it so it is inclusive. :-)

        2. Astral Debris*

          Huh, I hadn’t really thought about it before but I just realized that I use “dude” as non-gender-specific when I’m addressing someone directly (as in, “Dude, have you watched His Dark Materials yet? I’m absurdly excited about it and I need someone to gush to!”), but gender-specific when I’m referring to someone else (“That dude needs to quit revving his engine. The neighborhood does not care that he got a Corvette.”).

  3. une autre Cassandra*

    I really like the town the writer strikes here. It can be intimidating to try to sound accessible and “like yourself” in business correspondence, but this letter nails it. It’s perfectly professional but also warm and feels authentic.

    1. KarenT*

      Agreed! Great letter overall, but what I really like is that it sounds professional and friendly at the same time.

  4. Allypopx*

    Great balance of a warm and conversational tone with a confident and specific delivery that shows both that the LW knows what he’s talking about and would also be super pleasant to work with. I love this.

    1. Radio Girl*

      I once held a middle-management radio operations job, and I would have been the person doing hiring. This letter would have piqued my interest!

      Well done!

  5. Adlib*

    Great job, LW! I love these examples as they offer great inspiration on how to frame my own cover letters next time I need one.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      What I really liked was the specificity of it. He related stories of working directly in content creation for radio and didn’t try to talk about every single job he ever held – something I myself get caught up in when writing cover letters. This framing was very helpful to see.

  6. WantonSeedStitch*

    This really is great! I’m so grateful for all the fantastic info I’ve seen here on AAM about crafting a good cover letter. When I recently applied for a promotion in my organization in a competitive application process (i.e., the position was open to external applicants too), I did my best to put all I’d learned to work in writing mine. I was told by two different people that they had really liked my cover letter (one of them actually used the word “fangirling” about it). I was so thrilled. I also got the job. Thank you, AAM!

  7. Precious Wentletrap*

    Everyone, everywhere: PLEASE learn to indicate the passage of time without the use of “fast forward,” “cut to,” “cue,” or other media-related segues. You’ll be glad you did!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, I’d rather we not nitpick the letter’s individual word choices (with any letter-writer, for that matter). That’s not the point here (and it can discourage people from letting me share their letters if there’s a lot of that).

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      This comment feels like it goes against Alison’s requests. The writer works in media, and this is part of his voice. I’ve also never seen this advice before, and disagree with it – if these metaphors were overused, they’d get wearisome, but that’s true of any type of metaphor. You’re phrasing your personal preference as an absolute rule.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s really not that big of deal. Especially since this person is actually in media.

      There will always be room for improvement but most people aren’t professional writers in the slightest. So there’s no reason to put this kind of seed of self doubt out there.

    4. KayEss*

      As long as they aren’t confusing “cue” with “queue,” I doubt I’d ever notice. The examples you’re noting are pretty common in conversational use.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Side note, this is a major pet peeve of mine, mixing up cue, queue and que (the last one being Spanish and pronounced “kay”) :) But honestly common figures of speech like “Fast forward to…” who cares?

        1. fposte*

          It wouldn’t be my favorite part of a cover letter, but it also would be highly unlikely to hurt an applicant.

  8. Les*

    Sorry if this comes off as bragging but I was struck because my cover letters are often very similar to that.

    Two of my previous bosses said they hired me because of my CL.

    I think the takeaway is to genuinely just talk about how your experience really will make a difference on the job. And be human. There are various “cover letter generators” out there that are useless because that human element cannot come through.

    1. I Like Math*

      Yeah, all of this. I commented below, but I’ve definitely hired people based on their cover letter.

    2. knead me seymour*

      Yeah, of all the sample letters posted here, this is the closest in tone to how I write them, which is encouraging. This letter writer also works in an industry that’s somewhat adjacent to mine, so the norms might be similar. The audience makes a big difference.

  9. C*

    I really like this, finding a way to communicate passion, personality, and experience without being over-the-top or losing the plot can be such a difficult needle to thread and this does a great job of that.

  10. Lynn Marie*

    Finally a cover letter Alison and I agree on! This one sounds like it was written by a real person, that I’d enjoy working with. Best of luck to the applicant if he hasn’t already gotten the job.

  11. Jane*

    A truly great letter, but you do know that some companies just throw them away, right? I work for a very large, multinational technology company. Hiring managers don’t see candidates’ cover letters. I don’t know if recruiters even read them but the person actually selecting a candidate for offer does not ever see them. This was also the case at two previous companies I worked for. Perhaps cover letters have more impact in other industries but their value isn’t universal.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure, it’s true, some companies don’t pay attention to cover letters! Many, many do. In many fields, you’re not getting hired without one.

      There’s no point in discouraging people from putting real effort into their cover letters when so often they are what gets people interviews.

    2. Kiwiii*

      I used to help set up interviews for mid-level state employee positions. We almost never used them, but screened out anyone who didn’t include them, because that meant they couldn’t follow directions. I have to imagine there are companies out there who use them differently than either of our industries.

      1. Rugby*

        That’s disheartening to hear that the time and effort people put into writing a cover letter goes to waste, but they are penalized for not doing it. There are much better ways to test if people can follow directions without making them waste time.

        1. Another HR manager*

          Most hiring in the US is in small to mid size companies. These companies are much more likely to use cover letters. We do not even look at resumes without them, have a flag “generic” for cover letters that are not tailored to our position, and then we read and review cover letters and resumes of the few that sent in their application with a well written cover letter.

    3. Captain S*

      Plenty of hiring managers do read them though. Sure, a few might be thrown away at some places but totally not true that the hiring manager never sees them.

