How do I Write a Great Cover Letter?

Dan Cavallari

One of the most painful parts of the job application process for so many people is writing an effective cover letter that will grab the employer's attention and compel them to ask the job candidate for an interview. Writing an effective cover letter does not have to be painful, however, as long as you are willing to turn a careful eye to your writing as well as to the job description. You will want to tailor your cover letter to the specific job for which you are applying; avoid stock cover letters that are sent out to many employers if possible.

Most job applicants will need to submit a resume and cover letter to be considered for a position.
Most job applicants will need to submit a resume and cover letter to be considered for a position.

Read the job description carefully and highlight key words. Take note of the key qualities and qualifications the employer is looking for in a job candidate, and focus on those aspects in your cover letter. Highlight your most relevant experience and skills in the cover letter and tailor those skills to meet the employer's requirements. Do not be afraid to use the exact keywords from the job description in your letter; for example, if the employer is looking for a "self-starter," be sure to tell the employer how you learned to be a self-starter by taking on an important presentation by yourself and building a team around you to effectively pull off that presentation.

Cover letters should be written in business letter format, and signed by hand.
Cover letters should be written in business letter format, and signed by hand.

Be firm in your language when writing a cover letter. Employers are looking for confidence, skill, and the ability to advocate for oneself, so instead of using phrases like, "I think I will be a good candidate," say something stronger like, "I will be a strong addition to your team." Instead of saying, "I believe my education has prepared me for the job," say instead, "The combination of my education and job experience makes me a great fit at your company." The goal is to showcase your talents and tell the employer how you will help the business succeed.

Remember that a cover letter will give the employer plenty of topics to discuss during an interview, which essentially gives you the opportunity to control the interview, at least to a small degree. What you write in your cover letter is likely to be discussed during the interview, so highlight issues in the letter that will allow you to show off your skills and talents and reinforce the notion that you are the best candidate for the job during the interview.

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Discussion Comments


I would look up a few sample cover letters to see what the general look of them is and I would make absolutely sure that there isn't any spelling mistakes. Do the same thing with every bit of documentation that you send in.

If you can I would get someone else to proof read the letter before sending it out.

The thing is, employers might get dozens and dozens of applications for every job opening and they are going to be looking for an easy way to whittle down the pile. It doesn't matter if you've got a hundred years of experience and are an expert in ten fields, if you've addressed the letter to the wrong person or misspelled one of the words they won't even read any further, they'll just put it on the rejection pile.

It's not personal. It's a matter of time and numbers. So don't give them any reason to reject you before they get to the real information.


@Iluviaporos - The mission statement is a good place to look, but I would pay the most attention to the description of the job in the advertisement. Try to basically repeat it back to them in different words when describing yourself.

But don't lie. You will never get away with it and you'll feel like an idiot when the truth comes out (plus you'll probably either be fired or never hired in the first place).


You really have to write an individual cover letter for every single application. Even if it is for the same kind of job, it doesn't matter. You should do a lot of research on the company and try to show that you've done so without being too obsequious. I have heard of teachers, for example, who used the school colors in their letterhead for their application cover letter, but even more importantly, you should try to look up their mission statement or something similar about the company and use the key points there.

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