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Cover Letter Advice


How to Write an Effective Cover Letter

by Sherrie Gong Taguchi

Cover Letter Outline

A cover letter consists of four key sections. These are areas where you:

  1. Introduce yourself. Explain who you are and why you are writing. Mention who referred you if someone did. Ask for an informational interview if that's the reason why you are writing or say that you are interested in X job if that's the case.

    Here are some examples:

    When applying for a specific job
    I am interested in discussing your opportunity for Senior Product Manager in the New Product Development Group. Having launched numerous new brands over the past 12 years with two leading consumer products companies, I would be enthusiastic about discussing how my background and strengths can contribute to your team.
    When requesting an informational interview
    Lisa Smith, a colleague from UCLA, gave me your name as someone who is very knowledgeable about the entertainment industry. I am trying to learn as much I can about the industry and would greatly appreciate 15-20 minutes of your time. Your insights would be extremely valuable.
  2. Connect with the recruiter. Tell why you are interested in the industry/company/job and how it is a good fit with your background/ strengths.

    Some examples:

    Your accomplishments in manufacturing, particularly supply chain management, have been a focus of interest in my studies at Columbia. My background is manufacturing-focused. Before business school, I was an engineer with Ford and this year, I served as co-chair of the Global Manufacturing Conference.


    I have been an entrepreneur for seven years in Boston. One of my greatest accomplishments was building an effective team and leading the group through chaos. These valuable lessons are relevant to what your new company is going through. I feel confident that I could make an impact on your business and its strategic growth.


    As a math teacher and part-time musician, I have successfully combined my problem solving, analytical, creativity, and communication skills-the qualifications you list as most important in what you are looking for.
  3. Make it real. Give some concrete, compelling examples that describe what you can offer.

    Some examples:

    As a product manager, I grew market share by X percent over a three-year period, launched our products in seven new countries, and was selected to team lead our college recruiting efforts.


    As a management consultant, I worked extensively within the health care industry. Engagements produced major cost-cutting initiatives, a successful national systems overhaul, and client service improvements.


    As a sales representative for NIKETOWN, I learned firsthand customer service, merchandising, organization, and prioritization skills. As top 10 percent in sales in my region, I was selected to train and mentor new staff. Through my initiative, I co-developed an employee recognition program. My experience and abilities seem like a strong fit for your culture and X job.

  4. Follow up with a call to action. Describe clearly how and when you will follow up.

    Some examples:

    I will call your office next week to arrange an interview (or a time to talk).


    I know you will be on campus to speak at for the Women in Management Club's event next week. I would love to meet you for coffee and to talk before or after the event. If you need a ride to the airport, I could provide that, too.

A Worksheet to Help You Get Started

  • Who: "Who am I?" Try to capture your answer in one sentence.
  • Why: "Why am I writing and why should who is reading my letter be interested in me?"
  • What: "What do I have to offer that they'd be interested in?" From my research or what I know about this company, industry, or person I'm sending this to, what would make me attractive as a candidate? What compelling strengths, experience, or knowledge do I have?
  • When: "When will my letter be read-in what kind of context-in what kind of times?" Is this a hot company experiencing fast growth, a declining company fighting to survive, a start-up, a traditional company trying to do something new, a company whose reputation has taken a beating and is trying for a comeback
  • How: "How do I do my best to make sure my letter is unique, compelling, and intriguing?" How can I give it my best shot in getting this person to read my resume and take the next step towards an interview?

Sherrie Gong Taguchi is a leading author and career management expert. Her two popular books are helping thousands of job seekers and career changers - whether just out of school or at the executive level - worldwide. Both books are available on BarnesandNoble.com.

Hiring the Best and Brightest - A Roadmap to MBA Recruiting is an excellent resource for understanding the recruiting process and preparing for the important phases of a job search.

The Ultimate Guide to Getting the Career You Want and What to Do Once You Have - It provides strategies and advice for managing your career over a lifetime, including self-assessment exercises, a job search action, and case examples from a diverse group of people (including those from consulting, banking, entertainment, education, high tech, non-profit, venture capital, top MBA programs and others) who share the valuable lessons they have learned.

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