When it comes to applying for a job, you want to provide a highlight reel of your career path and show why your background and experiences make you an ideal fit for the position in question. To do this effectively, you can start with a cover letter template.
But, well, what if you don’t exactly have that perfectly trodden path?
For many of us, tying together three tangentially related experiences, a side gig, and some outside-of-work interests or volunteer work to explain why we could do the gig is more the norm. So, how exactly do you do that in a tidy one-page cover letter and thoughtfully showcase why you’re the right one for the position?
Hint: It’s all about highlighting your transferable skills.
This approach shifts the conversation away from relevant experience and more toward whether you can do that job or not—and that is exactly what you want to do when you haven’t had a linear career path.
So, how do you do it?
First, figure out which skills you want to emphasize by carefully reviewing the job description. Underline or highlight the most important technical and behavioral skills the position requires. (Or, better yet, find a contact who knows the hiring manager and do some recon work to see what he or she is really looking for.)
Choose three skills that you feel are your strong suits to focus on. For each one, brainstorm some projects, assignments, or responsibilities that truly illustrate your expertise in that area, then select either one in-depth or a couple of shorter experiences to talk about.
Finally, roll it all together into a cover letter that clearly highlights those skills. It’ll be structured something like this:
With the utmost enthusiasm, I would like to express my interest in the [position title] position at [company]. My interest in [field] has taken me from [experience] to [experience]. I believe that my passion for [aspect of your field or background], strong commitment to [aspect of your field or background], and interest in [aspect of your field or background] make me an ideal candidate to join the [department] staff at [company].
As a candidate, here’s what I could immediately bring to the table:
An effective [descriptor that reflects transferable skill #1]:In my role at [previous job], I [action or accomplishment]. I was also able to showcase my [skill] abilities as a [role] in [project name] project by [what you did].
A disciplined [descriptor that reflects transferable skill #2]:I have always displayed my careful approach to [job duty] by [action]. At [previous company], I frequently [action]. In addition, I had the opportunity to [action or accomplishment], which further shows my dedication to [aspect of your field].
A passionate [descriptor that reflects transferable skill #3]:Everything I have engaged in so far has all been driven by my keen interest in [aspect of your field]. Even as a [previous role], I made sure to dedicate some part of my day to [action]. It is this passion that has driven every one of my career decisions thus far.
I look forward to contributing my skills and experiences to the [position title] position at [company] and hope to have the opportunity to speak with you further about how I can be an asset to your team.
Of course, you can (and should!) insert your personality, creativity, and knowledge of the company into your letter—but this framework is a helpful way to convey your most relevant transferable skills to the recruiter (making his or her job a whole lot easier). Don’t bother walking through your entire career path and justifying every professional decision you made. Do the hiring manager (and yourself) a favor, and let your skills speak for themselves.
...why not make it easier on yourself?
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Cover Letter Examples and Writing Tips
100+ Free Cover Letter Samples Listed By Type, Format, and Job
When applying for a job, a cover letter should be sent or posted with your resume or curriculum vitae. A cover letter is a (typically) one-page document that explains to the hiring manager why you are an ideal candidate for the job. It goes beyond your resume to explain in detail how you could add value to the company.
It can be helpful to look at cover letter samples when writing your own. A sample can help you decide what to include in your letter, and how to format the letter.
This collection of free professionally written cover letter examples will help you get started. Below you'll find both hard copy and email examples, for a variety of different types of employment inquiries and job applications including general cover letters, cold contact cover letters, referral letters, customized cover letters, job promotion letters, networking outreach letters, and letters to inquire about unadvertised openings.
Cover Letter Examples and Templates
These samples, templates, and examples of different types of cover letters will give you ideas and suggestions for your letter. Read through some samples, and then customize your own letter so it shows why you should be selected for an interview.
Cover Letter Samples
Review examples of cover letters and email cover letter messages for a variety of circumstances.
Applying for a New Job
Applying for a Transfer or Promotion
Email Cover Letter Examples
Inquiry and Networking Letters
Cover Letters With a Referral
Cover Letter Formats and Templates
Review examples of professional formats, layouts, and templates to use to apply for jobs.
Examples Listed by Type of Applicant
These cover letter samples are for candidates who are applying for a specific type or level of position.
Tips for Writing a Cover Letter
Tailor each letter to the job. It takes a little extra time, but be sure to write a unique cover letter for each job. Your cover letter should be specific to the position you are applying for, relating your skills and experiences to those noted in the job posting.
Use keywords. One useful way to tailor your letter to the job is to use keywords from the job posting. Circle any words from the job posting that seem critical to the job, such as specific skills or qualifications. Try to use some of these words in your letter. This way, at a glance, the employer can see that you match the requirements of the job.
Explain how you will add value. Think of concrete ways to prove you will add value to the company. Include examples of specific accomplishments from previous jobs. For example, if you helped reduce turnover by 10% at your last company, or implemented a filing strategy that reduced file errors by 15%, include this information. Try to quantify your successes when possible to clearly demonstrate how you could add value at the company.
Look at cover letter samples. Check out a few sample cover letters before writing your own.
Samples will give you an idea of what information to include in your cover letter, and how to format the letter. However, never simply copy and paste a sample cover letter. Change the letter to fit your specific skills and experiences, and the job you are applying for.
Edit, edit, edit. Your cover letter is your first, and best, chance to sell the hiring manager on your candidacy for employment, so make sure it's perfect. Read through your letter, proofreading it for any spelling or grammar errors. Ask a friend, family member, or career counselor to read it as well. You want to make sure the letter is polished before submitting it.
What Else You Need to Know:How to Write a Cover Letter in 5 Easy Steps