here’s a template to make writing cover letters easier

I recently received this letter from a reader:

I wanted to add another chorus to the thank you’s for your straightforward cover letter advice. I am a reasonably strong and fast writer, but for some reason always used to get futzed over a cover letter. Now I can bang out a high quality one in an hour, or even less! Your templates of favorite cover letters helped me extrapolate “genre rules” and ideal lengths for how to write my own cover letters. I have applied to a few gigs so far since learning those rules, and have gotten at least one call back pretty much every time.

If you’re curious to see how I used it, this is a sample doc I made myself where I tried to pull out the themes across several examples, and start with notes about the gist of how I want each section to go, and then I write it out, and edit it until it’s succinct enough. (I tend to be overly verbose.) And by including samples from multiple letters, I protect myself against being overly derivative of any one letter.

This writer generously agreed to let me share her template with readers here, and it’s below. Some notes:

  • Each of the sections contains lines pulled from real-life cover letters I’ve shared here in the past. (example 1, example 2, example 3).
  • The point is NOT to use those lines yourself! (Doing so would be plagiarism, and also bad strategy since those letters have now been copied widely across the internet, to the point that when I’m hiring, I receive them from applicants myself. You don’t want to use the same lines as your competition is using; that makes you look bad, which is the opposite of what a good cover letter is about.)
  • Instead, the point is to organize your thinking about the sort of thing you could discuss in each paragraph; the sample lines are for inspiration, not copying.
  • The numbers before each section are the word count the writer is recommending to herself.

Cover Letter Template

Paragraph 1: (37-44) (I am excited to apply because I am a person) 

  • It’s with great enthusiasm that I am applying to be your next Intergalactic Service Intern. I know that my background and expertise would serve the Mars Agency well and leave a lasting impression in your client management department.
  • I am excited to apply for your posted Data Analyst position. While my recent experience is in a different heavily regulated industry, my background includes extensive data analysis and reporting to all levels of management, as well as a variety of internal and external stakeholders. I love to dive in and really understand not just the data – but the story that the data tells and how it fits into the broader picture
  • I am excited to apply for the Director of Content position at [new media company].

Paragraph 2: (78-96) 

  • I’ve worked in some level of customer service since I was young, moving my way up from cashiering to supervisory and office positions. My positions went beyond simply giving change with a smile and a thank you; for many of my customers I become friend and confidant, a familiar face with whom they could discuss their day and all its ups and downs. In my long tenure at Starbucks I knew hundreds of customers by name, knew their jobs, their children, their lives—I was there to support them beyond a transaction, living up to our core value of becoming a second home. My experience there helped shape me as a person, and I still keep contact with some of my customers and coworkers to this day.
  • One of my favorite elements of my previous jobs has been pulling together just the right data elements to create a snapshot that’s easy for the intended audience to understand. I’ve developed everything from high level monthly dashboards of department performance to an in-depth look at a particular focus area. While many times data and reporting needs are clear, I have also met with stakeholders to help define the process and clarify the data needed to answer the questions that will support goal achievement.
  • 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.

Paragraph 3: (75-93) (I also work in X groups of my own accord) 

  • I carried these values over to my volunteering, allowing profession to grow into passion. At the Saturn Wildlife Exhibit, I prepare specimens in an open-air space that allows the public full access to our work. My days are spent speaking to children and adults alike about the exhibit, specimens, and local flora and fauna, stoking enthusiasm and awe for the natural world in the process. My interpretive conversations show a new generation that natural science is fun, exciting, and accessible to everyone.
  • I also love the opportunity to flex my analytic muscles and create the opportunity to play “what if?” with the data. In my current role, that manifests as development of a $35M/year budget for a three year plan for stewpot production activities. I review previous expenditures and contract details to build a flexible model that ties spending (and stewpot production) to various levels of forecasted performance. As planned activities are rolled out, I track performance and dig into variances – not just the “what,” but also the “why”.
  • 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.

Paragraph 4: (67-81) (Beyond these examples, I also have my background in X)

  • Beyond my love of working with people, I also have a broad and expansive set of technical skills. Working at the Saturn Veterinary Clinic doesn’t just afford me client interaction and puppies to adore: every day I’m on my feet and on the move, dealing with complicated system processes and problem-solving on the fly to help ease the workload of our six doctors. Scheduling, cleaning, pet wrangling, sample collecting—you name it, I do it. I have a knack for wearing many hats, and revel in the challenges of new experiences.
  • In my previous role, I dug deep into a health plan’s claims data set to look for patterns of claim activity for targeted provider and facility audits. To facilitate that review, I worked closely with the clinical external audit staff to discuss what they were seeing in the field, and eventually became a certified professional coder.
  • 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].

