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Ad Agency Cover Letter Tips For Relocating

I’ve read a lot of cover letters throughout my career. When I was a fellowship program manager, I reviewed them in consideration for more than 60 open positions each year. So I saw it all–the good, the bad, and the standout examples that I can still remember.

As a result, I’ve become the go-to friend when people need feedback on their job applications. Based on my own experience putting people in the “yes” (and “no”) pile, I’m able to give these cover letters a quick scan and immediately identify what’ll turn a hiring manager off.

While I can’t give you insight into every person’s head who’ll be reading your materials, I can share with you the feedback that I give my own loved ones.

1. The Basics

First things first, I skim the document for anything that could be disqualifying. That includes typos, a “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” salutation, or a vibe so non-specific that it reeks of find-replace. I know it seems harsh, but when a hiring manager sees any one of these things, she reads it as, “I didn’t take my time with this, and I don’t really care about working here.” So she’s likely to pass.

Another thing I look for in this initial read-through is tone. Even if you’re applying to your dream company, you don’t want to come off like you think someone entertaining your candidacy is the same as him offering you water at the end of a lengthy hike. You don’t need to thank the hiring manager so incredibly much for reading your application–that’s his job. If you align considering your application with the biggest favor ever, you’ll make the other person think it’s because you’re desperate.

So, skip effusive thanks and demonstrate genuine interest by writing a cover letter that connects the dots between your experience and the requirements of the position. Telling the reader what you’ve accomplished and how it directly translates to meeting the company’s needs is always a better use of space than gushing.

2. The Opening Sentence

If your first line reads: “I am writing to apply for [job] at [company],” I will delete it and suggest a swap every time. (Yes, every single time.) When a hiring manager sees that, she won’t think, “How thoughtful of the applicant to remind me what I’m reading!” Her reaction will be much closer to, “boring,” “meh,” or even “next!”

Compare it to one of these statements:

I’ve wanted to work in education ever since my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Dorchester, helped me discover a love of reading.

My approach to management is simple: I strive to be the kind of leader I’d want to work for.

In my three years at [prior company], I increased our average quarterly sales by [percentage].

See how these examples make you want to keep reading? That’s half the battle right there. Additionally, it makes you memorable, which’ll help when you’re competing against a sea of applicants.

To try it out for yourself, pick a jumping-off point. It could be something about you or an aspect of the job description that you’re really drawn to. Then, open a blank document and just free-write (translation: write whatever comes to mind) for 10 minutes. Some of the sentences you come up with will sound embarrassing or lame: That’s fine–no one has to see those! Look for the sentence that’s most engaging and see how it reads as the opening line for your cover letter.

3. The Examples

Most often, people send me just their cover letter and resume, so I don’t have the benefit of reviewing the position description. And yet, whenever a letter follows the format of “I am skilled at [skill], [skill], [skill], as evidenced by my time at [place].” Or “You’re looking for [skill], and I am a talented [skill], ” I could pretty much re-create it. Surprise: that’s actually not a good thing.

Again, the goal isn’t just to show you’re qualified: It’s to make the case that you’re more qualified than all the other applicants. You want to make clear what distinguishes you, so the hiring manager can see why you’re worth following up with to learn more. And–again–you want to be memorable.

If you write a laundry list, it’ll blend into every other submission formatted the same way. So, just like you went with a unique opener, do the same with your examples. Sure, you might still include lists of skills, but break those up with anecdotes or splashes of personality.

Here’s a real, two-line excerpt from a cover letter I’ve written before:

If I’m in a conference room and the video isn’t working, I’m not the sort to simply call IT and wait. I’ll also (gracefully) crawl under the table, and check that everything is properly plugged in.

A couple lines like this will not only lighten up your letter, but also highlight your soft skills. I got the point across that I’m a take-charge problem solver, without saying, “I’m a take-charge problem solver.” Plus the “(gracefully)” shows that I don’t take myself too seriously–even in a job application. If your submission follows the same list-type format all the way through, see if you can’t pepper in an example or anecdote that’ll add some personality.

You want your cover letter to stand out for all the right reasons. So, before you click submit, take a few minutes to make sure you’re putting your best (and most memorable) foot forward.

