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3 Librarian Cover Letter Examples to Book the Job

Stephen Greet

  • Librarian Cover Letter
  • Librarian Assistant Cover Letter
  • Librarian Assistant No Experience Cover Letter
  • Write Your Librarian Cover Letter

Many bookworms dream of working in a library, and this is where you thrive. Thanks to your excellent attention to detail and impeccable memory, you help people find the books they didn’t even know they needed.

Whether you’re into biographies or Regency romance novels, you’ve read countless captivating tales. But now it’s time to tell your own story to potential employers, and to do that, you’ll need a standout librarian resume and accompanying cover letter.

But how do you find the right words? It’s okay—we’re here to guide you. With our librarian cover letter examples and cover letter generator , you’ll sweep the recruiters right off their feet.

cover letter for a library job

Librarian Cover Letter Example


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Librarian cover letter template

Why this cover letter works

  • Emulate how Freja details her time at Leon Valley Public Library. Talk about how your skills and your prowess in relevant tools (cue, Endeca and CONTENdm) were put to the test and fortify your achievement (s) with genuine numbers. Don’t be fluffy, though.

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Librarian Assistant Cover Letter Example

Librarian assistant cover letter template

  • Take the time to research the company’s latest accomplishments, awards, or even future projects, and connect this knowledge to your motivation to contribute. First, it shows you did your homework, like the enthusiastic candidate you are. Secondly, it screams compatibility with the company and adds value to your librarian assistant cover letter.

Librarian Assistant No Experience Cover Letter Example

Librarian assistant no experience cover letter template

  • An example in this librarian assistant no-experience cover letter would be when Maxime uses her knowledge and Koha to build a digital library that won the hearts of hundreds of users within a few months. Similarly, let that profound project and its impact take center stage in your piece to showcase your adaptability and success potential.

Related cover letter examples

  • Librarian resume
  • Elementary teacher

How to Write an Impressive Librarian Cover Letter

Salesperson pops out of computer screen to depict outselling the competition with sales cover letter

When asked, most people think that being a librarian simply revolves around books. While recommending things to read is definitely part of the job, you know that there’s more to it—as do recruiters. On your job hunt, you’ll find listings that are focused on collection management, database optimization, or even community outreach.

To show that you’re the right person for the job, always write a cover letter to match the job description to a T. Research the library before you apply and include job skills and work experiences relevant to that position instead of just any librarian role.

cover letter for a library job

Captivate them with a strong intro

Imagine that a customer comes into your library and asks you for a specific book, but they don’t know the title, the author, or the plot.

Now, imagine that you’re applying for a job and follow that same approach. In the first scenario, you’d have no choice but to try to help the patron, but in a job application, the recruiter would discard your resume because it’d show that you didn’t do your homework.

Avoiding this fate is actually really simple. Start your librarian cover letter with a strong intro that addresses the recipient by name, and then follow up with an intro paragraph that expresses why you’re the right candidate for the role.

Pick out a couple of skills from the job description , such as collection development and archiving, and express why you’re eager to put those abilities to the test at that particular library.

This is an example of someone who didn’t do their homework. Cookie-cutter cover letters, just don’t cut it anymore—keep that in mind.

That fell flat…

I saw your job listing on Indeed and I wanted to apply. I’m a hard worker and need a job right away.

This works much better. The candidate instantly shows that they’re up-to-date with all the latest trends in library tech.

As an ardent advocate for public access to knowledge with a record of leveraging innovative library technologies, I stand at a compelling intersection of traditional librarianship and modern information management. This unique blend of passion and prowess positions me to contribute substantially to the San Antonio Public Library’s mission of serving as a thriving hub for lifelong learning.

cover letter for a library job

Show off your expertise in the body paragraphs

In any story, the beginning needs to hook the reader, and the ending needs to deliver a satisfying conclusion, but the in-between parts make it memorable. Your cover letter works the same way.

In the body paragraphs, dive into what makes you the right fit for the role and add metrics to support your claims. Talk about library-specific software and skills, and then elaborate on how you used them to your advantage. 