Paragraph 5 + 6: (79-97) (This job suits me well because) 

  • While the current pandemic has required many difficult adjustments, it has also dramatically accelerated changes to how healthcare operates. Data needs to drive these changes to connect them to current business models. This will require new data, and changes to how existing data is thought about and used. I’m excited to be a part of that.
  • 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].

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

I look forward to speaking with you to learn more about your organization, and the career opportunities it offers me, as well as how my skills can help Stewpot Enterprises succeed. Thank you for your consideration.

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

Thank you for your consideration,


In addition to the sample cover letters pulled from in the template above, you can find more sample cover letters here:

example 4

example 5

example 6

example 7

example 8

example 9

{ 103 comments… read them below }

  1. Cafe au Lait*

    Thank you, Template Diviner! I too am verbose and have stopped myself from applying to jobs before because I didn’t have enough time to write my preferred-level-of-detail cover letter.

  2. Sarah*

    I’ve seen cover letter examples posted to this website, but I always find them to be so…well, long. I’ve written maybe one really detailed cover letter, and look back on it as overkill. My current personal template looks like:

    Paragraph 1 – Express general enthusiasm about the position and talk about why you like the organization (easier for me since I work in nonprofit)

    Paragraph 2 – Paragraph as to how I’m suited for the role

    Paragraph 3 – Thank you for your consideration, any other notes, etc.

    My view is, what hiring manager is really going to be reading through 50 cover letters and then want to read one more that’s a page long, single spaced?

    1. Resident Catholicville, USA*

      This is basically what I do as well. To help myself, I’ve made sample statements tailored to each “type” of role I’ve applied to in the past (ie: secretary/admin, data entry, receptionist, etc) and then I can update those to that specific job posting. Over time, I’ve slotted in the last job I’ve had or the one that most recently/best fits that job. I also made sample sentences that either describe my previous work or what I liked about specific jobs and can slot them in as well. Based on the type of jobs I apply for (general administrative assistant or data entry type jobs, rarely ones that are highly specialized), I don’t usually write an entirely new cover letter unless I’m flexing to a job that I think I’d fit for, but doesn’t necessarily align on first glance with the job title/description I’m applying to.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I see your point, but the cover letter does what the resume can’t, and if your letter is 75% boilerplate, it won’t stand out among those 50+.

      I do agree that brevity is important. I like the suggested word counts to assist laser focus (though the precision is making me twitch).

      1. Sarah*

        I didn’t mean to imply my cover letters are boilerplate–my main second paragraph is usually made up of some examples of how my skills have aided me in the past. There’s really no info in there that could be found on my resume.

      2. MerciMe*

        Absolutely. But your main story is:
        * Here is an activity or skill I excell at.
        * Here is how I applied it at my current job.
        * Here is how I can apply that experience to help your business be amazing.

        It’s tempting to write monster paragraphs detailing everything. But conscision can get you the same result and also demonstrate your excellent writing and prioritization skills.

        And honestly, slightly-customized boilerplate may be appropriate if you’re applying to jobs within a relatively narrow niche. I keep all my SOQ answers too, and crib freely between them and my cover letters, based on need.

    3. Laika*

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen recommendations that cover letters be more than one page, and similarly don’t think most of the examples Alison posts are over a page long (though of course I haven’t copy/pasted them into a Word doc to check haha)

    4. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      I was going to post a similar comment. These all feel rather long to me, even the shortest one. For years, I’ve done a short letter something like you’re suggesting above, only I make my Paragraph #2 three to four highly skimmable bullet points where I have the relevant experience for the role instead of a paragraph. I’ve heard you’re NOT supposed to do bullet points in cover letters, but it’s always worked for me and I get a good amount of interviews and jobs. Apparently, these long letters do work for a lot of folks, so I’m just relating my own preference and experiences.

      1. Certaintroublemaker*

        This was what I was coming to say. I’m a communications professional and these examples say “wall o’ text” to me.

        Someone hiring has stacks of letters to get through. Help them understand quickly and clearly why to pick you with concise examples, formatted for easy skimming. Short paragraphs, bullets, and bold also help them re-find later the information they were attracted to the first time they read it.

