The Cover Letter Cheat Sheet You've Been Looking For

If your cover letter gets read past the second sentence, congratulations! Most cover letters only get the first couple of sentences skimmed before they are thrown in the “On-File” aka “Not-Getting-the-Job” pile.

Many candidates in today’s fast-paced world mistakably skip the cover letter. A cover letter is your opportunity to stand out from the competition. Some companies even make it a policy to NOT consider candidates who don’t include one with their resume.

Now that you know it’s important, let’s get to some tips to consider when creating a cover letter, or dusting off your existing one, in preparation for your job search.

  • Show your personality. Tell your story and why you’re interested in this particular job. Don’t simply reiterate everything that’s on your resume. They already have that.
  • Keep it short. More than three concisely written paragraphs (outline below) is a waste of everyone’s time. Assume the employer has limited time and the stack of applications is overwhelming.
  • It’s about THEM, not you! This is one of the most important points in this article. Look at every sentence in your cover letter and ask yourself “Why would this sentence be important/beneficial/interesting to THEM?” If it’s not, delete it. On this topic, make sure every sentence does not start with “I.” 


Writing a cover letter, especially from scratch, can be intimidating. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you draft those three paragraphs:

  1. First Paragraph: What, Where and Why?

What: Companies might have several positions open. Make sure to specify which position(s) for which you are applying.

Where: Companies always want to see which publications their ads are getting the most return on their investment.

Why: The person reading your cover letter wants to know why he/she should continue reading. Why are you applying for this job? Why would you be a good fit for this position?

Dear Ms. Jones:

Your job post in today’s New York Times piqued my interest.  Because of my positive attitude and extensive experience working in customer service, I am confident I would be a great fit for <ENTER COMPANY NAME HERE>.

2.Second Paragraph: Why should they hire you?

This is where you talk about your skills, strengths, and most importantly, your knowledge of the company. You should modify your cover letter for every position in which you are applying. Read the keywords in their job posting and use them in your cover letter. If they are seeking someone with “good communication skills and experience in social media,” make sure you include those skills in this paragraph. Remember, it’s about them, not you.

Another tip: Flattery is a powerful tool. Find something you genuinely like about the company and include it in this paragraph.

Being an environmentalist, it would be an honor to be part of a company that is as environmentally conscious and responsible as <Company Name>.  Having the opportunity to work in customer service the past two years has not only helped advance my communication skills, it has highly developed my ability to comfortably interact with people from all different demographics.  My expertise extends to the areas of social media, online communications, and computers, making me feel confident that I would be a great fit for what your company is seeking.

3.Third Paragraph: Next Steps?

Always invite them to contact you to set up an interview, but DO NOT leave it up to them to contact you.  You should follow up by phone and/or email in a few days. Some employers, especially when screening for sales positions, intentionally don’t follow up with applicants in order to filter proactive candidates from passive candidates.

After reviewing my attached resume, please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have or to schedule an interview.  You can learn more about me and my experience at my blog  Thank you for your kind consideration.”

They are most definitely considering you if they’ve read to the last line of your cover letter!

Remember, practice makes perfect. Let us know if you have questions or if you have a topic of interest you would like us to cover. Good luck with your next interview and we’ll see you next month with another tip.

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