My Top 10 Tips for Jobseekers: Part Two – The Cover Letter


Encore Encore!!! As I recently learned the majority of my Top 10 Tips for Jobseekers series articles were suddenly removed from the original careers website they were on, I’m re-publishing them on my own blog so that jobseekers can continue to benefit. (Big thank you to those who made me aware of this!) Check back next Wednesday for Part Three – The Interview.

As a recruiter, I’ve read thousands and thousands of cover letters. I’ll be honest… most of them aren’t very good.

What happens to applications with bad cover letters? They end up being tossed.

Applicants often make the same basic mistake with their cover letter; they use it simply to rehash the same skills and experiences listed on their resume. In doing so, they miss a strategic opportunity to showcase their ability to communicate and their enthusiasm for the job. Or worse, they don’t submit one at all, thinking “my resume speaks for itself”.

Don’t make this rookie mistake! If you want to really connect with a recruiter (not to mention a hiring manager), your application needs to include a solid cover letter. Here are my suggestions for drafting a strong cover letter that a recruiter wants to read:

1. No generic cover letters!

Clients often ask me to write an “all-purpose” cover letter, and are surprised when I decline. That’s because you need to customize each cover letter for the specific employer. Do not simply insert the company name and job title into an obvious form letter. This is the easiest way to ensure your application ends up in the “no” pile.

2. Focus on the employer’s needs

Always remember that companies hire because they have specific needs. Use the cover letter to show your understanding of those needs and how you can help.  You don’t want to brag, but you do want to position yourself as a problem solver.

3. Avoid the obvious

No need to repeat your name, that your resume is enclosed, that you’re applying for the job, or that references are available upon request. Focus on telling us why you’re the right fit for the job.

4. Remember politeness

Start and end your cover letter with “thank you.” A little bit of courtesy goes a long way!

5. Explain why you think the organization is cool

Too many cover letters omit this important component. You need to explain why you really want to work with that specific company. What do you find interesting about the organization? How do you personally relate to what they do?

6. Explain why the job is cool

You also need to show why you are interested in the specific job for which you are applying. How does the job fit with your established professional interests? How do you think you could contribute in this potion? At the end of the day, you need find some answer to the question “why this job?”

7. Summarize (briefly) how you meet the requirements

Recruiters want to quickly see that you are qualified. Make it easy with a few concise explanatory sentences or bullet points. My personal favorite? When they copy/paste the key requirements from the job and then put their responses after each bullet.

8. Exude confidence, not cockiness

Using terms like “expert” or “guru” can be off-putting. Let examples of your accomplishments speak for themselves.

9. Follow directions on the job posting!

This is so, so important. Most employers include application instructions in the job posting. Follow them. Why should they hire you if you can’t follow simple instructions?

10. Review your work (and then do it again)

Check spelling, grammar and content. Read it out loud. Writing skills are valuable, and a cover letter is the prime opportunity to show your ability to communicate thoughtfully, understand your audience, and encourage the employer to read your resume.

Take the time to construct a thoughtful cover letter that helps them see that they need to call you for an interview. Here’s a badass example from HR Nasty.

If you really want the job, it’s well worth the time and energy…promise!


4 thoughts on “My Top 10 Tips for Jobseekers: Part Two – The Cover Letter

  1. Loving that you’re re-posting your valuable advice here! Their loss, our gain!

    I recently went for an interview where the job hours had changed without notification and the job description was so dramatically different it was (in my mind) a completely different role. I hate it when companies do this! The interviewer was also fixated on me leaving a higher wage to work locally, walking distance from home. The fact that my time is important to me (less time commuting, being more environmentally friendly not using a vehicle and less hours out of the house as well) all fell on deaf ears, not to mention no travel costs – people see what they want to see I suppose…

    I have another interview locally next week and I’ll be interested to see how things go, trying not to get my hopes up!

    It’s also interesting to see how different countries approach interviews, thanks for sharing I’ve enjoyed reading!

    Liked by 1 person

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