    5. TK*

      This is definitely industry-specific. I’m in academia and a cover letter shorter than a full page (or, honestly, often a resume that’s only one page) for anything but an entry-level, hourly role, is going to be viewed as way too short and not giving enough information. No one would bat an eye where I work at getting a 2-page cover letter for even an entry-level job.

      I know… academia is weird. But it’s a data point.

      1. Sarah*

        Academia as in the faculty side? Asking because I recently interviewed for a job in higher ed administration. My cover letter was maybe half a page.

        1. ffs*

          It depends on the hiring committee. Some folks expect the cover letter to address every required qual in the job listing, and some use cover letters as a ‘coin toss’ between close candidates.

          1. Loulou*

            Just commented similar below — I’ve written long cover letters because I knew I had to address every requirement on a very lengthy job ad.

          2. TK*

            I definitely work with a lot of people who expect cover letters to address every required qualification, and best enjoy the ones that are basically just a list in narrative form of how they meet every qualification. Regardless of the writing quality or organization of the letter otherwise.

        2. ActuallyItsDr*

          I definitely think the faculty side wants 2+ pages; however, I work in HEA and have hired for roles in Student Affairs. I didn’t look at cover letters that were under 1 page and over 2. A half of page didn’t provide any substantial info, nad 2 pages was just a lot of useless language.

      2. Gary Patterson's Cat*

        Yes, I think academia and most other nonprofits really expect a lengthy description about “why” you want to work there and what draws you to their mission and reason for existence.

        In the B2B world, it’s generally enough to state you know X industry or X products or X clients really well.
        Focus leans more towards: “I have experience doing specific X thing,” or “I can do X to help your business grow.”

        1. Loulou*

          The other component of this is that academic libraries very often use a rubric for hiring and they need to be able to check off every required qualification in order to move someone’s candidacy forward. So cover letters can be quite lengthy for that reason alone. If you’re coming from a field where you can get hired without meeting every single requirement, this can be a significant adjustment.

          1. TK*

            Yeah, I’m in libraries too and in fact that’s how all hiring is done at my university. Our HR is very rigid about rules for hiring, and will basically make you feel like you are doing something morally wrong if you’re doing anything outside of their (sometimes slightly absurd) rules.

            1. Loulou*

              Yup. I get that the point of using a rubric is to evaluate each candidate equitably, but the rigidity can actually detract from equity since a ton of people don’t realize they’re expected to address every qualification. It’s tough!

              1. TK*

                That’s precisely the case. AAM and other job search advice often say it’s fine to apply for a job if you meet 70% of the qualifications or something. But my university HR’s policy is that if there is even a single required qualification that is not mentioned and no evidence is provided of it being met in the application materials– that candidate should be immediately disqualified.

                The thing is, you have to turn in a rubric, but you can put whatever numbers you want on it. So thoughtful search committees can take a more nuanced approach if the situation merits it, and adjust the numbers accordingly. But people get sucked into the system and don’t realize this… the biggest argument I’ve ever had with a colleague at my current job was during a search committee meeting with someone who wanted to follow HR rules in an absurd way, to the detriment of what we were trying to accomplish.

              2. MsSolo UK*

                I mean, this is where an application form makes more sense. If you want candidates to respond to every qualification, give them a box to do so. There are still issues with some people not understanding and putting “I don’t know how to do this” but most candidates will at least take it as a prompt to say “I know how to do similar thing” or “I am good at learning how to do tasks like this”.

                Just don’t ask them to do an application form AND send a CV and covering letter!

        2. TK*

          As other notes below, at least in my experience in academia it’s less about a lengthy description of the “why” and more about making sure you hit every single qualification, because often application materials are graded on a rubric where the better you do that, the more points you get, and only those with the most points move forward. Of course, thoughtful hiring committees will do things in a more nuanced way and adjust the points as needed for candidates who may not quite meet the qualifications… but you can’t count on getting that.

          I think our HR would actually tell people you shouldn’t consider anything about the “why,” which is absurd, but… they are very rules-bound.

        3. Lily Rowan*

          I’ve gotten a lot of nonprofit jobs, and usually just make the “why” a sentence or two as the last paragraph. Mostly I do just like Sarah describes, so it’s mostly about what I’ll bring to the role, and then a bit about “I’d be especially excited to do this work at because I’ve volunteered in this area for 10 years” or whatever.