    4. ThatGirl*

      Sure, some companies do toss them, but it can’t hurt to write a great one – because as Alison notes, many companies do pay attention. When I first applied to my current company they definitely noted my cover letter as a standout.

      1. Entry Level Marcus*

        “it can’t hurt to write a great one”

        I somewhat disagree with this. Yes, it won’t hurt you with a particular employer, but there is an opportunity cost (in both time and emotional energy) to drafting a super high quality unique cover letter for every position, especially if you really need a job and are thus forced to apply broadly. I tailor my cover letters to each position, yes, but I just can’t bring myself to spend hours crafting a unique letter for a position unless I think I am a great fit for it (which is maybe 1 in 10 jobs I actually apply to).

        1. Blunt Bunny*

          That time you took to write the cover letter is really research on the company and is good preparation for an interview. It really helps determine you understand what the job is, that you would like to do it and how you meet the job requirements. Also it helps track applications as I usually have one resume for all companies but a cover letter per application.

          1. Triumphant Fox*

            Yes. Time prepped doing a good cover letter segues nicely into giving a good interview. You have your whole take on how your experience matches the role in the bag already.

      2. Gaia*

        My cover letter is what landed me the interview at Current Job (after initially being screened out for candidates that were better on paper).

        Some companies don’t take them seriously but some do – and you can’t know which is which from the outside.

    5. Anon for this one*

      I completely agree; it’s why I generally have one written that I can interchange some phrases such as : “I am excited about [role] at [company]” and some blurbs about me that would be true regardless of the job that I would be applying for.

      I once landed an interview where I realized I wrote the completely wrong job title in the cover letter. That’s how I know they didn’t read it.

      1. G. Lefoux*

        I’ve interviewed candidates who put the entirely wrong job title in the cover letter. I do it because the skills needed for this particular job don’t really overlap with the skills needed to write a cover letter, and anyone can make a mistake. I do still read all cover letters, because for some reason people sometimes include relevant experience there that they didn’t put on their resume or application that makes them a more promising candidate, and sometimes include rants about how they couldn’t possibly be racist because they have a black husband and also if we run a background check we may see some fraud but that’s definitely not them that makes me gently scoosh the paper away from me until it tips into the recycling bin.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


          I have had people use clearly reused cover letters, I’ve also had people with clerical errors in their resume. It hasn’t stopped me from interviewing a qualified candidate.

          Anything in particular is rarely the kiss of death people will make it out to be. Yeah, some people reject someone for clerical errors and more don’t even notice or just don’t care.

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          and sometimes include rants about how they couldn’t possibly be racist because they have a black husband and also if we run a background check we may see some fraud but that’s definitely not them that makes me gently scoosh the paper away from me until it tips into the recycling bin

          I need to read these letters, OMG.

    6. BRR*

      Some do, but isn’t it better to write a great one and it be tossed than to assume they’ll toss it and give a generic or bad one?

      1. California Poppy*

        Moreover, cover letters are a great way to rehearse your talking points for an interview (if you get one). So even if the letter itself doesn’t get read, the exercise of writing it is still valuable, I believe.

        Besides, as “Anon for this one” noted above, you can take a semi-prefab approach: A basic draft including statements that could apply generally, and others that you swap in and out depending on the field/role you’re applying for. Then you can customize it for the individual position — and it’s still less effort than coming up with a unique letter from scratch for each application.

        1. Ro*

          Great point! I had also been struggling with the (often) futility of crafting a great custom c.l. But thinking of it that way, there’s still a real benefit to me.

    7. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      I used to work for an international company where a lot of younger applicants thought the cover letters didn’t matter because “cover letters were so old-school.” But I was part of the committee that screened applicants for English-teaching positions, and I definitely went through those cover letters with a fine-toothed comb. Any grammar mistakes or typos (and I mean any) meant they didn’t get through to the next round. So even if you think they aren’t important, better to be safe than sorry & write a good one anyway.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This can be said for just about anything in the world.

      This is just like how resume formatting often isn’t an issue either. Since so many have you plug in y0ur details and don’t care about your perfectly formatted version. Yet you still should have one.

      Just like you should still be ready to write a cover letter if someone requests it. You should also have your references ready to go, despite places not always checking them.

      It’s about being prepared for any scenario in the end and when you’re prepared, you should do it to the best of your ability and not just crap it out and let it flap in the wind to whomever’s desk it may land on.

    9. Nerfmobile*

      And I work for a large multinational technology company and I DO see cover letters if they are submitted. It totally depends on circumstances.

    10. ExcelJedi*

      This is true….but also, you won’t get an interview without a *targeted* cover letter at my company, unless we’re really hurting for applicants.

      Including one never helps, but skipping it can really hurt.

    11. BasicWitch*

      I have landed interviews that led to job offers twice in a row based on the strength of my cover letters. If it’s a communications role of any kind (including anything client-facing) it may still impact standing out from the crowd of applicants to a significant degree.

      1. BasicWitch*

        To add: in one case I was specifically told the cover letter is what got me the interview. I was changing careers so the letter showed I had the communication skills they were specifically looking for in the new role.

    12. Diahann Carroll*

      I got my last two positions largely on the strength of my cover letters – both were writing jobs. One (my current position) was with a multinational software company. So a lot of hiring managers do in fact read these things. (And my current grandboss told me my cover letter was so good that he told the recruiter not to send him or his team resumes from anyone who didn’t bother to write one – he said I set the bar for everyone else.)

    13. knead me seymour*

      For any job that involves writing or communication, I think a strong cover letter will be seen as non-negotiable (often in addition to other writing samples). In my experience applying for publishing and technical writing and editing positions, they’re always requested and the hiring manager often comments on them.

