- Cover letters are nobody’s favorite, but they play a vital role in making your resume come to life.
- The best cover letters are tailored in tone and structure to the industry’s expectations.
- Insider spoke to experts about cover letters for technology, law, consulting, and marketing.
If your resume is you on paper, the cover letter is your chance to make your qualifications come to life.
But the first piece of advice you’ll find anywhere is that cover letters aren’t one-size-fits-all. In fact, industry to industry, this part of the application looks completely different in terms of tone, structure, and expectations. For example, what’s personable in a marketing letter might be unprofessional in a consulting letter.
If you’re making a big move, you’re in good company. According to the November report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, companies are seeking to fill over 10.6 million open jobs in the US, marking an unprecedented chance for people to find their dream job.
Insider spoke to recruiters and executives about the secrets of cover letter writing for technology, law, consulting, and marketing.
Thomas Vick, regional director for information technology at the talent firm Robert Half, said the main goal of a cover letter for a tech job is conveying experience with relevant technology. Preferred computer languages change with the tides, so a long list of every program is a waste of space.
Vick suggests starting the letter with a concise introduction and a quick snapshot of what you’d bring to the specific company. The body of a cover letter is the place to describe an example of how you used relevant technology to solve a problem. Words like manipulate, create, and execute are great choices to start.
“What return on investment have you created for an organization?” Vick said. “What have you done in your career that has helped save a company time, energy, and money?”
And don’t procrastinate. Cover letters are nobody’s favorite, especially if you prefer writing code, but Vick emphasized that cover letters are still expected for tech jobs across the board.
For law, a cover letter needs to showcase your writing skills, grab attention, and match your experience with the specific opportunity. Billie Moliere, district president for Robert Half’s legal team, said the ideal tone for the cover letter should be professional and personalized.
“You want the cover letter to read as if you were having a conversation about yourself and your interest in the job,” Moliere said. “Also with legal, you are demonstrating your writing ability. You should think about it as a writing sample.”
For legal, the cover letter is also a good place to name drop. Moliere encourages candidates to mention their law school and any connections you have to the firm. She also suggested ending the letter with a specific time to follow up, rather than waiting for the firm to reach out to you.
Here’s an example of how to end a cover letter from Robert Half:
Because my professional goals align with the [FIRM’S] mission and values, this opportunity is especially exciting. I believe my critical thinking, communication and decision-making abilities will support and drive your continued organizational success.
To demonstrate the scope of my career history and professional competencies, please take a moment to review my attached resume. I appreciate your evaluation of my credentials and welcome the opportunity to demonstrate how my experience and record of success in previous roles can provide immediate value to your firm and business. I will follow up with you in the coming days to discuss potential next steps.
I look forward to connecting with you soon.
[NAME and CONTACT INFORMATION]
Lauren Kelly is the chief marketing officer for ThoughtExchange, a company developing future of work solutions, and she’s worked in marketing for over 20 years at Dell, Pepsi, and Deloitte.
For cover letters, Kelly emphasized knowing your audience — a variety of people like recruiters, managers, and other employees read them, so avoid anything “gimmicky.” Also, as more cover letters are scanned through digital resources, she urged candidates to follow up and send language from their cover letters through email or LinkedIn.
Kelly encouraged candidates to make the structure of a cover letter their own, since marketing requires individuality. She suggested starting with strong adjectives. For example, Kelly is a “customer empath” and a “situational leader.” These descriptors show who she is and how she can turn a phrase.
Kelly said writing a good cover letter goes back to the basics of marketing. You should position yourself like a product — knowing your audience, connecting your qualifications to the company’s needs, making a memorable impact, and keeping the writing as easy to read as possible.
The main skills needed for consulting, like leadership, relationship building, and intuitiveness can’t fit on a resume, so the cover letter is where a candidate can show what they bring to the company. Heather Kristan is the director of talent acquisition for Altman Solon, and she said the cover letter is the best place to convey excitement about the position.
Kristan said she’s surprised how many letters come to her with the name of a different consulting firm on the top. She encouraged candidates to mention specific partners they follow or white papers they’ve read to demonstrate that they’ve done their research on the company.
“There’s a difference between someone going through the motions of a cover letter, versus someone who uses it as an opportunity to showcase why they are a great fit,” Kristan said. “When it’s used that way, it’s incredibly effective.”
Here’s an example of an introduction that Kristan provided:
I am a first-year MBA student at [Name of School] writing to express my strong interest in the Summer Associate position at Altman Solon. Through conversations with [Names of Individuals at Altman Solon] I have learned that Altman Solon’s small size, narrow focus and analytical approach have led to its preeminence in TMT strategy consulting. I am confident that my substantial relationship development experience, quantitative skills and passion for the media industry will position me to contribute immediately to your team.