          1. Loulou*

            Yup. I’ve never included a “why” that went all that far back…more like what about this specific library or type of work appealed to my values.

      1. Pants*

        Yes, a bit verbose for me as well. Because of this site though, I do tailor my resume and cover letter (not 6 paragraphs) to whatever job I’m applying to. It works. The last time I was looking, I got the job on the first and only resume I sent out. (I didn’t need to send anymore.) It’s also a job that I loooooove at a company that still seems too good to be true. Luckily, the company’s been around for a long time and everyone here felt that way when they started. Workplace PTSD is a real thing, y’all.

      2. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

        If you look at the writer’s suggested word count per paragraph, the whole thing comes in about 350-400 words. That’s really not lot.

    6. Jamie Starr*

      Yes, this was the format I was taught and that I use. I may add a short 3rd paragraph between paragraph 2 and the final one but I usually try to keep it to three. As someone who has been on the reviewing end of many a cover letter, I can tell you that unless you are an outstanding writer, I am going to get bored reading a long cover letter. And I will think you don’t know how to a) edit, and/or b) highlight the most relevant info.

    7. Job Hopper*

      This is close to what I use, but I sometimes throw in an extra paragraph to make it clear how my (very) diverse experience is specifically applicable to this role. I’ve moved industries and functions quite a few times.

    8. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I add a call to action before the ending. “Please call or email me at your convenience so we can talk further about how I can help [Organization] succeed.”

  3. The Prettiest Curse*

    For those who are relocating or recently relocated, it’s a good idea to say that at the start of the letter so they can’t miss it. I moved countries just before applying to my current job, and the letter which got me the interview started “I recently relocated to [city] and I’m excited to apply for [job title].”

    1. fantomina*

      or if you’re trying to get a job so you can relocate, “I am eager to relocate to [city]”

    2. Junior Assistant Peon*

      As a hiring manager, this is about the only time I care about cover letters. Non-local applicants appear to be blast-applying to everything, and a cover letter clarifying that they’re specifically interested in my area (or have already relocated there) persuades me to take them seriously.

      1. Loulou*

        This is super field dependent. I’m in a field where it’s very common to move cross-country for jobs, so I never wrote anything like that on my letters and have had interviews across the country. I’m sure there are many more jobs or fields (like yours) where it would be seen as unusual to apply for a job in another place, though.

        1. Nanani*

          Still, I can’t imagine it would -hurt- to demonstrate interest in relocating for this particular opportunity and not another one?

        2. Junior Assistant Peon*

          I’m not high enough on the totem pole to be interviewing candidates for senior positions where relocation is more common. I’ve hired for lower-level positions where it’s not necessary to recruit a highly specific skillset.

    3. Curious*

      If you are applying for a role as an Intergalactic Service Intern, you need to be willing to relocate *really far!* Expressing your willingness to serve on a generation ship (and commit your children to do so) is also a plus!

  4. Laika*

    What a timely post! I’m applying to jobs now and was thinking of putting together a very similar template for myself, so definitely going to borrow this structure.

    I suspect something like this is especially handy since I’ve noticed that I recycle a lot of the similar wording from old cover letters, but then still need to puzzle out how to fit it together. Having them broken out paragraph by paragraph is genius.

    1. Laika*

      Nesting under my own comment to add: of all the applications I’ve sent out recently, the one employer that got back to me within 30 minutes was replying to my cover letter where I basically said, “I’ve finished school and did great, but feel like I know nearly nothing, you’ll need to train me up in a lot of your practices” (jazzed up in professional language of course). They were eager to get me an interview and scheduled me for Wednesday! It surprised me since it was the first time I’d gambled on admitting that I’d need that support–and by their own job post metrics I was under-qualified–but it seems to have worked in my favour this time, so I’m definitely putting that letter into my current rotation if I don’t get that job.

      1. Mirve*

        Self awareness can be rare, they may be reacting to someone who admits they still need to learn.

  5. Princess Xena*

    Alison, it looks like the ‘template’ note for section 2 is missing – should it say something like ‘here are the skills I can apply’?

    Huge thanks to you and the readers who very kindly shared their template and examples!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She didn’t have a note there. I’d probably capture it as “here’s why I’d be good at this.” Although the third bullet point in that section doesn’t really fit that heading; there’s room for flexibility depending on what you want to say.