    14. SS Express*

      Some companies won’t read your resume or application. Some won’t even care about your interview responses because they base all their hiring decisions on where you went to college or how attractive you are or whether you’re assertive enough to grab yourself a chair when they don’t put one out for you. Doesn’t mean there’s no benefit to having a good resume or interviewing well.

  12. Pink Marshmallow Bunny*

    This is a fantastic cover letter. I used to work in radio myself and would have been very interested in interviewing this person had his resume come across my desk then.

    Kudos to you for such a well-crafted letter, job-seeker–and best of luck to you in your job search!

    1. Lurker*

      I wasn’t nitpicking. I was commenting that that style of “casual conversational” cover letters are not for me (regardless of who writes them) and asking a genuine question about the three paragraph cover letter format.

        1. Lurker*

          As an example of how it could be shortened. I think this cover letter is a bit too long and could be tightened up while still keeping the writer’s voice. People who review cover letters are busy and don’t have time to read that much detail.

          1. ThatGirl*

            You can write yours shorter! But this clearly worked well for this guy, and I don’t think 4 really solid grafs is too long.

                1. Lurker*

                  I’m asking a legitimate question in response to someone else’s comment. If people are saying the letter “worked for the author” I’d like to know where that’s indicated because I didn’t see it. I think that’s actually a relevant piece of information. Did the cover letter result in an interview? A job offer?

                  This site has continuing issues with commenters reading what they want to see, rather than what’s actually written.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  From his email to me, it sounds like it got him an interview, which is what it’s intended to do. (It does not sound like he got the job, but you’d never expect a cover letter to do that.)

          2. College Career Counselor*

            It all depends on field. In higher education administration, your letter is often a couple of pages because you’re expected to detail your experience and interest at length.

          3. Rugby*

            Its interesting that you thought it was too long. My first thought was that it was too short and didn’t have enough of the information that I would want as a hiring manager. There really doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of standard agreement about what makes a “good” cover letter.

        1. Salt Block*

          Good thing this applicant isn’t in law or banking then, isn’t it?!

          Seriously, people, context matters.

          1. Midwest writer*

            Yes. I work in media. This tone is fine and possibly even expected. Someone too formal sounding will get tossed for being out of touch with how media folks talk and interact.

          2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            Right, but if I remember correctly, the last time Alison shared a great cover letter, there were a number of comments saying that when she shared cover letters, the tone was nearly always very casual, and many of us couldn’t seeing that apply to our fields (I’m in the physical sciences, and really can see people being put off by this kind of tone). That Alison liked this cover letter and it got the candidate an interview is great, but I really would like to see an example of a great cover letter that was written less casually, as presumably the purpose of sharing these is to be helpful to people trying to write cover letters.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              If someone sends me a great one that has a more formal tone, I’d be glad to share it. (Although it’s of course being filtered through my own sense of what makes a good letter. Which I think is well honed, based on the feedback people send me about the changes they see in their interview rates after they take the cover letter advice here, but I’m also obviously not The One True Arbiter of Cover Letters.)

            2. Wollow*

              Then people should ask for that, instead of attacking THIS letter for not being suitable for a totally different purpose than it was intended for. That’s just rude and unkind.

            3. Daydreaming Admin Assistant*

              I second this request. Here’s hoping someone sends in a more formal example soon!

        2. Atlanta*

          I disagree. As a partner in a large New York law firm who often represents banks and interviews more junior people, this letter is exactly the sort of thing I would be thrilled to see and the writer would be high on my interview list. Basically I think whatever the industry, it depends on the particular hiring manager.

          1. Mid*

            I also think there’s a trend towards more conversational cover letters in general. People want a feel for the person they’re hiring and their communication style. My cover letter was conversational but also formal enough for a law firm. It showed how I can communicate warmly but professionally, which is what you want in someone who deals with clients, or works on teams.

          2. Ro*

            I agree. And I would think especially for a junior role this kind of letter helps to demonstrate passion and that the candidate is being thoughtful about the roles they are applying to. They wouldn’t necessarily yet have the career track record to point to.

        3. Diahann Carroll*

          Actually, I write in a similar style and was selected to interview for a role (and was then offered said role) at a bank as an internal auditor a few years back – so, no, these types of cover letters could in fact work in those industries depending on the formality of the hiring manager/HR recruiter who’s reading them.

        4. Public Sector Manager*

          I’m a public sector lawyer and I think this type of letter will absolutely work in law. Would it work for Big Law? There, probably not, because they still insist on standards like Top 10 law school. But for thousands of other attorney jobs–absolutely!

          1. emmelemm*

            Yeah, my partner is a lawyer, and he was unemployed for quite a long stretch. At some point, I was looking at job ads, and there was one ad in particular which had more of a “story” than the usual ad, so I emailed him and said, “Write your cover letter like this and this and that.” Obviously, it was a much more conversational tone than he would normally take, and he wasn’t 100% comfortable with it at first. But I talked him into it, and he ended up getting the job. True, that’s with a very small firm, and definitely wouldn’t work for BigLaw. But of course, at this point, he’s not getting into BigLaw anyway, nor would he want to.

  13. Secret Identity*

    I think the cover letter is great, but if I were to write one with this overall tone, I’d worry it would land on the desk of a stodgy, curmudgeon of a hiring manager that would consider it unprofessional because it’s worded in a way that’s very conversational rather than formal.
    But, then again, maybe I wouldn’t want to work for that curmudgeon anyway, so there’s that. Also, I overthink. And over-worry.
    None of this is to criticize the letter – again, it’s great! Just my personal insecurities on display.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This isn’t informal or casual; it’s just conversational. This is the exact tone you want — one you might use in writing to a colleague you didn’t know well / didn’t work with often. You don’t want to use a formal tone (in the vast majority of industries) because it will stifle the letter and nearly always make it less compelling. (Whoever is teaching people that stilted is professional needs to stop!)

