The type of cover letter that gets you interviews at remote companies is not the type of cover letter you were taught to write in school. Hiring managers, especially those at remote companies, are looking for something different.
I’ll show you what that is today.
The Custom Cover Letter
About half of the companies that have hired me are companies that I’ve sent a custom cover letter to. However, these are not traditional, five-paragraph cover letters. What makes these cover letters effective is the ideas within them. For each custom cover letter I add three original ideas about how I’d help grow the company if I was hired.
This is a show vs tell situation: A custom cover letter with ideas shows you’re creative. It’s more powerful than saying “I’m a creative thinker” or something like that. It also shows you took time to research the company, which is important.
Here’s an example of messages you’ll receive in response to idea-first cover letters:
I received this from the CEO of a cool startup called Neighborhoody. You can view the email I sent to Austin here. The cover letter I sent to Austin is a bit long. Austin should have only needed to read it once. The cover letters I send now are shorter and more direct. They usually consist of two ideas for how I’d help the company.
I recommend spending ten minutes on each custom cover letter. This should give you enough time to come up with three ideas. They might not be great ideas, but that’s okay. What matters is that you’re differentiating yourself from other applicants.
Important: Only create custom cover letters for job openings that you’re highly qualified for and very interested in. Use a standard cover letter (see below) when applying to all other job openings.
Action Step: Make a copy of this custom cover letter template and save it in a Google Folder for later.
Note: To create a custom cover letter when applying for a job, open the template and click File –> Make a Copy. Rename the document to Cover Letter — [Company Name]. After filling in the placeholders, click File –> Download –> PDF Document if you need to upload the cover letter. Or copy-paste the content into the application.
The Standard Cover Letter
The standard cover letter has been almost as successful for me as the custom cover letter. This is my go-to cover letter template for jobs I’m either 1) only somewhat interested in and highly qualified for or 2) highly interested in and only somewhat qualified for. At least 90% of jobs fit this definition so I end up using the standard cover letter 9 out of 10 times.
The standard cover letter only requires you to fill in basic placeholders like COMPANY NAME and JOB TITLE. You don’t need to spend time coming up with ideas and reviewing the company’s website like you do for the custom cover letter. However, you do need to spend time making a solid template. To create a good template I recommend “stealing” content from the Project pages you created for your portfolio site.
Here is an example of the standard cover letter I use. And here is an example of the standard cover letter that another Flexer uses. Each are very similar in format. There is one introduction paragraph and two longer paragraphs that summarize two projects you’ve successfully completed.
Action Step: Create a standard cover letter template in a Google Doc using this standard cover letter template and the examples linked to above for inspiration.
Note: To create a standard cover letter when applying for a job, open the template you create and click File –> Make a Copy. Rename the document to Cover Letter — [Company Name]. After filling in the placeholders, click File –> Download –> PDF Document if you need to upload the cover letter. Or copy-paste the content into the application.
Send Your First Application
You’re only applying to one remote job now but you’ll probably apply to dozens more afterwards. Because of this, memorizing statuses of applications will get harder as time goes on. Having a spreadsheet that gives you an overview of important information for every job you’ve applied to will make your life easier.
If you haven’t done so already, make a copy of this remote job tracking sheet. After opening the Google Sheet, select File > Make a copy to create an editable version of the checklist for yourself. After this, check out these remote job boards to find an opportunity with a remote company:
Action Step: Find a remote job opening that you’re highly interested in and highly qualified for, create a custom cover letter for it, then apply to it.
Action Step: Find another remote job opening, create a standard cover letter for it, then apply to it.
Action Step (Optional): Add a link to your standard cover letter template in the Reply section below.