Have you ever been curious to see exactly what someone wrote in a cover letter that worked? Like word for word? Well, same. That’s why we’re taking a look at Real Cover Letters That Got the Job. We bring you actual cover letters that real people submitted for jobs they ultimately landed—and the scoop on why they worked.
Alex Caffee had been getting The Muse’s newsletter for years when she saw that the marketing team was hiring someone to send those emails. She was a big fan of the brand already, but also knew there were so many ways the product could be better—and she was convinced she could, and should, be the one to deliver on that potential. She really wanted this job.
So even though she doesn’t love writing cover letters—or, as she says, she typically resents spending time on them—she carefully crafted one from scratch for the email marketing manager position. Her goal wasn’t just to show that she could do the job or even to prove that she was a perfect fit for the role, but to paint a memorable picture of someone who’d embody the company’s values and contribute to its mission and culture.
The Cover Letter
Before we get into the cover letter, it’s worth pausing to note that The Muse’s system has applicants paste their cover letters into a text box rather than attaching them as separate documents, so candidates sometimes skip the salutation—and that’s OK.
More than a fan of The Muse, I’m also a long-time subscriber to your emails. Although I enjoy reading them, I see so many opportunities to do more with re-marketing your services and creating more customized content. You guys are killing it, and it would be my absolute pleasure to help you build out the best email program yet.
In addition to my success with engaging and converting email subscribers, I hope my personal experience in the workplace proves that I’d more than qualify for the position—I’d embody the work itself:
Outside of my email marketing responsibilities, I’m the founding co-chair of the Women of Niche internal development group, advocating for better workplace policies, inviting speakers, organizing educational initiatives, and making sure women of all backgrounds feel supported. So far, I’ve organized several speakers and pushed for better parental leave and maternity policies, encouraging our group to perform competitive analysis and present to our C-suite.
I hope this assures you that I’d work especially hard to develop your marketing efforts as The Muse promotes a cause I’m personally dedicated to.
One thing to mention is that I’m currently in Pittsburgh, but am aiming to relocate to New York as soon as possible.
Hopefully we can talk more about your plans for email marketing and how I can help alleviate any pain points.
How This Cover Letter Won Over the Recruiter
Caffee’s cover letter immediately stood out to Lauren Roberts, Associate Director of Talent Acquisition at The Muse, who Slacked the hiring manager excitedly to tell her, “Check out this cover letter!” Here’s what Roberts says:
What grabbed you about this cover letter?
She started her cover letter in a really personalized way. So often I get emails that say, “Dear Sir or Madam, To Whom It May Concern, I’m applying to your position that I found on xyz job board.” Yes, I know. I get really tired of reading those. So I loved that she started out in a way that made me feel like this is someone I want to talk to—I’m getting to know their personality. But also this is somebody who knows who we are and actually cares about this opportunity as opposed to just applying to a hundred jobs and hoping something sticks.
She addresses the core of the position right away and she jumps right into a pain point. She demonstrates in her first paragraph that she’s already thinking from a strategic perspective. We needed someone in this role who is going to advocate for email and who’s going to have a point of view and who can push to get things done and get buy-in from others. So somebody who’s not afraid to say in their cover letter, “I think your email’s great. I see some clear opportunities to make it better and I want to be a part of that,” stood out to me.
Next she talks about herself outside of her specific job. It gave me a good sense of why she would be a great culture add. She’s so aligned with The Muse’s mission and values as a team and a group of humans. It gave me a sense of what she cares about as a person and what she’s passionate about. Also that she’s somebody who goes the extra step to create a better workplace and somebody who gets things done.
Why, in your mind, was it okay not to get into too many specific role-related accomplishments in the cover letter?
Her role-specific accomplishments are in her resume and outlined quite well so it wasn't necessary to explain that again in her cover letter. Her resume is succinct and includes the most relevant information such as what she owned and the impact she made (numbers are super important for anyone in marketing, which is a very goal-driven field). Because of this, she was able to use her cover letter as an opportunity to share a different side of herself and not be redundant.
What did you think about the line about relocating?
I can’t tell you how many people don’t address that and I have to send emails like, “I see that you’re located in California. This position is based in New York. Are you looking to relocate?” And then sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. But that is something that you can address up front to answer the question for the recruiter or the hiring manager and make sure that they don’t pass over you.
How did her cover letter help her get the interview and/or the job?
It got me excited about her. Part of what I do as a recruiter is not just finding the right candidate, it’s finding the right candidate and then selling that candidate to the hiring manager. So when I have this wonderful gem of a cover letter that I can use, it helps me get them excited. It really sets you up for success.
Why This Cover Letter Worked With the Hiring Manager (i.e. the Candidate’s Future Boss)
It’s a good start to get the recruiter excited and get past initial screening, but of course it’s not enough. You also have to convince your prospective boss that you’re the perfect candidate to fill the role. Lauren McCullough, Senior Director of Marketing at The Muse, is now Caffee’s boss. Here’s what McCullough has to say:
What caught your attention about Alex?
It’s a good feeling as a hiring manager to see a candidate say that they’re a fan of your company, that they understand what they’re applying for. But I appreciated that Alex wasn’t afraid to offer some feedback literally right in the first paragraph of her cover letter. It was still really positive and made me feel like this is someone who is confident in her skills. [In one sentence], she really aptly captured where our email program was and all of the opportunities that we have to grow it and to make it even more impactful for our users. It’s not always easy to see from the outside what a business’s challenges or opportunities are. I thought that that was really impressive.
How did her cover letter help her get the interview and/or the job?
She didn’t spend a lot of time in the cover letter rehashing her resume, which I actually think is a very smart strategic choice because then that runs the risk of feeling duplicative, like, “Ugh I already read this.” Instead she devoted most of the real estate to talking about her workplace leadership. She really demonstrated how she would contribute to the culture here at The Muse, which is something that’s really important to us. And that’s stuff that doesn’t necessarily jump off of a resume.
And as a hiring manager, I want someone who wants to join our company and who wants this role and who is going to come to work every day and be enthusiastic and be passionate about solving the hard problems that we’re trying to solve. There’s no better place than a cover letter to really convey your personal passion and your personal enthusiasm for a particular role and for a company. She’s gone the extra mile to really make that clear, and helped her stand out.
How the Letter Got Written
Just over a month into her job as The Muse’s email marketing manager, Caffee looked back at the cover letter that helped get her the role.
What was the number one thing you were hoping to communicate in your cover letter?
That line that I embodied the work itself. I really wanted to hammer that in. I’m not only a fan, I’m absolutely the right person not only for the job but for the company. I felt like this out of all of my other cover letters was the most genuine, like, “Okay, The Muse, I have the receipts!”
Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would’ve done differently in your letter?
No. In fact, I’m happy that I didn’t take any time to talk about my work. I totally brushed over it. I have success with engaging and converting email subscribers, but the more important part is that I have this other experience that is cool and unique. I don’t just sound like a robot. My mom always gave me good advice that a human being is reading this—a person who needs to be entertained. So I always try to begin like I’m writing to a friend. I definitely felt like I was taking a risk but also felt good that I was like being true to myself and my experience.
Photo of person sitting at a desk typing on a laptop courtesy of Westend61/Getty Images.
A longtime word nerd and bookworm, Stav studied history and dance at Stanford and later journalism at Columbia. Before joining The Muse, Stav was a staff writer at Newsweek, where she wrote about everything from Nazi hunters to Chinese adoptees to Good Girls Revolt, the real story and fictionalized TV show about a 1970 gender discrimination case at the magazine. She prefers sunshine and tolerates winters grudgingly.More from this Author