Cover Letter Basics

AUTHOR: Darlene Zambruski
POSTED: April 9, 2013 at 8:24 am

Whether cover letters are essential to your job search or not (some hiring managers and recruiters believe they are), many candidates believe there’s no correct or wrong way to write one. That’s wishful thinking and it could result in not being considered for a position.

Cover Letters Must Be as Stellar as Your Resume

In an article on Robert Half Finance & Accounting, cover letter fundamentals are discussed. These include:

  • Make your cover letter specific to the job being sought.  This is invaluable advice. As a hiring manager, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received letters for openings in bookkeeping, teaching fine arts, healthcare, IT, etc., when I was actually posting for a resume writer. I knew that the candidate simply recycled a cover letter for another position. Did that individual actually think I wouldn’t notice it wasn’t for the job opening I had offered? Probably. Unfortunately for that candidate, I passed on the cover letter and resume.
  • Don’t repeat your resume in your cover letter. Few things are more irritating than reading the same verbiage and facts again and again. Your cover letter should introduce your most relevant skills/knowledge/abilities to a hiring manager or a recruiter as they pertain to the position. You should dovetail what you know and can do to what the position requires. The resume builds upon this information; it doesn’t repeat it.
  • Use key words. Many, if not most, companies use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to screen resumes and cover letters before a human being even sees them. If your cover letter and/or resume doesn’t contain the appropriate key words for the position, you’ll be rejected immediately. What are key words? For an accountant they might be: Accounts Payable, Account Receivable, Reconciliations, IRS Audits, etc.
  • Length matters. No cover letter needs to be over one page in length. If yours is, shorten it. A cover letter is a sneak peek into your most relevant skill set for a particular job. It’s not a biography of your life or work history.
  • No mistakes. In addition to using spell/grammar check, you need to proofread carefully. There are many words that spell check will never catch because they aren’t misspelled, simply misused. Examples of this would be: manger instead of manager, from instead of form, massage instead of message.


(Photo credit: Ace Kieffer Art/Design, flickr)

A Few Other Tips

Two other things I’d like to add from personal experience:

  • Use the individual’s name for the cover letter salutation. If you don’t know what it is, Google the company or call them and ask. Never address a cover letter to ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ – or worse – ‘To Whom It May Concern’. That’s tantamount to addressing it to “Dear Occupant’. It also shows lack of attention to detail.
  • Please don’t tell me what my company is or does. I already know because I work here. Letters that begin with ResumeEdge is the leading internet provider of resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, etc. etc. and it has proven to be…” tell me absolutely nothing about you as a candidate. I’m intimately familiar with the company I work for. It’s the candidate I need to know more about.

Feeling daunted at having to create a cover letter, resume, or LinkedIn profile? Our certified writers excel in 40+ industries and can provide cover letters and resumes that will get you the interview. We also offer interview coaching services through JobInterviewEdge.


Darlene Z.

Darlene Zambruski is a resume writing expert and CPRW (Certified Professional Resume Writer) with more than 13 years of industry experience. She has authored 10,000+ resumes in every industry and at every career level.

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