      Are there some hiring managers out there who don’t like a conversational tone? Sure! There are also some who don’t like anyone who wears blue or who uses the serial comma. You can’t please everyone; you go for what works the most often.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Cover Letter Tone is a “Know Your Industry” judgement. I think this letter is perfectly appropriate for a media industry.

      This outstanding letter clearly conveys the applicant’s interest, provides backstory (synopsis of experience) without regurgitating the resume, and highlights a few points that are obviously relevant to the job posting. The tone is conversational, but not overly familiar. It definitely piqued my interest, which a good cover letter should do. This candidate would go to the top of my interview pile.

      Are my cover letters like this? Close. I work in government contracting and my resume and letters are tailored to federal contract language and labor categories, because that’s what works in my industry. I have tweaked both using AAM suggestions, especially about listing accomplishments with metrics instead of job duties in my resume, and learning to highlight one or two experiences in my cover letter. My tone is a little more formal, but the elements remain the same as what the LW above used.

      Well done, LW.

  14. Just Visiting*

    Thank you so much for sharing this—I honestly think this will really help me the next time I am crafting a cover letter (not from stealing any element of it, but from reading what actual good cover letters read like.

    I’m thankful for you, Allison

  15. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    I need some perspective from those of you who hire in academic or educational non-profit: does this letter come off to you as kind of hokey?

    I do NOT mean any disrespect to the cover letter writer. But within education, in reading other people’s cover letters (who go on to get the job), it has to be a bit drier than this. If that’s not true, please, I’d love to hear that. It’s just that I spend all kinds of time writing gorgeous cover letters talking about transferable skills and the overall mission of service; and I swear I think on one is bothering to read them at all.

    1. Allypopx*

      Have hired in education nonprofit – You’re right, they tend to be drier. I’d be thrilled to get this cover letter. Reading the same tone over and over from academics is…tedious, to say the least. But it’s also conventional so I’d never knock a candidate for the drier tone, but this would catch my attention. Especially since they’re still able to concretely point to skills and achievements.

    2. Lurker*

      Yes, I agree. That is what I was trying to get at with my comment that got removed. It’s not formal enough for the non profit sector.

      1. Allypopx*

        Nope, nonprofits are looking for a lot more personality these days. All due respect your comments come off as out of touch.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Agreed, the non-profit I worked for wanted to see people’s connection to the mission and their interest in the work. A conversational and passionate cover letter would get you an interview. When you are hiring people at (frequently) below market rates, you need to find candidates that are willing to work primarily for their dedication to the mission and secondly for the money.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No, not at all! That’s my sector, and this is probably the first time I’ve ever seen anyone say it wants formal letters. Conversational and some personality is what works in most nonprofits.

        1. NL*

          I’ve worked in nonprofits for…20+ years now (yikes) and this tone and entire letter is perfect for us. I want to see soft skills, connection to mission and ability to write well. This letter does all that.

      3. Lucette Kensack*

        Whoa, I strongly disagree. I have ~20 years in the nonprofit sector, and this cover letter would have been appreciated in every organization for which I’ve worked (which includes education nonprofits).

        In fact, I think nonprofit cover letters would benefit from this kind of tone more than most other fields. We’re asked to demonstrate our commitment to the cause and understanding of the culture of the sector (and the organization), in addition to highlighting our key qualifications and achievements.

      4. J*

        I’ve spent essentially my entire career in cultural/public history nonprofits, in both the Northeast and the deep South. This reads entirely appropriately to me, in terms of tone and length.

    3. fposte*

      It depends what area of academia and what the job is. In general, higher ed prefers a longer letter than this, and the letter writer needs to demonstrate mastery of the kind of communication they’d be expected to create, so you’d want to know that department’s style. But I could definitely see a version of this more conversational tone for, say, a student services or recruiting job.

    4. Anon for this one*

      I’m not in academia or educational non-profit and it still comes across as hokey to me, especially the getting out of bed early part.

      1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

        I have a feeling that mention was of particular reference to the job — if you’re producing a morning radio show, for instance, you have to get out of bed pretty damn early. I suspect that the author of this cover letter wasn’t just saying “sometimes I get up real early” for the heck of it, but rather was making a winking reference to specifics of the work. Just a guess on my part, but that’s what I think is going on here.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yep, as someone who saw the non-redacted letter, that’s exactly what it is (and what the writer tried to indicate with his italicized note there).

    5. Captain S*

      I’ve worked in both small and large non-profits and don’t find this too conversational, definitely not “hokey”
      I DO see some cover letters that are a little… awkward about how much the candidate is Very Passionate About Your Mission but this doesn’t fall in that category to me. Those letters tend to be overly effusive and often focus on that rather than skill. I like that they’ve combined the two here.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, to me this does such a great job of conveying passion for the job! Who wouldn’t want that in an applicant???

    6. la bala*

      I work in the education sector (nonprofit, not academia) and for us this kind of tone is great! Definitely not dry.

    7. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I’m in nonprofit, and this read as a little off to me. A lot of this letter is focused on the fun parts of the job, and my experience is that people who talk a good game and focus on the fun aspects of the job tend to cherrypick duties once they’re hired, and the stuff they don’t want to do just doesn’t get done.

    8. Close Bracket*

      I was actually kind of turned off by the tone. *shrug* Different stuff works for different people.