For instance, don’t just say that you worked with children. Instead, talk about your experience in program development and how you initiated and led a children’s literacy program, leading to a 25% increase in library attendance.

That’s impressive!

At Columbia College Chicago, I handled metadata management for approximately four thousand records within two years. By creating and maintaining accurate records, I enhanced searchability by 34%, increasing the accessibility of diverse materials.

cover letter for a library job

Make them call you with your closing paragraph

In the closing paragraph, you can underscore that you’re the right librarian for this job. To do that, do some digging on the library website or even visit it in person to try to gauge its values and core mission.

Libraries are more than just places that lend out books—they’re pillars of the local community that bring entertainment, education, and genuine connection to those who visit them. Make sure that your closing paragraph reflects that you fully understand what this library is all about.

As an example, if you’re applying to work at a library that runs a book club for seniors, express how important it is to you to help your local community find joy and company through similar programs.

This closer is generic and doesn’t do anything to show that the person has the right skill set . Don’t do this.

I like reading sometimes, especially sci-fi, so I hope I can work at your library.

Now, this is much, much better. The candidate clearly highlights what they will bring to the role.

You’ll get the job!

I’m excited about bringing this holistic understanding of library systems to The University of Chicago Libraries. Thank you for considering my application, and I look forward to discussing this opportunity further.

It helps, but don’t just list library software that you’re familiar with. Instead, highlight how you used it to make an impact, such as by saying that you assisted over 1,000 patrons with research inquiries using JSTOR and ProQuest.

Librarians have strong research skills, so put yours to the test and do some digging! Check out the library’s website, social media, and the job description to try to find the name. Alternatively, visit it or call it to try and find out. If it’s impossible, you can use “Dear Hiring Manager.” 

Lean into your education and any similar jobs you might have held in the past. For example, if you were a research assistant at your college, there’s a lot of skill overlap, from data analysis to database management.

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Librarian Cover Letter Example

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Librarians were arguably the first search engines, helping patrons find the information they needed quickly and suggesting further areas for study. Today’s  librarians  are also technical wizards, often responsible for creating web-based content, as well as staying on top of ever-changing information management trends.

When you prepare your application, it’s important to emphasize your more relevant skills, experience, and education.

Looking for a library job? This sample librarian cover letter and resume can help you highlight your qualifications and stand out from the competition.

What to Include in Your Resume and Cover Letter

  • Review the job advertisement.  Take the time to match your qualifications to the job, so your credentials are as close a match as possible to what the employer is seeking in an ideal candidate.
  • List your qualifications.  Your resume should include your previous work experience, education, skills, and any certifications you may have received. In both the "profile" and " skills " sections of your resume, highlight your computer and research skills, as they are both extremely valuable skills to have in this position.
  • Start with samples or templates.  Use these samples as a guide to help you get started but be sure to customize your resume and cover letter for every job application.

This is an example of a cover letter for a librarian position . Download the librarian cover letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.

Librarian Cover Letter Example (Text Version)

Louisa Applicant 123 Main Street Anytown, CA 12345 555-555-5555

December 15, 2020

Sonja Lee Director, Human Resources Acme Academy  123 Business Rd. Business City, NY 54321

Dear Ms. Lee,

I read with great interest your posting for a chief librarian at Acme Academy as listed on I know that my years of experience as an academic librarian and my success developing forward-thinking library projects make me an ideal candidate for this position.

I have over 10 years of experience working as an academic librarian. In my years of experience, I have developed various techniques for best explaining and instilling research skills in students. I have even developed and taught a well-received research course for first-year college students, which would translate well into an upper-level high-school course.

You state in your listing that you want a chief librarian who can adapt the library to today’s technology-driven culture. I am very comfortable with implementing e-technology in a library setting. I even helped develop a streamlined library website at Smalltown Community College, which allowed students to more easily access the college’s online resources. I would love the opportunity to develop similar tools for Acme Academy’s library.

I am confident that my extensive experience makes me a strong candidate for chief librarian at Acme Academy. I have enclosed my resume and other required materials for your review. I look forward to speaking with you further about what I may offer your school. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Signature (hard copy letter)

Louisa Applicant

This is an example of a resume for a librarian position. Download the librarian resume template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online).

