here’s an example of a cover letter that will make you a stronger candidate

I frequently get asked for examples of good cover letters, and a reader recently sent me a good one that I want to share.

I’m always telling people “don’t just use your cover letter to summarize your resume — add something new.” This is a good example of what that can look like — the letter talks about what the writer brings to her work in a way that wouldn’t necessarily be apparent from a resume.

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 she’s a real person when you’re commenting.
  • This writer’s voice is her voice. It will not be your voice, and that’s part of the point.
  • There is no single cover letter in the world that all hiring managers will love or that would be the right fit for every employer and every industry. But I receive letters every week from people telling me that moving in this sort of direction worked for them.
  • Do not steal this letter or even parts of it. It works because it’s so customized to the writer. It’s intended for inspiration only — to show what the advice here can look like in practice. Stealing it will doom you to terrible job search luck.

Here’s the letter (which led to an interview, which led to an offer), with identifying details changed for anonymity.

•   •   •   •   •

I am pleased to submit my application for the Product Manager role at the Galactica. I have over eight years of experience working in educational technology, and for the past three years, I’ve been working for Caprica, a nonprofit organization making open source educational software for the Cylon fleet. While I enjoy my work at Caprica, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted me to re-evaluate a lot of things, including how I can use my skills and privilege to make the world a better place. The Galactica’s mission to make higher education accessible and affordable to everyone is particularly exciting to me, as I was a first-generation college student who struggled with various social and financial barriers to completing my undergraduate education.

I started my ed tech career in IT support, and later moved into instructional design. I joined Caprica in hopes of becoming an engineer, though within six months of being hired to do user support, I started to take on product management responsibilities, and in another six months I was managing all of customer success and product for the organization. I have since advocated for a reorganization that lets me focus entirely on product management, and I know that’s where I want to take my career.

I believe my biggest strength as a product manager is my ability to build trust with and among my colleagues. The engineers know that I respect their limits as humans and won’t ask them to do something impossible, and our sales team and leadership know I’ll do everything I can to deliver the right things in a timely fashion. Building this trust takes time, but I find being transparent about my processes speeds this up. I work with an engineer who doesn’t want to be involved in every business planning meeting, but he does like to know how his work is achieving business goals— so I make sure to include that information when writing up specs and user stories. Similarly, one of my colleagues on the sales team doesn’t mind waiting a bit longer for a feature if he has a compelling story to tell his customers about our standards-based and accessibility-minded approach to building it, so I help him come up with talking points.

Leading development of an LTI-compliant application after spending years directly supporting faculty has taught me the ins and outs of various Learning Management Systems, including common pain points for students, instructors, and instructional designers alike. I was intrigued to see that you’ve built your own LMS and that your product hire will be working to improve it— I would love to know more about the decision to build an LMS from scratch rather than using one of the major market players.

I hope you’ll consider me for this Product Manager role at the Galactica. If you’d like to discuss my qualifications further, I would be happy to speak via phone or email.

{ 135 comments… read them below }

  1. Reluctant Manager*

    One thing I find so difficult in letters like this is telling a good story about myself! I was raised to be very self-deprecating, and even though LW is starting facts rather than bragging, this is still the kind of thing that is want other people to say on my behalf. But then applying for a job, there’s no over else to say them but me!

    1. Professor Plum*

      What if you initially write your cover letter in the third person as if someone else is recommending you? Then you can go back to edit it into first person.

      1. Fran Fine*

        That’s a neat trick I’ll have to try for myself because while I write decent cover letters, none of the letters I’ve written have sung quite like this one. The letter writer did an incredible job.

    2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

      I like to write my cover letters in the way my societally-enforced modesty wants me to– “While I’m not the most school spirited staff member, I am fully dedicated while on the job to the success of students who come to me for help, and I strive to meet them where they are to solve their problems.” –and then I take a break, get a cup of tea, put on a podcast (to distance myself from the headspace of writing the cover letter), and start cutting mercilessly. All my qualifiers go out the window, and I end up with statements of fact that make me look good. “I am fully dedicated to the success of individual students, and I strive to meet them where they are to solve their problems.”

      Expend all your self-deprecation by writing it down, then excise it. This also helps me keep my letters to one page. As you can see, I am a long-winded writer.

      1. Fold in the Cheese*

        Absolutely co-sign this method. Put it all out there, and then go back and pretend you’re editing it for a good friend. Remove the qualifiers and minimizers after you’ve drafted!

        (PS good luck finding Tomblain.)

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          (Once I find him, I shall… give him a good talking-to. So he can see the error of his ways.)

    3. katz*

      This is so relatable. Good advice here from Professor Plus and Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth.

