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The Three Most Important Things in Your Cover Letter

CATEGORY: Cover Letters
POSTED: September 17, 2013 at 6:52 am

by Kelly L, ResumeEdge Certified Writer –

A cover letter is your opportunity to engage a hiring manager’s interest—and showcase your experience and skills. It’s the first impression a prospective company will have regarding who you are and what you can do for them.

The person (HR/hiring manager) reading your cover letter is likely a member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). In the article “A Memorable Cover Letter Will Boost Your Chances,” SHRM recommends a three-step format for cover letters.

Editors Note: Countless studies have shown that professionally-written cover letters and resumes get more interviews. Compare Resume Writing and Resume Editing to see which of our services is right for you.

Tell readers:

  1. Why you are writing (the opening paragraph)
  2. Why they should be interested in you (the body of the letter)
  3. What action needs to be taken next (the conclusion)

Use the following tactics to craft a winning cover.

The Opening Paragraph

The first paragraph of your cover letter should be to the point, making a compelling case for how your unique skill set/experience/education truly matches the targeted position. Read the job description carefully to hone in on what they’re looking for in candidates. Look for repeated keywords within required skills sections and the expectations paragraph(s). Lead with the ‘big guns.’ If you’ve worked for a renowned company, have held a prestigious position, and/or have a high-level certification or degree, mention these in the opening paragraph.

For example:

As a Certified Fraud Examiner—with a solid, successful background in fraud prevention at AT&T, and general accounting work for Dean Witter Reynolds—I feel I can offer your organization a wealth of experience that truly aligns with the needs outlined for the Examiner Position, Job Code 1375.

Body of Letter

This is where you really sell yourself. Throughout the rest of the cover letter, detail your skills as each relates to the position. Use bullet points to organize experience and capture the reader’s attention.

Example 1:

In addition to my current pursuit of an MBA from Regis University, I can also offer:

  • Expertise in transforming troubled companies to profitable enterprises, as evidenced by the successful reorganization of a 130-store retail art concern.
  • Multi-million dollar revenue sourcing attained through proactive negotiation of purchase contracts and funding agreements at XYZ Company.
  • Mastery of a full spectrum of services, including benchmarking studies, strategic planning, internal controls, SWOT analysis, GAAP procedures, and investor relations.

Alternately, you may highlight achievements by function. Here’s a real resume example (used with permission).

Example 2:

Please note a few of my qualifications:

  • Television and Radio

Promoted as the “Most Recognized Voice in Baltimore Radio” by WBAL-Radio 11. Previous experience encompasses researching, writing and reporting news and sports for Maryland News Network Radio and for WCBM Radio. Breaking news reported on location includes the Conrail Train collapse in Middle River.

  • Voiceovers

Provide voiceover talent for commercial clients such as Lexus, Lawn Plus, Invisible Fence, and Holland America Cruise Lines. Performed mock radio broadcast for HBO’s television program “The Wire.”

  • Play-by-Play Announcing

Served as the Baltimore Ravens’ Press Box Announcer for the 1999–2000 NFL football season.

Another tactic often used by ResumeEdge writers (and recommended by The Undercover Recruiter) is to provide some narrative, or backstory, to your bulleted achievements.

Closing Statement

An effective one- to two-sentence cover letter closing should also contain a proactive element.

For example:

My résumé is enclosed for your review. I will be contacting your office within the next ten days to see if we can discuss arranging an interview.

If you’re really uncomfortable stating your follow-up action, use a more subtle approach to elicit action from the hiring manager.

For example:

My many other career accomplishments are highlighted in the enclosed résumé. I look forward to hearing from you, once you have reviewed my credentials.


When writing the salutation, do what you can to find out who the hiring manager (or HR recruiter) is for the position; address your letter directly to that person.

If you cannot find this information, use the term ‘Hiring Manager’ in your salutation, like this: Dear Hiring Manager.

Kelly L.

Kelly is an award-winning, published business writer and marketing communications expert with 20 years of corporate, agency, association and non-profit experience. She has authored hundreds of resumes for every industry and has a loyal client following.

» Read Full Bio

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