Librarian Resume Example (Text Version)

Renee Applicant 123 Main Street  Oakwood Park, IL 12345 (123) 456-7890


Managing libraries, helping students with research, setting up compelling displays

Respected Librarian with 10+ years’ secondary and university experience, specializing in developing research tools and courses to strengthen students’ research ability, seeks position with university library.

Key skills include:

  • Developing Research Tools and Courses for Secondary Schools and Universities
  • Award-Winning Display Development
  • Translating Library Services and Policies into Tangible Resources for Students
  • Experience Training New Librarians


123 COMMUNITY COLLEGE, Oak Park, Ill. REFERENCE LIBRARIAN (February 2016 – Present) Initiated and helped develop new online catalog to promote efficient student and faculty research; develop instructional materials on research methods in various formats (web, multimedia, and print); write and publish library blog and maintain social media pages.

Notable accomplishments:

  • Developed and taught library research class for students across all majors.
  • Received award for “Best New Course” for 2018; named “Librarian of the Year” twice.

XYZ UNIVERSITY THEOLOGY LIBRARY, Chicago, Ill. ASSISTANT LIBRARIAN (June 2011 – February 2016) Consulted with colleagues and teachers to develop and construct monthly displays on academic topics.

Notable Accomplishments:

  • Developed and co-taught course on research methods for incoming freshmen students.
  • Spearheaded project to streamline magazine subscriptions, saving the library $2,000 annually.


XYZ UNIVERSITY , Chicago, Ill. Master of Library Science (GPA: 3.9; Selected “Graduate Student of the Year”), May 2011

XYZ UNIVERSITY , Chicago, Ill. Bachelor of Arts in English (GPA: 3.8; Dean’s List Each Semester; Graduated Cum Laude) May 2010

Information Technology Skills

Computer Applications: Word, Excel, Google Docs • Web Publishing: HTML, Dreamweaver, WordPress

How to Email Your Resume and Cover Letter

  • Choose the right subject line.  If you're sending your resume and cover letter via email, list your name and the job title in the subject line of the email message:

Subject:  Librarian Position - Your Name.

  • Cut the contact information paragraphs.  Instead, include your contact information in your email signature, and don't list the employer contact information. Start your email message with the  salutation .
  • Proofread and test your message before you send.  This will ensure that your formatting holds up, as well as giving you an additional chance to catch any typos or errors before the hiring manager reviews your email.
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Click here to directly go to the complete Library Assistant cover letter sample.

Why is a library assistant cover letter necessary to bag that job?

A recruiter shortlists applicants that show suitability and are also interested in working with the organization.

A resume will not single-handedly fulfill these criteria. With a library assistant cover letter, you can craft a narrative that aligns you not only with the job role but also with the organization you are applying to.

A compelling cover letter for library assistant highlights your experience in library services combined with your multidisciplinary skills. This way, you can present yourself as the ideal candidate and can bag that interview.

Read on to get clarity on the following FAQs regarding library assistant cover letter:

  • What makes a good library assistant?
  • What is the difference between a librarian and a library assistant?
  • How to write a cover letter for library assistant?

Some additional information for making a flawless library assistant cover letter:

  • What are some power verbs for your library assistant cover letter?
  • What are some mistakes to avoid while drafting a library assistant cover letter?

What Makes a Good Library Assistant?

Library assistant jobs require high attention to detail and strong interpersonal skills. A good library assistant must keep the library up and running by assisting with the clerical duties.

These professionals hold a significant place in grade schools, universities, government organizations, hospitals, and (of course) public libraries. The bibliophiles you will be helping depend on the kind of library you choose to work at.

Considering the requirements, a cover letter for library assistant jobs should emphasize your:

  • Research Skills
  • Digital Literacy
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Written & Communication Skills
  • Critical Thinking Skills

Difference Between a Librarian And a Library Assistant

A librarian and a library assistant have some overlapping responsibilities, but a librarian is more of a manager, whereas library assistants tend to interact more with a library's patrons.

Library assistants are supervised by librarians or library technicians, both positions that require more training and education than that of a library assistant.

