Writing a cover letter’s a daunting task, but crafting a compelling and customized version that addresses a prospective employer’s pain points can sometimes feel downright impossible.
Where do you even begin?
It’s actually way easier than you might think—all you need is a killer template, some eagle-eyed reading skills, and maybe a little detective work.
Find the Pain Point
To start, you’ll need to identify the problem you’d solve if you joined the team. Pull up the job and read through the description.
As you review each duty, ask yourself why the company might need someone to handle these responsibilities. Are they growing like crazy? Redesigning a process? Looking for someone to get things organized? Keep in mind that whatever the need is, it’ll likely encompass most (if not all) of the expectations they’ve chosen to list.
Address it in Your Intro
Let’s say you’re planning to apply for an email marketing coordinator position with a company that would like to find someone who can truly take ownership of their newsletter communications in order to drive demand generation. They’d probably be thrilled to receive a cover letter that read:
Delivering flawlessly executed email marketing campaigns from start to finish is kind of my thing. As the marketing coordinator at iTech, I guide the production and execution of 25 unique monthly email campaigns and have grown new lead generation by 50% in just six months.
The first few lines should serve to acknowledge the company’s challenge and explain how you’ll be able to solve it. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to directly address how your experience will enable to you tackle the hiring manager’s pain points.
If you’re looking for an email marketing coordinator with HTML and Adobe Creative Suite expertise, and a talent for delivering unique and compelling marketing campaigns across a variety of digital channels, I might just be the answer to your prayers.
Expand on the Solution
Once you’ve nailed your introductory paragraph, you’ll want to use the body to expand on your relevant skills, as they relate to your potential manager’s biggest struggles. Clear, concise bullet points can be an incredibly effective way to make your transferable skills and experience pop.
Say you’re pursuing an IT management role with a focus on technical support. The second and third paragraphs might read something like this:
With more than six years of experience in the IT space, I’m well-versed in the intricacies of help desk management. This past quarter, I had the privilege of building a technical support function for a 150-person office. With the help of my team, we successfully created a helpdesk ticketing system from scratch, resulting in a 150% increase in issue-resolution efficiency.
I would be eager to bring my applicable experience, along with my passion for designing, implementing, and managing effective, user-friendly programs to the ABC Company team. Here’s a snapshot of what I could do, specifically for your organization:
Alleviate Technical Delays. In my current role, I’ve successfully cut technical issues by 60%, resulting in increased company-wide productivity and an estimated $500K in savings.
Build, Train, and Grow a Top-Notch IT Support Team. I was hired at iTech to develop a full-service IT support function. In just six months, I’d recruited, onboarded, and trained a team of four help-desk technicians, and launched a ticketing system with a 15-minute average response time.
Identify and Implement Key IT Functions. Whether you’re shopping for a new phone provider or gearing up for a total technical overhaul, I’ve got you covered. My breadth of experience across IT systems, databases, hardware and software enables me to research and identify the best solutions for an organization’s unique needs. I also have extensive experience with technical implementations, having led 15+ launches over the past three years.
Using the prompts in a job description, you should be able to easily create bullet points that illustrate your transferable experience. (And if you don't know what’s transferable and what’s not, this simple formula makes it easy.) If you don’t have examples for the top three or four bullet points listed, you can always use responsibilities listed eleswhere in the description, highlight your relevant technical skills, or feature intangible traits.
This section allows you to paint a clearer picture of your work history, your career ambitions, and your experience as it applies to the job you’re hoping to land. Don’t be shy about your accomplishments or skills—now’s the time to brag!
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You’ll want to use the concluding paragraph to bring everything together. Think of it as your closing sales pitch. You’ll want to sum up your experience, highlight your genuine interest, and ask for the interview.
Here’s how it might look if you were applying for a customer success role:
I’ve always admired ABC Company’s commitment to client service as I’ve found that creating an exceptional customer experience is the key to long-term success. I believe that my four years of experience in a customer-facing role, dedication to client advocacy, and demonstrated ability to exceeding sales and retention goals will play an instrumental role in not only growing revenue but also in cultivating client loyalty.
I’d welcome the opportunity to discuss how my customer success experience may benefit the ABC team and look forward to hearing from you. I’ll be sure to follow up on [date one week from application] if we aren’t able to connect this week.
Thank you for your time and consideration!
Ready to write your very own pain point cover letter? This template will help you to bring it all together.
