How to Write a Cover Letter for Your Dream Job in 2021

Free Resources Nov 4, 2021
Learn how to write a cover letter for your dream job by becoming the solution to your future employer's problems, + check out our examples, templates, & tips.
In this article

When it comes to writing a cover letter for your dream job, know that this is your moment to shine!

Your cover letter is where you knit together elements like your personality, qualifications, work experience, and accomplishments to demonstrate a few key points:

  1. That you’re a great fit for them
  2. That they’re a great fit for you
  3. That you’ll be able to add value and contribute to company goals from Day 1

Where your résumé is very direct and dry, the cover letter is where you add your personal flair, painting yourself as their absolute wish-list candidate, like in this example here:

If you’re looking to upskill your cover letter game, or even reorient your relationship to writing them, check out our previous post on The 9 Essential Elements of a Cover Letter + Templates, Examples, and Tips, where we go in-depth on what goes where (+ why) within a cover letter. Each of the formatting and content elements are discussed in detail, too.

If you’ve already short-listed a few of your dream job opportunities but haven’t reviewed the ins and outs of what makes for a great cover letter in a while, consider opening that post in a new tab to reference as you start your next one.

Tackle the Attainable Goals

If you haven’t revamped your cover letter writing workflow in a minute or are constantly starting from scratch, I have one question for you:

How’s that going?

Let’s press pause on the dream job nomenclature for a sec. Think about how many letters you’ve written and how many interviews you’ve landed for everything you’ve applied for, whether you were excited about it or it was just an opportunity that you were well-suited for.

If you’ve applied to many positions using the same old cover letter you’ve been repurposing since college, and aren’t seeing traction, that’s your cue to switch it up. You should be changing more than just the company name within each cover letter anyway, but more on that later...

If you’re starting from scratch with every letter, then my guess is that you’re applying to fewer opportunities. Typically, more applications equal more chances to land a job, and this is doubly important for roles you’re excited about.

However, starting from scratch is daunting, whether you can articulate it or not, so job seekers operating this way tend to submit fewer applications on the whole. Like with most tasks, the more you work at it, the better and more efficient you become at that specific thing, so please: find a better system than starting with a blank page every time!

Ok, time to un-pause the dream job idea━cue the unicorns.

gif of a rainbow  unicorn
(Source: GIPHY)

If you’re not happy with how your job search is going or are just starting and feel daunted by the usual 3-6 month search time, you need a perspective shift. Set some goals for how many jobs you want to apply for each week, and make sure they are attainable.

Within those X number of applications (and so, cover letters), prioritize the top 2 opportunities that you are most excited about━the dream roles. Make it non-negotiable that you get those application packages in and that you’re proud of them.

What is a "Dream Job"?

A dream job can be one at a company you like, with a product you already use and enjoy, within an innovative team, or one where you’d be working under one a mentor you already admire.

The bottom line is that you should be excited about the opportunity as a whole, or at least one specific aspect of it. Channel this excitement as you begin the work on the cover letter, shifting your perspective to one of curiosity and confidence about things like:

  • What great work you could do for the company in the role
  • The positive impact that your synergy with the organization, their values, and goals could have on the world
  • How much you’d grow within that kind of engaging team environment
  • What you could learn under the mentorship of a thought-leader you respect

If you’re not excited, it’s not on your dream job list. Prioritize those positions that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside when you envision yourself getting the offer letter. You’ll find that prioritizing these will give you momentum, because of the energy you feel regarding the opportunity, which makes applying to the other available positions less daunting.

You might even be able to bring some creative ideas from your dream positions, in terms of new ideas and initiatives, into the less exciting open roles for which you might also be well-suited.

Jump-start Your Writing Game with Cover Letter Templates

Whether you’re trying to get out of a bad writing mindset rut, need to abandon your stale cookie-cutter draft, or are looking for a way out of starting from scratch, consider taking one of our free cover letter templates for a spin:

Template 1Template 2Template 3

Our templates above describe what info goes where, plus the ‘why’ behind it, as it relates to our discussion in the previous blog post: The 9 Essential Elements of a Cover Letter + Templates, Examples, and Tips.

