Writing a Cover Letter

What is the purpose of a cover letter?

Cover letters are still an important piece to the application process because oftentimes resumes lack the opportunity and space to elaborate on relevant, crucial skills and experiences to land a job. In a resume, the goal is to pack in keywords and technical requirements, because of this, they aren’t always explained as best as they can be like a cover letter. 

While it may be relieving when a job application states the cover letter is “optional,” it’s actually a good moment to consider if taking the time to write one is necessary.

Writing a cover letter helps you explain your differentiators to other candidates, value propositions to the company, and who you are, specifically your personality and potential cultural fit. They also offer an opportunity to stand out from a group of applicants and fill the gap in your resume. For example, why you changed career paths, or why you have two degrees. 

Are cover letters reviewed by ATS? 

When it comes to cover letters and ATS, there are two aspects to consider: the technology standpoint and why they are important. 

ATS review cover letters and specifically look for keywords and possibly contact information. Although, an ATS does most of its work reviewing resumes. If your resume clears an ATS, a hiring manager will review your resume and possibly your cover letter. And while this doesn’t seem convincing to write a cover letter, let’s just say your resume is compared to another applicant, but you happen to have written a cover letter and they didn’t. You will stand out! Increasing your chance to land the job! 

Want to learn more about ATS? Click here to read more! 

What is necessary to have on a cover letter? 

Cover letters are most importantly used to clear the gap on your resume. They are also important for showcasing personality. All cover letters should include proper salutation and closing, relevant keywords and experiences, qualifications for the job, and contact information. 

So, what do we mean by “clear the gap” on your resume? For example, if you took a gap year after high school or college, what were you doing?  Or if you have a skills section, but some skills aren’t described; you should explain what you know. 

To personalize, maybe show some humor, or prestige, or facts. More than anything, show how you’d culturally fit in. But how you personalize, depends on the company you're applying to.

Honestly, use your resume as an outline for your cover letter. Fill in blank areas with qualifications, skills, and descriptions, and then take out what doesn’t make sense.  

What are the different types of cover letters?

To be honest, this is a loaded question. There are several types of cover letters you can write. The type you write is dependent on how you want to come off to the employer. Different types include Impact, Traditional, Referral, Non-Cover Letter. And these are not all of the different types of cover letters, there are more, and they may be categorized differently depending on where you research. But for now, let’s dive into each of these cover letter types.

Impact Cover Letter 

This type of letter is best used for job applications to non-traditional, trendy, or off-the-beaten-path companies (e.g., tech companies, consulting firms, non-profit organizations). These cover letters can include more pizazz and showcase your personality. It can start with something catchy or casual that will bring attention to you, like “You know what?” or “One time when I was…” 

This cover letter type also provides a wide range of ways you can showcase your skills and successes in past experiences. By tying in different elements from your past, you should be able to prove why you could take on this new career opportunity and why you would be the best fit for the position and company. 

Traditional Cover Letter

This type of letter is based on the general cover letter that you have likely seen before. “I’m writing to apply for the position of X for Y…” Generally, these cover letters are best used for more traditional companies like healthcare, government, law firms. There isn’t much personality wrapped into this cover letter, but companies that receive these types of cover letters aren’t looking for personality as much as they are looking for experience and skill. The goal of this cover letter is to be professional and straight to the point. 

Write an introduction, what you are applying for, who you are, and a quick why you’re excited about this opportunity. Then the next 2-3 paragraphs discuss specific experiences from your resume that are relevant to the job opening and can explain why you have the skills and experiences to be hired for this position. Lastly, the closing paragraph is to wrap up what you discussed, thank them for their time, and say you are looking forward to hearing from them. 

Referral Cover Letter 

This type of cover letter should only be used if you know someone at a company or someone with a strong connection to a company. You don’t have to use this cover letter if you know someone, but it can be helpful for the interview process if you name drop. Having a referral can help you stand out from the crowd. Hiring managers and recruiters will likely take a closer look at candidates who share a mutual contact because hiring through employee referrals can result in faster, cheaper, more effective hiring than relying on job sites (a.k.a. Applicant Tracking Systems).

When writing this type of cover letter, be sure to mention the referral upfront. Write who referred you, how you know them, and why they recommend you. Obviously don’t drop a name unless you have consulted with them beforehand (like your friends, cousins, roommate won’t work unless you’ve talked with them before). Then after mentioning the referral, expand on your strengths, accomplishments, skills, and why you would be the best candidate. 

You can definitely add some personality to this cover letter if it doesn’t need to follow a more traditional outline after the referral is mentioned. 

“Non-Cover Letter” Cover Letter

This type of cover letter is professional and short. Generally, this will be used when sending your resume to a hiring manager via email. 

It’s quite simple and does not follow a specific format, but it will include a greeting, details about your experience, and why you are interested in the company. Then be sure to share which documents are attached to the email and the best way to contact you. 

Using Resume as Cover Letter Outline Example

Let’s say you’re looking to apply for a Data Analyst position at a consulting firm. 

