Hi everyone! Above is a sample of a cover letter I wrote to apply for a job at a tech startup. I received a quick callback for this job, but I was already signed on to another position. Using this format has been basically foolproof for me, because it’s professional and reads as well-spoken, but also gets your point across and keeps the focus on the employer. I’ll break this up into sections. 

First, formatting: Your cover letter should match your resume in some way. You should use the same font or colors somewhere. I cropped off the top half because it has my address and phone number on it, but it has my name and contact info on it the same way my resume does. 

It should never be more than a page long. Honestly, I think the example I’m using is a little too long and wordy, but I think startups appreciate the extra effort because it shows you’re willing to be above average.

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Opening paragraph: “I am excited to apply for your Customer Service Lead position. Glowforge is my idea of a perfect company because it bridges the gap between the creative and tech communities. I’d love to bring my energy and drive along with my relevant experience to your innovative company.” 

In the first sentence, I state that I am excited to apply for the position. I’ve been in charge of hiring for a few different jobs I’ve had, and 99.999% of all cover letters start with something very dull like, “I am writing to inquire about the receptionist position.” That doesn’t make me interested in learning more about you! Using an energetic adjective like “excited” can be intriguing to employers because they know you will go on to explain how in the rest of your letter. Perhaps you have a personal connection to the company, or you are extremely passionate about something they make or do. 

First paragraph: “Forthepastthreeyears,I workedasabookkeeperandpayrollspecialistforMySeattleBookkeeper.Ihelpedgrowthecompanyfrom20to60+clientsinthistime,actingasthefirstpointofcontactforeveryincomingandongoingclient. Ihavealsoactedasofficemanagerandemployeecoordinator,leadingateamoffouremployeestomeetmonthly,quarterly,andannualgoals.InthispositionIfine-tunedmy communicationskillsandhelped tofindspecificsolutionstodiverseproblems. Ilovedmakingourclientshappyandsimplifyingtheirbusinessoperationswithmyaccountingskillsand go-getterpersonality.”

The point of a cover letter is to expand on your resume and support the evidence your resume provides. It is where you should explain any significant gaps in your employment history, or explain why you made a major career or college switch. You should also use it to expand on job tasks and discuss how the skills at one job will help you at the job you are applying for. Because my job at MSB was not really client facing (I worked remotely in a basement, lol) and very analytical/mathematical, I used this paragraph in my cover letter to explain how I demonstrated growth in this position and what skills I gained. I specifically brought up communication and making clients happy because the position I was applying for was customer-facing.

Your first paragraph after your opening paragraph should discuss what you’ve done and expand on anything that might need explaining or stringing together.

Second paragraph: “IwouldlovetoworkatGlowforgebecauseIamamaker.InmysparetimeIlovetoknit,quilt,sew,anddesign.IrecentlytaughtmyselfHTMLandCSSandIamcurrentlylearningJavaScript.Iamfascinatedwiththeconceptofblendinghands-onartanddesign withsoftwareandtechnology.Thereisagapinthetech-makercommunity,andthefactthatGlowforgehassomanyexcitedcustomersbeforetheproducthaslaunchedspeaksstronglytothenecessityoftheproduct.Beingapartofagrowingstartuphasalwaysbeenadreamofmine,andmyinterestsandskillsareperfectforthisposition.”

Your second paragraph should be about WHY you want the job. Don’t be afraid to tell them about yourself in a relevant way! This makes it unique and lets them get to know you a bit more. It also shows you are creative and can think further than copying and pasting a boring form cover letter. This should of course be used within reason; if you’re applying at a big 4 accounting firm you should definitely scale it back, but I’ve found that for smaller businesses and start ups and jobs that require an outgoing personality, this is the best method.

Be sure to tie it all together though! Notice how I share a fact about myself (my love of fiber arts) and then lead into how I am teaching myself computer programming. I then use a segue sentence that allows me to move on and talk about their company and why I want to work for their company. 

In this paragraph you should also demonstrate that you have researched the company and know what they’re about. Reference something specific but interesting about them so they know that you care about the company, care about the job, and have done your research! I’m not positive, but I think this piece is the reason I get so many interviews when I use this format. Showing that you are passionate about the job no matter what it is and that you are a hard worker who goes above and beyond is really important at this stage - you really have to sell yourself! 

At the end of this paragraph, be sure to choose a conclusion sentence that ties it back in to the your intro about your hobbies. Always tie it together.

Final paragraph: “Again,Glowforge’sdedication tocustomerhappiness andleadership hasmadeahugeimpressiononme.Iwouldbethrilledtoworkfor acompanythatvaluesdata-drivenworkandusersuccess asmuchasGlowforgedoes.”

Your conclusion is your chance to tie it all together and gas them up. Give them a compliment that reiterates their company mission and values. Show that you understand what they’re all about and that you will be a valuable asset to keep them moving towards their goals.

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Salutation: “Thankyouforyourtime!Ilookforwardtohearingfromyousoon.”

Always thank them! Hiring people is hard work and they read a million of these in the process. Also, ACT CONFIDENT throughout the entire process, but especially in your salutation. Let them know that you know you are a perfect fit and they will want to contact you. Fake it til you make it. This also helps you to follow up with them in a few days if you haven’t heard from them yet. Include your phone number in the email or body of the contact form when you send your PDF resume and cover letter. 

I basically took this template from here and tweaked it, sending it out over and over, until I found what works best for me. Feel free to copy it and tweak it with your own skills and interests! 

Thinking about doing a 2018 resume dos and don’ts next - so much has changed recently and we can be a bit more creative with resumes these days! Let me know what you think!

Good advice all around! I have long been a hiring manager, and this letter would be one of the few I’d actually read (better to send only a resume than one with a bad letter).