Job applications

A Recruiter Discusses A ‘One In A Thousand’ Cover Letter

In the following video, Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a former Fortune 500 recruiter and co-founder of, discusses the best cover letter she remembers from her 15-year career as a recruiter.

What stands out for me watching this short video are two things:

1) The “amazing” cover letter–“one in thousands” that she remembers, Ceniza-Levine says, is not anything crazy. What did the applicant do? She wrote an introduction that caught Ceniza-Levine’s attention, and she spent the bulk of her cover letter not going on about generalities, but about specific skills she had that would directly benefit the company (which the applicant had clearly done research on).

2) This cover letter was so out of the ordinary that Ceniza-Levine initially thought that the applicant was crazy and so asked a colleague to meet with her first, “preferably in a public place.”

Happy ending, of course: the applicant wasn’t crazy, just crazy talented–and she got the job.

A good cover letter is that rare.

What not to do

And, this exists.

The PCman’s FREE Cover Letter Creator
We have several different letters that contain generalized body text that you can personalize for your situation. Please edit the letter in the box below, to personalize your letter replace the capitalized place holders with your info.
TIP: Keep the letter short and to the point, the reader will get the bulk of your information from your resume, your cover letter is designed to draw them in. They will be eager to read your resume and find out more about your skills and achievements.

I’m not even linking to this because I don’t want this person to get the traffic. It’s that bad. Look at what one of the templates looks like:



I learned about the POSITION position
through the RESOURCE at PLACE. Currently I am a/an/the JOBDESCRIPTION at COMPANYNAME.
I am interested in your company and in the POSITION position.

I have substantial background in SUBJECT which will lend itself well to the POSITION position.
At my current job, I ACCOMPLISHMENT. Some of the skills that were needed to accomplish
that project included SKILL1, SKILL2, and SKILL3. I believe that all of these attributes
combined make me the best candidate for the job at your company.

My solid academic foundation in SUBJECT, along with my passion and enthusiasm for SUBJECT,
makes me able to contribute a great deal to COMPANYNAME. I look forward to meeting
with you for an interview. Thank you for your time and consideration.



This is awful on so many levels it’s almost not worth picking apart, but I will: It is boring, poorly written, and generic. (Swapping one word out for another does not equal customizing a cover letter.) It is all about you rather than all about them, and it doesn’t actually say anything that proves you know anything about the company or even the job.

Don’t use a template generator.

Job applications

Getting Your Cover Letter Read

Simply attaching your Shakespearean work of genius to your online application is no guarantee that anyone will see it. In fact, it’s more like a guarantee that it won’t be read.

(This applies only to companies using an Applicant Tracking System–if you’re applying at a company small enough that you’re just e-mailing your letter and resume, odds are a little better that someone will see your stuff. A little.)

How can you get a hiring manager’s attention?

It depends. Some swear by printed material (seriously). I know an editor who said, flat-out, “I get lots of email, but if somebody were to send a nice, actual, letter, I would definitely read it.” And then there’s this guy, founder of Plaid, who said that he received a “near-perfect” cover letter on paper. “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.”

The amazing thing about the age we live in is you can often find a hiring manager’s preferences with a short Google search. (That doesn’t always work, but you’d be surprised at how often it does.) Some hiring managers may say they prefer to be contacted with an email and solid cover letter, others may say they want you to Tweet at them. Others may pay attention to someone who’s been leaving thoughtful comments on their blog; yet others may want to be surprised with something crazy. Side note: I’m told that there was a trend going around the UK for a while to deliver your cover letter and resume in a pizza box. As a hiring manager, that would just annoy me, because I’d be excited for free pizza and then have to deal with the inevitable letdown.

But to sum up: If you’re not sure how to make sure the hiring manager sees your cover letter, try asking Google. If you can’t find any information, you’d be hard-pressed to go wrong with an email or a polite social media poke. Good luck!


Cover Letters Still Matter

Saw this from a hiring manager just last week:
“We consider candidates who send us thoughtful cover letters that explain how their qualifications fit with the requirements of this position.”

Not “We give priority to candidates who send us thoughtful cover letters,” or even “We consider candidates who send us cover letters.”

Still the most important part of your job app, in many cases.



Not so much of an accomplishment since I’m the only one here (for now). Will be adding to the blog in the weeks ahead. Go ahead and let me know if you’re interested in contributing a guest post.


The Book Is (For Real) Coming

Hey guys – some of you are no doubt wondering when Cover Letters for Creative People will actually hit Amazon’s shelves. The answer is: soon. By the middle of the spring semester at the latest the book will be out. Really looking forward to this, and I hope you are too! In the meantime, follow @CreativeCLs on Twitter for updates and links to job postings in social media, PR, and journalism.