How to write a cover letter for startups

After a recent hiring spree, it’s safe to say we’ve probably looked at a couple hundred cover letters. Maybe more. Reading cover letters sucks, but the anguish of slaving over a cover letter when there’s no guarantee you’ll actually hear back from a company sucks even more. Cover letters take time to write and great cover letters take even more time to write unless, that is, you’re a wordsmith or the John Updike of cover letters. That’s John Updike there to the right.

Forbes published a handy guide with 6 secrets to write a cover letter and we definitely recommend giving that a read. We also have a few of our own suggestions which will help make your cover letter really pop. So here goes.

Write less about what you did

Your resume and LinkedIn will tell us what you did in the past. We want to know how you’re going to help our startup be better and improve. Your cover letter should tell us what kind of person you are, what kinds of things you’re into and how will you fit in and grow. Think of us as a prospective boyfriend or girlfriend you’re trying to win on a date.

Tailor the letter to the job posting

If there are specific questions in the job posting, for goodness sake, answer them. This goes back to the first tip – write less about what you did in your internship last summer and more about you. Show us that you’re the dude or chick we want on our team. Most importantly, don’t answer the questions in a postscript or PS at the bottom of the cover letter. It’s a sure sign you copy and pasted an old cover letter and just added something fresh at the bottom. Child please.

Use LinkedIn

If you don’t have a LinkedIn, we’re going to judge you. It’s the same reason we would judge you for not having a Twitter profile if you’re applying for a social media position. This is a startup and your world will involve networking and building connections. A desktop rolodex doesn’t do that, but LinkedIn can. It also means we don’t have to download .pdf or .doc files. This saves us time because we’re all about saying that we’re all about efficiency. That’s not a typo, you read that right.

Be funny, be different, be awesome

This is the most important of all. Don’t copy and paste cover letters. It won’t work at a start up or at least not at this one. Even if you’re not the John Updike of writing cover letters, try to be and make it freakin’ awesome. Write like the people at Moosejaw because they’re funny. Sometimes people don’t look like a good fit for the team but their cover letters were so damn hilarious we called them in for an interview. It happens. Even if you don’t get called for an interview but you had a funny letter, you can be sure that it will passed around. At least you can feel good about that.


Photo source: Darmouth Review