• Learn How to Build a Powerful Personal Brand That Will Differentiate You and Allow You To Compete in the Global Marketplace.
  • Personal Branding Toolkit – Part 4: Cover Letters

    Let’s face it, most job seekers are too lazy to include a cover letter as part of their marketing kit, in addition to a simple resume. Recruiters know this, which means writing a cover letter is essential to proving to them you are that much more serious about the position. People feel that they should apply to hundreds of jobs by using the same resume, without a cover letter. The reality is that both resumes and cover letters must be custom to the job you’re applying for.

    Right now you’re thinking “that’s way too much work.” The answer is that you need to have a focused job search instead of a resume blast. Today, I want to go over best practices for cover letters.

    Your personal branding toolkit

    1) Business cards
    2) Portfolios
    3) Resumes
    4) Cover letters

    The perfect format

    Brand yourself with a cover letter

    Brand yourself with a cover letter

    Your contact information

    City, State, Zip Code
    Phone Number
    Email Address


    Employer contact information

    City, State, Zip Code


    Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:

    Body of cover letter

    The purpose of the body of the cover letter is to position yourself as the top candidate for the job. Also, it explains why you want to work for the company, in that specific position and why you are unique relative to other applicants.

    First paragraph:

    This paragraph calls for a few concise sentences talking about why you are writing the letter in the first place (your intention). Also, you will want to say how you learned about the position and include the person who referred you within the company.

    Middle paragraphs:

    This is the ultimate section for highlighting your personal brand. Now it’s time to discuss what makes you unique and incredible. Show as much passion and love for the position you’re applying for and what you bring to the table, in terms of work experience, skills and personality. The successful candidates always match their brand to the targeted position, to make the cover letter unique to that hiring manager. You’ve already read the job description, so look at a cover letter is a way for you to convince the employer that you can fill their need. Try to support each statement you make with a piece of evidence. Use several shorter paragraphs or bullets rather than one large block of text.

    Final paragraph:

    Conclude your cover letter by thanking the employer for considering you for the position. Include information on how you will follow-up. State that you will do so and indicate when (one week’s time is typical). You may want to reduce the time between sending out your resume and follow up if you fax or e-mail it.

    Complimentary close:

    Respectfully yours,


    Handwritten signature (for a mailed letter)

    Typed signature

    3 tips to standout

    • 1) Pick a distinct template. Just like resumes, schools are notorious for passing out standard templates for cover letters. I have no problem with students and professionals using standard templates, as long as they MAKE IT THEIR OWN. What I mean by this is that, you need to take a basic cover letter and make it yours. It should have design elements that match your resume, portfolio and business card. Be smart about what font you use as well. Try not to use Arial and Times New “boring” Roman. To be different is to be successful.
    • 2) Include your personality. Picture yourself as a recruiter looking at entire personal branding kits day in and day out. They are restless and bored! Just knowing this is a signal that you should bring your cover letter to life. Instead of sounding like a broken record or a textbook, write like you talk. You want recruiters to get a better sense of who you are, so they make the right decision and no ones time is wasted.
    • 3) Less is more. If recruiters spend less than a minute on a resume, then a cover letter is 30 seconds or less. If you’re worried, then think about it this way; recruiters read fast! You need to hammer in the fact that you are different and you are the perfect match for the position. Just saying how great you are isn’t that important to them. You have to solve their problem, which is finding the best candidate to fill their open position.

    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

    Posted in Career Development, Personal Branding, Recruitment, Success Strategies
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    3 comments on “Personal Branding Toolkit – Part 4: Cover Letters
    1. avatar

      Hi Dan,

      Good tips on the cover letter. Here are a few more:

      1. DO use times new roman or arial for your CONTENT text – it must be easy to read and accessible by varied computer systems as many companies import the docs to their applicant tracking systems.

      2. What’s your brand? Communicate this in the letter. For example, one of my clients was dubbed the PR Martyr by her colleagues. Why? She slept on a cot to meet a tight deadline. Talk about commitment! She was targeting PR gigs with non profit companies. They love people who live for the job – and have those martyr qualities. We used the PR Martyr brand in her letter. Next, I had a client dubbed the Cold Call King by his boss – we used his boss’s quote right in the letter.

      3. What’s your brand – and how can you capitalize on this in your letter?

      As Dan said, recruiters read cover letters for about 30 seconds – what makes you stand out?

    2. avatar
      Eric Kramer says:

      I am a big proponent of personal branding, however I would suggest a different format for a cover letter.

      A cover letter has a specific goal – get the reader to look at your resume. It has to be read in 30-40 seconds and it needs to communicate quickly and succinctly that you are a good candidate for the job.

      As a career coach, when I work with clients I have them write a “T” letter. The first paragraph is their positioning statement (a good place for some personal branding). This paragraph is followed by a table. The left side of the table is the job requirements and the right side is how the client matches those requirements. Just a quick read through the table will communicate to the recruiter/hiring manager that the client is qualified and should be considered for the position.

      After the table is a brief paragraph expressing interest in the job and a closing.

      This format has had good results and is easy to modify for multiple job applications.

      Eric Kramer

    3. avatar
      WhiskeyJim says:

      All the most successful ‘cold’ mailers, as measured by response, have included 4-5 page cover letters. Short blurbs typically yield nothing.

      Why is that successful since it is contrary to expert advice?

      BTW, having hired hundreds of people, I can tell you that a cover letter can be everything. In my view, it is like a lawyer using his summation statement for a two minute summary when he could be interpreting the whole trial. If I want a $300k job response from someone I do not know, I better have something to say.

      I would appreciate any feedback.

    4 Pings/Trackbacks for "Personal Branding Toolkit – Part 4: Cover Letters"
    1. […] 1) Business cards 2) Portfolios 3) Resumes 4) Cover letters […]

    2. […] Dan Schawbel’s Personal Branding Tool Kit: Personal Branding Tool Kit: Part I Business Cards Personal Branding Tool Kit: Part II Portfolios Personal Branding Tool Kit: Part III Resumes Personal Branding Tool Kit: Part IV Cover Letters […]

    3. […] Cover Letters – Personal Branding Blog – Sep ‘08 […]

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