Let’s face it, finding a job is usually anything but fun.
It’s almost like it has its own five stages of grief. First of all, its demoralizing nature is denied. Then comes the anger over radio silence or rejection from potential employers. Of course there is negotiation – “I promise never again to complain about work if I find a new job!”
This is often followed by depression and the idea that you simply cannot be rented. Then there is acceptance: “This is terrible, but I still have to keep trying.”
But we have good news. It is possible to have a little fun looking for a job – and maybe even make yourself a better candidate in the process. It turns out that the magic could be in your cover letter.
What is a good cover letter?
A cover letter shows your interest in the role, passion for the company, and the impact you’ve had in previous roles. It also serves as an opportunity to present a clear, concise, and persuasive writing pattern that shows your personality and your ability to convey ideas. Cover letters should have a great opening, relevant skills and qualifications, and a strong call-to-action finish – all on one page and unique to each application.
It may be that only 35% of recruiters admit that cover letters don’t significantly affect the hiring process for them, but that doesn’t mean you need to contribute to this statistic. In fact, cover letters might be considered insignificant because so few of them get noticed. Here you have the opportunity to develop your creativity at the earliest stage of the hiring process.
After all, personalization goes beyond replacing the title and company name in every letter you send to recruiters.
How does it work in practice and how can you highlight your cover letter? We found six examples of job seekers who decided to do things a little differently.
Note: Some of these cover letters contain real company names and the NSFW language we covered up.
Best cover letter examples
1. The cover letter explaining why and not just how.
We have already explained the importance of explaining in your cover letter how best to perform a particular role. But there’s one other question you might want to answer: why the hell do you want to work here?
The Muse, a career guidance website, says it’s often best to lead with the why – especially if it’s a good story. We don’t recommend babbling over and over again, but a short story highlighting your desire to work for that particular employer can really make you stand out.
Source: The Muse
Here is another example of the power of personalization. The writer of this letter clearly has a passion for this potential employer – the Chicago Cubs – and if she lies about it, it will likely be revealed in an interview at some point.
Make sure your story includes nonfiction and is relevant to each job. While we love a good story about childhood baseball games, an introduction like this probably wouldn’t fit on a cover letter for, say, a software company. But a story about how the hours you spent playing DOS games as a kid led to your passion for coding? Sure, we think that’s appropriate.
If you are genuinely interested in a particular job, think about where that deep interest is rooted. Then tell your HR manager about it in just a few sentences.
2. The cover letter “We are meant for one another”
This example of a cover letter is special because it was sent to us here at HubSpot. What does the letter do well? It connects to us before we’ve even met the author of the letter.
“Content Marketing Certified” indicates that the applicant completed the Content Marketing Certification course at our HubSpot Academy (you can take the same course here). Our “records” show that he / she actually did an interview with us before – and was a HubSpot customer.
The cover letter contained evidence of a relationship we didn’t even know we had with the candidate.
The letter ends with a charming pitch about why our interests complement each other this time, even though he / she was not previously hired.
(Yes, the applicant has been hired).
3. The cover letter with H.E.A.R.T.
HubSpot has many H.E.A.R.T. – Modest, empathetic, adaptable, remarkable, transparent. Our Code of Culture is the foundation of corporate culture, the driving force behind our mission to help millions grow better, and serves as the framework for our hiring practices. HubSpot’s recruiters look for applicants who show how they embody the culture code and job description, and pay special attention to cover letters that are particularly suitable for HubSpot.
In another HubSpot submission, a HubSpot applicant writes about how she found out about HubSpot, why she likes the company, and how her work experience with H.E.A.R.T.
The HubSpot recruiting team was impressed with her commitment to the company and how she went beyond what was required by linking her portfolio in her final paragraph.
Examples of short cover letters
4. The short and sweet cover letter
In 2009, David Silverman wrote an article for Harvard Business Review entitled “The Best Cover Letter I Ever Received.” This letter contained three full sentences as follows:
Source: Harvard Business Review
It could be argued that this particular letter is less than outstanding. It is short to say the least, and the writer does not go into detail about what qualifies him or her for the job in question. But that’s exactly what Silverman likes – the fact that the applicant included only the information that is most important to the recipient.
“The author of this letter took the time to consider what would be relevant to me,” writes Silverman. “Rather than dispelling a lot of facts in the hope that one is relevant, the candidate gave an opinion on which experiences I should focus on.”
When you apply for a job, first determine two things:
- Who could oversee the role? This is often included in the description under “Reports to”. Address your letter to this person.
- Find out what problems this role is supposed to solve for this person. Then, in your cover letter, briefly outline how and why your experience can and will solve these problems.
The key here is research. As you research who you report to and learn more about that person’s leadership style, you will be better prepared to customize your cover letter so that you focus on how you are providing solutions for them.
5. The short story
Basha Coleman started her cover letter with a short story. The goal of this short story is twofold:
- Detail the experiences she has already had with the organization.