    4. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Yeah. For people who were raised to be uncomfortable talking about themselves for any reason, writing a cover letter can be extremely difficult. One of the things I always try to do when helping folks at our library is be genuinely interested in what they do, and engage them in a conversation about what they think they can bring to the role, while taking notes about what they’re saying. Then, we spend some time figuring out how to turn those bullet points into usable sections of a cover letter.

      It often takes more than an hour to get folks comfortable with the process, though. My boss always complains that it’s too much one-on-one time with a patron, but… it doesn’t really work if you try and do it in a group, if someone is already uncomfortable talking about themselves.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Bless you for taking the time to do this for people – seriously. I wish I had had this kind of help when I was just starting out in the workforce.

      2. BubbleTea*

        This is very similar to how I help my dyslexic students to begin planning written answers. Getting ideas out of your head is hard enough, putting them onto paper is another step that can get in the way of the ideas bit.

  2. Sara M*

    Great letter! Thanks!

    …but this phrase is concerning: “making open source educational software for the Cylon fleet”

    OK look the Cylons don’t need to learn any more than they already know. :)

    1. GauisIsaFalseProphet*

      I saw the first line and said to myself “this better be about Battlestar Galatica!” Thanks OP for some nostalgia.

    2. Cover Letter Writer*

      Alison came up with/added the Battlestar Galactica references, which I love, but this comment made me laugh out loud. You are correct!

    3. ex-english major*

      Even beyond BSG, I’ve never thought through the implications of OER and the robot overlord takeover! O_o

    4. Not Australian*

      As long as the writer doesn’t teach them to shoot straight, the balance should be maintained…

    5. DietCokeQueen*

      I just finished the series last night! I thought I was seeing things when it said Cylons and Caprica. So say we all!

  3. LoV*

    Nice. I haven’t job searched in a while but my cover letters tended to be shorter. I guess I was worried about it being skimmed or even skipped so I tried to distill it down as much as possible. On the other hand, this cover letter contains a lot of good info, so I dunno.

    1. Mimmy*

      I too was wondering about the length of cover letters. I always thought, at least with resumes, you had to catch a Hiring Manager’s attention right off the bat. I guess the idea is to get their attention and make them want to continue reading the letter?

    2. cat lady*

      1 page is usually a good sweet spot. Reel them in/keep them reading with snappy topic sentences.

      I don’t know if it’s correlation or causation, but every time I see a cover letter that’s just a few short paragraphs (or less than half a page even when using formal letter formatting) it’s almost always rehashing the resume and not adding anything productive. Paradoxically, it’s the longer (1 page) letters I’m more excited to read!

    3. Crabby Patty*

      I have to say, even if this cover letter were more than one page, I’d feel compelled to continue reading (as I did here). I loved this letter and would feel equally compelled to contact the candidate for further conversation if I were the hiring manager.

      1. Spotted Kitty*

        Really! I lost interest about halfway through and skimmed to the end on this one.

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          I have an ongoing friendly battle with my boss. He believes a good length for a consulting proposal is around 20 pages of content. I frequently write two (both not counting the predefined Terms and Conditions aka the fine print at the back). I feel like showing a client what we can do for them, for what cost, with ruthlessly eliminated fluff and weasel words… just works. Clients don’t want to have to search through endless pages for where we may have hidden some conditions, caveats, or exclusions (I wouldn’t either!)
          So far, my success rate (both in won projects and in dollars per page) is rather higher. Go figure.
          The same holds for cover letters. If someone boldly states what they can do and what value they specifically bring to the role (and can back it up), I’m interested.

    4. Elsa*

      I just wrote a three page letter for a senior academic leadership position. The hiring committee, the recruiter, and my mentor all made a point of mentioning what a good letter it was. And, I got the job. I think the one pager is good some career levels and fields but shouldn’t be a hard and fast.

      1. Rock Prof*

        I’ve applied to academic positions that have actually stipulated what needs to go into certain parts of the cover letter (“on the first page, discuss X; on the second page, discuss Y and Z”), but I think this might be another thing falling into the weirdness of academic searches.

      2. thiscat*

        I’ve also written two or three page letters for senior administrative positions based at universities. It seems to be expected that you review quite a few of your qualifications in detail/share a few stories about impact. The other fun part is waiting months and months for a committee to be ready to speak with their candidates.

        Elsa, I wish there was a way to see your letter. I have to say, I have never been able to dig up a quality letter online for positions such as Dean of Student Services. The ones I’ve seen are… not good.

