Cover Letters — Creating a Good First Impression

Nancy Anderson
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The saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." In the business world, a cover letter serves as your first impression to a hiring manager or recruiter. You should create a fantastic introduction to capture the attention of someone responsible for hiring you.

Purpose of a Cover Letter

The purpose of your cover letter is to explain why you are the best candidate for the job. It also convinces someone to check further into your background, references, experiences and skills. Your first impression should set you apart from other people thanks to your unique perspective as to why you offer the best fit for the position. An email with an attached resume serves as your cover letter, so make your introduction count.

First Paragraph

Personalize your greeting by [researching the person to whom you address the letter] (“10 Tips for Writing a Cover Letter That Gets Your Application Noticed”). Your first paragraph then talks about how you found out about the job and the formal name of the position for which you are applying. If the job description has a posting number, consider adding that information to the first paragraph. A hiring manager or recruiter should appreciate your specificity.

Elaborate on Your Qualifications

In the second paragraph, use two or three examples from your own experiences and skills that [show you are the ideal candidate] (“Anatomy of the Perfect Cover Letter”) for the position. Make your passion for the position personal. For example, a person applying for a clerk position at an apparel store might say, "I remember wearing my first pair of Smith jeans when I was 13, and since then I have worn every style that hits store shelves. I would love to help sell these at your flagship store."

Another sample qualification includes previous work experience. "I served as a student intern for the National Park Service for three years in a row, offering tours of the local mountains. My dedication to the public's awareness of the surrounding area makes me the perfect candidate for your position as a fishing guide on Lake Winnebago."

The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating a personal story behind your qualifications for the position. Remember, your tale is unique and no one else's. That makes your cover letter stand out from the crowd.

Research the Company

Delve into the company's background and incorporate a few tidbits of information that relate to your personal story. Mention a recent marketing campaign, change in the company's direction or relevant corporate blog post. For example, "The new gel highlighters from Smithco remind me of the late nights I used to spend going over my marketing thesis as part of a senior project two years ago." This combines your personal reason for working for a company with a brand new product made by Smithco.

Not on the Resume

One key to a first impression is to include special information that isn't found anywhere else in your document portfolio. This is where the personal story comes in when you incorporate a few facts about your skills or work experience not found in your resume.


The job description offers some keywords to include in your cover letter. Take two or three keywords from the qualifications or skills portion of the job description, and say why you embody those qualifications. Mention how you gained five years of marketing experience or three years of working with MySQL coding. Applicant-tracking systems scan for these keywords, and these words may help move you to the front of a hiring manager's list.


Close out the letter with a thank you and your contact information. Once you fashion your story, proofread and edit your cover letter. Read the cover letter aloud. If you stumble over any parts of the correspondence, consider rewriting those portions. Have another set of eyes examine the cover letter to correct any mistakes.

Your cover letter should persuade someone to take a second look into your background. A good first impression with your personal story gets an HR manager to call your former supervisors, professional references and networking contacts. Although a cover letter isn't the "end all, be all" of your job search, it does introduce human resources to the idea of your skills within the scope of the employer.

Photo Courtesy of My Seda Dublin at



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