The Good and The Bad of Cover Letters

John Krautzel
Posted by in Career Advice

A cover letter is essential in making a first impression with a prospective employer, whether you submit a formal letter with your application or an email with an attached resume. Several components of your correspondence can make or break this impression, so make sure you catch the eye of human resources.

Examine these writing tips to help create a good presentation from top to bottom. They could make all the difference in your job search.


A good cover letter starts at the top with your relevant contact information. It should be easily viewable. Include your complete address, telephone number and email address. If you have an official website or LinkedIn page, consider adding those to your contact data.

Address the cover letter to the hiring manager or the person responsible for making the hiring decision. This shows you researched the company enough to know to whom the letter should go.

Reference the job description and the position in the first line. Then dive right into the main reasons why the company should hire you. Identify a skill or two that you possess that the company needs. Determine what the employer needs by examining the qualifications in the job description.

In the second paragraph, highlight two or three major achievements from your resume. These accomplishments explain, in concrete terms, how and why you have the skills for the job.

The third paragraph displays your knowledge of the company and why you want to work for this employer. Reference a personal experience, press release or some aspect of the organization that resonates with you. In conclusion, write a call to action that tells the reader what to do next, such as contacting you for an interview time.


Leaving out any contact information may prevent HR from getting in touch with your for an interview. Update your LinkedIn profile and website as well. Failing to address your cover letter to the hiring manager ensures your application goes into the delete pile.

If you omit the job description and position name, it shows a lack of interest and that you sent a generic letter. No one notices your correspondence when you leave out important data.

This letter needs to be concise, so include only information pertinent to the position. Extra stuff, such as grade point average in college, academic honors and basic skills, have no place in this letter.

Do not say you have no idea what the company does. Instead, write a compelling reason for the employer to consider your application. Focus on positives throughout.

Typos indicate a lack of professionalism. Make your letter sharp by proofreading several times, reading it out loud and letting someone else look at it to gain additional insight. A cover letter should have a maximum of four paragraphs with no more than 200 to 300 words.

Use these writing tips to create a dynamic cover letter that catches the attention of the right person. With the proper introduction, let the hiring manager know why you are the perfect person for the job.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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