Climb the Ladder

How to Write a *Modern* Cover Letter [with Example].

When it comes to getting an interview, you really have 3 tools at your disposal:  your resume, your network, and what I like to call, the “modern cover letter.”

We’ve written several blogs around how to craft your resume to increase your chances of ending up in the “yes” pile, and just the other week, I wrote a blog about how to virtually network during these uncertain times. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen an uptick in questions about how to make sure your resume gets looked at once you’ve applied, or how to write a great cover letter/job outreach email to help contextualize and frame your resume. So, we want to share some practical tips with you today on how to write a cover letter or outreach email.

To keep it simple, cover Letters are a tool to share your story beyond your resume and to help you stand out in a sea of applications.

For us at Scouted, we could really do without the cover-letter; it often leans wordy, generic, and is not that helpful in practice. That said, when you think about the matter holistically, any time you are reaching out to a contact for a warm intro for a job, or even applying to a new position, it’s still important to stand out. And that is what we consider the modern cover letter.” 

The way I like to think about cover letters, and in particular the modern cover letter, is similar to how sales professionals think of a cold email. Your letter should be specific to the role/company and enticing to the reader. 

Here are my main tips for executing a strong cover letter or outreach email:

  • Start with how you found out about the opportunity (e.i. “I read XYZ Newsletter and saw your posting…”), especially if it demonstrates that you are active in their industry/networks.
  • If you do know anyone in common/if you have common ground with the organization, it’s helpful to include that in your note, too. 
  • Be genuine and specific. If someone else could easily put their name at the bottom of your email/letter, then it’s probably not specific enough to you, your experiences, and your passions and it is likely too generic. 
  • People like to be flattered and they want to know that you did your homework. So, be sure to mention something about the company/role that really excites you – something that ideally the average person might not know. You could also write about the mission of the company and how/why that connects with you on a personal level.
  • Connect your experience to the opportunity at hand (but no more than 2 sentences)
  • And, if it is an email (and it usually is) – try to make the email subject specific and compelling so they open it.

Once you’ve written a draft, step away for a few hours and then come back and read it to yourself, and ask, “If I got this email from someone I didn’t know, would I be intrigued and want to learn more?”; “What about this note is either memorable or unique?”.

Getting a second opinion from a family member or friend is a great way to double check if your note seems generic or compelling. And, of course, here at Scouted, we are here to help and happy to work with you to craft a compelling cover letter to ensure you stand out. 

Example modern cover letter / cold email outreach for interest in a job:

Subject: Interest in xyz Data Science role from a former student of yours

Hi Name,

I hope you and your family are well during this crazy time! You may not recall but I was in your Technology Entrepreneurship class during the Fall quarter of 2015 at XYZ, it was my favorite class and inspired me to declare MS&E as my major. I think you also know my former boss XYZ from XYZ, I interned for him my sophomore year summer at Sweep and he has been a mentor to me since. Small world!

I came across the Data Science role at XYZ on Linkedin and am incredibly excited about the position. Not only do I think consumer (particularly social) tech is a promising space especially given the current pandemic, I’m particularly impressed by XYZ’s use of Data Science to aid in making investment decisions and helping its portfolio companies and its founder friendliness.

For the past two years I’ve been engaged as a Big Data Specialist with XYZ, helping to improve client operations through high-level strategy and big data analytics (Python, SQL, etc.). In addition to working at XYZ, I also interned at XYZ my junior year summer, diving deep into venture capital.   

As I’m considering my next career move, I’m eager to apply my data science skills honed through my undergrad education / consulting experience within a Technology investing role. I’d love to discuss the opportunity with you and catch up at a convenient time. I’ve attached my resume below.  

Thank you in advance!

Best regards,

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