      3. allathian*

        Yes, well, some academic CVs are definitely not resumes, if they list all publications they can be longer than 150 [sic!] pages, as was the case for a famous professor here. Take it as you will…

    5. JillianNicola*

      At my current job (admin at a financial advisory firm), my HR flat out told me she doesn’t read cover letters at all, not even a skim. And I’ve heard that sentiment anecdotally at other companies – I’ve always been a bit iffy on if cover letters actually mean anything, but I’ve always written them just in case. Obviously there are companies/jobs that do require them and do read them, and they do make a difference, or the advice to write a great one wouldn’t still be out there! But yeah, I’ve always tended to make them pretty short for that reason.

      1. Aquawoman*

        Does HR do everything re hiring? I don’t know if our HR reads cover letters, but I doubt it, because they just make the initial cut and send them on to the department hiring. I’m sometimes involved in interviewing and I read the cover letters.

      2. AnonCanadian*

        Its going to depend on the company and the manager – but I’m hiring and one person made the cut for a interview because of their cover letter (which was decent but not amazing). The last time I hired, I cut anyone who didn’t have a cover letter from consideration. This time, I couldn’t do that because I actually had very few people submit with cover letters.

        In my mind, a cover letter isn’t going to make me interview you if you aren’t qualified for the job – but it can and will make a difference if I’m deciding between two candidates to interview – assuming the letter isn’t horrible.

        1. No Longer Looking*

          The one time I was in an evaluation group that “final cut” impact was definitely where the cover letter was read. We had far too many applicants to really review in detail to begin with, and aggressive early cutting is faster and easier with a glance at the resume than a skim of the cover letter.

          To be fair it was a smaller company, the position was only one step above entry level, and we pulled the group together out of a few of us who had been working in similar positions but still had our own work to get done.

      3. allathian*

        I work for the government, HR definitely doesn’t read cover letters here, but the hiring manager does. They’re usually addressed to the hiring manager anyway, because the hiring manager’s name and phone number must be published in the job posting for government jobs. Phone screenings are just as often initiated by the applicants as the hiring manager, sometimes applicants call before they’ve sent in the application if they’re unsure about applying at all.

    6. Elsa*

      As someone who once wore an HR hat for a tech startup, I prefer shorter, pithier letters. Also, shorter paragraphs, please. Make it easier to scan.

    7. AnonCanadian*

      I would keep your cover letter to about a page – only go over if you know you have an amazing cover letter. I once received a three or four page missive – the person did not get the interview.

    8. raincoaster*

      I once wrote a cover letter this long which I’d thought was really strong, and I got an even longer response that boiled down to “it’s clear from the length of your letter that you don’t respect my time and need to learn basic English.” From a guy with a degree in photography and twelve typos in his email, it was pretty brassy.

    9. JRR*

      I recently landed a job, and my cover letter was about 1.25 pages (compared to my resume, which I pared down to 1 page). This example on AAM gave me the confidence to write a longer letter and made me realize that the cover letter is where you get to express genuine enthusiasm.

      I believe my cover letter was well received by the HR manager who conducted my initial phone interview and recommended me to the hiring manager. As far as I can tell, the hiring manager didn’t read (or didn’t pay much attention to) the cover letter, but by the time I had my in-person interview with him he would have received a summary of the phone interview.

      I can’t prove it, but I believe my lengthy and effusive cover letter helped a lot, and definitely didn’t hurt.

  4. Ali G*

    I just want to say that a few years ago Alison posted another example of a great cover letter and I took the advice to tell more of a story and to “show don’t tell”. After not getting a lot of interest, I ended up being a finalist for 2 executive level positions at non-profits. I’m still here almost 3 years later!
    Take this advice!!

    1. Fran Fine*

      Yup – once I started applying Alison’s advice and taking inspiration from the example letters she posts here (inspiration – never words), I saw a huge increase in callbacks from hiring managers. The last two positions I’ve gotten were largely in part due to the letters I wrote (these are writing intensive jobs).

    2. SallyA*

      I get an interview for nearly every job I apply for. I chalk this up to three things:
      –Being selective about only applying for positions that excite me and in which I am confident I can excel
      –Writing readable, personal cover letters that explain why I would excel
      –Making sure every bullet on my resume describes an accomplishment, not just a duty

  5. Julia*

    Things I love about this:

    – It manages to talk up the writer’s strengths without sounding like a sales pitch
    – when you read “The engineers know that I respect their limits as humans and won’t ask them to do something impossible, and our sales team and leadership know I’ll do everything I can to deliver the right things in a timely fashion”, you think, this person GETS some of the biggest challenges of being a product manager and has them in mind when navigating the work
    – it uses specific examples that have the right level of detail – not getting too into the weeds on describing a project you’re working on, which is harder than it looks
    – it’s light on jargon and written simply to be read quickly
    – tiny dose of background info on writer’s life, just enough to paint a picture
    – larger dose of “I researched your company and here’s what I found”

    The letter beautifully balances all the necessary ingredients and puts them in a package that’s easy to digest. Nicely done!

