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What should I put in my letter of interest/cover letter?

Koya search consultants and career coaches see thousands of resumes every year. As part of our “Ask Koya” series, Koya team members offer their perspective and guidance on writing an effective resume.

In this issue, we talk to Amanda Sonis Glynn, advisor, career services, and managing directors Alexandra Corvin and Marissa Martin.

Alex: Letters of interest should be a page and a half to two pages long. The letter should tell the story of who you are beyond what’s in the resume, it should not just recap your resume. Tell the reader why you want this position, why it resonates with you, and why now. Don’t be afraid to get personal and explain why the organization’s mission resonates with you. Use the letter as an opportunity to show your experience and your personality to the hiring manager or Search Committee.

Marissa: I think cover letters or letter of interest highlight your commitment to the mission and explain why you want this job. I don’t want to see much of anything in your cover letter that’s on your resume; I think it’s redundant. I’ve always coached people to have their cover letters broken down into a couple of paragraphs. First, how did you get introduced to this role? And why are you interested in it? The second and third paragraph are that connection to the mission or the connection to the work, what you’ve done to demonstrate that mission or why that’s important to you. And I think you go personal in the letter. And then the final paragraph is really to reiterate your interest, why you’re the right fit for this role and then ask for next steps. Always be grateful, gracious, and appreciative of their time.

Amanda: The cover letter is the place to tell your story, to provide context and nuance and personal connections in a way that a resume doesn’t allow. I typically suggest that people try to answer the following question when they’re writing cover letters: “Why do you want to do this job at this organization?” There are people who are really effective at communicating why they care so deeply about the mission of the organization; there are others who do a great job of sharing why they can do the actual job to which they’re applying. Being able to convey both—and to do so in a way that shows that you have tailored your answer for this particular reader—is the sweet spot.

You mentioned LinkedIn, what’s important to keep in mind for my LinkedIn profile?

Marissa: As you know, we’re in the 21st century. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, you’ve got to have a really good reason. What I’m looking for there is how long they’ve been in their roles; how do they move up in their roles? Did their moves make sense? Does your career tell a story? I’m looking for a professional picture. I don’t like anything silly or personal on your LinkedIn. I look at it as a professional networking tool. I like to see a little bit of interaction on there as well. I look to see if they are posting things. Are they using it appropriately? Who are they connected to? Our clients are looking beyond resumes, they are doing an online scan of the candidates.

Amanda: Your LinkedIn profile does not need to be as extensive as your resume (nor should it be), but it should be another professional touchpoint for potential employers. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and that the information included aligns with what is included in your resume. Titles, dates, and basic information should be consistent with your resume even if you don’t provide as much detail about each role.