Therefore, you should emphasize your ability to work well with a team and your experience in day-to-day upkeep and public services in your library assistant cover letter.

How to Write a Cover Letter for Library Assistant?

A library assistant cover letter needs to be very precise in emphasizing your relevant abilities. You cannot simply include phrases like ‘hard working and efficient’ or ‘strong computer skills’, and expect laudable remarks.

Tailoring your library assistant cover letter with consistent font, margins, and line-spacing shows how you pay attention to detail. It is recommended that you follow the trusted 3-paragraph format to show professionalism.

Let us break down the format for you with several library assistant cover letter examples:

Library Assistant Cover Letter: Header

This is the first section that the hiring manager will see, so it should have all your primary details:

  • Contact information
  • Email address
  • Residential location
  • LinkedIn ID

A LinkedIn ID is not compulsory. Include it if you have an account and given it is adding value to your online professional identity.

You can also include the job title depending on the template. Otherwise, job title can always be mentioned in the subject of the letter.


Also read: How to Write a Cover Letter Heading?

Recruiter Details + Salutation

Start with the date of the application, followed by details of the recruiter or hiring manager:

  • Designation
  • Company Name
  • Complete Address

Do your fair share of research to find the name of the recruiter. If you are unable to find their name, you can address your cover letter for library assistant to the team, for example, ‘To Geisel Library team,’.


Also read: How to Address a Cover Letter?

Library Assistant Cover Letter: Paragraph 1

Your opening paragraph should be strong and informative.

Mention the source of the job posting, total years of relevant experience, your qualifications in brief, and end with explicitly stating your interest in that specific role.

For example:

As an accomplished and seasonal professional, I am thrilled to apply for the Library Assistant position at Cacao World Library. I bring extensive expertise in library services along with a bachelor’s degree in library sciences. I am eager to join your organization that would provide a plethora of opportunities for boosting my professional growth.

Library Assistant Cover Letter: Paragraph 2

This is where your practical experiences and core skills come into play.

Emphasize your major contributions across previous profiles (make sure to align them with your current profile), and quantify details wherever suitable.

During my stint at Grand Central Library, I assisted 30+ library members on a daily basis with research and information acquisition along with providing comprehensive support to library management staff. I also utilized advanced information technology resources including internal/external databases, digital libraries, Google Scholar, and JSTOR to facilitate materials location for premium library members.

Library Assistant Cover Letter: Paragraph 3

Mention what it is about the organization that you admire or that separates it from others, and your interest to work with/for them.

It is astounding how Geisel Library adapts to the opportunities and changes in the academic structure. I am inspired by its collaborative culture that encourages social awareness, excellent service, and a learning environment. I am eager to join your organization, and I consider your organization to be my most valued employer.

Closing Statement + Signature

The closing statement should mention the enclosed resume along with a proper call to action for interview.

Sign off your library assistant cover letter with either of the following:

  • Thanking you
Also read: How Long Should a Cover Letter be?

Cover Letter Sample for Library Assistant

Suitable power verbs for your library assistant cover letter.

Power verbs amplify your professional achievements. Including power verbs in your library assistant cover letter can make it far more impactful and impressive than using regular verbs.

When you come across cover letter examples for library assistant online, you must have noticed how the experiences showcase reliability, academic knowledge and similar attributes. Here is a list of suitable power verbs for your library assistant cover letter that will convey the responsibilities of this profile:

  • Demonstrated

5 Recent Openings for Library Assistant in the United States

Also read: What are some tips to write a Cover Letter in 2022?

Mistakes to Avoid in Your Library Assistant Cover Letter

When an organization shortlists application during recruitment, they may disregard your library assistant cover letter if you make any of the following mistakes:

Irrelevant accomplishments : You should showcase only those achievements that lend well to your job duties. Do not flood the recruiter with every professional accomplishment of yours.

Lengthy cover letter : A concise and to the point cover letter is appreciated by employers. A cover letter should be only one page and the word count should be between 350-600 words.

Excessive appreciation : Too much of anything is not good. Show minimalistic and natural appreciation for the company and its contribution to your professional growth.

