If you’re in the process of writing a cover letter, you’re probably Googling “cover letter format page” or seeking advice from a variety of sources. During the job hunt, you need as much support as you can get, and sometimes that support comes in the form of online resources. However, online research can add to the maddening struggle of producing a well-written cover letter. With so much advice, should you believe?
To help you along the process, we tracked down advice from professionals working at companies you know and love. These executives maintain powerful positions and have sorted through their fair share of application materials. As such, they have solid advice about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to writing cover letters. The following strategies come from professionals across different fields and can help you as you navigate writing the perfect cover letter.
Jesse Hertzberg, COO at Squarespace
Jesse Hertzberg, COO at Squarespace, shared a cover letter on his blog that he considered the best he’d ever received. The cover letter was for a Director of Customer Care and Operations position. In it, the applicant took a chance and dropped an F-bomb -- but, as Hertzberg explained, that type of risk isn’t applicable for just any position, and jobseekers should weigh the company culture before making a similar move.
The applicant then used paragraphs and bullet points format to outline the value he would bring to the customer care position, and what his stance was on solid service. For Hertzberg, this was the perfect recipe. His advice:
“Remember that I'm reading these all day long. You need to quickly convince me I should keep reading. You need to stand out. Your cover letter, like your CV, should be tantalizing, with personality and enough information to make me want to hear the rest of your story.”
Marc Cenedella, CEO at Ladders
It’s imperative that job seekers refrain from writing out their resume when it comes to cover letters. The purpose of the cover letter is to show your personality and detail why you’re qualified for the job – just because you worked at a certain company before, or held a specific position, doesn’t mean you’re the right person for the job. Don’t let your resume outshine who you are as a person. Marc Cenedella, CEO of Ladders, says of cover letters:
“Remember that your resume is a marketing document for you. You’re selling yourself to your future employer. You have to market for the job you’re looking for. Don’t just send a list of the jobs you’ve had before.”
Amanda Talbott, Facebook Recruiter
Every year, Facebook is tasked with sorting through hundreds of applications, and cover letters provide added insight into what a candidate will bring to the table. In an interview with Marie Claire magazine, Amanda Talbott offered her own advice about how candidates could stand out from the pact with their cover letters and resumes. While her advice was about Facebook, specifically, her ground rules could very well be applied to many positions.
For example, it can be tempting to pad your skills on your resume and cover letter in hopes of getting a position. Many applicants will over-shoot to impress hiring managers but, as Talbott notes, this easy way out isn’t always so easy. Talbott states:
“Stating you're a pro at CSS and HTML can get you far at a company like Facebook, but they will test your knowledge during the interview. Facebook is known to match a candidate with an interviewer who can tell if you buffed up your résumé with technical skills you don't actually have. Stand out by showing off your true talents.”
Sophia Amoruso, CEO of Nasty Gal
One of the biggest mistakes you can make with your cover letter is focusing too much on what a company can do for you, rather than what you can do for a company. Some applicants falsely believe that this tactic helps demonstrate their enthusiasm and willingness to learn, but if not balanced carefully, it can have an adverse effect.
Sophia Amoruso, CEO of Nasty Gal, says that she looks for applicants who can clearly demonstrate the value they bring to the table. She spoke candidly to Business Insider about a candidate who talked about her “passion for fashion” and how Nasty Gal could help her "pursue her interests, gain more experience, and explore new avenue.” According to Amoruso, cover letters like this get immediately deleted.