  6. Texan In Exile*

    LOVE THIS! Great work!

    Also – a former boss (he is not a native English speaker) was reviewing something I had written. His feedback was highly complimentary, but then he said, “You’re really verbose!”

    “That’s not a compliment,” I said. “Just in case you think it is.”

    “Oh!” he answered. “I thought it meant you used words well.”

    “Nope,” I answered. “It means I use way too many words, which I know and try to fight.”

  7. Murphy*

    I didn’t really realize how important cover letters were until I started reading them. So many of them just say….nothing. Like they’re fine, but they’re forgettable and don’t really explain why I should pay attention to that applicant specifically.

      1. Murphy*

        No, they are. But they’re very generic. I don’t feel like I learned anymore about the person after reading the cover letter than I did from just reading the resume. Does that make sense?

        1. ecnaseener*

          It definitely makes sense. Stating relevant experience is what the resume is for.

          I’ve noticed the same thing – people who might as well have saved themself the trouble and skipped it altogether (or gone with 3 sentences instead of a page of nothingness/irrelevant detail).

          It’s especially frustrating when their experience really *doesn’t* speak for itself – like, maybe your background in rice sculpting does make you a good fit for this teapot painting role, but if you don’t tell me how then I’m not going to guess.

  8. Sloanicota*

    Wow, I thought Alison swore off providing any templates because people always just use them as-is with very little modification, even after she explains 150 times why that isn’t a great idea. For a lot of folks it’s clearly just too tempting to resist.

    1. Princess Xena*

      NGL, I would pay to see the reaction of the hiring manager that gets the copy and pasted cover letter from above that includes both Interaglactic Service Intern and [organization] verbatim.

  9. Erin*

    This is so helpful! I’ve seen many people complain about writing cover letters, often saying that they’re just repeating what their resume says, and this again highlights that a great cover letter should be expanding on your resume. (And that, once you realize that, it’s not a challenge at all to write one.)

  10. Public Sector Manager*

    We hire several law students every year as paid interns. Somewhere someone told law students to describe themselves as a “rising star” in their class at law school. So much so that about 80% of the cover letters start with: “I am a rising star in my [2L or 3L] class at [law school] ….” We got a packet from someone who was 3rd in their class of 200 students describing themselves as a “rising star.”

    Using terms that like never work. Who is and isn’t a “rising star” is entirely subjective. Also, when I’m seeing it on 80% of the cover letters, those who don’t use it get more of my attention. Usually those who use “rising star” simply summarize their resume in their cover letter.

    The best cover letters I see, and the people we offer internships to, follow the advice above. We hire strong writers and editors, and people with a great attention to detail. Those who get my attention talk about their time writing drafts for a judge on a short time frame with few errors, or how they rewrote a brief in their legal writing class to take it down from 50 pages to 30 pages without sacrificing quality.

    Will a bad cover letter keep you from getting an interview if your resume is amazing? No. But when we read an amazing cover letter, we’re very excited to interview the person who wrote it. And if I have to take a chance on someone, it’s going to be the person who can write an amazing cover letter and not the person who has a boilerplate cover letter.

  11. Aunt Piddy*

    “I am excited to apply because I am a person” really gave me the giggles for some reason.

    1. Coenobita*

      Me too! I found it so charming. That is totally the theme of my cover letter opening paragraphs, too.

    2. Jill Jane*

      I am definite real person and will provide grainy photos of bicycles and stop signs upon request.

  12. Techy*

    I think it’s definitely industry specific. Those examples would be WAAAY too long in most software engineering roles.

    Not only do managers not have time to read it, but it would make them wonder why you have to go so overboard. Most devs can get interviews at the drop of the hat so good candidates would not take the time to write a 99 paragraph thesis explaining why they should get a chance.

    I know it’s always annoying to people in other fields when we chime in like “ACTUALLY NOT IN TECH” but I’m just saying this for any junior devs reading.

    1. David*

      Back in mid-2017, when I was applying to the job I have now, there was a post on the Stack Overflow blog about how to write a good cover letter for a software development job. It stuck out to me because, unlike so much of the other advice I’d seen about cover letters, it suggested writing something short. At the time I wasn’t savvy enough to realize that the advice was industry-specific, but… I like short. So I largely based my cover letter on that advice, and I got a quick and positive response from the company.

      Anyway: +1 for short cover letters in tech. And if I can track down that blog post, I’ll add a link in a reply just in case it helps anyone.

