This cover letter got an interview even though the person had no direct contacts at the organization. Some may think it a little long, yet in this case it was appropriate. The position is a very senior one, so the person needed to convey how her abilities, talents and passion were the right match for the potential employer’s work. Key elements that work:

  • Enthusiasm for the position and the organization’s mission
  • Clear evidence that the person is familiar with what the employer does
  • Specific attention to possible things that might put her out of the running
  • Relatively short paragraphs
  • Use of more powerful words
  • Encouraging reader to go to the resume

To Whom It May Concern:

I am enthusiastically submitting my resume for your consideration for the position of Director of the [organization A].

This position will fully engage all my experience and skills and is a challenge for which I am very well-suited. Much of my experience in [location A] is extremely applicable to [location B]. I have always loved [location] and decided to relocate this year. Now, I believe this position is the perfect opportunity for me. In fact, every person with whom I spoke while recently in [location B] suggested that the [organization A] was exactly the kind of place I should work. In December, I met with [person] and was extremely impressed with him and the work of the [organization A].

As you will see from my resume, I have many years of experience in community development, both in the not for profit and public sectors and often in partnership with academic institutions and local chambers of commerce. I’ve been a leader, manager, fundraiser, planner, advocate, and more. As Director of the [organization A], I would weave together this wealth of knowledge and skills to benefit [location B] and its communities.

From my early days as a housing organizer in [location C], I’ve embraced an inclusive philosophy of community building that begins with the needs of communities, and then relies on a broad spectrum of resources and stakeholders to secure desired outcomes. In my experience, these include grassroots organizations, engaged universities, policy advocates, local business entities and politicians. I’ve worked successfully with a wide variety of such groups to produce sustainable community development.

Based on my myriad experiences, I gained enormous respect for universities situated in urban environments, such as [organization A], that are engaged in those communities in ways that mutually benefit the community and the academic institution. For example, I had the good fortune of working closely with the [organization B] in [location A] where I shared in and witnessed a number of very successful community/university partnerships. It’s very exciting for me to contemplate the possibilities of building on [organization A]’s considerable history and reputation for working on the most relevant issues of the day.

Throughout my career as a leader and manager, I’ve focused on building and strengthening external and internal relationships. I have considerable experience securing both operating and program funds from foundation, corporate and government funders. Internally, I’m committed to building and maintaining a strong organization that has a clearly articulated mission and universally embraced goals and objectives, that maximizes the skills and energy of all staff, and that operates transparently.

I have much more to say about why I believe I am the right person to lead the [organization A]. I welcome the opportunity to share my ideas, enthusiasm and credentials at an interview for the position. As it happens, I already plan to be in [location B] from [dates] and will make myself available to meet with you. I can be reached by email or at [phone number].

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

[full name]

This is where the letter began life – pretty good, but a little wordier, longer paragraphs, a bit awkward in the beginning.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am enthusiastically submitting my resume for your consideration in the search for a new Director of [organization A]. In a recent networking trip to New York, I had the opportunity to meet with [person] and was extremely impressed with [person] and excited to learn about the work of [organization A].

My many years of experience in community development, both in the not for profit and public sectors, often in partnership with academic institutions and local chambers of commerce contribute to the experience and skills I can bring to the position. While most of my employment has been in [location A], I have always loved [location B] and have long desired to relocate. I have no doubt that there will be exciting new challenges, but also strongly believe that the lessons I have learned should have considerable relevancy in [location B].

From my early days as a housing organizer in [location C], I’ve consistently embraced an inclusive philosophy of community building that begins with the needs of communities but relies on a broad spectrum of resources and stakeholders to secure desired outcomes. Effective community building harnesses not only the energy of grassroots organizations who seek neighborhood change, but often benefits from the support of engaged universities, policy advocates who lend strong research and legislative savvy, local business entities and politicians who can secure for example, access to land, government funding and regulatory changes that are all necessary to the development or other change that residents are seeking.

In my management capacity, I have had considerable experience securing both operating and program funds and enjoyed serving as a liaison to foundations, corporations and government funders. Internally I’m committed to building and maintaining a strong organizational infrastructure that maximizes the skills and energy of all staff and operates not only transparently, but with a clearly articulated mission, goals and objectives that are universally embraced. Lastly in relation to this position, I have feel very strongly that universities that are situated in urban environments with many challenges and opportunities have a particular responsibility to be “engaged” in those communities in areas that are of mutual benefit to both the community and the academic institution. I have had the good fortune of working closely with the [organization B] at [location A] where I shared in and witnessed a number of very successful community/university partnerships. I would be happy to share some of those experiences with [organization A].

Hopefully you will be impressed by my enthusiasm and credentials and offer me an interview to further discuss the position. I will be in [location B] from [dates] and can be available to meet with you in person. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I can be reached by email or at [telephone number].

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

[full name]