How to Use Cover Letter Templates

Review the template designs, pick which you like best, and then, with the chosen doc open, go to File, and click ‘Make a Copy’.

This will clone the template, and from there you can add in your information, keeping the notes in there until you’re satisfied with your draft of each section. Watch how fast you draft when you have this cheat sheet for cover letter format and content structure in your toolkit.

Not All Cover Letter Templates are Created Equal

Not all cover letter templates are created equal, young Padawan.

We really, really mean this--and not because we made 3 stellar templates, linked above.

Historically, templates have gotten a bad rap because so many of them are utter garbage--with issues like dull formatting which is uninspiring at best or can’t be personalized at worst, really-weird-but-oddly-formal-sounding language that’s meaningless, and/or seemingly no rhyme or reason for what information should go where.

Job seekers would use a bad template, plug in a few pieces of info that the template said to change, and wonder why they weren’t getting any traction in their search. But, if the goal of a cover letter is to highlight how you and your experiences make you the ideal candidate for something you consider a dream job...

  • How can you convey that info in a meaningful way if the majority of the letter’s text doesn’t change from opportunity to opportunity?
  • How is just changing the name of the position and company info showing that you can do anything besides copy and paste?

Here’s an example of one of those BAD cover letter templates we’re talking about:

Run fast and far from these vague and uninspiring templates!

Poor Sam Boring, Jr. isn’t getting anywhere with this bleakness--mostly because they’re not fooling anyone with this ‘cover letter copypasta’ masquerading as an expenditure of real effort.

Anyone reading this can see that it is very bland and generic. There is no personality, pizzazz, or anything else that might give us a sense of who the applicant is or that they care at all about this position.

Even if more detail was added to some sections, the boilerplate text (the stuff that you don’t change) doesn’t actually tell us anything. That text accounts for the vast majority of this letter, and yet, we still have no idea if this cover letter is for a daycare job or for a sales position.

Sadly, these kinds of templates were the norm for a while out there in the job-seeking jungle. Compare it to our Template 1:

Ah, style and class. 

Yeah. You see what we mean, right? Everything from the format to the structure of what to talk about and when gives this template a much more professional and polished vibe.

After writing several letters, you may find you have some key catch phrases that describe some of your skill sets or qualifications well or show off your personality/flair for a certain industry or position type. They might not come easily or quickly, but such tidbits usually come out over time and with practice.

Once you have them together, you can save them into the template to reuse when appropriate; there’s no harm in that. It’s not boilerplate text in templates that’s the enemy--it’s useless text, period. There’s just not enough room to add anything inconsequential or vague, especially if you’re vying for your dream job!

The bottom line here is that no one can give you boilerplate text for a cover letter that is going to be meaningful and specific to you and the opportunities you are trying for. And a cover letter needs to have these elements to get that first buzz of attention and interview momentum that will carry you to getting the offer letter and closing the deal for your dream job.

Annotated Templates

Looking for more ways to fast-track your writing workflow for cover letters? Try making annotated templates.

An annotated template is one in which you pre-load information specific to a certain type of job or field so that you can draft faster and with more intention. They are especially helpful if you are applying to distinctly different types of opportunities or those within different fields.

For example, if you’re a scientist applying for a research position at a national lab but are also interested in applying for industry jobs, where your expertise could be applied to real-world products and services, then you will need two very different types of cover letters.

We call it: "Some days". (Source: uofgpgrblog.com)

Since the organizations to which you’re applying have extremely different goals, the duties and responsibilities of the related positions will echo this. This means that you will gear how you talk about your education, qualifications, and experience in specific ways for each opportunity.

For the lab position, you may decide to pull more from your education and research experience to show that you can instantly meld into an existing research group.

To make this annotated template:

  • Read the job announcement a time or two.
  • Identify what the most important duties, expertise, or skill sets are for the role.
  • Open your résumé, and move information relevant to the position requirements onto your chosen template.

We usually like adding résumé info into the Body Paragraphs section, but you can also add it at the end of the template doc, if you prefer.

