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7 Characteristics of a Near-Perfect Cover Letter

Curious to Know If Yours Is up to Snuff? Here's How It's Done

By Published on .

Darryl Ohrt
Darryl Ohrt
While ad industry jobs are scarce and candidates are plentiful, it's more difficult than ever to stand out from the crowd. A cover letter that I received recently does exactly that. I'd call it a near-perfect cover letter -- and if you're looking for a job, you should pay attention to Mary's approach (name changed to protect her identity).

Here's what makes a near-perfect cover letter:

1. It's skimmable. Your potential employer is likely working 12- to 15-hour days and doesn't have time to sit down, relax and peruse cover letters. Creating a letter that's an easy skim is a big win.

2. It quickly illustrates that she knows the agency and gets the culture of the brand.

3. It kisses a little ass. It never hurts to tell your potential employer how awesome they are, in a subtle, classy way.

4. It covers the past, the present and the potential. In three bulleted paragraphs, Mary manages to summarize her relevant past experience, show what she's currently working on and illustrate why she's a perfect fit.

5. It has just enough name-dropping. Relevant experience is everything in our business, so name-dropping a couple of key clients to show a command of the industry helps position your background as appropriate.

6. It's original and well-written. Not a single "I'm a team player, self-starter" craptastic statement that litters the majority of lame resumes.

7. She sent a paper version. Normally, I'd punish or tease people who use paper, but in this case, Mary carefully targeted her potential employer and, because we're not actively hiring, understood that a strong paper presentation might stand out from a cluttered inbox. This time, she was right.

Why it's not 100% perfect:

1. Mary should send an e-mail version to accompany this. Receiving an unexpected (and well-presented) paper presentation is nice, but it could have easily missed its way to an employer's desk. A follow-up e-mail would have been a good insurance policy.

Mary will be getting an interview at our firm. That's a pretty impressive feat, as we're not currently hiring. Waste of time? I doubt it. 2010 will bring loads of surprises and possibilities, and now Mary's got a foot in the door for when we're ready and need someone just right for the job.

How awesome is your cover letter?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Darryl Ohrt is a former punk rocker, the founder of creative agency Plaid and chief contributor to the greatest blog in all of the land, BrandFlakesForBreakfast. While his business card says he's "band manager" for the agency, Darryl prefers to call himself an internetologist. Darryl knows just enough to be dangerous. He's on the internet right now, playing, investigating and exploring. Watch out.
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