    1. Mangofan*

      This is a great summary of the takeaways! Alison, would you be willing to add this to the main post (or your own thoughts on what makes this cover letter so effective)?

  6. Mangofan*

    I actually took away a substantive insight on how to be a better Product Manager from this letter! (Namely: figure out what matters to your stakeholders, and give that to them to the extent possible. It may not be 100% of what you’d think they’d want, or 100% of what they’d want.) It is something I do to an extent, but seeing it spelled out with these examples furthered my thinking on this!

    1. Loosey Goosey*

      Yes! The examples are simple to understand yet so effective, and they demonstrate excellent soft skills (communication, thoughtfulness, flexibility), which are hard to show on a resume but very important for this type of job. As an account manager, I would love to work with this LW!

    1. Grayson*

      I took inspiration from the first paragraph, because as a mid-career changer (going from mid to entry) it was a really good way to say “Hey, here’s why I’m changing”.

      I hope that doesn’t violate the “don’t jack this!” directions.

  7. Mimmy*

    As I mentioned in a reply to someone else’s comment, I really like the storytelling aspect. I’d love to tell my story but worry it’d be way too long because it’s a bit complex.

    My only question: Do hiring managers or HR staff personnel screening applications want to take the time to read longer letters?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No :) Stick to one page, but you can use the whole page if it’s truly compelling and assuming you are using line breaks and have normal amounts of white space (it cannot look like the Unabomber authored it).

      1. cat lady*

        lol, this may be the pinnacle of cover letter advice– do not write like the Unabomber!

      2. BRR*

        “ it cannot look like the Unabomber authored it” well I’ve been doing at least one thing right with my cover letters

      3. Llama face!*

        I’m a bit confused since it doesn’t seem like this letter could be only one page unless it was changed to extra small font. Or could I be using a larger default font than most people use? (My Word docs are generally set to Calibri at 11 point font)

        1. Kimmy Schmidt*

          The letter is fewer than 500 words, and easily fits on one page of my default Word settings, including all line breaks and room left for a heading.

          1. Llama face!*

            It doesn’t leave any room for salutations when I copy paste it into a document with my settings. Would you mind letting me know what type/size font you have as default? (I’m wondering if my choice of font skews large compared to others’ and if I should adjust that down)

              1. boppity*

                This example may answer something I’ve been wondering – in an era of electronic applications, is it necessary to have a return address at the top, or is that a waste of space?

            1. Llama face!*

              Thanks Alison! There must be something else going on with my Word settings if you can get it to fit at the same or larger font/size. I’ll have to play with my settings and see if I can fix that. By the way, I notice you didn’t include the company name/address heading at the top- is that not a thing to do anymore?

              1. Llama face!*

                Oh and I see that while I typed this boppity asked the same question and you answered. :) Good to know that isn’t necessary anymore!

              2. BRR*

                Is your page size 8.5 x 11? Is the text format the default word one that’s a little more than single spaced? I’m very intrigued by this!

                1. Llama face!*

                  Yes, it’s 8.5 ×11. I’m thinking it may have to do with my margins and between line spacing. I will have to try adjusting those when I’m back at my computer. (And I also had been assuming the business name & address still needed to be on top which makes a big difference)

        2. Cover Letter Writer*

          Yeah, this was 1 page, size 11 sans-serif font (I think Arial?). Single spaced but a line between paragraphs with a heading at the top and a “Best wishes, Name / Email / Phone number” at the bottom

          1. Llama face!*

            Thanks! I think there must be something going on with my default settings in Word that is restricting the usable space. I’ll have to play around with my settings and see what I can change.

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              Word seems to default to adding extra space between lines now for me (which I strongly dislike and some shared work files are a real PITA to format when that is applied)

              1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                Handy tip if your seems screwed up beyond recognition: Close Word, find the file named and rename it. Start Word and it will create a new one with pristine settings.
                If that does not help, you can revert to your settings by deleting the newly created. and rename yours back.

        3. raincoaster*

          One page is generally considered to be 250 words double-spaced, 500 single in the Courier Font 12 point, but it would look very dense if it were 500 single-spaced. That’s the old book publishing standard.

    2. cat lady*

      I had this conversation with my boss/hiring manager last week in a team meeting– he straight up said “everyone here got the job because of what you said in your cover letter.” And when I’m reading applications, I’m low-key annoyed if there’s no cover letter? Like, I want to know the applicants beyond the facts on the resume!

    3. Public Sector Manager*

      When the cover letter is great? Absolutely! Because I want to hire someone who can write a cover letter like the example here!

