Application Tips

Make the application more efficient: three steps to make your customized cover letter

How do you think of the cover letter? Is it a summary of your life or a brief of what you have achieved?
I usually see myself as a storyteller when preparing for the cover letter. Think about what kind of stories I want to share and also what content should be shared.
The resume is for Quantity โ€” spotlight and quantize your experience; the cover letter is for Quality โ€” highlight your experience. Thatโ€™s why itโ€™s better to provide both a resume and cover letter when you apply for jobs.

Quality + Quantity

STEP 1: Find out muds (materials)

I would focus on 2โ€“3 positions AND/OR 2โ€“3 industries at a time. You still need a focus, rather than put yourself everywhere.

For example, I would choose โ€ฆ

Position: Business Analyst, Product Manager, Buyer

Industry: e-commerce, OEM

STEP 2: Make your own bricks

Develop a template of cover letter for each position, e.g. Business Analyst in e-Commerce. Add 2โ€“3 stories per position.

Here is the cover letterโ€™s structure I often used:

1. Opening

Keep this paragraph short. In this part, point out the position you are looking for. Quick introduce yourself with 2 sentences, and point out some keywords of the main section in the last sentence.

2. Main

  • The story that can be matched with the desired position
  • The work experience you have related to the position
  • The side project experience you have related to the position

Think about what you have done in previous experience, what problems you solved, and what insight you figured out. Look into the positionโ€™s job description first, sometimes you probably think the description is broad, you canโ€™t find the main point. You can focus on the top 3 bullet points under each section in the description. Develop your story based on them.

If you feel it is difficult to match… Rethink this desired position. Ask yourself, โ€œWhy I am the best candidate for this position?โ€, โ€œAm I qualified for this position?โ€

** If you just graduated now, Try to recall what you have done in the internship and school life, such as club, academic project, or practical program.

If you are not a graduate, you should share more stories about previous/current work experience. You might think your job is a mess and have no idea to create your own story. Calm down, letโ€™s dig into your memories. Here are some tips to help you recall what you have done before:

  • Think of moments that you feel โ€œYesss! I made it.โ€
  • Think of moments that you feel โ€œGod, finally itโ€™s over/finished!โ€

I usually have these kinds of feeling after my project or large-scale task is completed, or I was released from something usually made me stressful. As human beings, we do not forget the feeling but we cannot remember what was happened easily. So, you can start from feeling, then trackback what you experienced in your life.

Last paragraph under Main Section: Personality-oriented context, how you co-work with your colleagues, what your communication style is.

I would make my cover letter more โ€œhuman-being.โ€ I share the way how I co-work under different teams. Facing different types of groups, I have different attitudes toward the teams.

For example, if I am going to apply for start-ups, I would talk more about how I keep flexible to react to situations when we have an urgent request on product change. If I am going to apply for a large-scale company, I would point out how I make sure every detail from different aspects has been considered when we have a game rule change.

3. Closing

Re-emphasize your advantage and what value you can provide to this company. You can state your visa status if necessary

โ€œI can work in the USA for next XXX years because I have Optional Practical Training (OPT) with an F-1 visa, (and I will need the H-1B sponsorship in the future.)โ€

Donโ€™t forget to say thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

STEP 3: Mix and match your bricks to create a new house (cover letter)

Time to mix and match your bricks

Once you have a cover letter for the โ€œBusiness Analyst in e-Commerceโ€ position, it will make easier for you in the future. Next time when you apply for โ€œBusiness Analystโ€, you can pick up some brick from this house โ€” โ€œBusiness Analyst in e-Commerceโ€ and then re-organize for the new house.

โ€œDuring the time as business analyst, I worked with marketing team to develop a promotion sales performance dashboard. I analyzed the requirements of marketing campaigns and defined key figures. โ€ฆโ€ฆโ€ฆ This dashboard improved my team work efficiency and make information more transparent and trackable, providing insight how the team can growth more sales from promotion events.โ€

Also, you can pick up bricks from this house to apply for others positions in the e-Commerce industry. This way, not only saving your time on application preparation but also you can continue to improve and come out with more stories based on current ones.

โ€œDuring the time as business analyst in JKL e-commerce, I worked with marketing team to develop a promotion sales performance dashboard. I analyzed the requirements of marketing campaigns and defined key factors. โ€ฆโ€ฆโ€ฆ This dashboard improved the merchandising team work efficiency and make GMV more transparent and trackable, providing insight how the team can trigger more websiteโ€™s traffic and growth more sales from promotion events.โ€

Actually, you simply replace the original context and add some key terms to match the position/industry.


1st Step: find out muds โ€” focusing on 2โ€“3 position/industries

2nd Step: make your own bricks

3rd Step: pick up bricks and build a new house(resume)

In addition, here are some Donโ€™ts:

  • Do not make your cover letter over 1 page. Be concise.
  • 80/20 Rule. Do not share a story that is unrelated to the desired position. It not only wastes time but makes the hiring manager confused.
  • Do not stick to a certain position. Always be flexible and redirect your job searching strategy.

Thatโ€™s the way I usually work on my cover letter, hope it gives you guys some assistance on your unique cover letter. Even already working now, I suggest you can keep it in mind because you donโ€™t know when the better opportunities pop up in front of you and you donโ€™t know when you probably need to find another chance.

โ€œIt is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.โ€

 โ€” Whitney M. Young, Jr., An American civil rights leader

Feel free to communicate together and wish everyone a great start to the cover letter. Itโ€™s never too late to start.