      1. Joielle*

        Same here. It seemed overly familiar to me. I think Alison said upthread that the tone you’re aiming for is what you’d use with a colleage you don’t know well, and I’d personally be more formal in that situation. But, I’m a lawyer, and we can be a bit stuffy overall, so maybe that’s the difference.

    9. BRR*

      I’m in higher education and I would want to interview this person (if the resume aligns of course). Also education has a wide variety of roles. What I’ve taken away from every time a cover letter is posted is a cover letter is not going to work in every industry or for every person. Having personally received a letter like this, it really stands out in a good way.

    10. Alex*

      I work in academia and I don’t think that this is not dry enough, unless you are talking about a faculty application, which is a totally different ballgame.

    11. WantonSeedStitch*

      I hire in an academic nonprofit, and would love, love, love to see a cover letter with a conversational style like this one that clearly indicates a person’s enthusiasm for the job and shows their personality. I’ve seen cover letters that practically scream “I am looking for any job at all,” or “I didn’t bother reading the job description.” I love seeing people talk about their enthusiasm for my employer, and for the field of work. A good cover letter is a huge point in someone’s favor with me; a poor one is a big point against them. Neither will make or break an application all by itself unless it makes it clear that the person has no idea what the job actually entails, but they can tip the balance in a person’s favor or against them with everything else equal.

    12. StacksCat*

      I work in an academic library, and have been involved mostly in hiring for entry-level and early career professional jobs, and, to me, a letter for one of our jobs doesn’t need to be “drier” or more formal than this one, but it does need more substance. I (and my colleagues) read cover letters carefully, and expect them to supplement the resume with qualitative information about the connections that candidates see between their education and experience and the position. We would love to learn more about your “transferable skills and overall mission of service.”

      This letter, with a strong resume, wouldn’t hurt someone’s chance for an interview, but it wouldn’t push the candidate ahead of others with equally strong qualifications.

    13. Pam*

      I work in higher education, and have participated in many search committees, panels, standardized questions, etc. I love seeing cover letters that help me see the person, not just the skills.

    14. Spider*

      I work in an academic library and sitting on a hiring committee for a staff position right now. To me, this cover letter seems a little fluffy and sparse in substance, but maybe if it were translated into library-related language I’d appreciate it more. :)

      FWIW, and to add a counterpoint to some of the comments here, I place a LOT of importance in the cover letter. The position I’m hiring for now is not an entry-level position, and it’s also not a faculty librarian position, so when people with no library experience OR when former librarians or library directors apply for this job, their cover letter is their chance to explain why they want THIS job. (For example: are you unaware that this job is not a stepping stone into a librarian position, or are you actually tired of being a librarian and really want to be a staffperson?)

      1. Spider*

        PS. Gotta love those people whose cover letters say “this position seems custom-made for my experience and skill-set,” and then you see in their resume that they have no library experience at all and meet none of the requirements outlined in the job posting.

        1. corporate engineering layoff woo*

          I used that sort of line on one position where the only not-immediately-relevant point was being slightly behind their years of experience section of their “You’re exactly what we’re looking for if…” section of their job posting. Unfortunately, they got back saying the position is currently on hold for interviews and the other related positions they have aren’t so great a fit. Was still a fun cover letter to write.

    15. lobsterp0t*

      Not at all – if backed up by a solid resume / credentials, it’s excellent. (Ed non profit). It gives me a clear sense of their passion for their work and the things that drive them and make them successful, as well as their tone. Their CV should do the rest. I like it.

  16. Free Meerkats*

    I’m willing to bet money that someone in local media is going to get this exact letter with names added in.
    Someone will see it and think, “It worked for him, it will work for me.”

  17. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

    Wow! That is the best letter I think I have ever read.

    To all the people who think a cover letter should be more staid: rubbish. I am in higher ed and read dozens of cover letters, almost all of which are awful: generic, stilted, jargon-laden. I would cheer if I ever received anything even approaching this. Not because I value the conversational tone over substance, but because it’s clear this person has put some serious thought into why she loves her job, and can articulate it in an accessible way. I’d love to get just one letter like this, ever.

  18. AndersonDarling*

    I’ve had the best luck with cover letters that are conversational. It think it’s because 1. It’s refreshing to the recruiter that reads dull/buzzy/form cover letters all day, 2. It shows you can communicate well in written form, which is becoming rarer, and 3. It shows you took the time to think about the job and why you would match it.
    I used to be a real stickler for using standard letters, but as I gained more mid-career positions, I found that recruiters want to hear your voice and passion for your work.

    1. Filosofickle*

      I’ve had the best luck with those, too. I have a non-traditional, conversational approach to letters/ resumes, and have been told on many occasions that my letter is what got me an interview.

      OTOH, I feel 100% sure that my approach has also lost me interviews because it’s not standard enough. Some might find it too quirky. And that’s ok! It’s like dating — I lead with my true personality and energy, because I want to attract what fits the real me.

  19. help plz*

    Alison–can you talk about why this one works for you? I feel sorta stupid because I’m not really understanding what makes this one so good. Is it because it tells a story? Sorry I’m just trying to learn for my own letter.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You are not stupid for asking for clarification.

      It’s the conversational tone as well as the fact it doesn’t just rehash the person’s resume. Your resume lists out what your accomplishments are and the cover letter is another side that somewhat shows how you got there.

      So yes, another way to look at it is that it reads like a story. It’s where you can piece it together and puts more of a human face to the otherwise sometimes generic feeling tightly formatted resume you’ve submitted.

      1. BRR*

        Seconding you’re not stupid for asking for clarification. I agree with TMBL’s points.

        “the conversational tone” I’ve read exactly one cover letter that matches the tone of the cover letters Alison has posted and when I read it I thought “wow, I want to meet this person.” So many cover letters are lifeless and don’t really tell you anything.

