How to Write an Effective Cover Letter

The cover letter has become  more and more important to Human Resources professionals as a tool for screening potential employees. Many job postings generate hundreds of applications, and it is difficult to differentiate one applicant from another. You might have a great resume, but unless you can grab the attention of your potential interviewer, you may never get the chance to showcase your talents to help you land that job.

A cover letter is your formal introduction to the person doing the hiring. This is where you can show a glimpse of your personality and personal appeal, unlike in the resume, which necessarily contains pretty dry information. The cover letter should be succinct but thorough regarding your desire for the job and your specific qualifications that make you the preferred candidate.

Here are a few tips for composing an effective cover letter:

  • Open with a strong statement about your interest and enthusiasm for the position.
  • A conversational tone is much better than a stilted, formal style. It’s okay to show some personality while at at the same time being courteous.
  • Conventional wisdom once dictated that you state where you heard about or saw the job posting in your first sentence of the cover letter. Now, however, many HR professionals consider that wasted verbiage. Best to leave it out.
  •  Research the company you are applying for to learn a little about their culture; your tone can be applied accordingly. For example, if you are applying at a bank, you might be less whimsical than applying at a software design company. Show some creativity in the makeup of your letter if the job you are applying for is looking for someone creative. By doing your research, you should be able to
  • Address every aspect of the job posting in your cover letter. Let the reader know that you have specific experience to fit the company’s needs.
  • Emphasize how you can be of value to the company. They don’t care if you are fulfilling your lifelong dream or think the job will help you grow. How can you make their organization better?
  • Keep your letter to one page. The letter should be as short as you can make it without leaving anything out.

There is an old saying, “I wrote you a long letter. I would have written a shorter one if I’d had the time.”  The same principle applies with your cover letter; take the time to digest your research and compose a direct, conversational,comprehensive cover letter. You will be glad you did.




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.