  13. NeedRain47*

    The overall structure of this is not too different to how I write them, but there’s one thing I do to ensure good content. Go through the job description, look at every required and preferred qualification, and make sure that anything not addressed in my resume is addressed in the cover letter. It doesn’t have to be structured in any particular way, just make sure to mention it whereever it fits in best. I have about a 75% success rate of getting an interview so I’m guessing this is working for me.

  14. Performing Flea*

    Yikes. It doesn’t need to be competing in length with Russian lit, it just needs to convey enthusiasm and capability. I like Andrew LaCivita’s four sentence cover letter. Hiring folks generally don’t have time to pore over every paragraph. Maybe they do in the upper echelons of the C-suite? They need a potential employee who respects their time by getting right to the point. This helped me get my current job, and I’d use it again.

    1. Loulou*

      Wow, I’ve never heard of this before but just googled it and found it really salesy and off-putting. I trust you that this approach works in your field, but it wouldn’t in mine.

      He lists the goals of a cover letter as explaining who you are, why you contacted the interviewer, and expressing interest, but that’s not the goal of a cover letter in my field (libraries). The goal is to connect what’s on your resume with the job ad. It can rarely be done in four sentences because there are usually more than four qualifications!

      1. Nanani*

        Not to mention “why you contacted the interviewer” should be self-explanatory (you send cover letters when applying to jobs, not out of the blue), and your interest is also being expressed this way.

        There is something said for getting to the point, however.

      2. Performing Flea*

        As with all application processes, adjust to your industry/field. Wish there was a better way to sort cover letter advice by experience and industry, instead of painting it all with broad brush. Plenty of people reading AAM are actively advancing careers they’ve been developing for years – for them, OP’s cover letter format works. For people trying to get their first job or who are looking to shore themselves up for a bit with a job, the shorter one may help. I was having a terrible time using the longer format, started getting a bunch of responses after I started using the shorter one – but that’s anecdata for you.

    2. BRR*

      Usual caveat that every field is different but if I got this cover letter I would likely reject the candidate unless they were the only qualified candidate who applied. It feels very lazy and doesn’t contribute anything that shows why a person is a good candidate. It just scream to me “I didn’t want to write a cover letter.”

    3. Workerbee*

      This doesn’t look like it’s more than a page once each selection has been chosen. Comparing it to Russian lit is really funny!

  15. Excel-sior*

    It may be a US/UK point of difference, but I’ve never really used a cover letter and I’ve not heard of them being as important here. Any UK based folks have differing opinions/experiences? Have I been putting myself at a disadvantage from the off for all these years?

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Even in the US, it can be very industry-specific, even employer or hiring-manager specific.

    2. Lucy R*

      Nah, you’re fine. It’s not really a thing here. The only times (three, maybe four?) I’ve received them in twenty-plus years of hiring people in the UK, they were from American candidates. I didn’t read them.

      1. londonedit*

        Seriously? I’ve always thought it was the other way round! I’ve worked in book publishing in the UK for nearly 20 years and cover letters are super important. Every single job advert says ‘apply with CV and cover letter’, and your application would never get through if you didn’t bother with a cover letter. I guess it’s because we’re concerned with words, but yeah, cover letters are incredibly important in my industry and a vital part of the application process. I’ve never come across any other way of applying for a job.

    3. misspiggy*

      Often in the UK companies use application forms which explicitly ask for the information which would be in a cover letter. Sometimes they do ask for a cover letter.

  16. MicroManagered*

    This is a really stupid question, but why does the post mentions Alison getting copy/pastes of the cover letter template when she hires? I always thought the blog/writing was her full-time gig and she doesn’t have/need a day job anymore but that she runs it herself.

    1. Vicci*

      Nope. She’s also a consultant and helps companies with their management practices, including hiring.

  17. mialoubug*

    Thank you for pulling these together. I have been trying to help my daughter with her cover letters — she’s graduating from grad school in May — and so far she’s applied to 20 jobs with 20 non-responses (no acknowledgement of receipt so don’t even know if they are being read). Having a template of ideas to follow is brilliant to see.

  18. jane*

    I work in media, and I’ve never seen cover letters this long. If I did get cover letters that are this long, I may skim at best, but this is a LOT to read. The text feels very dense. In my industry, the norm is more of a 3-sentence cover letter identifying the specific position the writer is applying to, and maybe a single point of relevance or interest. In fact, I’m seeing more and more resumes submitted with no cover letter at all, and I’m hearing the same from other industries. Is anyone else seeing the death of the cover later in their worlds?