  8. Damn it, Hardison!*

    This is really great! I followed Allison’s cover letter advice when I applied for a position last fall, and I think my cover letter made me stand out (I got the job, it is awesome).

  9. Crabby Patty*

    I’ve always thought of a cover letter as a personal essay about what the accomplishments on one’s resume/CV mean. Not so much as “How did I find meaning in what I accomplished?” but instead, how those accomplishments are linked to greater causes in one’s immediate environment. Tough to put in a single page but therein lies an important and useful lesson on how to write comprehensively AND succinctly. I find a polished, tight piece of writing to be glorious.

  10. Message in a Bottle*

    That is a lengthier letter than I thought hiring managers would read. Mine sounds sort of similar (though a totally different field) except for I cut mine down a bit and that second-to-last paragraph. A lot is said in that paragraph about hard skills and yes, researching the company.

    Glad to know people will read a longer letter!

    1. Cover Letter Writer*

      one piece of advice I took from Alison that has been really helpful for me: For your first draft, write a letter to a friend or family member about why you’re applying and why you’d be a good fit!

    2. thatoneoverthere*

      I am too and unless the job description asks for the them I do not write them at all. I have been able to land jobs with out them. ::shrugs::

  11. irene adler*

    Gosh, cover letters are so, so hard for me. There’s just something I cannot grasp about them. Which I could put that something into words.

    Question: How closely should a cover letter follow the job description requirements? How closely does this cover letter follow the job description requirements? Not trying to reveal the LW’s identity by having the job description posted! Some of the job descriptions I apply to have 25+ bullet points. They are not segregated into “must haves” and “nice to haves”. Do I address them all? I did that once- took over 4 pages to do it. Got nowhere. How to choose the relevant ones?

    I see how the author weaved in their background experience and how they manage the engineers humanely (thank you!) and know how to meet the needs of the sales team (“The engineers know that I respect their limits as humans and won’t ask them to do something impossible, and our sales team and leadership know I’ll do everything I can to deliver the right things in a timely fashion.”). Was this written because the job description indicated the candidate would be working with these two depts or that they have a certain management style, and the LW wanted to display that they are ‘on -board” with a similar management style?

    Another question: This statement was probably crafted from info obtained from the company website (I may be guessing, I know):
    “I was intrigued to see that you’ve built your own LMS and that your product hire will be working to improve it— I would love to know more about the decision to build an LMS from scratch rather than using one of the major market players.”
    IS mentioning the LMS because the LW wishes to express an interest in the company (“hey, I read the website”)? Or is this LMS something that was specifically referenced in the actual job description? And, bravo, for weaving both aspects together!

    Sorry to be so obtuse. I just cannot get these. This one does make the candidate way more relatable that a resume would. And it makes me want to know them better (like schedule as interview !) because of how interesting they seem.

    1. Bostonian*

      For your first question: of those 25 bullet points, many can probably be understood from your resume. Pick the ones that seem most important and/or you have the most compelling examples to go into detail on in the cover letter. Sometimes you can convey several of those bullet points in a well-constructed sentence or two.

    2. Cover Letter Writer*

      To answer some of your questions ( I hope!):

      My resume covered bullet points from the job description. With my cover letter I aimed to:
      – Show a personal connection to the company’s mission. So not just “why this job” but “why this job at this company”)
      – Give a brief history of my career to show experience with different parts of the industry. (If I were changing industries I might have focused on transferrable skills instead)
      – Explain my general approach to product management. This didn’t really come from the job description, as it’s generally understood that PMs need to sit at the intersection of engineering, support, sales, and company leadership. I wanted to show *how* I do that (because not all PMs are great at this!).
      – Point out something about the company or job itself that I find novel or want to learn more about. The job description did mention that the company has built their own LMS and that this role will involve working on it. But if there weren’t anything in the job description that stood out, I may have just left that part out (I have gotten interviews in cases where I didn’t have anything specific to point out).

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        I’m going into my 11th year of managing and this is the best cover letter I’ve ever seen!

        Chef’s kiss!

      2. irene adler*

        Thanks so much for addressing my questions!
        This helps me understand the ‘why’ regarding what you covered in your cover letter. I’m thinking I need to think more along the lines of consolidating the multi-bullet points or pull a main theme from them (a la Bostonian’s comment!) and speak to that. Out with the addressing each point.

      3. DKMA*

        FWIW the third paragraph is the one that made this a home run to me. It is really, really hard to describe a soft skill like this in a way that is compelling and credible. When I try I always feel like I’m coming off like the guy from Office Space (“I have people skills. I’m good at dealing with people”).

    3. BRR*

      For my field, I feel like bullet points overlap into some broader themes and i can cover several with one or two sentences. Does that apply to your field?

