AMY LINDGREN: Three cover letter templates
When you’re involved in an active job search, efficient use of time becomes almost a prime directive. The more steps you can streamline, the more employers you can contact.
Cover letters are a good place to start in the search for efficiency. Whether you’re responding to advertised postings, uploading letters to an online application form, or contacting potential employers individually, you can save time and brain cells by creating template letters at the beginning of your search.
In this case, the term “template” doesn’t refer to a form to be completed. Rather, it’s a looser concept to indicate a series of decisions that you make in advance, coupled with pre-written “boilerplate” paragraphs that you can modify for different opportunities. With practice, you should find that this pre-work saves you significant time in the initial stages of contacting employers.
You can create these templates for a variety of purposes, but there’s an argument to be made for keeping the inventory of letters small, to let you focus energy on broader aspects of your outreach strategy. Following are three that will suit for most initial contacts that you would make in your search.
Template one is as plain as you can get, and is ideal for situations when you simply want to acknowledge that you’re sending materials. It would usually be sent in the body of your email and would say:
I have attached my resume in response to your posting for a ____. Thank you in advance for considering me; I look forward to the opportunity to discuss this position in the near future.
Template two is more detailed and more customized to the position. This model is best used for situations in which you fit requested criteria fairly well, eliminating the need to explain very much.
As a ______ with __ years of experience, I was very excited to see your posting for a ___. In reviewing your needs, I see that my skills match the required criteria. I also have a number of additional strengths and work experiences that I believe would be helpful.
My resume contains more details, but here are the highlights of what I could offer in this role:
(Include four or five bullets with short sentences or phrases noting your main assets for the job. If it’s possible without sounding stilted, incorporate some of the keywords from their posting – but don’t copy and paste whole phrases.)
I would be very interested in discussing this opportunity further, and look forward to talking with you soon.
Template three is nearly entirely customized, which makes the use of boilerplate paragraphs an important time-saver. Despite this apparent oxymoron, you’ll see that customizing boilerplates is usually easier than writing a fresh letter each time.
As an admirer of XYZ Corporation, (any warm opening can be used, including a reference to a mutual contact, or perhaps acknowledgement of the company’s success – XYZ’s leadership in the field makes your current opening for a ___ extremely appealing to me. If you have nothing specific to use, default to I’m delighted to respond to your posting for a ___ or I’m interested in talking with you about current or future needs for a ____.)
With in-depth experience as a ____ and additional strengths in ___ and ___, I have a lot to offer in the role of ____. As you’ll see from my resume, my background includes ____, which has brought me in frequent contact with your company (or some other information that connects you to the company or field). My contacts in the field and my understanding of related regulations (or whatever your key strengths are) will let me make an immediate contribution in your department.
I’m especially proud of my ability to ____. For example, in my current role, I…(drop in a boilerplate story or a few sentences with metrics or other successes from current or past work).
XYZ Corporation is an excellent organization (if you can honestly say something positive about the company, this makes a nice conclusion) and I would be very interested in discussing ways I could contribute to your continued success. I look forward to talking with you soon.
Now that you have some ideas for pre-writing baseline cover letters, here’s a warning: These shortcuts are best-suited for initial contact. Once you’re actively engaged in an email conversation, you’ll need to leave the template behind in favor of more customized correspondence.
If you still have questions about the fine points of writing cover letters, you’re in luck: Next week’s column concludes this series with a clip-and-save list of solutions to 20 niggling cover letter problems.
Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 626 Armstrong Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102.