• Erin Maher

How to Write a Damn Good Cover Letter

Updated: Jun 17

Because I’m tired of everyone asking me to write one for them

My name is Erin, and I’m here to help you write a damn good cover letter for your job application.


First things first: what qualifies me?


I’ve been reading/writing/editing professionally for the past seven years.


Read some of my work.


Secondly, as “just” an English major, I’ve managed to successfully land jobs at multiple major sports and entertainment corporations in a very competitive field, without having an “in” and knowing someone who worked there.


Was I good at those jobs? That’s neither here nor there. Although for reference: good at writing, bad at processing invoices. I might go as far as to say stellar in replacing the batteries in every remote in all the suites at an MLB stadium.


I am the quintessential, disloyal millennial looking for her, and now your next opportunity. Lucky you.


So how did I, a liberal arts student, with absolutely no discernible skills, get these coveted positions?


My cover letters.


Yes, recruiters will tell you that they don’t read cover letters. But hiring managers do, especially if the cover letter is sent directly to their inbox, and has a captivating opening sentence.


Is this a guaranteed way to get a job? No. Nothing’s guaranteed. But I just wanted to share with everyone during this tough time how I’ve managed to set myself apart from the pack, and hopefully, you can glean something to help you on your journey to a new job.


Let’s get started.


Step One: Find a Job Posting

For a job you really, really want.


Wondering who is hiring at the moment? LinkedIn keeps an updated list of employers who are hiring during the time of COVID.


For the cover letter we're about to write, we’ll use an example job posting as we walk through the cover letter writing steps.


Open position: Tour Guide

Company: Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory

Posting: Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory is looking for a full-time Tour Guide to provide whimsy, wonder, and to dazzle guests in its world full of pure imagination.


Responsibilities:

  • Organize and host daily tours for the public.

  • Must have strong knowledge of the brand and familiarity with all products, including Fizzy Lifting Drinks, Everlasting Gobstoppers, Golden Eggs, etc.

  • Works closely in collaboration with mercurial CEO, certified crackpot, and “Forbes Top Entrepreneur of 1964,” William Wonka.

  • Must be in possession of a commercial license and is comfortable driving a fever-dream boat, and a bubbly, seemingly useless automobile that travels at max, 50 feet.


Alright, cool. This will be sweet. Pun intended.


Step Two: Write the Cover Letter


A: Format the cover letter properly.

Correct use and placement of date, signature, etc. If you don’t know how to do this, google it.


B: Give ’Em a Good Opening Sentence/Paragraph

Your opening sentence is the most important part of your letter. Give them something enticing to read that will make them want to know more about you, your background, and why you would be a good fit for the job.


Take whatever antiquated advice you have gotten from whatever business class you’ve taken about “synergy” and other utterly useless HR bullshit buzzwords and sit on them. They may be for the boardroom, but they are not for your cover letter. Despite the empty jargon they spew, employers still want to hire people, not robots.


Now, let me preface this with saying that your opening cover letter will kiss a$$. A lot of a$$. Doesn’t mean it’s not sincere. It just means that you should prepare to put on some chapstick so that your lips won’t get too chapped.


The opening sentence should:

  1. Prove that you understand the company on a deeper level, meaning you are familiar with its work or mission. Anyone can apply for a job, but understanding why a company does what it does or showing interest in the brand elevates your resume.

  2. Show that you want the job.


Easy enough, right?


So, let’s write the first half of the sentence. But where to begin?


First, if you haven’t already, make sure that you read the company’s mission statement or any literature on the company’s website.


Now, we’re educated and informed. Let’s write.


“Wonka Candy has defined millions of childhoods around the world with sweet treats and the inspiration to dream big. I’d like to inspirit the next generation of dreamers and introduce them to the world of pure imagination as a Wonka Factory tour guide.”


Below, find more examples of opening sentences to help you out.


Examples of first sentences/paragraphs that I’ve used:


Position: Administrative Assistant

Employer: USTA

Sentence:

“In the game of tennis, you may get to serve twice, but in the game of life, you only live once. And I would really love to spend my one life working for the fantastic organization that is the USTA.”


Position: Associate, Special Events

Employer: The Wildlife Conservation Society

Sentence:

“While I admit that I have not personally protected Gorillas in the Congo or aided wolverines in the Yellowstone Rockies, I can say in full confidence I would be honored to work and help raise funds for the world’s preeminent conservation organization, the Wildlife Conservation Society.”


Position: Administrative Assistant

Employer: NY Mets

Sentence:

“Inscribed on the walls of Citi Field are American hero and baseball legend Jackie Robinson’s prolific words, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” And I would really love to spend my one life impacting the lives of every New York Mets fan by working for the fantastic organization that is the New York Mets.”


Yes, I used “one life” multiple times. I find that casual mentions of mortality up the ante.


Now that we’ve captured the reader’s attention, let’s display why we are a great candidate for the position.


C: The Body Paragraph


This one is much easier.