  12. J*

    This is a really great letter. Thanks to Alison for sharing it, and congrats to the letter writer on the new gig!

  13. Anon public librarian*

    I am writing a cover letter right now for an entry level academic librarian position.

    I have a very successful friend in academic libraries and her advice is so different! I know that she is one person, but she is very successful! And is this a case that fields are different? I would love it if anyone in academics could confirm this sample letter works for them?

    She says for our field, the cover letter should be more than one page and it should use more (library) jargon than this letter does.

    Any thoughts for me?

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I’m an academic librarian. My cover letter was one page, as have most of the ones I’ve seen from successful applicants. However, the higher up you go (department heads, directors, or deans), they do tend to be a little longer.

      I think the jargon depends. If you’re using jargon for the sake of jargon, search committees can spot that a mile away. It also depends on the position. There’s often real value in being able to communicate complex library concepts with people who may not be familiar with the library-specific terminology. If you can connect the library-speak to a specific example – such as specific software you used for programming or a specific database you’ve demonstrated for research questions – that is much better than blunt force jargon.

    2. BethDH*

      Can you find out who is on the hiring committee? I have seen these structured in really different ways – things like whether your committee includes faculty members or even a student representative would change how much jargon I would use.
      Also if she is well established (guessing she is because you said “successful”) in the field, she may have gotten those roles because of her experience and her cover letter may not have mattered as much as yours does for an entry level role.

    3. Tomato Frog*

      Archivist working in an academic library. Early in my career I was told that 2-3 page cover letters are normal, but personally I don’t like reading 2+ pages so I endeavor not to write a cover letter I wouldn’t want to read. I don’t write super short cover letters, I often spill over one or two paragraphs onto the second page. But I’ve never written a cover letter over a page and a half. I’ve been pretty successful in my applications — I got three interviews from my last four applications to university libraries. When I was entry level, I think I applied to about three universities and got one interview.

      I was on a search committee here for an entry-level position, and the cover letter lengths for the finalists varied, but the person we hired was one page.

      Re: jargon, I generally echo the jargony-ness of the job ad, and also consider who is reading my resume (e.g. are there other archivists who will see my application, or would I be the only one there and therefore should gloss things a little more?).

    4. Tafadhali*

      My cover letters for library positions have always been slightly less than a page and so have most of the ones I’ve seen when helping with hiring. (I did get an interview with a slightly longer letter this week, though — I was in a hurry and didn’t edit down as much as I normally would, but I also knew the hiring manager so I wasn’t as worried about her skimming through it, lol.)

    5. Velvet*

      Academic librarian here. I’ve been on lots of search committees. Use jargon if it’s applicable- in a tech services position, you need to talk about your experience with metadata, in instruction you should name check the Framework, in scholarly communications talk about OA. It’s a way to reflect knowledge and experience. But the strongest cover letters I’ve seen have the type of story telling seen in this letter. Make the letter personal and compelling- and always, always tailor it to the job. I get extremely annoyed by the letters that contain a long paragraph on some topic not included in our job ad.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        Community College librarian here, who is actually in the process of hiring a librarian right now. No to longer letter; I’m going to skim it if it’s long and that’s not going to be good for you. I get a ton of applications; I don’t have the time to read really long letters. (Keep in mind, I’m hiring on top of all my regular duties. It’s not like the rest of my job stops when I have to read 50+ applications.) Library jargon only if it’s necessary for what you’re speaking about. If your specialty is Inter library loan, sure, but if it’s customer service, you don’t need library jargon.

        My favorite part of Alison’s advice: don’t recap your resume, let your letter stand on its own.

        Also, my advice for library applicants to jobs that require an MLIS: make it super, super easy for me to find it on your resume. Many people outside of libraries don’t understand that you need the degree–and this isn’t arbitrary, my HR won’t let me interview you if you don’t have it, and every library I’ve ever worked is the same for actual librarian positions. Stand out from folks who think anyone who likes books is a librarian and therefore apply to librarian positions. The very first thing I’m going to do is scan your resume to be sure you have the required degree and I can move you forward–make it easy for me!

  14. Kimmy Schmidt*

    I love the connection to Galatica’s mission as a first-generation college student. It’s quick and doesn’t take up too much room, but it immediately demonstrates how and why this particular role at this particular company matters to this applicant.

  15. Spearmint*

    I really appreciate this example because it shows how a cover letter written in a style more similar to my own—matter of fact, logical, subdued—can tell a compelling story that goes beyond summarizing a resume. Previous cover letter examples on this site have had a tone of bubbly, personable enthusiasm, and I could never authentically write about myself like that, so I’ve worried that I wouldn’t be able to write strong cover letters in my next job search (whenever that is).

