How to Get the Most Out of Your Cover Letter

Cover letters  often present the most difficult and challenging task for job seekers.  There is no standard template, they must sometimes be written without a lot of lead time, and they are expected to be tailored to specific circumstances while having a highly positive impact on the reader.  In fact, some people just send in their resumes without an accompanying cover letter to avoid the stress of writing a good one.  But a good cover letter, if well written and informative,  can grab the reader’s attention and stimulate immediate interest in your employment candidacy.  It’s well worth the effort to get it right.

The one overriding objective for your initial cover letter is to grab the reader’s attention.  Here are some tips to increase your chances of getting them to look at your resume and to eventually set up an interview:

  • Make your cover letter personal; address it to a named individual instead of to a generic position.  It should have a strong opening paragraph, communicating your job target and key strengths within the first few lines.
  • Use the same terminology in your cover letter as in the job description.  Tailoring your letter to a particular reader shows that you have done your homework.
  • Show concern, interest, and pride in your profession.
  • Demonstrate energy and enthusiasm.
  • Briefly discuss your most relevant qualifying experience to strengthen you case for employment.
  • Conclude your cover letter by thanking the employer for considering you for the position. Include information on how you will follow-up, if you have enough contact information to do so.

Remember, a good cover letter refers back to, but does not duplicate, your resume. Its purpose is to interpret the data-oriented, factual resume and add a personal touch. A cover letter is usually your earliest written contact with a potential employer, and your best chance to make a great first impression.

If you want help drafting a cover letter or with any aspect of your job search, please visit our Jobs and Careers Center in the Library. We would be glad to help you. Or you can call our Business Librarian, Terry Miller, for an appointment at 785-580-4556.



Terry is the business librarian. You can email her ( your questions or schedule a one-on-one session to discuss business needs, from market research to competitor analysis. She also coordinates with community partners to host small business and personal finance events at the library. Terry has an MBA and an MLS.

  • Stephen Lusk

    Terry, you make a good point. Recruiters are faced with a need to screen dozens of applications down to a manageable number of potential interviews. A well-written cover letter connects the dots for the recruiter and is far more likely to make the cut. Good cover letters don’t need to be long but they need to be specific. For examples of cover letters that got applicants the job, take a look at Stephen X. Flynn’s Open Cover Letters.

  • Terry Miller

    Thanks for commenting, Steve. It’s nice to hear a perspective from “the other side of the desk.” Also, thanks for the link.