Cover Letters

In Personal Strategies & Goals, Career Guidance, Recent Posts by Steve Sliwa

As a hiring manager for many years, I’ve seen hundreds of cover letters. Here are 4 suggestions to make yours stand out:

  1. Write a clean one-pager with a pleasing format.
  2. The goal is to make a few statements that will make them dig deeper into your resume.
  3. It should be simultaneously effective for scanning (60-second view) and a deep read.
  4. Don’t use a form letter! Make it specific to the company and ideally the role.

Cover letters that have made me take notice usually have an interesting angle. Here are two, which I paraphrase:

Example 1 from a recent graduate: “…I notice that your company is dog-friendly. I was trusted to take care of the dogs of my advisor. Although I hope to convince you that my engineering skills warrant extra consideration, I wanted to let you know that I am willing to watch your dogs, sweep the floors, or do whatever it takes to help Insitu be successful…”

Example 2 from an engineer at an oil and gas giant: “…I have seen and personally wasted countless hours trying to utilize homegrown data analytics systems that are extremely dated and inefficient. I want to work with customers who are engineers, such as myself, to make their data analytics more efficient to free up their time to work on more challenging problems. I am extremely energetic and motivated to work in this area of business due to my own personal frustration I have had trying to analyze data…”

Some hints from others:

  • Figure out to whom you’re writing.
  • Write a catchy opening sentence.
  • Mention specifics about the company.
  • Explain why you’re qualified for the role in a few punchy bullets.
  • Summarize and plant the seed.
  • Tell the company how you can help them.

Read these resources for more information on how to write cover letters:

Your cover letter is usually the first impression a company has of you, so make it count. Spend the extra time necessary to make it effective and attention-grabbing.

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