Typos and grammatical errors : Triple-check that you have addressed your library assistant cover letter to the correct person and proofread to ensure grammatical correctness.

Key Takeaways

A library assistant cover letter helps you form a good first impression on recruiters. But it is crucial to present it correctly. The format, achievements, relevant qualities, they count.

Here’s a recap of everything we have discussed so far:

  • You can craft a library assistant cover letter as a brief account of relevant accomplishments along with your admiration for the organization.
  • Emphasize your ability to work well with a team and your experience in diverse library services in your library assistant cover letter.
  • Include suitable power verbs to amplify your achievements.
  • Make sure to keep your cover letter concise and mention only relevant accomplishments.

Feel free to drop us a mail at [email protected] for any queries or concerns.

Hiration provides you a complete career service platform with 24/7 chat support for all your professional needs, from cover letter & resume building, CV, interview preparations, LinkedIn review to building a digital portfolio.

cover letter for a library job

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cover letter for a library job


Library Assistant Cover Letter Examples

Use these Library Assistant cover letter examples to help you write a powerful cover letter that will separate you from the competition.

cover letter for a library job

Library assistants are responsible for a wide range of tasks in libraries, including helping patrons find books and other materials, checking out books, and shelving books.

To get a job as a library assistant, you need to write a cover letter that shows your passion for libraries and your commitment to providing excellent customer service.

Check out the examples below to learn how to write a great library assistant cover letter.

Formal/Professional Writing Style Example

I am a highly motivated and detail-oriented individual with exceptional interpersonal and organizational skills, making me an excellent candidate for the Library Assistant role. My passion for providing outstanding library services, coupled with my experience working as a volunteer at my local library, gives me a strong foundation in understanding the day-to-day responsibilities and requirements of the position.

During my time as a library volunteer, I have assisted with various tasks, such as shelving books, maintaining an organized library environment, and providing excellent customer service to patrons. I adapt quickly to changing priorities and am adept at using computer systems, including cataloging software and digital resources. Furthermore, I have experience in planning and participating in reading programs for children and adults.

As a lifelong library enthusiast, I am committed to making a positive impact in my community by promoting literacy, fostering a love of reading, and ensuring equal access to information for all. I believe that a well-organized and efficient library is a critical resource within any community, and I am eager to contribute towards your library’s continued success.

I am confident that my enthusiasm, skills, and experience make me a perfect fit for the Library Assistant position at your organization. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my candidacy further at your earliest convenience. Thank you for considering my application.

[Your Full Name]

Entry-Level Writing Style Example

I am a recent graduate of Riverdale University with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to your institution’s success while also fostering a love for literature and learning in visitors of all ages.

During my time at Riverdale University, I volunteered at the campus library, where I gained experience in book cataloging, shelving, and inventory management. I also assisted with various library programs, such as tutoring sessions, guest author visits, and book clubs. This experience has equipped me with strong organizational skills, attention to detail, and a passion for promoting literacy and learning.

I am an excellent candidate for the Library Assistant position due to my background in literature, my previous library experience, and my strong interpersonal skills. I understand the importance of creating a welcoming and accessible environment for patrons and am committed to providing exceptional service to all visitors.

In addition to my library experience, I am proficient in MS Office Suite and comfortable using various library software applications. I am confident that my combination of skills and passion for literature will make me a valuable addition to your team.

I am eager to meet with you in person to further discuss my qualifications and the Library Assistant position. Thank you for your time and consideration.

[Your Name]

Networking/Referral Writing Style Example

I was referred to this opportunity by Mr. John Smith, who is a Senior Librarian at your library and also a respected family friend. Mr. Smith has spoken highly of the work culture and professional development opportunities at your library, and I believe that this role would not only utilize my skills and passion for literature but also provide me with invaluable experience in the field of library services.

Having recently completed my Bachelor’s in Library and Information Science with a 3.8 GPA, I have gained strong practical skills in cataloguing, book processing, and library systems. During my university years, I volunteered at the campus library, where I assisted with book shelving and maintaining the library’s organization. This experience allowed me to develop excellent attention to detail and a strong work ethic, which I believe make me the ideal candidate for the Library Assistant role.