  16. JelloTokyo*

    Slightly off-topic but back when I was job searching in fall 2020, I signed up for a $200 “career review” package with a career coach who had rave reviews on Yelp and LinkedIn. In addition to giving some really awful career advice such as asking my company’s current customers if they had any jobs available for me she also gave me a workbook full of “original content” and inspiration on how to write cover letters and resumes. Lo and behold, there were copies of the cover letters that have been posted here! As happy as I am to have Alison share such excellent examples, I can’t help but think of this woman stealing this work and pushing it out there as her own.

    All of that aside, thanks for sharing this letter… for free!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you still have her info, I’d like to contact her — if you’re willing, could you email me who she is? (I won’t name you.)

    2. Lisa B*

      “Ask your company’s CURRENT CUSTOMERS if they have available jobs?!?!” That might single handedly be the worst piece of career advice ever. That might directly get you fired, actually.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        It is quite common in business consulting.
        Sometimes it’s okay – like with a former colleague. After a year or two with us, it became clear that it was not a perfect fit. He went back to his former company that was/is also one of our customers.
        No hard feelings all around; everyone agreed this was a perfect solution.
        Another colleague later went to a customer, basically leading a team to run the processes established during our project. We really miss her but can’t be helped.

    3. Tuesday*

      What the hell! Someone should not be making money grabbing content from Alison’s site!

  17. Elsa the shorter letter lover*

    Just saw that there is another Elsa here. I apologize.

    I am the one who likes shorter letters, not the other one

  18. TechWriter*

    Ok, you know this was well written because when I got to the end, I too wanteed “to know more about the decision to build an LMS from scratch rather than using one of the major market players.”

    I love seeing this type of post.

  19. singlemaltgirl*

    thanks for sharing this. i thought my letters were already implementing the advice here but i wasn’t sure. i do tell a story about myself and explain what’s not in the resume or what people may infer based on what’s not in the resume as well as highlighting those areas of the job description that i demonstrably match and how. i’m a linear and visual learner so seeing a sample of a great cover letter helped me confirm that i’ve got it. or i’ve understood the advice. appreciate it.

  20. Andy*

    > I started my ed tech career in IT support, and later moved into instructional design. I joined Caprica in hopes of becoming an engineer, though within six months of being hired to do user support, I started to take on product management responsibilities, and in another six months I was managing all of customer success and product for the organization.

    Arent those extremely wild jumps? Too wild even for startup? What does it mean to “manage all of customer success”? Sounds like great salesperson, definitely knows all the right taking points for business.

    1. zyx*

      The jumps don’t seem that wild to me. If you join a startup early, there’s so much to do as the company expands that changing departments is pretty common. The LW has been in ed tech for ~8 years, so it’s not surprising to me that they’ve been in several roles at a couple different companies. And now that the LW has a bunch of experience as a product manager, it makes sense that they’re looking specifically for that kind of role going forward.

      I’ve worked at a startup for almost 3 years, and I started in a totally different department than the one I’m in now. Colleagues from my original department specialized in different ways as the company grew, and now there’s at least one of us in pretty much every department (including the department where we all started out).

    2. TechWriter*

      “Customer success” refers to a specific business methodology, something I’m guessing the hiring manager for this job would be familiar with; it’s not just a vague reference to helping customers. The products I work on have a whole team focused on customer success where they work with customers to solve their problems outside of/adjacent to the typical release activities and the bug reporting/solving process. So the LW probably headed up a team like that, a move which makes sense for someone in support/PM position.

    3. Mina*

      I work a similar field (I’m a PM for a different type of software) and that all seems reasonable. IME, IT support work can be pretty adjacent to instructional design, if you enjoy the teaching and documentation aspects of the job. Support to product management is also a common career path, especially if you’ve done support at multiple software companies within the same domain, as it sounds like this person has.

  21. Blueberry Spice Pancake*

    I want a product manager just like you OP! You sound like a really awesome advocate for engineers while still keeping customers happy. Congrats on the job!

  22. the Viking Diva*

    Wondering if the divide in the comments between those who favor short vs longer cover letters has to do with whether writing is part of the job. I hire academic researchers (at all career stages) and writing is key to the work, so the cover letter is make or break for me, and I say so in the ad: “Your cover letter serves as a writing sample and as evidence of your skills.”

    1. allathian*

      Possibly. That said, academic writing is a very specific skill. Business writing needs to be clear, concise, direct, and understandable. Before I found my way here, one of my favorite bloggers was Lynn Gaertner-Johnston. She’s retired now, but she often focused on the differences between business and academic writing. Someone who’s very successful at academic writing probably needs retraining before they can be successful at writing any other genre. A good academic writer would probably fail at writing advertising materials, and vice versa. That’s why most scientists find it so hard to write to the general public, and why the few exceptions who are really successful at writing popular science articles and books get so much attention, because most of their fellow scientists would fail miserably if they tried.

