What to Include in Your Cover Letter

Nancy Anderson
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Even in an increasingly digital age, cover letters are still a vital part of a job application. To make your letter stand out, tailor it to each job you apply to, and make sure you include the following crucial elements that should be present in each cover letter.

Your Contact Information

Consider creating personal letterhead to use for your cover letter so that all your contact information is automatically provided. Whether you use letterhead or not, make sure your cover letter includes your phone numbers and email address at the very least. Place all your contact information at the top of the letter to make it easy to find.

Hiring Manager's Name

Avoid addressing your cover letter "To whom it may concern." Do a little research to figure out who will be reading your letter and resume. While addressing your cover letter to the right person may not guarantee you an interview, failing to do so probably means the phone won't ring.

Personal Connection to the Company

If you have a personal referral or contact within the company you're applying to, make sure to bring it up within the first sentence of your cover letter. Any history you have with the company or personal relationship with the company's products or services can also go in your introduction to catch a hiring manager's interest.

What You Have to Offer

Use the body of your cover letter to point out how you can help the company meet its goals and solve its problems. Don't repeat the elements that are already listed in your resume. Instead, focus on keywords from the job listing to help your cover letter pop if the company chooses to do a keyword search. Highlight your strengths and qualifications, targeting this part of your letter to the specifics of the job and company in question.

Success Stories

Also in the body of your cover letter, you can tell brief stories regarding specific successes and accomplishments at prior jobs. Target these stories directly toward the hoped-for outcomes associated with the new job to catch the attention of the hiring manager.

The Follow-Up

Make sure the final paragraph of your cover letter includes a statement of thanks to the hiring manager for considering you and an appropriate suggestion of a follow-up. State your availability for a formal interview or an informal chat. In some cases, especially if you already know the hiring manager, you may want to mention that you will call or email to follow up on your interest in the position.

After you've included all the necessary elements in your cover letter, take the time not only to proofread it a couple of times, but to give it to someone else to proofread it. Avoid mentioning your own desires regarding the job, focusing instead on the employer's needs. If you can successfully show how you might meet those needs, you should expect that long-awaited invitation to an interview.


Photo courtesy of Kittikun Atsawintarangkul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Marilyn - that is a bit harder. Have you tried Linkedin maybe. If you have a phone number, you could always call and ask for the name of the Hiring Manager. Is anyone else that you know applying for the same position? If so, ask them. Have you maybe just tried an Internet search for the company? Tried Facebook? Tried Twitter? Tried Google+? I would just check with any source that I could think of that would be related and see if I can come up with a name. Good luck on your job search!

  • Marilyn  W.
    Marilyn W.

    Great advice, but how can you find the name of the hiring person when you are dealing with a company that represents several hospitals?

  • Rose Constant-Jean
    Rose Constant-Jean

    Thanks so much! Great pointers!

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thank you @Kenneth. Yes a cover letter is very important. A cover letter is yet another way to sell yourself and to show your benefit to the company. It's a way to show the company how you can benefit their bottom line. It is also a way for the company to get to know you a little bit better and to see your writing style. A writing style says a lot about a person. So make sure that you take time and a lot of thought to any cover letter. As @Kenneth said - it has made all of the difference.


    Very helpful indeed. For the longest time I did not include a cover letter thinking it was a waste of time. Just this last year when I was seeking help with my resume because I was getting no call backs, my mentor let me know in no uncertain terms that I needed to start including one. The jobs I have applied to that have contacted me back have done so because of the cover letter. Thanks. Ken.


    Thanks very helpful


    Thank you for this informative critique on coverletters!

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