Reference the pain point you’ve identified in your opening line, e.g., “I have a reputation for designing killer websites”.
Experience in a Nutshell:
Be sure to include your most relevant experience as it relates to the problem you’d be hired to solve.
This could be a recent project, a new process implementation, or a number like, “saved my employer $5k in annual expenses” or “increased customer satisfaction by 25%.” If you’re looking for an [insert descriptive word from the job description here, e.g., motivated, collaborative, driven] [insert target job title] with experience [insert key skills from job description here, [i.e., managing a team, engaging with clients, troubleshooting IT issues], I may be just the person you’ve been searching for!
What would you like this prospective employer to know about you? Are you known for being a collaborative leader? Have you won any awards or been recognized by your peers? Have you recently completed an important project, saved your company money, or implemented a new system? This is where you’ll want to highlight your proudest, most relevant achievements.
Assigning a metric (total number, time period, dollar amount, or percentage) helps to make your accomplishments more tangible. Include them here as applicable!
This is where you’ll remind the reader that your intention is to bring all of these great skills to their team. Here’s a snapshot of what I could do, specifically for your organization.
Reiterate Why You’re Interested in This Company in Particular:
This could be for myriad reasons—you love the company culture, connect with their mission, admire their approach to client service, were blown away by their most recent product launch, and so on.
Drive Home the Why:
Include a brief summary of how you’ll be able to address the company’s pain points.
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss how my (transferable experience here) might help (Company Name) team and can be reached via phone or email.
Sitting down to write a cover letter that addresses your prospective employer’s most prickly pain points can be pretty painless with the right approach. It’s as simple as identifying the problem you’d be hired to solve and explaining how your experience will help you to do so. Add in a few compelling examples and quantifiable metrics, and you’ll land that interview in no time.
The basic format of a good cover letter is:
-- A three-sentence paragraph up top that summarizes your skills and experience that are explicitly related to the job in question.
-- Bulleted list of achievements that are directly related to the job.
-- Summary paragraph that says you really think you'd add to the company's bottom line (say that in a specifically relevant way) and that you'd like to set up a meeting to talk.
Here's a sample cover letter to give you a sense of what you're aiming for.
The cover letter should be pretty straightforward. The problem is that most people think they are an exception to the rules of cover letter writing. Most people, in fact, are not exceptions to any rule. Just statistically speaking. And your career will go much more smoothly if you stop thinking like you're a special case.
For cover letters, I find people are more willing to follow general formatting guidelines if the understand the reasoning behind it.
1. Don't stand out
You do not want to stand out for the format of your cover letter. You want to stand out for your skills and experience. Good resumes follow the rules of good resumes because hiring managers want to compare apples to apples. You should follow a generally accepted format so that if you do have things that are great about you, those things stand out. If you use a totally new, creative, innovative, however-you-describe-it, format, the hiring manager cannot see what makes you different beyond that you don't understand how to make life easy for hiring managers.
2. Use bullets
When people read cover letters, they are in a hiring mindset. That is, they are expecting to scan a page to get a general idea of someone. This is what the resume format is great for - leading the eye to the most information quickly. A good cover letter should be that way, too. This means you need to have a bulleted list. The cover letter is short, so include just one list. Three or five bullets (the brain handles odd numbered lists best). Once the bullets are on the page, you can bet that someone reading will read those first. Make them so strong that they get you the interview before the interviewer gets to the resume.
3. Write from the recruiter's point of view
Address the person by name if possible. They immediately like you better. And use the name of their company. People like reading that, too. Write, in the opening paragraph, what skills and experience you have that will allow you to do a great job in the position you'd like to interview for. So often people want to tell the hiring manger ALL their experience. But the hiring manager only cares about the perfectly relevant experience. Also, lift words from the job description and use them in the cover letter.
4. Show you understand the rules of the workforce
Of course, all hotshots break rules. But you can't break rules if you don't know what they are. Breaking implies knowing. Otherwise it's not rule-breaking; it's just acting out of ignorance. A cover letter is a way to show a hiring manager you have learned the rules. Here are some tips for getting good at thinking outside the box. And, hint: None of the tips involve cover letters.
5. Don't ask too much of a cover letter
Look, a good cover letter does not save your life. It's just sort of the icing on the cake. For example, a great cover letter for a job you'll hate is no good. So before you spend a lot of time on that cover letter, do the most important work of any job hunt: seek out resources for how to find a job you'll love