Skip to Main Content

Creating A Winning Cover Letter

  • Keep It Short. The ideal cover letter is roughly a half-page to a page in length. A concise letter demonstrates that you are focused and have strong communication skills.
  • State The Position and Your Source. The recruiter who reads your letter may be hiring for several positions. Clearly state the job title in the first paragraph of the letter, preferably in the first sentence, and how you learned of the position.
  • Personalize Each Letter and Explain Why You Want The Job. Always answer, “Why do I want to do this work?” and “Why do I want to work for this organization?” Clearly state how the position fits into your overall career plans and what you find exciting about the particular position or company. Take the time to research each organization and personalize each letter. This approach is much more effective than sending out hundreds of identical form letters.
  • Clearly Describe Ways You Will Contribute – Not How You Expect To Benefit. After carefully reading the job description, write a paragraph outlining one or two specific examples of how your skills and experiences fit the company’s needs.
  • Match, But Don’t Reiterate, Your Resume. Never claim experience in your cover letter that isn’t reflected on your resume. At the same time, your cover letter shouldn’t simply restate your resume. When you explain how you will contribute, refer to an experience or skill on your resume to show how you will add value to the company.
  • Focus on Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses. Even if you think the position is out of reach, your job is to convince the recruiter you are qualified. Keep the letter positive by focusing on your transferable skills and unique accomplishments.
  • Minimize The Use Of “I”s. Don’t overuse “I”s in your document. Vary your sentence structure to keep the reader engaged.
  • State How/When You Plan To Follow-up. Too many job seekers never follow up after sending a resume. Clearly explain in your letter the manner in which you will follow up and when you will do so. If the job listing includes a phone number, indicate that you will call within a specified time to discuss the possibility of an interview. If not, consider calling anyway, unless the ad specifically requests “no calls.” You may also consider a follow-up e-mail if you sent your resume electronically.
  • Proofread. Using a spell check is not enough. Many recruiters will dismiss even the most qualified candidate if there is one typo. Reread your letter two or three times, then give it to someone else to review. Even if your letter is free of typos, poor grammar also makes a bad impression.
  • Read Samples and Personalize. Read as many cover letters as possible and find ideas and wording that you like for your own letters.
  • Never underestimate the power of correspondence in your job search. Your cover letter, in particular, is an important marketing tool which highlights your most attractive qualifications as a potential employee and, if well written, will often lead the employer to your resume.