Now you don’t have to have extra tabs open, find where you filed your résumé, or deal with any of the other thought-train-losing potentialities that could block you from drafting your cover letter right here and now.

How you'll feel with your annotated cover letters helping you breeze through your job search. (Source: Memegenerator.net)

For the industry job, consider that the hiring manager probably cares a lot less about those specific educational and research-related items that a lab would prioritize. The industry opportunity might be more interested in hearing about what programs and skill proficiencies you have, how you have applied your research to real-world problems, how proficient you are at plainly explaining your work, and/or if you can connect your big-picture research experiences with how it relates to their product or service.

We call it: "Other Days". (Source: me.me)

In addition to the position- or field-specific information you added to your annotated template from your résumé, you can also add in those chucklesome, witty, fun, or otherwise-perfect tidbits you’ve honed after writing about yourself and your accomplishments for a while.

Again, only add the ones that are relevant to your different annotated template categories. This is because even the greatest witty anecdote won’t work for every cover letter. Leave it out if the quip it's relevant to the type of field or position to which you're applying, regardless of how brilliant. Sometimes it may even be appropriate to include but not make the final cut due to issues with flow or length.

The Biggest Roadblocks to Job Hunting Success

Unfortunately, a very common mistake that job seekers make is procrastinating on writing the cover letter because of the gravity of the situation. It’s your dream job after all, so you want it to be amazingnot just good.

But, this is a trap. Don’t fall for it. You want that job for a reason. Something about it, and/or the company or specific team, makes you envision yourself there, moving the needle for them and crushing your goals. Make it happen.

Demonstrate Clearly That You Are the Solution to Their Problem(s)

comic depicting office workers talking about being the solution to their job's problems
...the solution??? (Source: Glasbergen Cartoon Service)

If your résumé is the sheet music, your cover letter is the finished piece of music--encompassing all of the notes being played correctly together, as well as the synergy between the musicians, conductor, and singers/performers. Let it be inspiring for you to write and inspiring to read not because you manufactured it, but because when it’s your dream job, you can’t help but be excited.

Know that you are the solution to their problemthey need this role filled on their team to reach their goals! So, don’t agonize over it. Instead, trust that you can express yourself and your accomplishments in a genuine way, and commit to not trying to force anything while you draft. Use a paraphraser to support you in finding language that resonates.

Beyond procrastinating, trying to “give them exactly what they want” is the next big dream sinker during this process because it produces robotic, disingenuous writing that is more fear-based than anything else.

It is a given that you want or need a new job, so focusing on that doesn’t usually serve you well, especially when you want to write something inspired. So, recast the opportunity in your mind. Let writing the cover letter become more of an act of imagination than writing at first. Imagine your day to day in the role, and envision handling the duties, working with your team there, and fielding questions or issues.

It might sound silly, but many people find this practice grounding when they are so excited about an opportunity that it turns into stress. It reinforces your confidence and could spark some ideas in you for things to talk about in your cover letter.

It can also help you break out of being stuck on imposter syndromedoubt that, despite you being completely qualified, you’re actually a fraud who has just gotten lucky up to this point and might get ‘found out’ during the application process. Ground yourself in all of the time, effort, schooling, and work you’ve put in to get to this point.

Breaking Through Writing Roadblocks to Write Your Dream Cover Letter

If you procrastinate, get bogged down by imposter syndrome, or even just go blank with writer’s block, articulate it as fast as possible. There are many helpful tips and solutions in the linked series on Overcoming Common Writing Roadblocks.

These blocks can last days, months, or years. Meanwhile, you need to submit your application as close to the announcement date as you can. You don’t have time to waste. If there is a set deadline, not being intentional about getting unblocked is setting you up to be stressed to the max and to deliver a sub-par application package.

You know the recipe for your cover letter by now, and you have our handy templates, too. You might also even have made your annotated templates for each field or type of position you’re applying for.

If you have a list of things to apply for already, scan through to find an opportunity that's a dream job for you. Then, start to work the process. Use a template or annotated template, plus your knowledge of what goes where and why, and start drafting a dream job cover letter. Show them you're the one to solve their problems and that working for them is the ideal situation for you because of XYZ.