First, identify yourself. Put this sentence between the first sentence/paragraph, and your body paragraph:


“My name is [insert your name here], and I am a recent applicant for the [title of role] position for [name of company].”


Great, now to the meat of the body paragraph.


For this example, we’ll pretend that you currently work at a brewery, and have held multiple positions there. Your current role is as a Packaging Manager.


Go back to the job posting. Review it. What are the shared responsibilities between your current job/former job and this job posting? Highlight three actions words that you did in your last job.


Responsibilities:

  • Organize and host daily tours for the public.

  • Must have strong knowledge of the brand and familiarity with all products, including Fizzy Lifting Drinks, Everlasting Gobstoppers, Golden Eggs, etc.

  • Works closely in collaboration with mercurial CEO, certified crackpot, and “Forbes Top Entrepreneur of 1964,” William Wonka.

  • Must be in possession of a commercial license and is comfortable driving a fever-dream boat, and a bubbly, seemingly useless automobile that travels at max, 50 feet.

Great. Now the whole point of the body paragraph is to show how you are qualified for the position. Demonstrating that you already conduct the required responsibilities proves that you are an excellent candidate.


So, now we take those words and actions that we highlighted and include them in the body paragraph. Here’s what that looks like:


“I have extensive experience in the food and beverage industry, holding multiple positions for The Lil’ Brewing Company, where I have worked since 2016. In my current role as Packaging Manager, I collaborate closely with every department in the brewery to ensure that all the packaging, from the graphic design to the canning, and the shipping, is of the highest quality. I also host tours of the brewery each week, where I lead approx. 20 people per session around the brewery, enlightening our customers about The Lil’ Brewing Company’s history, its specific approach to brewing, and what makes it so special. After the tour ends, I lead those on tour into the taproom, where I answer any questions that they may have. I have also completed many deliveries to local retailers as well as customers, and have a commercial license to operate large trucks and other commercial vehicles.”


D: The Personal Paragraph


So this paragraph is optional. The personal paragraph is a short paragraph that reflects how you relate to the job/work/company on a personal level.


Here is an example paragraph for our Willy Wonka Tour guide position:


“Besides my extensive experience working in the food and beverage industry, I also have a deep affinity for Wonka products. After every report card in elementary school, my parents always gifted me with a Golden Egg for a job well done. My childhood and some of my greatest memories are punctuated with Wonka products, and I’d love to share that magic and nostalgia with future generations.”


This short paragraph not only shows that you are familiar with the products, but that there is sentimentality and a personal tie to the products as well. Having a personal connection to a brand or product makes you that much of a better hire, as you will be the perfect advocate for the company and employer.


E: The Closer


So close to the finish line. Let’s write one final paragraph to tie it together.


We want to reiterate the skills that we mentioned in the body paragraph, and thank the employer for its consideration:


“I believe that with my extensive experience hosting tours, strong collaboration skills, and background in the food and beverage industry, that I would be the perfect Tour Guide to help inspire the next generation of Wonkas. Attached please find my resume for consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you."


And now, let’s put it all together:

Dear [Recruiter/Hiring Manager/Etc.]


Wonka Candy has defined millions of childhoods around the world with sweet treats and the inspiration to dream big. I’d like to inspirit the next generation of dreamers and introduce them to the world of pure imagination as a Wonka Factory tour guide.


My name is Erin Maher, and I am a recent applicant for the Tour Guide position for Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.


I have extensive experience in the food and beverage industry, holding multiple positions for The Lil’ Brewing Company, where I have worked since 2016. In my current role as Packaging Manager, I collaborate closely with every department in the brewery to ensure that all the packaging, from the graphic design to the canning, and the shipping, is of the highest quality. I also host tours of the brewery each week, where I lead approx. 20 people per session around the brewery, enlightening our customers about The Lil’ Brewing Company’s history, its specific approach to brewing, and what makes it so special. After the tour ends, I lead those on tour into the taproom, where I answer any questions that they may have. I have also completed many deliveries to local retailers as well as customers, and have a commercial license to operate large trucks and other commercial vehicles.


Besides my extensive experience working in the food and beverage industry, I also have a deep affinity for Wonka products. After every report card in elementary school, my parents always gifted me with a Golden Egg for a job well done. My childhood and some of my greatest memories are punctuated with Wonka products, and I’d love to share that magic and nostalgia with future generations.


I believe that with my extensive experience hosting tours, strong collaboration skills, and background in the food and beverage industry, that I would be the perfect Tour Guide to help inspire the next generation of Wonkas. Attached please find my resume for consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Sincerely,


Erin Maher

And we’re done.


Did it take time, energy, and effort? Absolutely. But all the best things in life do. If you really want something, invest that time to put your best foot forward, you never know what will happen.


Of course, if you don’t want to write the cover letter, I’m always here to help. I can write, edit, and consult for all of your job hunting needs.


The cover letter is complete, and may I say, damn good.

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©2020 by Erin Maher