    1. nonprofit exec*

      This is a template with a lot of different options in it. It’s not a letter. It’s a bunch of bullet points to help you remember the sort of thing you should write in that section.

      I do a lot of hiring and a 3 sentence letter would get tossed unless you were an absolute rock star. Most good letters we get are 2/3 of a page page to a full page.

  19. Just chiming in*

    These are great – though I have gotten the empathic barrista/Starbucks cover letter – and had to share the AAM link to convince my colleagues on the hiring committee that it was plagiarized (and I think also explained why the letter was so uneven in tone, because the example on AAM was incomplete?)
    For those who are concerned that these are too long for YOUR industry, please be assured that for some of us, they’re not. Because most of the positions we’re hiring require staff to engage independently in correspondence with stakeholders, we use the cover letter as a writing sample (which is disclosed in the job posting). It provides evidence of technical and communication skills, as well as judgment – a cover letter that doesn’t include the explanation of why the applicant believes they have the skills for the job doesn’t usually make it to an interview. And if it turns out that further demonstration of those skills don’t match the cover letter (e.g., when a candidate hires someone else to write it), we have a baseline comparison for further action…
    Mileage definitely varies.

  20. Beth*

    I’m curious if anyone can address a recommendation I’ve heard to copy/paste all/most of the job posting qualifications and note how you fulfill them (e.g., list the qualification then outline how you fulfill it). What I’ve heard is that this gets the person through screening programs of applicants. I’ve only ever used this type of format Allison shares here and I’m skeptical about this approach, but I’m curious what others have heard?

    1. Yorick*

      I definitely wouldn’t copy/paste them, for space if nothing else. But you should definitely address many if not all of them.

    2. Shuvon (Wakeen's sister)*

      My college Business English teacher had us do this on cover letters. His format included a 2-column table in paragraph 2.

      Dear Hiring Manager:
      I am applying for the (title) job you advertised in (source).
      You require… I offer…
      I look forward to talking to you about this opportunity.

      1. Michel*

        I’m in the UK and if you do not respond to each point in the person spec specifically, you will almost certainly not get an interview (even the dumb ones like “able to use Microsoft Office”). When I was first starting out I didn’t know this and didn’t get any interviews for the 50+ jobs I applied for as a new grad – then someone told me and I suddenly started getting interviews for every job. I’ve done a lot of hiring myself since then, and it’s the norm for the screening to be based on how well the cover letter matches the person spec. It’s a huge pain as an applicant, and means it can be really hard to fit in space for genuine enthusiasm.

  21. GreyNerdShark*

    As all my jobs in the last umpty ump years have been word of mouth I haven’t actually written a cover letter so no idea if they are common in Australia.
    But one thing that jumped out at me that is no doubt a cultural thing…. Those first paragraphs are cringingly over the top in the “so excited” tone. If I got something that full of squealing I’d toss the lot as false. I am in tech and I suppose that someone in creative might think differently but in Oz we generally don’t do over emotional. Unless you are sure that your field does do it, don’t use words like “excited” or “delighted”.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      These examples and my advice more broadly is always U.S.-specific. For example, cover letters apparently aren’t used at all in the UK, and pretty much all the advice here is apparently way too over the top enthusiastic in tone for Australia.

      Work advice in general is incredibly culturally specific and I can’t speak for any culture other than the U.S. Please always read with that in mind!

      1. Michel*

        It is definitely not true that cover letters aren’t used in the UK! I saw someone say that upthread but I have worked in charities, local government, and private sector in the UK over the last 15 years and have needed a cover letter for every job I’ve ever applied for. There is sometimes a long repetitive form to complete that stands in for a cover letter but it always has a “personal statement” bit which is expected to contain the same info about how you’re suited to the job.

        1. Mae Fuller*

          Yes, I was going to say this as well – 30 years’ work experience in the UK, and I’ve always either applied via cv and cover letter or application form including a personal statement, which serves the same purpose. Now that I’m on the recruiting side I can also testify to the enormous value of a good cover letter (even if it’s just a well-written email) to show how the candidate actually understands the role.

