December 28, 2015

Writing a Cover Letter That Works for You

lightsI often discuss resumes, and as important as those are to your application package, the cover letter is equally critical. Writing a cover letter that works for you is important because it will show recruiters and hiring managers why you want the role and demonstrate your specific interest in the company. The cover letter is where you can wow employers with your true colors, perhaps through a short anecdote about why you were drawn to apply to this job or an explanation of why the company mission resonates with you so strongly.

A cover letter, if it’s strong enough, may land you an interview on its own merit. A great cover letter can even make up for any flaws your resume may have.

Why Is a Customized Cover Letter So Important?

Anyone can write a general cover letter of introduction. Your cover letter needs to be specific — that’s what will make you stand out and shine.

It is important to note that, similarly to when you’re writing your resume, it is essential for your cover letter to be reader-friendly. One of the most common and easily fixable mistakes I see in cover letters is that they are typically long, dense, and hard to read. If hiring managers and recruiters spend an average of six seconds looking at a resume, what makes you think they’ll spend even longer looking at your cover letter?

How to Format a Cover Letter

My general rule of thumb is to start with a paragraph or two that explain why you’ll be great for the job and why you want it. Then, add a few bullet points that highlight your achievements or qualifications. Finally, finish with a concluding paragraph.

This format makes the cover letter easier to read and even gives the recruiter the opportunity to skim it. Furthermore, when you have bulleted out your achievements or qualifications, the reader’s eye will automatically be drawn to those bullets. If the reader only notices one section, those bullets will be it — and that’s a very good thing.

Being Specific: What to Include in Your Cover Letter

– Clearly state your name and the name of the position you are applying for within the first two sentences.

– Make sure that you answer the following questions:

  1. Why do you want this particular job?
  2. Why will you do well at this job?
  3. What can you bring to this role/company?
  4. Why do you want to work for this company?

music– Break up the format a little bit. Give the reader a rest from the long paragraphs! I tend to write a paragraph or two, then highlight some qualifications or achievements in bullet form, and then finish with a closing paragraph. This breaks up the document, makes it more reader-friendly, and draws the eye to your qualifications/achievements.

– Finish off by thanking the reader for their time and explaining that you would love to discuss your application further at their convenience.

Making Your Cover Letter and Resume ‘Flow’

Use the same header on your resume and your cover letter. This is an easy way to make both documents look professional and cohesive, and it will ensure that the documents won’t get split up or lost in translation.

A great cover letter comes with a personal touch and shows the reader why you would benefit the company by working there. Make sure you paint a picture for the reader so they can see how badly you want the job and how great you’ll be if they hire you. If you can capture all of this in your cover letter, you are almost sure to get an in-person interview!

Read more in Cover Letter

A native San Franciscan, Michele Lando is a certified professional resume writer and founder of She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves, both on paper and in person, and works to polish individuals' application packages and personal styles. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles presents tips to enhance your resume and style and boost your confidence.