Nine Critical Elements of an Excellent Cover Letter

Published: 12th April 2011
Views: N/A

The cover letter accompanying your resume is often your first opportunity to let your individuality shine through while clearly communicating to the hiring manager in a truly personal way why you are the ideal candidate to fulfill the company's needs. Unfortunately, many job seekers blow the chance, sending a letter that is clearly an impersonal template or worse, not sending one at all.

Most professional resume writers also provide cover letter writing services and will tell you that when it comes to cover letters, there are two types of potential employers; those who read cover letters and those who don't. If they don't, you've lost nothing by sending one. But if they do and you've sent something standard and boring or haven't even taken the time to include one at all, then it may have just cost you the interview. So, be smart; take the time to create a specific, personalized cover letter with every resume you send.

1. Write to a named individual. This isn't always possible, but when you can, write to a named person. It is normal) for people to pay more attention when something is addressed to them. Do some online research. Or simply call the company and ask for the name of the (hiring authority for the opening. A few minutes of effort will often pay huge rewards.

2. Make it readable. Your cover letter should appear crisp and clean. The style and font should match or at least be very similar to your resume. Write using short, concise paragraphs and experiment with using bullet points or other classic design elements to call out the most important points.

3. Keep it simple. Now is not the time to be wordy. Your cover letter should be no more than one page. In simple, concise, upbeat language tell them 1) why you are writing, 2) what you can offer them, 3) why you are an ideal match to fulfill their needs and solve their problems, and then 4) close with a call to action.

4. Avoid repeating yourself. A cover letter is not meant to be a boiled down version of your resume, it is an introduction; a way to make a strong first impression so that the employer will want to learn more; and a way to be very specific about how you will meet that employers needs. It's okay to restate very relevant information in a different way, but avoid the temptation of regurgitating information already provided elsewhere.

5. Be confident. If you don't sound sure of your abilities, the recipient certainly won't be either; so write positive, confident statements.

6. Don't inflate your qualifications beyond the truth. Several years ago, a hiring manager told me about interviewing a job seeker whose cover letter and resume were very strong. But when she got him in for the interview, she found out he had greatly exaggerated his knowledge and experience. He was ashamed and she was irritated that her time had been wasted. If you bloat the truth on your resume, your letter, or any of your other application materials, you will get caught. So be honest and don't give in to the temptation to stretch the truth.

7. Use a proper opening and closing. If you are unable to write to a specific individual, use the opening "Dear Hiring Manager," "Dear Director of Hiring," or something similar. For your closing, "Sincerely" or "Respectfully" is appropriate.

8. Take the time to personalize. While it is good to have a few pre-written cover letters in your job search "toolbox" as a starting point; never be tempted to send one in as is. Your cover letter should be specifically tailored to every job you apply for. Show the hiring manager that you're interested, that you understand the needs of the position and have the qualifications to fulfill them, and that you're willing to take the time to make an extra-good impression.

9. Use the proper format. If you don't remember all the elements of a formal business letter, now is the time to brush up on them. Most cover letters include a letterhead, date line, inside address, salutation, the message body, a complimentary closing, and signature followed by a signature block and enclosure notation. Even a cover letter sent via email should follow this same basic structure with a few modifications.

Creating a cover letter using these nine elements is simple; the formula is provided, all you need to do is fill in the specifics. Remember, your cover letter is the introduction to your resume, so be smart and take the time to tailor each and every one you send.


Michelle Dumas runs of one of the most respected professional resume writing firms on the internet. Since 1996, Michelle has empowered thousands of professionals with resumes that get results and win jobs fast. Get insider resume writing tips that you won't find anywhere else at her website. Go now to

Report this article Ask About This Article

More to Explore