How to Write an Effective Cover Letter

Apr 16, 2014

A cover letter is a resume’s best friend. While many believe that a cover letter simply introduces a resume, it does much more. Cover letters allow you to talk about important experiences and skills and relate them to specific job requirements for the position.

A well-written cover letter is also the perfect sample of your written communication skills, but be sure to be clear and concise when writing your letter. Hiring Managers have stacks of resumes to filter through and typically glance through a cover letter. Here’s how to make your’s really stand out:

1.     Make sure to properly format it like a letter!

We’ve all written letters in our lifetimes but in the age of emails and texts, your formal letter writing skills might be a bit rusty. Click here ( for a refresher on how to write a letter.

2.     Address it to the person who can hire you.
If you can find out (through networking and researching) exactly who is making the hiring decision, address the letter to that person. Be sure the name is spelled correctly and the title is correct. A touch of formality is good too: address the person as “Mr.,” “Ms.,” “Mrs.,” “Miss,” “Dr.,” or “Professor.” If you cannot find the specific person, be sure to include an appropriate greeting such as “Dear Hiring Manager.”

3.     Show that you know something about the company and the industry. This is where your research comes in. Don’t go overboard–just make it clear that you didn’t pick this company out of the phone book. Visit the company’s website and find out about what they do to show them you are genuinely interested in becoming part of the team. 

4.     Write the body of your letter. It should include no more than three short paragraphs (remember – clear and concise is key). Follow these guidelines when writing the body of the letter:

    • Paragraph 1
      Tell the employer why you are writing to them in two or three sentences. State the position for which you are applying.  It is sometimes a good idea to mention how you became aware of the opening — a recruiter, an online job board, a mutual contact. Lastly, specify why you are interested in working for the employer.
    • Paragraph 2
      In the next paragraph, outline your qualifications and match them to the requirements of the position. To do this, use what you have researched about the employer’s background and history (this is where your preliminary research notes become very useful).
    • Paragraph 3
      Make this closing paragraph between two to four sentences. Direct the employer to your enclosed résumé and make sure you specify that you’re available for an interview. Finish off by thanking them for their time and consideration, and welcome them to get in touch with you to continue the conversation.

5.     Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Make sure that your letter is free of spelling and grammatical errors.


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