My extensive knowledge in children’s literature, coupled with my warm and approachable demeanor, would also allow me to excel in providing guidance to library patrons, especially the younger ones, as they explore the boundless world of books and the knowledge they contain.

I admire your library’s dedication to fostering a community of lifelong learning and would be honored to contribute to this mission. I am excited about the prospect of joining your team and would welcome the opportunity to further discuss my suitability for this role.

Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the opportunity to speak with you soon.

Yours sincerely,

Enthusiastic/Passionate Writing Style Example

As an avid reader and lifelong devotee of literature, I believe that books are the gateway to knowledge, creativity, and personal growth. The opportunity to contribute to and support the mission of your library truly resonates with my core values and aspirations. I am confident that my dedication and passion for fostering a love for reading in the community make me an ideal candidate for this position.

Having worked at my local library as a volunteer for the past two years, I have developed a profound appreciation for the invaluable role libraries play in the lives of countless individuals. Assisting patrons of all ages in finding their next beloved book or aiding in their research projects has not only honed my organizational, customer service, and communication skills but also solidified my passion for libraries and the vast body of knowledge they encompass.

In addition to my library-centered expertise, I am also proficient in using advanced library software and technology to efficiently manage and organize resources. I am exceedingly motivated to innovate and enhance the patron experience in every way possible, all while maintaining the pristine, welcoming environment that is the cornerstone of any successful library.

Ultimately, my fervent commitment to literacy and my fervor for facilitating a productive, positive, and engaging library atmosphere drive my desire to excel as a Library Assistant. I am eager to be a part of your team and am confident in my ability to make a significant impact as we work together to cultivate the love for reading in our community.

Thank you for considering my application. I am thrilled about the prospect of discussing how my passion and qualifications align with your vision for the Library Assistant role.

Problem-Solving Writing Style Example

As a passionate advocate for the power of education and knowledge, I am aware of the challenges faced by libraries today in maintaining relevance and efficiency in our fast-paced digital age. I believe my skills and experience make me an ideal candidate to help address these issues, making a significant impact on your library’s operations and contributing towards its continued success.

Firstly, increasing engagement and patron satisfaction is crucial in maintaining the relevance of libraries. During my time as a volunteer at my local library, I developed and ran a successful monthly book club that grew the library’s patronage by 20%. My ability to communicate and engage with a diverse group of people will help foster a welcoming and supportive environment, attracting more visitors to the library and promoting its services.

Secondly, libraries must keep pace with evolving technology to meet the needs of their communities. As a recent graduate with a degree in Information Science, I am well-versed in the latest library management software and digital resources. My experience in managing digital collections at a previous position would bring valuable expertise to your library in adapting to technological changes, thereby ensuring efficient and streamlined services for patrons.

Lastly, efficient management of library resources is essential for maintaining a high-quality environment. My previous experience as an intern in a university library has provided me with a strong understanding of inventory control and materials management. I am confident that I can utilize this knowledge to optimize your library’s organization and accessibility, making the most of the resources available.

In conclusion, my passion for promoting knowledge, my ability to engage with patrons, and my experience in managing both digital and physical resources make me a strong candidate to tackle the challenges faced by your library. I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to contribute to your library’s growth and continued success.

Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my suitability for the Library Assistant position further.

Storytelling/Narrative Writing Style Example

As a child, my father used to take me on weekly trips to our local library. We would spend hours together, exploring the various aisles and discovering new worlds through the pages of books. It was during these trips that I developed a profound love for literature and the magical spaces that libraries provide. Years later, while attending college, I found myself returning to the library to seek solace and inspiration during challenging times. One particularly rainy afternoon, as I sat in my favorite corner of the library, I realized that it was time for me to give back to the institution that had provided me with so much joy and guidance throughout my life.

Soon after this revelation, I secured a part-time job as a Library Assistant at my college’s library. Over the course of two years, I honed my skills in organizing and maintaining library resources, and assisting patrons with their research needs. I took great pride in creating an inviting and accessible environment for all visitors. I also had the opportunity to help plan and execute various library programs, such as author visits and reading clubs, which further fueled my passion for promoting the love of reading within my community.

