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Your chance to shine

Are cover letters necessary? In many cases, yes. They’re also a great place to highlight factors that make you an ideal hire, but that aren’t included in your resume. For starters: Your cover letter is where you communicate your passion for what your prospective employer does and how you could help the organization do even better. Cover letters let you show a bit more personality and stand out from the stack of applications.

Here are some tips to help you write a great cover letter:

  1. Address the hiring manager by name at the top of the letter. If you know the hiring manager, use Mr., Ms. and the last name. If you don’t know who the hiring manager is, address the head of the department for the open position. If that’s not possible, address the letter “Dear Hiring Manager.”
  2. In the first paragraph: highlight your interest in the organization in general and the position you’re applying for in particular. Drop a name if possible. If you can say that a respected mutual acquaintance puts in a good word for you, do so.
  3. In the second paragraph (and third, if needed): Showcase the skills and experience that make you a great fit for the position—and make them stand out by telling a short real-life story or two about them. Or have a short block of bullets that align your skills with the most important requirements for the position.
  4. In the final paragraph: Say you look forward to an interview to discuss your qualifications in greater detail. And say you’ll follow up by phone in a few days.
  5. Use a professional closing, like “Sincerely” above your signature and printed name.
  6. Proofread your letter. Then read it aloud and see if you notice any other corrections. Ask a friend to read it. Run spellcheck.
  7. Keep it short. A cover letter should never be more than one page.

See cover letter samples and outline: