How To Write A Great Cover Letter

Employers report that an impressive cover letter is often just as important as the resume when making the decision whether to interview a candidate.  So it can be a mistake to focus too much attention on the resume and forget completely about the value of a well-written cover letter.  The cover letter is not intended to get you a job, it is intended to get you an interview where you can show the employer face-to-face that you deserve the position.

What a cover letter should include:

  • Catch the readers attention

  • Communicate skills and experience

  • Convince the reader with specifics

  • Compel the reader to act

Whenever you cannot present your resume in person, a cover letter should accompany it.  A cover letter should ALWAYS accompany a resume that is sent by U.S. Postal Service.  When sending a resume by email, whatever you write in your email IS your cover letter.  A cover letter may not be totally necessary when you deliver your resume to a potential employer at a career fair or when you post your resume online.

The purpose of the cover letter and resume package is to motivate the employer to take action and invite you for an interview.  When delivered together, the two documents should be complimentary and work together to accomplish one goal.  The appearance of your resume/cover letter package will be enhanced if both are printed on the same high-quality bond paper.

The most important aspect of a cover letter is employer focus.  presenting the employer with signals of your personality and style along with your skills is key.  In the letter highlight your qualifications and specific position you seek, arranging your interests and qualifications relative to the employers needs.

ALWAYS customize your cover letter for each specific position you are applying for.  Sending out a general cover letter will destroy any chance you have at getting the position because the employer won't take you seriously.  An employer should know that you put time in to show that you want to work for them.  

Your cover letter should be just a few paragraphs long and only one page in length.  Try to keep all information relevant and brief.

Things To Avoid:

  • Starting a sentence with "I" or "Me."

  • Extraneous words and wordy phrases: e.g., "in order to" and "for the purpose of."

  • Confusing and complex language and sentence structure (Read your letter out loud to identify awkwardness, then correct it.)

  • Long sentences and long paragraphs.

  • Passive verbs "to be," "to do," or "to work."

  • Nondescript verbs.  Look at our list of Power Words to use in your letter.


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