Exercise Weekend

After following the steps depicted in the previous lesson, we're now ready to actually write the cover letter.

The basic format of a cover letter is this:

  1. Introduction: A short paragraph introducing yourself, telling why you want to work for the company, and summarizing why you're a good fit for the position.

  2. Body: 1-2 paragraphs showing how your experience and skills relate to the position you're applying for.

  3. Conclusion: A short paragraph re-capping the main skills and abilities you identified in the cover letter (don’t introduce any new content).

This should go without saying, but do not copy this cover letter. Your cover letter should be unique to you, and unique to each job you apply to. If you copy even some of this example, it will be very obvious to Epicodus staff and potential employers, especially if some of your classmates do as well.


We'll start with the body, and work outwards. We'll use the exact key words and phrases from our list above, crossing them out as we go. Here's the body:

My education at Epicodus and internship at Digital Designs gave me many of the technical skills I need to make a great technical advisor for Acquia. I decided to attend Epicodus because of my passion for the web and interest in open-source development. Starting day one of class, I became familiar with the command line and Git, and also learned about domain models and SQL databases. At my internship with Digital Designs, I continued to expand my knowledge of web site development, learning PHP on the job and studying at night. I worked on a dashboard for project managers at Digital Designs to see an overview of their projects' statuses and blockers, collaborating closely with the project managers themselves to make sure the dashboard met their needs and solved their business problems. While I don't have experience with Linux or Drupal specifically, I have no doubt about my ability to pick them up on the job, given my familiarity with similar technologies and my track record of learning as I go.

Before Epicodus, I worked as a customer support representative at Healthcare.gov, helping people with healthcare coverage issues. I strove for excellence and customer satisfaction in all of my calls, making sure I resolved their issues thoroughly and proactively bringing up problems the customer may not have anticipated. I worked with a diverse customer base across the country, often troubleshooting challenging technical issues. My deliverables showed that my detail-oriented approach paid off, as I was consistently in the top 10% of representatives for customer satisfaction. Prior to Healthcare.gov, I was a barista at Lil' Joe's Coffeehouse, where I prided myself on contributing to the fun energy of the company, while staying focused on getting the job done and taking on additional responsibilities to fill in the gaps. For example, after becoming frustrated that we would regularly run out of dairy, I talked with my coworkers and created an improved inventory tracking system that eliminated these shortages.

Notice how we gave specific examples of when and where we used the skills we claimed, and backed up our stories with outcomes like "in the top 10% of representatives" and "eliminated these regular shortages".

Here's our phrases list with the ones we used crossed out:

  • Barista at Lil' Joe's Coffeehouse
    • Fun
    • Focused
    • Determined
    • Creating order out of chaos
    • Takes on additional responsibilities fills in gaps
  • Customer Support at Healthcare.gov
    • Technical customer support
    • Client engagement
    • Turning over all the rocks
    • Resolving issues thoroughly
    • Proactive
    • Detail-oriented
    • Building, configuring, and troubleshooting
    • Challenging technical issues
    • Diverse enterprise customer base
    • Excellence
    • Customer satisfaction
    • Integrity of the work
    • Benefit the customer
    • Takes initiative
    • Improve outcomes, processes, or measurements
    • Deliverables
    • Accountable for results
    • Provide support and collaboration.
  • Epicodus
    • Command line
    • Git
    • SQL
    • Domain models
    • Passion for the web
    • Open-source development
    • community
    • Interpersonal and communication skills
    • Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science or relevant experience on the job
  • Internship at Digital Designs
    • Site development
    • PHP development
    • Relevant experience on the job
  • Missing
    • Linux
    • LAMP
    • Network protocol layers
    • Security layers
    • Drupal

Notice that we didn't get every single phrase, and that sometimes we tweaked the phrases a little for accuracy or flow, such as "taking on additional responsibilities" instead of "takes on additional responsibilities", and "diverse customer base" instead of "diverse enterprise customer base".


Now, we'll write an intro that gives a preview of the rest of the letter, says why we're interested in the job, and sneaks in any other key phrases if we can:

To Acquia:

I'm writing to apply for your technical advisor position. I'm passionate about helping others solve problems, creating order out of chaos, and working with code, and my background in both customer support and web development would make me a great fit for this role. Acquia's focus on community and collaboration speaks to me, and I'd love to be part of its work supporting the world's most ambitious brands.


And finally, let's write a conclusion that ties it all together:

Thank you for taking the time to review my application. I hope that my background in customer support, skills in many of the tools and technologies you use, and passion for serving the customer make me a great fit for the technical advisor position at Acquia. I'd love to join your work supporting open-source, collaborative innovation.