How To Write a Great Cover Letter

How To Write a Great Cover Letter

Whether you are searching for a telecommuting job or a traditional job, you need a great cover letter.

Question from HBT reader: How do I write a cover letter that will get someone’s attention?


Let’s look at this through the eyes of the interviewer. Specifically, here is my approach when I’m looking at new applicants.

A Good Resume Invites Recruiters to Read Your Cover Letter

I always look at a person’s resume first. I quickly breeze over qualifications and employment history. If they look promising in these areas, then I look at the cover letter.

The cover letter gives me further insight into a person, e.g. how organized they are by examining the presentation of the letter, whether or not they have taken the time to find out anything about my company, whether or not they have had or do have any ties to the company, whether or not they have specified the job they want, will they travel, and so on.

What all this means is you need both a resume and a cover letter. The meat is in the resume. If a person looks promising from the resume, then I read the cover letter, and then I call ’em in for an interview. That’s where the rubber meets the road.

The Goal of a Cover Letter

Your goal in creating a cover letter is to introduce yourself to the company and to sell yourself.

If you do this well enough, you are at the top of the list for an interview, assuming you are qualified for the position.

Advice for a Strong Cover Letter

  • Make it short. Definitely no more than one page. Half a page is better. Two paragraphs is even better. If you can whittle it down to that and make your case succinctly, then you are proving yourself to be a great communicator. That’s a huge bonus in my book.
  • Be professional and concise. Never try to be humorous. Keep your tone on a “business only” level.
  • Always put yourself in the best light and never give hints that you may be under-qualified, even if you think you are.
  • Never mention work experience in the cover letter that isn’t included on your resume. This no-no equals an automatic strike out.
  • Make sure your letter contains no typos or poor grammar. Have someone proof your letter before using it.
  • Know what you are applying for. Be specific. Know the job title. Never say you’ll take anything available. You are a professional. State the job title you are wanting to be considered for in the first paragraph of your cover letter.
  • I always ask candidates why they want to work for me. This is where they have the opportunity to impress me by saying something like: ” Because your company is the largest retailer of wireless communication devices, I feel strongly that I should position my future with a leader in the industry.” I want to know that they have done a little research. I want to know that they understand my business and at the same time they see a opportunity for self-fulfillment within my company. This is information you include in the first paragraph of the cover letter.
  • Next, I want to know how a candidate will contribute to my company. This is paragraph number two. I want to know specifically how your set of skills and past experiences will directly impact the company. This is the “What can you do for the company?” section.
  • Never conclude a letter with a flippant “I hope you call me” type of ending. Always specify a date that you will follow-up with the company and how you will follow-up.

Applying these tips will help you to be a step ahead of the pack. Recruiters routinely discard many applicants based solely on a poorly written cover letter. Since your goal is to get in the door for an interview, taking the time to create a winning cover letter is a tactic you can’t afford to skip!

Brett Krkosska provides how-to advice on small business and home-based work issues. He is the founder of HomeBizTools and the publisher of Straight Talk, a syndicated column that offers a unique perspective on today’s business issues.

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