Related Video: This Is What People Really Think Of Your Resumé


This article originally appeared on The Daily Muse and is reprinted with permission.

Read More:

  • 90% of executives say writing cover letters is valuable, according to a Robert Half survey.
  • Job seekers can help themselves by tailoring their cover letters to specific employers.
  • Incorporating keywords that match terms in the job posting can help job seekers with companies that use resume-filtering software.

In the age of the digital recruiting, do cover letters matter anymore? The short answer: Yes. Surprising to some, they matter more now than ever.   

In fact, a Robert Half poll found that 90 percent of executives consider cover letters a valuable tool when assessing job candidates. Yet, far too often, job seekers treat them as afterthoughts to the resume.

Your cover letter is your introduction to a company and an opportunity to make a good first impression on your prospective employer. So don't squander it. Resumes help employers — with a growing number of assists from software — wade through a huge pile of applications. But the cover letter is often the first thing the hiring manager sees, especially as the pile shrinks to likely candidates. It's an opportunity to provide a brief accompanying narrative of who you are and why you're qualified for the position. So why not take advantage of this chance to shine?  

Robert Half has been helping job seekers find great career opportunities since 1948. Let us help you find the right job for you.

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Here are some tips for writing the kind of  cover letter that helps your resume jump to the top of the pile — one that convinces hiring managers and HR professionals to bring you in for an interview.

1. Don't just rehash your resume 

A strong cover letter should do much more than just restate salient details from your resume. Here's a brief checklist of important functions of a cover letter:

  • Draw attention to specific skills and experience that make you an ideal candidate.
  • Mention relevant skills and personal qualities the resume may not illustrate.
  • Explain why you would love to have the job in question — and how it advances your personal career goals.
  • Establish any personal connections to the company or hiring manager, and how you'd like to help the business grow.
  • Justify any gaps in your resume.

2. Tailor it to a specific job

Just as we recommend for the resume, take the time to target your cover letter to the job at hand. Write a cover letter they can't ignore. Begin by carefully reviewing the job description, making a list of specific skills and experience that match this particular role.  

Just as important, gather facts and figures that support your claims. For example, if you're applying for a managerial role, mention the size of teams and budgets you have managed. If it is a sales role, discuss specific sales goals you've achieved.

In addition to highlighting your talents, you can further personalize your cover letter by demonstrating your familiarity with the specific industry, employer and type of position.    

Remember, your future employer doesn't just want a warm body. They want employees who love their work. They know these are the people who tend to perform better, serve as stronger team members and have greater potential to grow along with the business.

3. Address the hiring manager personally

Just as you personalize your resume to the role, you should also address the cover letter to the person actually hiring for the position. If it is not spelled out in the job posting, call the employer's main phone number and ask for the name and title of the hiring manager.  

This is also your chance to show that you've done your research on the company, its mission and key leadership. Mention any personal connections you have to the company and colleagues you might have in common. The cover letter process underscores one of the chief reasons for attending professional conferences and luncheons. Many job referrals are based on personal connections.

4. Use a standard business letter format

A cover letter is not a quick email you dash off. You should write to the same standards as any formal business letter. Use a standard font size (10 or 12 point, in a readable font style such as Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri). Keep it to one page (generally three or four short paragraphs). And include your name and contact information at the top in a business letter format.  

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5. Use keywords from the job description

Many employers use resume-filtering software that scans for resume keywords and evaluates how closely resumes and cover letters match the preferred skills and experience.  

That means your cover letter should incorporate key phrases you've identified in the job description. During the writing process, review qualifications such as the type of degree required, the number of years' experience needed, specified software skills, organization and communication abilities, and project management background.

6. Proofread thoroughly

Once you're convinced you've made a strong argument for your candidacy, it's time to proofread your work. No hiring manager wants to see a great cover letter with typos and grammatical errors.  

After you've given your cover letter a final polish, ask a friend with excellent grammar, punctuation and spelling skills to review it. Consider giving him or her a copy of the job posting so they can help make sure you've hit all the right points.

7. End on a high note

In your concluding paragraph, reiterate in a sentence or two why you are the right person for this job. Most hiring managers will go to the resume after reading your cover letter, so prepare them to notice what you want them to see next.