Cover Letter Strategies

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a professional business letter that provides a potential employer with important information about you and your background. The objective is to demonstrate why you are a perfect match for the position you are applying for and why the employer should interview you.

A cover letter emphasizes your skills and abilities and provides an opportunity for you to highlight one or two of your professional accomplishments. The cover letter is meant to be concise and not restate information presented in your resume. Tailor a new cover letter for each employer, revising paragraphs for every letter.

When sending a resume to an employer, always include a cover letter.

Where do I begin?

To start your cover letter, begin by thinking about the following questions:

  • What unique skills/abilities do you have that match the position requirements?
  • Why should they interview/hire you?
  • Why do you want to work for that particular employer?
  • How can the employer benefit from your education, experience, etc.?

Addressing Your Cover Letter

What if there is no contact name in the job advertisement? Who do you send your cover letter to? Find one! This will take some research, either via telephone or the Internet. You may want to call the target employer and get an actual name of a recipient for your cover letter. This will set you apart from most applicants. If you are unable to address your letter to a specific individual with his or her correct title, you may want to write "Dear Hiring Manager" or "Dear Selection Committee."

Begin with a Strong "Hook"

Catch an employer's attention immediately by advertising your strengths and unique skills. Provide the reader with evidence as to why you are the best candidate for the position.

Dear Mr. Jones:

Having broken sales records and exceeded quotas in all my previous positions, and having recently completed my Associate's degree in Business from Monroe Community College, I am an ideal candidate for the Sales Manager position at Paychex.

Emphasize How "You" Will Contribute to The Organization/Employer

Avoid using the pronouns "I," "me," and "my" consistently throughout your cover letter. It is a common mistake. Redirect the emphasis from yourself to the employer and tell them how they can benefit from "you." Your letter should be employer-centered, not self-centered. Ask yourself "How can I be of service to this employer?"

Pronoun Overuse Example:
I am enclosing my resume for your review because I am very interested in obtaining a full-time position at Ace Financial to further my experience and my skills in banking. I am well qualified for this position. In addition to the strong quantitative and analytical skills I have developed as a business major and in my work experience, I have a proven ability to stay focused for long hours under pressure.

Revised Example:
I am applying for the Investment Banking Analyst position where my combination of economics training and high-tech experience will add value to your operations. Please consider the following: You will gain from my strong financial background, which includes a recent Associate in Science degree in Business Administration, coupled with experience researching and trading securities as an investment intern, resulting in returns of 200%.