        “it doesn’t just rehash the person’s resume” They should be two documents. Certain information like what the LW talked about wouldn’t fit well into a resume.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes to both comments above. A really key thing is that it adds something more that can’t be found in the resume. That’s what’s so important, and often so tricky, to do. You don’t want to just summarize your resume; that’s a waste of the page. You want to bring something new to it. This letter does that beautifully.

        Plus, the tone is engaging, fun to read, warm, and sounds like a real person, while still being professional.

    2. Mellow*

      FWIW, for me, it’s a narrative that deftly weaves the letter writer’s experience and skills into a broader context applicable to the next job.

      I can look at the resume for “X responsibility, Jan X to December X.” But in the cover letter, I want to know what those experiences and skills *mean* to the letter writer, and how they fit in to the job for which the letter writing is applying.

  20. Quill*

    The entertainment industry is going to need a strong and personal voice to get you to stand out, so I liked that about this letter.

  21. BRR*

    Awesome job LW! It has a lot of personality while remaining professional and provides a lot of specifics (which has often times been lacking when I’ve been on the hiring side of things).

    And thank you Alison for posting it! I know there are some headaches caused when you do this.

  22. I Like Math*

    I love this, thanks for sharing. I’ve done a lot of hiring and when I can feel the applicant in the cover letter, it almost always gets them an interview. When I read a cover letter that is clearly copy/pasted I sometimes don’t even read the resume. It really makes all the difference.

  23. Anon for this one*

    This might just be me, but I don’t think about work in the same terms as this candidate. I see work as “task, get it done to satisfaction of my employer, go home” and of course, I want to work with people I like/get along with/have reasonable hours, blah blah.

    But I just don’t think about my tasks “realizing that I wanted to be X because I had to do Y” so how do I even begin to craft a cover letter like this?

    1. lulu*

      Of course this letter works better for someone who is passionate about their job, which is clearly not everyone, or even most people, and that’s fine. Working for a radio station is typically high hours/lower pay kind of job, so it makes sense employers would be looking for enthusiasm, but that’s not the case everywhere. But I think you can still use some of it for inspiration. Of all the jobs in the world, why are you in this specific line of work? Is there something about the tasks that you accomplish that you enjoy, or that you are especially good at? What makes you successful? How do you know your employer is satisfied with your work (think specific examples).

    2. BRR*

      I think the most important thing to convey with a cover letter is to say what makes you stand out from other candidates. What is unique for your skill set. Have you looked at the other cover letters Alison has posted? I think one or two of them might be a better guide for you (and I’m worried that sounds snarky and I really don’t mean it that way at all!).

      1. Anon for this one*

        You don’t sound snarky at all!

        I think I’m just your average employee? But I will be dependable, reliable, on time, do the work, be nice to my coworkers, etc. which aren’t things that “stand out” in a cover letter.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          They can if you can come up with quick little anecdotes to show how you’re those things. For example, one way I was able to convey these things early in my career when my position didn’t have a ton of measurable achievements was to say something like, “During our firm’s busy season, when our paralegals were regularly working 10 hour days seven days a week just to stay afloat, I volunteered to work additional hours before and after my regular shift to help them cut their backlog by half. I sat with them for an hour at a time for a crash course in [insert whatever task they needed me to do, which was usually drafting an affidavit of some sort], and by the second week of working with these teams, the manager of one department asked my manager if he could keep me full-time.”

          This showed employers that I was dependable, highly coachable/a fast learner, and was a team player without me just saying those things. Find a way to illustrate those attributes quickly and concisely and you won’t have to worry about writing anything “flashy” – you’ll stand out, trust me.

    3. Another Amy Santiago*

      Anon for this one, I think you can also focus on specific parts of the job that you really enjoy/are good at/find rewarding. Maybe you maintain software and you make sure that updates are always done on-time and accurately; you love making sure that everything is correct and right and being the person that everyone can rely on to get things done. Or you do phone support and have a deft touch at explaining complicated things over the phone. Or you provide admin support and you are the person who ends up knowing all of the things and people come to you to find out the things. (These are all wonderful c0-workers that I’ve had.)

      The process of figuring out what you are good at and enjoy and and learning out what parts of a job you really want to pursue can help you focus on those positions where you’d excel, and make writing a cover letter like this a lot easier. If you’ve done the work up front, the cover letter is just articulating the reasons that you think this position would be a good fit for you.

    4. 'Tis Me*

      I think instead you’d talk about your accomplishments and the pride you take in them and in knowing that your employer can count on you to do a good job, and the strengths you can bring to the role (potentially including recognising the value in performing the less exciting parts of the job punctually, to a consistent high standard, and with a great attitude about getting them done)?

      Even if passion for your job isn’t a driving force in your life, presumably you enjoy parts of it, take pride in being a solid employee, etc?

    5. knead me seymour*

      I think that the common thread for the posted cover letters is that they are very specific to the person writing and to the job and industry they’re applying for–that’s part of what makes them compelling.

      I find it helpful to think of the cover letter as creating a bridge between myself and the job, if that doesn’t sound too weird. Think about yourself, what you like about the work you do and what makes you great at it, then think about the job and what it would take to excel there and what you would enjoy about it, and then connect the dots for the manager. For some jobs, like this one, they’ll want to see a lot of passion and creativity. For others, it might be describing how you find it satisfying to create order out of chaos, or how you have endless patience for data entry, or enjoy being able to talk to people all day. It is tricky, but as is the key with all compelling writing, the details are what bring it to life.

  24. What’s with Today, today?*

    I’ve worked in the radio industry for 17 years. I want to hire this person. That’s all.

