How to write a cover letter that won’t make me hate you

Intros first. I’m Andrew Jepsen, an Account Coordinator at LCI and I handle the hiring and recruiting for our internship program, so I end up reading a lot of applications. How many? Well, since we receive an average of two applications for the internship position a day, we end up with about 200 applications for one position.

So! How do you separate yourself from everyone else and get an interview? You already have a good resume, you have contacts to die for and your writing samples make convicts weep. Next, you have to write the best cover letter I’ve ever seen. Here’s how to do it:

• DO write your cover letter a day before you send it in. This will give you enough time to sleep on it and think of anything you missed, as well as double and triple proofread.
• DO address the requirements of the job posting in your cover letter.
• DO personalize your cover letter. If you know something about the place you’re applying, say it. Research the company’s website and address the company’s mission statement, or better, a case history.
• DO address a lacking resume. If you’ve been working in retail your whole life, tell me how that experience is applicable to public relations. Glossing over it in the cover letter doesn’t mean I won’t notice it anyway.
• DO use this as an opportunity to discuss anything not in your resume.
• DO keep it short. Three paragraphs are fine, but two is probably better.
• DON’T attach your cover letter in an email. It should be the first thing I see, so just put it in the body of your email.
• DON’T use a fancy font. If your cover letter needs embellishing with cursives or glitter, it’s not a good cover letter. Don’t make it hard to read, too.
• DON’T call or send your cover letter several times. You might think you’re showing persistence, but you’re more likely being annoying. A polite follow up email a week or two later is absolutely welcome. While we’ll respond within 24 hours (or on Monday), don’t expect all firms to get back to you in a timely fashion, or, well, ever.
• DON’T copy and paste cover letters. It’s obvious if you just replace ABC Inc. with XYZ Inc. And if you mess it up, it’s even more obvious.
• DON’T tell your reader what his/her company is. (“XYZ Inc. has a vision – one that combines creativity innovation and excitement.”) He or she knows exactly what his or her company is because he or she works there. You do not.
• DON’T waste your reader’s time with hollow phrases such as “I am a team player and very results driven.” If you’re truly a team player, tell me how, why. An example of how you carried an extra burden for a team member or a small anecdote will go a lot further than empty rhetoric.
• DON’T forget to let other people read your cover letter. Not only will they have some good ideas about what to say, they’ll also notice typos you didn’t. I’ve never outright rejected someone for a typo, but they’ve turned a ‘maybe’ to a ‘no’ and a ‘yes’ to a ‘maybe.’ Remember this is a writing job; if you can’t write a letter with two days lead time without typos, I can’t trust you to write anything in an hour without errors.

If you follow these steps, you aren’t guaranteed to get an interview, but you’ll be much better along than if you ignored these hints. Next time, I’ll give you a few tips on what to do once you’ve landed that nigh impossible interview.

In the meantime, as the cheap and irritable member of the LCI crew, I have a different take on our weekly top twelve bay area list of favorites than my colleagues.

Andrew’s Buzzworthy:

1. Yelp – Call it web 2.0 if you want to sound old, but either way, you should be using this rating system whenever possible.

2. Battle of the Bands – You’re already infuriating your neighbors with that racket. Why not please the masses with that racket?

3. The Firehouse Collective – You need a creepy ceramic, a teapot or landscape paintings of deserts? They can help.

4. Theatre of Yugen – Experimental theater takes on traditional forms of drama such as Butoh, Noh Drama and Kyogen comedy that I have nothing snarky to say about.

5. Gourmet Carousel – the best bad Chinese food you’ll ever have.

6. A $20,000 cup of coffee – What, you drink drip coffee? How quaint.

7. Goorin Brothers Bold Hatmakers – Last time I stopped by they had several hats on sale for 50% off. You could be so lucky.

8. SFist – Local news without news anchors. Good times.

9. City Lights Bookstore – Sure you’ve been there, but that was, what, ’97? You need more obscure poetry. Try Basil Bunting, Frederick Seidel or Christian Bok and stop feeding Barnes & Noble.

10. Cole coffee – East Bay’s best coffee, and possibly the best coffee I’ve ever had.

11. Racer 5 beer – A fine, ultra hoppy beer that packs a 7% wallop. It abounds in the Bay Area, as the brewery is California based.

12. Bay Area Dance Awards – also called the “Izzies,” this is a good way to catch up on new dance this April 28th. And, by the way, our boss David is a presenter there. No promises that he’ll dance, though.

6 thoughts on “How to write a cover letter that won’t make me hate you

  1. Fantastic blog with some excellent advice! I especially like the advice on what’s buzzworthy… keep it coming!

  2. Very nice cover letter tips! I think I will forward this on to my sister who is in the midst of applying to jobs.

  3. I just finished going through the application/hiring process and wish that I had had this advice! Love the buzzworthy items too.

  4. And somehow I still got the job. 😉

    Really helpful tips Andrew, good work! And I can’t stress how much I love Yelp!

  5. I absolutely loved this entry in the blog. So much that I forwarded it on to David’s two nephews. Keep up the good work!

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