Now, as I embark on the next chapter of my career, I am eager to bring my passion and skills to your organization. I am confident that my experience, along with my genuine enthusiasm for the role of Library Assistant, would make me a valuable addition to your team. Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the opportunity to contribute to your library’s mission of fostering a love for literature and learning.

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The Cut

How to Write a Cover Letter That Will Get You a Job

I ’ve read thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of cover letters in my career. If you’re thinking that sounds like really boring reading, you’re right. What I can tell you from enduring that experience is that most cover letters are terrible — and not only that, but squandered opportunities. When a cover letter is done well, it can significantly increase your chances of getting an interview, but the vast majority fail that test.

So let’s talk about how to do cover letters right.

First, understand the point of a cover letter.

The whole idea of a cover letter is that it can help the employer see you as more than just your résumé. Managers generally aren’t hiring based solely on your work history; your experience is crucial, yes, but they’re also looking for someone who will be easy to work with, shows good judgment, communicates well, possesses strong critical thinking skills and a drive to get things done, complements their current team, and all the other things you yourself probably want from your co-workers. It’s tough to learn much about those things from job history alone, and that’s where your cover letter comes in.

Because of that …

Whatever you do, don’t just summarize your résumé.

The No. 1 mistake people make with cover letters is that they simply use them to summarize their résumé. This makes no sense — hiring managers don’t need a summary of your résumé! It’s on the very next page! They’re about to see it as soon as they scroll down. And if you think about it, your entire application is only a few pages (in most cases, a one- or two-page résumé and a one-page cover letter) — why would you squander one of those pages by repeating the content of the others? And yet, probably 95 percent of the cover letters I see don’t add anything new beyond the résumé itself (and that’s a conservative estimate).

Instead, your cover letter should go beyond your work history to talk about things that make you especially well-suited for the job. For example, if you’re applying for an assistant job that requires being highly organized and you neurotically track your household finances in a detailed, color-coded spreadsheet, most hiring managers would love to know that because it says something about the kind of attention to detail you’d bring to the job. That’s not something you could put on your résumé, but it can go in your cover letter.

Or maybe your last boss told you that you were the most accurate data processor she’d ever seen, or came to rely on you as her go-to person whenever a lightning-fast rewrite was needed. Maybe your co-workers called you “the client whisperer” because of your skill in calming upset clients. Maybe you’re regularly sought out by more senior staff to help problem-solve, or you find immense satisfaction in bringing order to chaos. Those sorts of details illustrate what you bring to the job in a different way than your résumé does, and they belong in your cover letter.

If you’re still stumped, pretend you’re writing an email to a friend about why you’d be great at the job. You probably wouldn’t do that by stiffly reciting your work history, right? You’d talk about what you’re good at and how you’d approach the work. That’s what you want here.

You don’t need a creative opening line.

If you think you need to open the letter with something creative or catchy, I am here to tell you that you don’t. Just be simple and straightforward:

• “I’m writing to apply for your X position.”

• “I’d love to be considered for your X position.”

• “I’m interested in your X position because …”

• “I’m excited to apply for your X position.”

That’s it! Straightforward is fine — better, even, if the alternative is sounding like an aggressive salesperson.

Show, don’t tell.

A lot of cover letters assert that the person who wrote it would excel at the job or announce that the applicant is a skillful engineer or a great communicator or all sorts of other subjective superlatives. That’s wasted space — the hiring manager has no reason to believe it, and so many candidates claim those things about themselves that most managers ignore that sort of self-assessment entirely. So instead of simply declaring that you’re great at X (whatever X is), your letter should demonstrate that. And the way you do that is by describing accomplishments and experiences that illustrate it.

Here’s a concrete example taken from one extraordinarily effective cover-letter makeover that I saw. The candidate had originally written, “I offer exceptional attention to detail, highly developed communication skills, and a talent for managing complex projects with a demonstrated ability to prioritize and multitask.” That’s pretty boring and not especially convincing, right? (This is also exactly how most people’s cover letters read.)

