The Cover Letter Explained

Nancy Anderson
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The cover letter is one of the most important parts of any candidate's job search. It is usually the first point of contact between you and the hiring manager, and serves to introduce you, highlight your relevant qualifications and complement your resume. The cover letter is what grabs the reader's attention and persuades employers to want to interview you, so it is important to make it compelling. Here's how to go abut doing just that.


Begin your cover letter with a brief yet grabbing introduction of yourself and the reason you are writing the letter. If you are applying to a specific job, reference it in the first few sentences, and include any identifying information such as a job number or position title, as well as how you found the ad. If you are sending your cover letter without a specific job to apply for, mention the type of work you want to have with the company. No matter what, make your opening attention-grabbing and creative; you want to grab the reader's attention right from the first paragraph.

What to Include

In the body of your cover letter, highlight your relevant skills and experience. Use specific examples of your past achievements, and explain how your experience aligns with the company's needs or values. Be specific; include numbers to quantify your accomplishments. Include enough details about the company and the job description to convince the reader you did your homework prior to contacting him. Feel free to include any volunteer experience, hobbies, personal interests or character traits that make you a good fit for the company. Always include your full name, phone number and email address.

What to Leave Out

Hiring managers are busy people, so it is a good rule of thumb to keep your cover letter concise. Therefore, you need to exclude any information that is not relevant to the position to which you are applying. Avoid canned or cliché language. Do not discuss your previous salaries or salary expectations.


Remember the main objective of a cover letter: to get you in for an interview. You must include a call to action by expressing your desire to meet the reader in person. Mention the fact you plan to follow up with a call or email, or wait for contact about a meeting. You can also refer to your resume or other application materials in your closing paragraph. In every cover letter you write, always end with a note of appreciation to the reader for taking the time to look through your application.

Your cover letter is essential to a successful job search. A well-written letter not only catches the reader's interest, but it also can be the piece that actually gets you in the door for an interview. Give yourself plenty of time to draft a professional, persuasive and customized cover letter for each job.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at



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