Write Evidence-based Cover Letters Not Fluff

Generic cover letters or fluff-filled ones are as bad as showing up to an interview with a grossly stained outfit. Yes, you wore the suit but you did not show care by having it dry-cleaned and as a result you look sloppy…the same can be said of a fluff-filled cover letter…it’s just plain sloppy. Whereas, writing a thoughtful cover letter shows that you are willing to work hard, you want the job, and you can write. In a time where critical writing is becoming increasingly scarce, you’ll differentiate yourself by writing an evidence-based cover letter rather than fluff. Let’s quickly discuss fluff and then how to write a compelling cover letter.

How to identify a fluff-filled cover letter – You know you wrote fluff when you were able to use the same cover letter for multiple jobs and/or it’s been weeks, you sent cover letters to multiple firms, and no one has responded.

How to write an evidence-based cover letter – Use the job description to inform what vital points you must prove in a cover letter. In the same way, that you provide specific examples during a job interview you should also provide ones that prove you can handle the job and excel beyond a reasonable doubt – this is why I call it an evidence-based cover letter.

Let me take you through an example.  Imagine you are seeking a business development opportunity with the following requirements:

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Previous successful sales experience
  • The ability and desire to work in a fast-paced challenging environment
  • The desire to meet and exceed measurable performance goals
  • Technical aptitude
  • A keenly developed competitive nature
  • A highly self-driven sense of motivation
  • The ability to deal with objections
  • A fanatical attention to detail

You must identify the important key points to tackle in a letter. I may choose the following four points (e.g. sales success, experience in a fast-paced environment, technical aptitude, and competitive nature) because they are different enough to give a prospective employer a broad view of my candidacy, and I have really great examples that I can use to prove that I have these qualities.  Here is an excerpt from an evidence-based cover letter illustrating my “previous successful sales experience.” Please note that these experiences are totally fake!

Proven ability to exceed sales goals – As a sales representative for Pfizer, during my first year I exceeded my annual goals by 50% and then during my second year I overachieved by 75%. These successes along with my ability to boost team morale when facing objections is what convinced my manager to promote me to sales lead for the tri-state area.  In parallel, as the sole proprietor of my digital firm, Grapes Taste Great, I earned $1M during my first year. The key to my early success was my use of consultative sales methods which helped me offer the best digital solutions based on my clients’ needs.

This paragraph does some heavy lifting. It talks to the prerequisite sales experience, shows that the applicant can handle rejections and even help others do the same. It proves the job seeker can exceed measurable goals and is competitive. Then the second example i.e. as a sole proprietor of a firm demonstrates the applicant’s self-motivation.  Now, I’m curious… decision-makers and human resource professionals what do you think about fluff or generic cover letters?

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Melissa Llarena

Melissa helps movers and shakers up to those in the corner office rediscover what makes them unique so that they can land their dream job in a forward-thinking company where their ideas are listened to, valued, and supported.

She brings insights from having worked in 16-business units (including Human Resources) in NY, Paris, and London. Additionally, in her former corporate career, she worked on billion-dollar brands for P&G and on IBM for Ogilvy & Mather. Later, as the founder and CEO of Career Outcomes Matter, Melissa created a 3-step “sellable strengths” process which has been the centerpiece of her clients' results.

Melissa applies this method consistently to support mid-level professionals up to the c-suite to get into Fortune Global 500 organizations and agencies. She studied Psychology at NYU and earned her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.


  1. Bilal Shafiq on July 4, 2013 at 4:52 am

    Hi my english is not good i want to right evidence letter i dont know the way how to right it plz if u help me i am very thnx ful to u

    • Melissa on July 16, 2013 at 9:25 am

      Hi Bilal,

      Subscribe via this webpage and you can download a cover letter template: https://www.melissallarena.com/subscribe/


      • Alex on March 16, 2016 at 8:45 pm

        Oh wow, you are so polite.

        Thank you for your article.

        • Melissa Llarena on March 21, 2016 at 11:13 am

          You are welcome. Did you use its insights to update your own cover letter?

  2. hycinth on November 17, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    hi can you please help me write a cover letter for student finances support,since my english is poor I can’t plot it on my own….

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