Cover Letter Tips

A cover letter is a letter that accompanies or "covers" your resume every time you send it out; it is in fact an essential partner to your resume. Cover letters are organized into three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. They also can be customized for each person to whom you write.

The beginning part of your cover letter should be the section that grabs the attention of the reader. You should try to use interesting language to capture attention and make the reader want to know more about you.

The middle portion of a cover letter should answer the question, "Why should I hire you?" by communicating the key qualifications for the job you're seeking. The information should be conveyed in one or two short paragraphs or in three to four bullet-point statements.

Next, you are going to close your cover letter. You will want to end your cover letter with a polite but assertive closing that asks for an interview. Always keep in mind what you can do for the employer; be sure not to overstate your needs and interests.

Tips to Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out

(Taken from Cover Letters For Dummies 2nd Edition)
  1. Address your letters to individuals. Use names. Make the effort to find the correct name, job title, and address of whomever will be receiving your letter.
  2. State your objective in the first paragraph. The employer is asking, "Why are you sending me this letter?" Answer the question as soon as possible.
  3. Emphasize your skills and quantify your relevant accomplishments. Showcase your skills: the more you name, the better your chances of a new job.
  4. Keep your letter focused on the employer. Focus on how you meet the employer's needs, not vice versa.
  5. Research companies and reflect findings in your letter. Exhibiting knowledge of the company and its mission shows you're a fast starter.
  6. Limit your letter to one page.
  7. Be friendly. Show personality and be complimentary.
  8. Make your letter easy to read. Choose sharp, simple, clean typefaces for your letter and strive for a good visual organization.

More Tips To Follow

(taken from Cover Letters For Dummies 2nd Edition)
  1. Begin with an original opening statement; avoid using the basic, everyday "Enclosed please find my resume..."
  2. Describe yourself in the first person, not the third person.
  3. Sound skilled and confident, not desperate.
  4. Write from strength, not shortcomings.
  5. Clean up your act: do not have typos, do not forget to sign your name, and don't forget to include your resume if you are planning to enclose one. Carelessness leads to joblessness.
  6. Be professional, not cute.
  7. Give up enclosing photos or personal descriptions.
  8. Show intent to follow up.
  9. Do not make promises that you cannot keep: remember that wildly overselling yourself is a time bomb.

Cover Letter Checklist

  1. Have you used the same type of paper for your resume, letter, and envelope?
  2. Do your name, address, e-mail address, and phone number(s) appear at the top of each page?
  3. Have you verified that you are addressing the company by its correct name?
  4. Is your envelope typed, not hand written?
  5. Have you signed your letter?
  6. Have you proofread your letter before and after using your computer's spell check function?
  7. Does your letter appear to be visually appealing?
  8. Will your reader be impressed with key points?
  9. Will your reader know to which advertisement you're responding? In which position you're interested?
  10. Will your opening make the reader want to read on?
  11. Does the body of your letter support the opening?
  12. Is your letter honest?
  13. Is your tone of voice conversational, not stuffy?
  14. Have you avoided repeating, word for word, many of the details that appear on your resume?
  15. Have you summarized your experience and education?
  16. Have you described your strengths from your reader's point of view?
  17. Did you provide necessary background information?
  18. Have you used any terminology that might be unfamiliar to your reader? Can you simplify it? If not, have you defined it clearly?
  19. Have you told your reader what you will do to follow up?
  20. Did you supply any and all information your reader will need to contact you or comply with your request for help?

Sending A Cover Letter By E-Mail

Cover letters that are sent by e-mail should be a bit shorter and crisper than mailed letters. Be sure to follow these steps when e-mailing in response to a job or posting:
  1. Type your cover letter into the e-mail message area.
  2. Even e-mail cover letters must be just as perfect as your resume: no typos, grammatical errors, or careless mistakes.
  3. Include a formatted (Microsoft Word) resume as an attachment (unless the ad you are responding to specifies "no attachments"; in that case, simply send the text version without the attachment).
  4. Write a descriptive subject line for your e-mail message.

Page last updated: February 21, 2006