Part of the job description includes, “Research and analyze competitive compensation practices in a defined labor market.”

On your resume, you have research experience from either a past internship or college course relative to economics, marketing, sales, etc. 

Fill in the blanks from your resume to fully connect job responsibility… “During Spring 2020, I conducted research on X in my Management Consulting Course. I learned Y because Z. From this experience, I am confident I can collaborate with A and conduct superb analytics for B.”  


Impact Cover Letter Outline


Name

name@email.com

(XXX) XXX-XXXX

Month XX, Year

Hiring Manager Name 

Consulting XYZ

123 Company Address

City, State, Zip Code 

Hi [Hiring Manager’s Name], 

What a crazy year it has been? I graduated from Quinncia University with honors, received my Business Consultant Certification, and interned with a local organization as a Data Analyst all from the comfort of my home behind a computer screen. 

Like most people, I learned a lot about myself and developed new skills, personally, like how to be a self-starter, stay organized, and most importantly, how to be resilient. Now, as I’m en route to receiving my first full-time job, I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see the Junior Analyst opening at Consulting XYZ! Here’s why: 

I currently volunteer for [company name], where I work closely with [add in skills and experiences relevant to the position}. 

Previously, as an intern for [company name], I received praise for [add skills and experience].

I also have spent a large amount of time researching [explain research topic and why it’s important].

Thank you very much for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Name 

name@email.com

(XXX) XXX-XXXX

Traditional Cover Letter Outline


Name

name@email.com

(XXX) XXX-XXXX


Month XX, Year

Hiring Manager Name 

Consulting XYZ

123 Company Address

City, State, Zip Code 

Dear [Hiring Manager’s Name], 

During my time in college, I have sharpened my research and analytical skills by dedicating time interning as X, volunteering as Y, and researching Z. The organizations I have worked with have complimented me on my attention to detail and willingness to support team members. Consulting XYZ’s 10 years of success proves the company has a strong team and work ethic to help partners, which is why  I want to be part of the team as the Junior Analyst.

I currently volunteer for [company name], where I work closely with [add in skills and experiences relevant to the position}. 

Previously, as an intern for [company name], I received praise for [add skills and experience].

My further qualification includes a Bachelor’s Degree from Quinncia University, a Business Consultant Certification, and training in Hubspot, Microsoft Suite, and Datavail. 

I would love the opportunity to discuss how I can contribute to your consulting team. Thank you in advance for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely, 

Name 

name@email.com

(XXX) XXX-XXXX

Referral Cover Letter Outline


Name

name@email.com

(XXX) XXX-XXX

Month XX, Year

Hiring Manager Name 

Consulting XYZ

123 Company Address

City, State, Zip Code 

Hi [Hiring Manager’s Name], 

Jon Doe, an Associate Consultant at Consulting XYZ, recently told me about an opening for the Junior Analyst role. While interning for [company name], Jon was my manager. He always complimented me on my attention to detail and willingness to support team members in any way possible.

My time interning for [company name], pushed me to strengthen similar skills to the ones I learned as a Data Analyst at [company name], such as X, Y, and Z. 

I currently volunteer for [company name], where I work closely with [add in skills and experiences relevant to the position}. 

I also have spent a large amount of time researching [explain research topic and why it’s important], which is a skill Jon saw me develop as an intern for him. 

My further qualification includes a Bachelor’s Degree from Quinncia University, a Business Consultant Certification, and training in Hubspot, Microsoft Suite, and Datavail. 

Thank you in advance for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely, 

Name 

name@email.com

(XXX) XXX-XXXX

“Non-Cover Letter” Cover Letter Outline



Subject: [Position Title] Cover Letter & Resume

Month XX, Year 

Hiring Manager Name 

Consulting XYZ

123 Company Address

City, State, Zip Code 

Hi [Hiring Manager’s Name], 

I hope you are well!  

My name is Jane Doe, a recent graduate of Quinncia University, and came across the job posting for the Junior Analyst position at Consulting XYZ. Through my experiences and reviewing this job description, I think I would be a great fit for this position and for the Consulting XYZ team!

For the last four years, I have sharpened my research and analyst skills by dedicating my time interning as X, volunteering as Y, and researching Z. Recently I also received my Business Consultant Certification and interned with a local organization as a Data Analyst.  

It would be great to discuss this opportunity in more detail and share how I can be an asset to the team. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!

Warm regards,

Name 

name@email.com

(XXX) XXX-XXXX


Anything else?

We get it! Cover letters can be overwhelming and take some extra brain-power. Try to have some fun with it! While in the application process, be sure to research the companies and organizations you may apply to. Make sure it’s a place you want to work (e.g., culture, location, industry, etc.). Consider if the position is going to set you up for future career milestones. 

If you truly are applying for an opportunity that means a lot to you, it’s worth it to take this extra time to write a cover letter. It could be what makes it a dream vs. a reality! 

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