How to Write a Coverletter--How it differs from a Resumé

Brian, I am fine with OK-ing the use of my name here. We have different writing styles, which is to be expected. However, it seems that we have radically different thoughts on the role of a cover letter. My observation is that much of the content you’ve currently laid out in this draft cover letter should (already) properly be located in your resumé. For me, the two documents are much more symbiotic than synonymous.

Here's a rule of thumb. Your resume is largely about YOU. Your cover letter is largely about THEM: their challenges, their needs, how it is you're going to go about helping solve their problems. A cover letter is only about you to the extent that you're convincing a reader that you can actually do the things that need to be done.

Now, if I strip away all of the ‘should-be-in-your-resumé’ content from your cover letter, you essentially have a blank page to demonstrate that you’re knowledgeable about a target company as well as to outline the qualities you possess that may not fit the confines of a resumé (e.g. links to a video of a speech you once gave or a magazine article you authored on marketing at CT which illustrate your philosophy of marketing, etc).

My format and content suggestions for a crisp, 4- or 5-paragraph cover letter for this role would be:

Para 1: “I am pleased to have this opportunity to apply for the role of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Freshbooks (FB) (In response to a posting, or word of mouth opening, etc). Please find a copy of my résumé attached”.

Para 2(a): “From my secondary research, here’s what I know about you/FB.”

Para 2(b): “From sleuthing through my social network (e.g. my college neighbour, FB advisor Jerry King), I know these other things about you/FB.”

Para 3: “The average tenure of CMOs tends to be quite short ~ 28 months ( Here’s what I understand have been the challenges [Fill in whatever your research turns up (e.g. )] typically faced by CMOs of other fast growing online companies—companies roughly one cohort up (e.g. in size/#employees/revenues) from Freshbooks.”

Para 4: Given this set of challenges, here’s how I would go about leading teams and making the kind of difference that’ll help FB successfully overcome them.... Pushing to 5 paragraphs and shooting for the gold star, you could add, “Thus, my first 90 days in the role of CMO at FB might look like this:

Days 1- 20. Taking the pulse. Interviewing/meeting/getting to know anyone who will meet with me. Only 60 people. Etc. Trying, as a first cut, to figure out if we’re talking overhaul or tweaking. So I’ll be looking at structure, reporting hierarchies, metrics, culture, process, etc. -- all of it. Identifying what, if any, organizational weaknesses exists as well as the tools, processes, etc. to help bridge the gaps.

Day 30: Interim, first cut feedback. I’ll issue a quick report for you and the board.

Days 21- 40. Getting the metrics right. Working with you and FB’s COO and CFO to figure out how to measure marketing impact in ways that don't result in [fill in all of the negative, dysfunctional things you’ve witnessed at CanTire that bedevil marketing initiatives]. Incorporating your- and the board’s feedback. I'll make the case, if needed, for skills upgrading and investing in technology/infrastructure.

Days 41-60: Upgrading skills. Blah, blah, blah

Days 61-90: Investment in technology and infrastructure. Blah, blah, blah”

Brian, I hope this helps. Feel free to push back.


last updated december 2013