In her revised version, she wrote this instead:

“In addition to being flexible and responsive, I’m also a fanatic for details — particularly when it comes to presentation. One of my recent projects involved coordinating a 200-page grant proposal: I proofed and edited the narratives provided by the division head, formatted spreadsheets, and generally made sure that every line was letter-perfect and that the entire finished product conformed to the specific guidelines of the RFP. (The result? A five-year, $1.5 million grant award.) I believe in applying this same level of attention to detail to tasks as visible as prepping the materials for a top-level meeting and as mundane as making sure the copier never runs out of paper.”

That second version is so much more compelling and interesting — and makes me believe that she really is great with details.

If there’s anything unusual or confusing about your candidacy, address it in the letter.

Your cover letter is your chance to provide context for things that otherwise might seem confusing or less than ideal to a hiring manager. For example, if you’re overqualified for the position but are excited about it anyway, or if you’re a bit underqualified but have reason to think you could excel at the job, address that up front. Or if your background is in a different field but you’re actively working to move into this one, say so, talk about why, and explain how your experience will translate. Or if you’re applying for a job across the country from where you live because you’re hoping to relocate to be closer to your family, let them know that.

If you don’t provide that kind of context, it’s too easy for a hiring manager to decide you’re the wrong fit or applying to everything you see or don’t understand the job description and put you in the “no” pile. A cover letter gives you a chance to say, “No, wait — here’s why this could be a good match.”

Keep the tone warm and conversational.

While there are some industries that prize formal-sounding cover letters — like law — in most fields, yours will stand out if it’s warm and conversational. Aim for the tone you’d use if you were writing to a co-worker whom you liked a lot but didn’t know especially well. It’s okay to show some personality or even use humor; as long as you don’t go overboard, your letter will be stronger for it.

Don’t use a form letter.

You don’t need to write every cover letter completely from scratch, but if you’re not customizing it to each job, you’re doing it wrong. Form letters tend to read like form letters, and they waste the chance to speak to the specifics of what this employer is looking for and what it will take to thrive in this particular job.

If you’re applying for a lot of similar jobs, of course you’ll end up reusing language from one letter to the next. But you shouldn’t have a single cover letter that you wrote once and then use every time you apply; whatever you send should sound like you wrote it with the nuances of this one job in mind.

A good litmus test is this: Could you imagine other applicants for this job sending in the same letter? If so, that’s a sign that you haven’t made it individualized enough to you and are probably leaning too heavily on reciting your work history.

No, you don’t need to hunt down the hiring manager’s name.

If you read much job-search advice, at some point you’ll come across the idea that you need to do Woodward and Bernstein–level research to hunt down the hiring manager’s name in order to open your letter with “Dear Matilda Jones.” You don’t need to do this; no reasonable hiring manager will care. If the name is easily available, by all means, feel free to use it, but otherwise “Dear Hiring Manager” is absolutely fine. Take the hour you just freed up and do something more enjoyable with it.

Keep it under one page.

If your cover letters are longer than a page, you’re writing too much, and you risk annoying hiring managers who are likely sifting through hundreds of applications and don’t have time to read lengthy tomes. On the other hand, if you only write one paragraph, it’s unlikely that you’re making a compelling case for yourself as a candidate — not impossible, but unlikely. For most people, something close to a page is about right.

Don’t agonize over the small details.

What matters most about your cover letter is its content. You should of course ensure that it’s well-written and thoroughly proofread, but many job seekers agonize over elements of the letter that really don’t matter. I get tons of  questions from job seekers  about whether they should attach their cover letter or put it in the body of the email (answer: No one cares, but attaching it makes it easier to share and will preserve your formatting), or what to name the file (again, no one really cares as long as it’s reasonably professional, but when people are dealing with hundreds of files named “resume,” it’s courteous to name it with your full name).

Approaching your cover letter like this can make a huge difference in your job search. It can be the thing that moves your application from the “maybe” pile (or even the “no” pile) to the “yes” pile. Of course, writing cover letters like this will take more time than sending out the same templated letter summarizing your résumé — but 10 personalized, compelling cover letters are likely to get you more  interview invitations  than 50 generic ones will.

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by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images


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