What is the most effective formula or strategy for writing a great cover letter?
Writing a solid cover letter comes down to a few key points – who your audience is, what kind of information is important to them, and the best way of communicating that visually and verbally. On top of that, communicating a strong message that complements your resume and markets your most marketable experience, knowledge, and skill sets is really the core of what the letter should be about.
Before you start, do use the same formatting/style elements as your resume, including the header that has your name and contact info. Creating uniformity in your presentation sets a professional tone. In general, the cover letter should make the connection between the skill and experience-based qualifications in your resume, and your interest and relevance to the particular role, organization, and industry at hand. This can be particularly import for career changers looking to illustrate why they’re making a change, and why that transition (that may or may not include hands-on experience) will be a smooth one.
1) Open with a mention of what position and organization you’re applying to:
It sounds unnecessary, but a hiring manager can be recruiting for 100s of different positions, particularly if they’re a third-party placement firm, so you need to be clear as possible. This also makes it easy for them to forward your letter and resume along to the appropriate party who might be making the hiring and interviewing decisions. If you’re unsure how to address your reader, go with a simple greeting such as “Dear Hiring Manager”, or even “Hello-“. “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam” sound antiquated.
Dear Hiring Manager:
I’m reaching out to you with interest in the Graphic Designer role with Aspyre Solutions. I have over 6 years of experience…
2) Your cover letter should supplement your resume, not recreate it exactly:
Follow your opening with a 1 to 2-line brief high-level overview of your expertise or specialization, and what you bring to the table.
My background combines over 7 years of experience creating compelling integrated campaigns for clients in the retail and fashion space, with a strong knowledge of designing interfaces for mobile and tablet platforms. I’ve collaborated with a number of highly-respected creative agencies including Digitas, Publicis, and BBDO to create award-winning work that speaks to customers’ goals and expectations.
3) The next paragraph begins the main body of your cover letter:
How you approach it will differ depending upon your current employment situation and what you’re trying to convey. In a typical case, you might start off by introducing your current role and organization with a brief overview of what you do there, and any pertinent details to supplement that, such as accomplishments or ways that you’ve really positively impacted the company. The goal isn’t to reiterate what’s on the resume, but to give a compelling lead in that suggests that what you’re currently doing is relevant to the role you’re applying for. You might do the same for previous roles, but again, be concise.
As Senior Designer for the ABC group, I lead a group of 3 digital designers in the creation of integrated marketing campaigns across print, web, and mobile for high-end fashion clientele including Ralph Lauren, JCrew, and Louis Vuitton. With 5 years of experience at the agency, my role is duel-focused on both hands-on design work and project leadership, serving as the primary point of contact between cross-functional agency teams, vendors, and clients. I recently served as the lead creative on a digital campaign for XYZ brand, which won multiple One Show awards and helped elevate the agency’s reputation as a key player in the fashion advertising space.
4) The next paragraph gives you a chance to really personalize and tailor the letter:
This is where you might discuss why you feel you’re a great fit for this particular role and organization. This is important because it not only shows that you did your homework and research, but this is how you effectively customize a cover letter. What aspects attract you to the role? How do you see yourself really thriving in this type of culture? What do you bring to the organization that’s particularly unique? You might go into personal attributes here as well, perhaps soft skills like how your ability to be flexible and adapt quickly makes you a strong candidate for successfully navigating a career change, or your passion for your work has proved valuable in moving up through your organization.
I’ve been following Aspyre Solutions’ work and am intrigued by the new direction the agency is taking in establishing itself as experts in the multicultural advertising space. This appeals to me greatly, as I also bring experience within the Hispanic market sector from my last role as a Designer for DraftFBC, in addition to being a native Spanish speaker and having lived in Mexico for 3 years. To gain more experience in that space while leveraging my existing knowledge of the market would be the ideal next move in my career.
5) Finally, close out with 1 to 2 lines inviting them to contact you for a meeting:
Be sure to thank them in advance for their consideration.
I welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss the needs of the position and my qualifications in more depth. Thank you in advance for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you regarding next steps.
One thing to note is that your cover letter may address other areas outside of those mentioned, particularly if you’re changing careers, or perhaps making a transition from being self-employed for a long period of time back into the traditional 9 to 5. Another potential area is discussing an employment gap, which I advise you to do so in a way that points back to your strengths. Took time off to travel? What skills or knowledge, or cultural immersion did you gain along the way? It’s not the place to discuss maternity leave, illness, or other information that might be better left to a one-on-on conversation during an interview. Remember, this is your first impression, so make it your best.
Need some additional inspiration for creating that perfect outreach letter? Try one of my customizable email marketing scripts to create an impactful message that grabs their attention. Try one of my templated email marketing scripts.
Photo Credit: Michael Sauers of Flickr
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Category Manager Cover Letter
Category Managers hold responsibility for a certain category of products within the retail industry, encompassing sales, product development, merchandising, revenue generation, and customer relationships. A sharp understanding of product and industry sales trends, as well as competitive offerings, is an asset in this role.
Successful cover letters for Category Managers often mention the following skills and qualifications:
- Merchandising and pricing
- Product positioning and messaging
- Shopper and category insight/analysis
- Budget development/management
- Portfolio management and expansion
- Sales and revenue acceleration
- Networking and relationship building
- Staff coaching and leadership
Below please find a cover letter for a Category Manager with similar abilities and experience.
For help with your resume, check out our extensive Category Manager Resume Samples.
Dear Ms. Gates:
Upon discovering your posting for a Category Manager, I hastened to submit my resume for your review. As an experienced and motivated retail product and category specialist with outstanding experience in shopper and category analysis and direction, I am prepared to significantly contribute to Talk Soup’s goals in this role.
My background spans excellent experience leading strategic sales/merchandising planning, revenue generation, category and shopper management analysis, and key insights to drive business and customer service success. From propelling incremental product sales to analyzing data to identify new opportunities for expansion, I excel at managing teams, stimulating sales and revenue growth, and realizing maximum levels of customer service and satisfaction through keen customer needs analysis and outstanding relationship management.
Highlights of my experience include:
- Progressing through numerous promotions with Swingset, Inc., culminating in current position as Category Manager in which I hold full responsibility for a $125M retail portfolio of the company’s flagship products; expanding portfolio by 37% in ’15, 46% in ’16, and 29% YTD in ’17 by developing and executing strategic action plans.
- Skillfully analyzing consumer and category insights to identify strategic opportunities and implement recommendations to propel category sales growth.
- Researching and tracking competitor product offerings to identify future opportunities.
- Collaborating effectively with internal and external cross-functional teams to accelerate sales growth and realize significant business gains at the customer level.
- Demonstrating unparalleled analytical, training, communication, and presentation skills throughout my career.
My skills in category management and shopper and category insight analysis have been finely honed, and I am confident my strengths will render me an immediate asset to your team. The chance to offer more insight into my qualifications would be most appreciated.
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to speaking with you soon.
Robert K. Chacon