How to Write a Cover Letter that Works

In the past, we’ve talked about all the great things a cover letter can do. For a refresher on that, click here. And now, it’s time to discuss how to actually write one. Done well, it helps show readers why they should pick up the phone and call you right away. We do this by ditching the generic approach, opting instead for a customized letter.

Starting your cover letter

The first paragraph is really quite basic. In fact, I hesitate to even call it a paragraph because it’s really only a couple sentences. Essentially, you’re stating your intention, which is to apply to ABC job. Then you can add a sentence that very generally summarizes why you’re a match for that role.

For example

“Please accept my resume for the Executive Assistant role advertised on LinkedIn. Based on the needs and demands of this role, I’m confident my skills and experience would make me a strong addition to the team.”

The heart of the matter

Here’s where you really get to the good stuff. Also, this is the area where readers realize you wrote a custom cover letter just for them.

Begin by thoroughly combing through the job ad. Get a feel for the skills and qualifications that seem most crucial for the role (oftentimes, the most frequently mentioned skills). These could be hard skills, soft skills, or a combination. There are lots of things listed in the ad, but you can only choose a few to focus on in your letter. Now, go to your resume and pull out instances where your background connects directly to the job.

For example

“While working in my most recent role, I handled calendars for three C-Level Executives and also managed international travel, so calendar management is a key skill for me. In this role, the majority of my phone interaction was with individuals of high net worth as well as other executives. Navigating these types of conversations is something that comes naturally, and I truly enjoyed that part of my job. In addition, all my positions involved managing multiple projects at any given time, and I readily took on the challenge of coordinating all the moving parts and also have a knack for anticipating problems before they arise. In everything I’ve done, I find one of my favorite aspects of my work is when my efforts make the team look great.”

In this example, there was an ad that emphasized advanced calendar management, regular interaction with high-profile individuals, and ability to multi-task and manage projects. There were several other requirements, of course, but these stood out the most.

Closing your cover letter

Like the first paragraph, this one is quite simple. Thank them for their consideration and welcome them to contact you with questions or to pursue next steps in the process.

For example

“Thank you in advance for your consideration. If you have questions or would like to pursue next steps in the process, I’m available at your convenience. Please feel free to contact me at 413.555.5555 or via email at”

Final pointers

In the end, a cover letter should rarely go over one page in length. Also, it’s best to have white space so the letter doesn’t look so daunting. In other words, that trick we all did in school where we play with fonts and margins to make the letter fit to one page just doesn’t cut it here.

I’ve coached you through writing a three-paragraph letter. That’s pretty standard. Sometimes, it makes sense to do four paragraphs. However, only do this if it’s totally necessary for all that information to be in the letter. Readers may be turned off by an overly dense document.

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist