Enthusiasm and Friendliness: A Secret to Writing a Great Cover Letter

Something that I’ve noticed is that good cover letters tend to follow this general formula:

  • Open by showing specific interest in a company
  • Sell yourself in a brief paragraph with a few bullet points
  • Close with a boilerplate signoff

If you follow this formula, you will end up with a good cover letter. But how do you write a great cover letter?

Show Enthusiasm

My favorite opening line in a cover letter right now is:

It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I am applying for [job position] at [company name].

This line does not reinvent the wheel, but it is a very, very powerful psychological weapon. In less than 20 words, you’ve just conveyed enthusiasm and passion, in addition to showing that you’re interested in a specific company. People like enthusiastic people. Write with enthusiasm, and you will be greeted enthusiastically by employers.

But Don’t Come Across As Passionately Weird

Of course, while enthusiasm is great, typing out your “true” passion on paper can come across as a little weird and try-hard. Finding this balance can be tricky—and demands that you get some honest feedback from a friend or a professional resume writer.

For example, saying that:

I am very, very excited to apply for the executive assistant position at BigCompanyX. Organization and scheduling are my true passions and vocations in life, and I know that my love for the work that I do will lead to better schedules for you.

While this hypothetical person comes across certainly as passionate, the letter feels a little unprofessional. Using more than one “very” enters into the realm of try-hard. Also, using informal language like love, in most cases, is not a good idea. And saying that “organization” and “scheduling” are your “true passions and vocations in life” is just flatly insincere. No one grew up saying “I want to schedule for someone else.” The statement lacks credibility and thereby significantly lowers your credibility.

Those criticisms aside, there are still some positive things to point out about that opening paragraph. What I do like about this example is that the person obviously comes across as enthusiastic, which is still a big plus. The language just needs to be toned down to something more like this:

I am very excited to apply for the executive assistant position at BigCompanyX. Previously I worked for Executive Bob, where I managed all of the scheduling for conferences, flights, and meetings. I reduced the costs of flights by $5,000 over the last year. I know that my passion for the excellence in my work will lead to similar savings for you and your company.

In the second example, there is enthusiasm in the beginning (not overdone), and the letter offers immediate, specific value that you can offer the company. Rather than just saying you are good at scheduling, quantify how well you did—especially if you can show how you cut costs for a company, you are beginning to justify your salary already.

Drop the Sincerely

“Sincerely” is a fine ending—it’s the business standard. However, moving into popularity right now (and something that again conveys friendliness and enthusiasm) is the phrase:

Best regards,

I recommend switching out the “Sincerely” and swapping in “Best regards” or “Warmest regards.” Of course, changing the sign off line is not going to play a major role, but tweaking the language a little throughout the document—showing enthusiasm in the beginning and in the ending, makes you likable, and people want to interview and work with likable people.

Comments

04/10/2013 5:10pm
Well stated, and I will be sure to share this with my colleagues. You don't want to come off as trying too hard, but you definitely want to show that you have some passion for their company.

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