A cover letter is the first sign any employer has of an applicant’s quality. For writing jobs, it’s doubly important: why would somebody hire you to write for them if you can’t write compelling copy for yourself?
Good cover letter writing strikes a balance between time-consuming customization and a basic form that lets you get the thing in the mail today. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, your letter should include the following elements:
- Personalized greeting if possible (and possible includes “possible with research”).
- Demonstrating knowledge of the client and the specific assignment or position.
- Pointing out specific traits that make you excellent for the job.
- Specifics called out in the job description or ad post.
- A compelling closing with a call to action.
Email cover letters have the same characteristics, although with the anonymous nature of some job posts, it’s growing increasingly difficult to personalize your greeting.
It’s a good idea to have one or two basic cover letter templates on file for each major job type you routinely seek. You’ll add to the framework with details that tailor the letter to a specific job. Here’s an example of one of my templates, used for marketing copy:
Jason Brick here, freelance writer responding to your call for (XXXX). I came to writing professionally after a career in business management and ownership. This means you get not just a solid writer, you get somebody who understands the importance and context of excellent copy.
(XXXX — details of assignment, connections)
You can find my resume and several writing samples at my online portfolio www.brickcommajason.com. (XXXX- qualifications). I work well with editors and meet deadlines with ruthless efficiency.
If my skills and experience match your needs, I look forward to learning more about the project. Thank you for your time and consideration. Have an excellent day.
I have no illusions that it’s the best darn cover letter ever written, but it’s kept my family fed for a few years now. Sometimes the finished product is pretty much this exactly. Other times — especially when the job description is detailed enough to give me something to work with — it will be unrecognizable.
How about you? What’s your process for cover letters? What lessons have you learned in this part of the job hunt?