      Even if writing is a key part of your job, a longer cover letter would not necessarily illustrate that better. I loved reading this one, though, it really spoke to me.

      1. the Viking Diva*

        My point is that I don’t think a page, or a bit over, is “long”, by the time a letterhead, signature etc. are included. “Yo here is my resume, I would be da bomb at your job” – and trust me, I get letters pretty close to this – is not enough to demonstrate communication skills including conciseness, clarity, and relevance- all of which are valuable in *any* kind of writing. There are lots of kinds of academic writing that are short: abstracts, posters, grant reports, websites, executive summaries. There are also lots of kinds of business writing that are long.

        Count me on Alison’s team for recognizing the importance of a cover letter. Not only does it illustrate the relevance (or not) of the evidence provided in the resume, but it is one of the few actual demonstrations of skills that we can get in a hiring process.

    2. Kat Em*

      I’m in marketing (above entry level, but only by a bit), and I spend probably 90% of my day writing. A big part of my job is keeping things pithy and concise, so writing a cover letter that is engaging, informative, AND under one page is basically an upfront skills test.

  23. Swishy Fins*

    Just wanted to wish the OP good luck—I too have been applying to jobs in EdTech (not for product manager roles) and wonder if perhaps we are interviewing with the same start-up…who knows, maybe we will both get the jobs and find out later that we both read AAM!!

  24. Skippy*

    Not necessarily correlated. I hire editors and writers and marketers and prefer about .75 pages of clear, unfussy cover letter. (If anything, my field has made me impatient with overwriting and long-windedness.)

    1. Skippy*

      Damn it, I tried really hard to reply to the Viking Diva but the comment just stuck here, sorry!

  25. Amanda*

    Alison, I have been job hunting and really focusing on nailing it in the cover letter – I read so much on your site about it.
    I had a recent example where they were only accepting resumes, so I went rogue and put my cover letter as the front page of my resume file – and it got me the interview! They specifically said they really connected to my cover letter, and it helped them understand why I was applying. They were worried I was ‘too senior’ and I used the cover letter to address this too.
    Thank you, thank you for all your advice! It got me out of a toxic job

  26. Ain't Nobody Got Time for That*

    Personally, I loved everything about this letter.

    Professionally, in my HR role, I would have skimmed it for 5 seconds, max. If I read cover letters, I would get nothing else done. Even though this letter fits on one page, I think it’s way too long.

  27. hewhosaysfish*

    I have a question about the advice of “don’t just use your cover letter to summarize your resume — add something new.”
    If there is some fact that I think could help me land this job – why have I not put it in my resume?

    Some of the commenters above (JillianNicola, for one) have talked about companies/managers that don’t care for cover letters and just look at the resume. Would this “new” information then be lost?

    1. TechWriter*

      I mean… your first question is basically answered by this letter. It’s nothing but relevant context that wouldn’t be appropriate in a succinct, well-written resume. You wouldn’t list the fact that you’re a first-generation college student (relevant to the company’s mission) alongside your degree. You wouldn’t explain why/how you jumped from support to instructional design to PM alongside those roles or provide examples of how you act in the job as a liason between engineering and sales. And there’s definitely not a place in a resume to ask about the intriguing detail that you picked up while researching the company that made you particularly interested in the position.

      Sure, this information would be lost on a hiring manager who didn’t read it, and you never know if that will be the case. But it’s worth the time in case you reach a hiring manager who DID read and appreciate it (as seems to have been the case for the OP), and it could lead to more in-depth discussion of some of the points raised. It’s also a good way to organise your thoughts in preparation for an interview; these types of details could come up then, and taking the time to write them out would help cement them in your mind.

  28. Pam Poovey*

    My difficulty with cover letters is that I’m applying to a new field for the first time following finishing a degree. I know the advice is to transfer over more universal skills from past positions and school, but I still struggle with it.

  29. Lynn Marie*

    This one’s a keeper. Not gushy. I’d want to meet this person and work with them. They’ve already set up a conversation for the interview. And, did I mention, not gushy.

  30. Helenteds*

    I’m curious, what is the minimum length for a cover letter? I know that typically they are supposed to be ~1 page, but what if you are a 19 year old college student with no work history, just volunteering experience? I recently applied for an (unpaid) summer internship at a museum, but my cover letter was only one paragraph, about 130 words. I was able to talk about how my volunteering experience was relevant, but I simply didn’t have a work history to discuss.

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