  25. Confused*

    It’s a nice cover letter, but I truly hate cover letters. I hate the idea that I need to write something extra to beg for a job when I have to do dozens of applications just to get hits. I get wanting to see how someone writes, but cover letters (and the idea that they need to be customized) truly irk my soul.

    1. Mid*

      I love cover letters.

      Because I’m very early in my career, I don’t have a narrative to point to. Retail, food service, random other things here and there. A cover letter allows me to pull together my strange work history into something coherent, that shows a trend towards jobs that allow me to use X Y and Z skills, even though it’s not readily apparently.

      It also gives you a chance to explain how your skills fit into a role, when it might not be readily apparent. I went from teaching preschool to donor relations to being a paralegal. I was specifically told my cover letter sold me as a candidate for every position I was a finalist for.

      Although, it’s definitely easier to write a cover letter for a job you care about and truly want, rather than a job you need and don’t particularly care about. But I like the opportunity to highlight my passions and how they translate into the role I’m applying for.

    2. Another HR manager*

      If you think covers letters are about begging for a job then I can see why you hate them. But for those of us doing the hiring, a good cover letter does the work of translating what we asked for in the posting to the skills (both hard and soft) of the applicant. And if a cover letter gives me a sense of a real person (whether stated formally or informally) and the right skill set, well, I am calling that person. If your cover letter has a good base, you do not need to tailor everything. Have at your ready a list of 4 -5 examples that you mix and match into cover letters based on what skills are being asked for. Know what tone works best for the industry you are going for — and have that base in place. You do not need to reinvent the wheel each letter.

      1. Confused*

        That’s usually what I do – I expand on specific examples of skills listed in my resume. Reinventing the wheel for every single letter is what gets tedious.

  26. Everdene*

    I think this is a great cover letter and if I was hiring in this area they would definitely be called in for interview.

    Obviously not everyone loves a cover letter but for me it makes a huge difference in hiring. One of my current employees applied for the job of llama advisor twice. The first time I didn’t even shortlist him for interview, the cover letter talked about being a manager and sporting achievments and didn’t mesh with the HD at all. The second time (I didn’t realise as I ignore names etc when shortlisting) he was much more specific about this particular role and field and was top of the shortlist and an obvious first interview.

    6 months into employment with us he ‘confessed’ about the first application and that he was gutted because his report was interviewed but not him. The nudged him to look at the cover letter again and thankfully he applied the second time round. He is an awesome addition to my team and I wish he had written the second letter to start with!

  27. irritable vowel*

    I mean, this is a well-written letter, but it’s so filled with enthusiasm for his current job, I’m having a hard time understanding why he’s applying for the new position.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Since it’s media, I wouldn’t think too much about “but why is he leaving?!”

      People bounce around in that industry quit a bit it’s because a station is downsizing, jobs are precarious often and sometimes you really get to “my job here is done, I love it but I’ve reached my end and now it’s time for a new adventure.” Also if we knew what city he was from and what city he was applying in, that could be it as well, lots of “Get me out of this town, I wanna go to the better juicer market,please!” can really lure people from comfortable jobs they enjoy.

      1. Clisby*

        That was my thought. I’m way, way, past my journalism days, but when I worked for newspapers it was pretty much a given that people starting out wouldn’t stay more than 2-3 years at the same place.

    2. Existentialista*

      I thought the same thing. With so much enthusiasm for the day to day details of the current job, it might have been helpful to describe what was missing, and what they’d be looking for in the next role.

      Also, for my own preferences, the letter writer talked to much about what the job does for them, and not enough on what they could do for the organization they were applying to.

  28. The Meow*

    I can see why Alison picked this as an example of a great cover letter. Reading through it I can actually imagine a person sitting in front of me radiating enthusiasm and ready to work. So much more attention grabbing than the majority of the cover letters I read which are just a bland summary of their resume. Thanks for sharing, LW.

  29. Chronic Overthinker*

    I love this letter. It really works well for the particular industry in which they are applying. It also feels like I just had a mini interview with the LW. It is a great balance of showing off technical skills and soft skills. I should remember this format if/when I look for another job.

  30. schnauzerfan*

    I love this letter. I’m a librarian in an academic library and I’d definitely want to talk to a candidate who wrote a letter that told me they understand the job, understand the odd hours and who told me they know my city and can picture working here.

    We get lots of [meh] letters, some really bad letters and a few good letters. They all make an impact. If your letter tells me you don’t care about this job, you just want any library job to get your foot in the door, it’s going to hurt you. If your letter makes me wonder if you’ve used a library since that one time your mom took you to story time (you had fun) it’s going to hurt you. If you live far away and have never been west of the Mississippi or north of the Mason/Dixon and never lived anyplace with fewer than 300,000 people I want to know why you think you’d like to work here. This cover does just what it needs to.

    The conversational style works great for me.

  31. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    I both love and hate when you post examples of cover letters… despite ALL the caveats, I have indeed gotten cover letters that were stolen from this site for positions we were hiring for. It’s really disheartening to see someone plagiarize, and it doesn’t help their candidacy. I actually think with one person, that I emailed and told her I knew where she’d gotten the letter.

    1. anon4this*

      Unless it’s a specific writing/English position, intelligent honest people plagiarize all the time (sometimes unwittingly).
      Unless 100% originality is absolutely crucial for whatever role, I’d let it go.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Fabricating a significant portion of your application (a cover letter is usually one of two to three pages you’re submitting) is not “something that happens all the time,” it’s not unwitting, and it’s a serious offense.

      2. Captain S*

        What? If I figured out any portion of a cover letter was plagiarized I would remove that person from consideration immediately. This is not a thing.