What to Do When You Are Feeling Stuck or Are Experiencing Writing Roadblocks for an Important Cover Letter

If you just can't seem to make progress, or are still struggling with roadblocks, then you need to try something different, like the steps below, which are geared toward helping you get unstuck and find momentum in the cover letter writing game.

How to get unstuck and find momentum when writing an important cover letter:

1. Visualize yourself in the role or meditate on why it is your dream job. Reconnect with your excitement and confidence as you see yourself solving problems, achieving milestones, and working with your team.

2. Go back to the bare-bones template. Re-read it with fresh eyes so that you ground yourself in why the different elements are necessary and what they are meant to convey.

3. Re-read your dream job description again, slowly and carefully. Consider pasting it into a document so that you can highlight certain parts where you know you can make a great point, flag company information that resonates with you (like their values, mission, or commitment to a certain initiative), note where some of your specific skills would be directly transferable, and so on.

comic of a mountain goat climbing sideways
Terry is creative. Be like Terry. (Source: earthtoplanet.com)


GOLD MINE: Is there a duty, responsibility, or goal associated with the position that you could accomplish in a creative or innovative way? Is there another easy win you can see that would move the needle forward that is both in line with the goals of the position/company and achievable within the scope of role? Is there an innovation you could present that would increase efficiency or positively affect KPIs?

4. Review your résumé side by side with the announcement. You can’t ever talk about all of your experiences and qualifications, and it’s a true skill to pick only the most relevant elements from your résumé to focus on in your letter. Identify these and make notes.

Review your notes and ideas from the job description, too, to make more connections. Decide how to group your relevant skills and experiences together in a way that will be clear and communicate specific points related to how you are uniquely qualified for the duties and responsibilities required for the role.

If you don't already have an annotated template made, working this process will help you create one.

5. Draft it. Now that you have the ideas and specific information picked out to use in your letter, it’s time get those thoughts onto the page. If you’re feeling anxious, start with filling in the easy pieces, like contact information. Get it finished, and then begin working on the actual letter content.

6. Find the perfect language to articulate yourself, your enthusiasm, and your accomplishments using a tool like QuillBot’s free online paraphraser. With it, you can visually refine a lackluster sentence by seeing options for word and phrase choices, get feedback on different sentence structures, styles, and tones, and much more.

A paraphrasing tool will help you say what you want to say, how you want to say it, which will power your confidence as you draft.

7. Get feedback from others, if time allows. Send a friend or mentor the job description, your résumé, and cover letter. Verbally brief them on what you are applying for and why, and then ask for candid, constructive feedback on if your ideas, connections, and enthusiasm are clear, compelling, and genuine.

Instant text summary tools, like QuillBot’s summarizer, can also give feedback on the clarity of your draft, if you input the letter contents and summarize them. In reviewing what QuillBot thinks are the main points, you might find a sentence or paragraph whose meaning is being lost somehow, and then you can make edits to address it.  

8. Perform a final check. When you are proud of your cover letter and are ready to submit your application, take one last moment to re-read it aloud in its entirety to check for any remaining grammatical errors. If you are tired or pressed for time,  free online tools, like QuillBot’s grammar checker, can review your work to ensure that it is flawless before submission.

Final Tips on Writing a Winning Dream Job Cover Letter

You know you're going up against other extremely qualified candidates for any job you apply for, but that doesn't really matter. Your unique experiences and the way you share and communicate them are individual to you and you alone.

No one has the same combo of interests, dreams, career goals, and qualifications as you do. Use it to your advantage by deftly wielding the power of words, defining yourself as everything they want and need for the position--plus personality and confidence. So, write sharply and with passion for both your path so far and the opportunity ahead, and you'll do more than stand out. You will shine!

You deserve your dream joband the cover letter is your first chance to convince your future employer of it. Don't let it be your last.

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Emily Perry, PhD

Along with Paige Pfeifer

Emily Perry is a PhD, educator, and BD Specialist who loves all things science, education, and art. When she's not creating, you can find her outside doing something fun with her dog, Cass.

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