How To Write A Compelling Cover Letter – And Why You Need One

Today, there’s a lot of debate as to whether it’s worth it to submit a cover letter with your resume. Some recruiters and hiring managers say they never read cover letters. Others say a candidate’s cover letter can mean the difference between being contacted for an interview and not.

So when you submit your resume sending a cover letter may or may not make a difference.

But with today’s competition do you really want to take a chance?

I’m guessing not.

Recruiters who say they never read cover letters say that a good resume should stand on its own. That a cover letter is redundant. A compelling cover letter, however, will help sell you as a viable candidate.

When most people think of a cover letter they think of this:

Dear Ms. Jones:

I’m responding to your ad for a marketing manager with Smith Anderson & Associates. I’m a detail-oriented, team player with three years of accounting experience including tax preparation.

I’ve attached my resume for your review. Thanks for your consideration, I’m eager to learn more about working with you.


Scott Rogers

A ho-hum cover letter like this IS a waste of time.

A good cover letter will compliment your resume. It will provide additional information. It will tell a potential employer your career story. It will help the employer see and understand why you are a good fit for the job. Here are four steps taken from a cover letter example.

Step #1 Get Their Attention

Start by getting the recruiter or hiring manager’s attention. You can do this in a number of ways.

Mention something recently in the news that might interest him. For example, if you’re applying for a position in human resources you might begin by talking about a recent article on employment practices.

Ask a question about her staffing needs where you can provide the solution. Maybe their sales are down and you’re a revenue generator or their problem is employee turnover and one of your skills is employee engagement and boosting morale.

Succinctly explaining how you can fill their laundry list of skills.  For example, the accountant you’re looking for isn’t easy to find. You’re looking for someone with a strong audit background, who is comfortable with financial planning, and can be a strong contributor during tax season. I can offer you all of that and more.

Step #2 Make Them Interested

Just as with your resume it’s important to make it all about the employer. Make sure that the employer knows you can do the job but always focus on your skills can help Try to make the connection between what’s you’re doing in your current position that can help your potential employer.

Avoid clichés like “excellent communication skills” and “team players.” Don’t make negative comments about your current situation. Even if your boss is the devil that’s not something you want to talk about with a potential employer.

Step #3 Get Them to Want You

This is the time to reiterate your achievements. Read between the lines of the job description to find your potential employer’s “hot” buttons. Then think about how you can address those needs.

Pick a few achievements that you can use as bullet points. Next take examples from your resume—examples that hit those “hot” buttons—and rework them so they are new. Don’t repeat anything from your resume verbatim. Your cover letter should complement your resume not follow it word-for-word.

Just as your resume is a marketing tool your cover letter is a sales tool. However, unless you’re in sales closing your letter with something like “I’ll call your office next week to . . .” is probably not the best move. Particularly if you’re not going to follow through and actually call.

A better way to express interest and end your letter would be to say something like “I’d be happy to discuss my qualifications in more detail during an interview or over the phone.”  It indicates your desire to continue the conversation while leaving the ball in the employer’s court.

Will having a solid cover letter than provides a reasonable argument for why you are a good candidate for the job get you hired? Maybe not. But, in a competitive job market it’s important to give yourself every advantage.

If you’d like to work with Annette Richmond, a certified resume writer, LinkedIn Profile writer, and career consultant, please schedule an introductory call to discuss your needs.   You will be able to access Annette’s calendar to choose a day and time that works for you.