Tips for Writing a Targeted Cover Letter

John Krautzel
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You may be in the market for a job, any job, but when you write your cover letter, your task is to convince the employer that you are in the market only for the one job that this company is offering. To do this, you need to write a targeted cover letter that hones in on the specifics that are likely to make the hiring company sit up and pay attention.

Match the Qualifications

The first key to writing a targeted cover letter is matching your qualifications to the posted job description. Pore over the description with a keen eye, making a list of the keywords and phrases used for the job qualifications and duties. Then write your cover letter using as many of those keywords as possible while still sounding natural. Rephrase your own qualifications to match the wording used in the job description. Add a paragraph about your accomplishments that dovetails with keywords and phrases used to discuss the job responsibilities. Remember that many employers now use programs that scan cover letters for keywords, so make sure your targeted cover letter rises to the top of the pile after such a computer search.

Match the Fit

One of the crucial elements on the mind of a hiring manager is whether a candidate is likely to be a good fit for the company. Because of this, one of your goals in writing your targeted cover letter is to give the manager a sense of what you're like to work with and how you fit into that specific company culture and environment. Tweak the first couple of sentences of your cover letter to key in on the vibe and personality of the company. Most hiring managers spend very little time reading cover letters, so make a personal connection right away.

Mention Your Targeted Reference

If you have a personal referral or know someone within the company, mention that name right away in your targeted cover letter. Knowing that someone within the company vouches for you is the best way to pique a hiring manager's interest. Add specific details if they're available, for instance, if your connection within the company made you aware of the open position, or if you've worked with people from the company in another context. Of course, you should confirm with your references that they're okay with you using their names; when you do this, ask for a few inside hints to help target your cover letter even further.

When you want a job, a generic cover letter just isn't good enough. Take the time to write a unique, targeted cover letter for each job you apply to. In a hiring environment in which hundreds of cover letters all look and sound the same, writing a letter that targets a company and hiring manager specifically can make all the difference when it comes to getting the job.


Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at



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