      2. Ripstop*

        I’m an American, and as I transition from free-lancing to tech (research), I honestly sometimes worry a great deal that there’s an expectation of gushing excitement.that I just can’t meet or even stomach. “I’m excited to apply” made me physically recoil.

        Do I have to move to the UK or Australia? Is there hope for me? (If I could, I would remove exclamation points from all work keyboards as well.) I can see myself being pleased to apply, maybe delighted, but excited? It’s a job, not fireworks show on my tenth birthday.

        Is “I’m writing to apply” with no emotional declaration so bad? I could get to pleased if need be.

    2. Lissajous*

      Sometimes used in Australia, I think. I did for my first job, but have used recruiters since then so haven’t needed one.

      The tone of these is definitely way too effusive for here, but the content guideline isn’t too bad.
      (My industry is mining and I’m in engineering, so I probably could even get away with bullet points if I wanted to – to the point is appreciated!)

    3. Name (Required)*

      I’ve used some phrasing like this (‘excited to apply’, ‘would love to discuss this further’) and a warm tone in my recent cover letters for higher education admin jobs in Australia – it either helped or hasn’t held me back, as I got the last two jobs and will be interviewed for one I submitted recently! I felt that it was appropriate as the roles included a lot of writing/emailing and building relationships, so it was a sense of how I’d communicate. In my case I was also very excited to apply because they were higher-level jobs within my team and I knew I could do them well! I might keep in mind to be a bit less effusive if I ever apply to a different workplace, and could imagine that it could ring false to a hiring manager.

      The new thing I’ve started seeing in job ads in higher ed admin (and public service jobs, though I haven’t applied for any yet) is a request for a cover letter addressing all of the listed selection criteria. For that I did 1-2 paragraphs lead in, a big chunk of STAR-style responses to selection criteria (criteria quoted with response beneath so it’s easy to tick off – I think that’s part of shortlisting here), then a final paragraph. Skips some of the agonising over the cover letter but I did feel a bit uncomfortable submitting a three-page-long letter recently. :/

    4. londonedit*

      I’m in the UK and cover letters are extremely important in my industry. I’m amazed to see people here saying they’re not generally used in the UK! That’s not my experience at all.

      However it is true that the super-excited phrasing wouldn’t be used here – you don’t want to come across as OTT or salesy or gimmicky. Your cover letter should expand on the details in your CV – I usually do a paragraph introducing myself and my broad work experience, a paragraph focusing on particular career achievements that link to the job description/company I’m applying to, and a closing paragraph summing up why I’d be a good candidate and why I’m interested in the position. Definitely nothing as long and involved as this, and I’d definitely avoid any ‘I am extremely excited to apply’ sort of language, but I absolutely would always write a cover letter – in publishing you’d be lucky to get an interview without one. Job adverts are always ‘apply with CV and cover letter’.

    5. Isobel*

      As someone in the UK, that struck me as well. Mind you, most of my job applications tended more towards “I am quite good at X” “I am not bad at Y” and “you might consider employing me as I think you could do a lot worse”. I think being competent and reasonably likeable is fine and I would struggle with all the super excited! language.

  22. Saraaaaah*

    I JUST did this with my cover letter a few weeks ago and I LOVE it. I used old cover letters to create a ‘cover letter to rule them all’ with color coded options for each paragraph. Each color is a track that emphasizes a different skill set. When I want to write a new cover letter I just save as, pick the most relevant paragraphs and delete everything else.

    I’ve only used it a few times but it’s so much easier. It makes me more excited about applying to reach jobs when I don’t feel like I’m wasting a ton of time.

  23. AnonPi*

    For the love of everything, even if you don’t submit a cover letter with every job app, please do so if there is an apparent mismatch between your current/prior experience and education, with the job you are applying for. Tell me why I want to interview a person who recently finished their MBA and is working on their PhD, that is applying for an entry level admin job. Or switching a long career in rocket science and is applying to be a lama groomer. I have no problem with people getting degrees but wanting a low stakes job or deciding on a career change, but you gotta tell me what’s going on, or I’m not going to recommend moving forward over other candidates that have applications with education/experience that appears to be a better match for the given job.

  24. Leela*

    Thank you so much for this! I work with juniors who are always looking for work (the nature of this job is that people at that level will leave shortly, not because the company is bad but because it’s like a transitory role) and I love sending stuff like this along.

    They always fight me thinking they know how to write a cover letter. Recount your resume in paragraph form, right? But I love hearing from those who take the advice and get knockout jobs!

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