A Quick and Easy Cover Letter Format That Works

Writing a cover letter can feel intimidating, but there is a science to it that has been proven to get prime results. Follow a few simple rules and you’ll see the difference.

CONSIDER HOW (AND IF) YOUR LETTER IS READ:

It’s easy to overthink a cover letter with the idea that the hiring manager will scour the piece looking for clues about your qualifications. Often, hopeful applicants will jam a page (or more) with accomplishments in the hopes that the reader will be impressed by an expansive array of specific skills. However, according to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, most readers look at your cover letter for less than 1 minute. That means they are scanning rather than reading. The same study says that cover letters over 1 page are actively discouraged and sometimes thrown out entirely.

ALWAYS BE FORMAL

Even if a job listing is written in a conversational or whimsical way, your cover letter should resist this. Always be formal and to the point. The same is true for interviews, and thank you letters.  In fact, as this Tiny Prints article on how to write a thank you letter suggests, a well-written thank you letter might be more important than your cover letter. Your voice should come through, but don’t wander or try to be cute. It’s just not the place for it.

PERSONALIZE

If at all possible, try to find the name of the hiring manager (even if this means reaching out to the company via phone). It’s always better to be able to use a name. If you are forced to use a general greeting, choose “Dear Sir or Madam” rather than “To whom it may concern” or “Hiring Manager.” In addition, if you know someone at the company, or were recommended, mention that information within the first two sentences.

USE T STRUCTURE:
The main structure of the recommended modern cover letter format is in three basic parts:

  1. Introduction

  2. Qualifications (bulleted)

  3. Conclusion/Call to Action

  4. INTRODUCTION:

The introduction should begin with a quick acknowledgement of the position to which you are applying and why.

As a deeply invested Senior Account Executive with over 13 years of high-level sales experience in custom digital solutions and SaaS based platform sales, I’m thrilled about the opportunity to join {COMPANY} as an {POSITION}.    

Continue with a paragraph that outlines soft skills, carefully utilizing keywords from the job listing:

The expertise I’ve accrued as a leader, as well as my strong collaborative and communication skills with multiple stakeholders — from programmers to high-worth corporate executive clients — has given me proficiencies that lead directly to increased revenue.

Try to end the paragraph with something unique about your background, such as:

In addition, a background in film and video means I also have creative expertise in the logistics of production, something that has led to tangible positive results when working with clients.

b. QUALIFICATION SECTION (bulleted)

Here is the part of the modern cover letter that is new to many applicants. This section wants to be no more than 6 quick bulleted statements.

As your reader is scanning this piece, it is more important to highlight very specific qualifications, rather than wax prosaic about previous positions. Take impressive bullets from your resume, make them narrative, and try to prioritize quantifiable actions.

·   Singlehandedly turning around chronic underperformance by pushing to expand the client base by 300+ in 2015 and 350+ in 2016 while spearheading growth in digital product sales resulting in over $500k in annual ARR.

Space your bullets generously -- and have no more than 6 solid points -- more will get lost in the shuffle. Try to take points from different parts of your career (not all from one recent position, even if it is the most impressive).

C. CONCLUSION/CALL TO ACTION

The end of the piece can actually be the most formulaic -- this portion is meant as a call to action so that the hiring manager recognizes that you are going to take an active role in following up about the application.

‘It would be my distinct pleasure to meet and discuss this with you further and I thank you for your time. I will be contacting your office in the next few days to see if we might set up an appointment to talk more specifically about the position.”

The clarity and focus of this cover letter style has been proven effective time and again for getting interviews. Remember to think about the needs (and time commitment) of your reader first and you will definitely see the results you want.