- Stand out from the hiring team.
You will find that your short story follows a typical narrative arc: it has a conflict / obstacle, turning point, and positive outcome, all of which were created with the aim of highlighting a topic or point. In this case, Coleman emphasizes her existing affinity for the brand and her achievements in the program so that she can continue her career path.
6. The Bare Bones Cover Letter
Cover letters aren’t always necessary in today’s job market. Even if many recruiters don’t ask for them or even read them, cover letters can still be effective and convey personality to the reader. Writing a strong cover letter can help you better convey your interest in the position and the company.
This template from The Balance Careers sums up the essentials of a short cover letter: excitement about the position, your qualifications, and a request for the recruiter to get in touch with you. Combining these key aspects into one well-written, compelling narrative will go a long way in convincing readers to hire you.
Source: The Balance Career
7. The airy follow-up
In this cover letter, Amanda Edens follows the hiring manager’s instructions by forwarding an email with a résumé and attaching samples.
Edens knows the body of the email is prime property to grab the hiring manager’s attention, but she also doesn’t want to overwhelm the recipient with too much information as no cover letter has been requested. This short cover letter is the result. You will find that she uses casual and airy language to convey personality and enthusiasm, and keeps her paragraphs short and sweet.
In addition to providing links to relevant writing samples available live on the web, Amanda concludes with a strong final paragraph that:
- Summarizes the expertise she has for the posting
- Emphasizes that she doesn’t just want to get a job, she wants to help the organization achieve its goals
Examples of creative cover letters
8. The brutally honest cover letter
Then there are cases when your future boss will appreciate honesty – in its purest form. Jesse Hertzberg, CEO of Livestream, claims to be one of those people, which is why he may have called this example “the best cover letter” (received while at Squarespace):
Source: title required
As Hertzberg says in the blog post on this excerpt, it is not suitable for every job or company. However, if you are certain that this prospect’s corporate culture is being marred by a total lack of filters, chances are the hiring manager will appreciate your openness.
“Remember that I read these all day,” writes Hertzberg. “You have to convince me quickly that I should read on. You have to stand out. “
9. The cover letter from the front man
When I was in the middle of my own job hunt and reached one of the later stages, a friend said to me, “For the next position you’re applying for, just submit a picture of yourself, a stick figure that somehow does your job represents there. “
I never worked for the recipient of this particular work of art, but it resulted in an interview. Again, be careful when sending a cover letter like this one. If it doesn’t fit with the company culture, it may be interpreted as meaning that you are not taking the opportunity seriously.
Make sure you combine it with some explanatory text too. For example, when I submitted this picture as a cover letter, I also wrote, “Maybe I took the sense of humor suggested in your job description a little too seriously.”
10. The cocky cover letter
I admit that I considered leaving out this example. It’s full of profanity, vanity, and arrogance. But maybe in some settings this is the right way to create a cover letter.
A few years ago the Huffington Post published this note as an example of how to “get noticed” and “get hired for your dream job”:
Source: Huffington Post
Here’s the thing: if the aviary quoted in this letter is the same aviary that I examined when it was discovered, I’m not sure that that clay was the best approach. I’ve read the company’s blog and checked out the careers page, and no one suggests that culture encourages this – or proper names like “Google” that I personally can’t give the applicant for …
However, Aviary was acquired by Adobe in 2014 and this letter was written in 2011. While it’s possible the brand was a little more relaxed at this point, we wouldn’t recommend sending a letter with that tone to the company today. That’s not to say that it would go unnoticed elsewhere – Doug Kessler often discusses the marketers and brands that value colorful language, for example.
The point is that this example further illustrates the importance of research. Make sure you understand the company culture you are applying for before sending a completely unfiltered cover letter. If you don’t, there is a good chance that it will miss the mark entirely.
11. The interactive cover letter
When designer Rachel McBee applied for a position at the Denver Broncos, she not only wrote a personalized cover letter, but also designed a complete digital, interactive microsite:
Source: Rachel McBee
This cover letter – if you can even call it that – remarkably ticks all the boxes discussed here. It addresses and organizes exactly what many hiring managers want to see in a cover letter: how their skills fit the role, why they want the job, and how to get in touch with them.
It even includes a “traditional” body of text at the bottom with a shape that the reader can easily interact with.
We want to add another level to the job search: experimentation.
In today’s competitive landscape, it’s so easy to feel defeated, not feel good enough, or to give up looking for a job. But don’t let the process get so monotonous. Have fun discovering the qualitative data we’ve discussed here. Then you can be even more creative with your cover letter composition.
We certainly cannot guarantee that every potential employer will respond positively or even positively to even the most unique and compelling cover letter. But the one who suits you will do it. It is therefore important not to copy these examples. That defeats the purpose of personalization.
So get creative. By the way – we are hiring.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2020 and has been updated for completeness.