    2. Close Bracket*

      I was thinking of sending in a cover letter that got me a few phone interviews, and then I read this comment and realized that I would never be able to use it again if I did that. Hm.

    3. Hiring Mgr*

      Seems like it would be more work to copy and change all the details, than just writing your own..

  32. automaticdoor*

    Alison, do you have any good, well-written examples of some of the more formal cover letters that commenters here always talk about when these letters get posted? I’d also be really curious to see those because I’m in a legal-adjacent field that is a bit more stodgy. Like, this letter would be too casual, but a generic letter with a bunch of jargon is too stuffy. Is there something in the middle?

    1. banzo_bean*

      I think this one is a bit more formal, but maybe still not up to the formality of your office.
      I think its worth noting- I’ve applied for EA positions at law offices and tax offices using the conversational style Alison often praises in these cover letters and I’ve landed plenty of interviews. It might be different for other roles in law however. I can and do write formally, but only when the occasion calls for it. I think most people think the cover letter needs to exactly parrot the tone and language you’d be expected to use in professional documents at work, but I don’t think that’s always the case. I think you should use it to show you have well polished communication skills and that you can tailor your language and tone appropriately.

  33. KMB13*

    This is a great cover letter!

    I never know if my cover letters should be more conversational (like this one) or a bit more formal.

    I generally assume it’s dependent on industry, and tailor my tone toward the industry in which I’m applying. My skills are not industry-specific (my career has kind of zig-zagged, so I’ve done bookkeeping/general admin work, marketing, customer service, and HR). I’ve worked or applied everywhere from large law firms to a start-up with a very casual environment to a non-profit that was somewhere in between the formal environment of the law firms and the casual environment of the non-profit. I’m currently at a law firm, but I’m looking to get back into a more casual environment – this letter was a great reminder that it’s OK (and sometimes even better) to use a more conversational tone in a cover letter.

    1. Filosofickle*

      I think that the conversational tone is especially helpful in cases like yours, where you need to weave together different elements of your career into a compelling story. A resume might show a hodgepodge, but the letter can draw a cohesive picture. Formal writing will not achieve that as well as a more conversational narrative.

  34. Prof*

    Reading this cover letter makes me very aware of how very different academia is from the rest of the working world. Fascinating.

  35. banzo_bean*

    It always bums me out that despite the caveats Alison puts with these cover letters, the comments still always are filled with people doubting the conversational tone of the letter. You absolutely should be tailoring your tone to the industry/position, but it’s in my opinion a total misconception that if you’re in a formal field that your cover letter should be strictly formal.

  36. Three owls in a trench coat*

    I remember back in high school, one of my teachers told us about a student who applied to a university by mailing them a shoe and a personal essay that began, “Now that I’ve got one foot in the door….” If I remember correctly the student was accepted!

  37. Multi areas*

    Everytime cover letters come up, I wonder if there is a major geographical/country cultural difference, vs the non-profit/academia/etc that comes up in chat. As someone who has worked in retail, non-profit government etc, the cover letter examples/suggestions from Alison would get you screened out from the applicant pool immediately, in any context It’s obviously a ‘know your audience’ thing. What I’m curious about is if there is anyway to get a sense from the outside what cover letter tone to strike/if the places that would react positively to the cover letter examples Allison provides would react poorly if they recieved what I generally view as an appropriate cover letter (formal language, mostly just highlighting what makes your experience relevant)

  38. Dysfunctional Deb*

    Good letter.

    I once worked in a newspaper newsroom with an editor who made fun of everyone and everything. She received a creative letter for an open position and finding it amusing, read it to the newsroom gang at our weekly meeting. An example of what not to do.

  39. LilacLily*

    I love posts like this; what a great cover letter. I’ve been following Alison’s tips and suggestions and reading a few good cover letter examples like this one, and because of these I believe I’ve written quite a few really good cover letters. I know for sure that at least one of them was the reason why I got an interview! the hiring manager began the call by saying he was impressed with it (although in retrospect I feel I could’ve customized it a bit more). in the end I didn’t get that job, but that interaction made me a lot more confident, because although feedback from family and friends is valid, it was the first time getting a feedback from an actual hiring manager, and it helped reassure me that I’m on the right track at least.

    if I get a job I’ll make sure to send Alison my cover letter too! Fingers crossed!

  40. Ali*

    This is SUCH a good example! I have a question though- in my field (in the UK), we’re typically asked to use the cover letter to demonstrate how we meet the person specification for the job- which can sometimes be 20 or so points long, and quite specific! How should one attack a cover letter in these circumstances? I love the style of the above and can definitely take inspiration from it, but I fear that if I don’t include ALL the essential criteria from the person spec in my cover letter, I won’t even be considered- and that would make the letter at least two or three pages long….!

  41. Mellow*

    I want to hire this guy and buy him all the coffee he wants for life!

    Well done, letter writer. You nailed it.

  42. Daydreaming Admin Assistant*

    I love the cover letter examples on this site, but at the same time, they make me a bit discouraged. I don’t have an interesting career trajectory at all: I basically “fell into” all of my roles because I needed a job and something came along. I’ve never been that invested in my work. It would be difficult to write a compelling cover letter out of that without really misrepresenting myself.

  43. squeakalicious*

    This letter is so much my style that I could have written it myself. I always tell stories like that in my cover letters; I even use the phrase “fast forward” in almost every one (“…fast forward a decade and here I am doing blah blah…”). Yet my letters rarely get bites. I mean, so rarely that I’m often left wondering if I’m exposing too much of my personality in them. It’s nice to see, though, that I am writing in the right direction.

Comments are closed.