Dear Sam: I think I have a pretty good résumé, but I have no idea where

to start when writing a cover letter. Is it necessary to submit a cover

letter when applying for a job? I’d prefer to just submit my résumé so

I don’t have to write a cover letter for every job I am interested in.

I’m finding I don’t apply for some positions as I can’t get over the

stumbling block of writing the cover letter to accompany my résumé.

Help! – Tony

Dear Tony: A cover letter is your opportunity to

introduce yourself to a prospective employer, expand on and personalize

your résumé, and highlight how your skills and experiences will fulfill

the employer's needs. A cover letter should be a key part of every

application, regardless of whether it is requested. The letter should

engage the hiring manager and propel him or her to read your résumé.


should not have to create a new cover letter for each job you are

interested in. If you have defined your objective when creating your

résumé, meaning you know what you want to do, who you are marketing

your candidacy to, and what language will attract his or her interest,

then your cover letter will be developed using that information as your

guide. When you have taken time to really understand what will trigger

your target audience, and have incorporated that content into your

application materials, your résumé and cover letter will not need to be

modified each time you apply for a position.

Keep in mind a

cover letter not only expresses your interest in the company and/or

position, but also gives the employer the opportunity to observe your

attentiveness to detail, spelling, grammar, and quality of your written

communication. While you may have heard stories of employers not even

looking at cover letters, I have heard just as many in which employers

focus heavily on the cover letter as a window into the style of the


When writing your cover letter, there are many

strategies you can employ in the development and organization of the

content. Here are some guidelines:

1. Open the letter noting

your key qualifications and the position of interest. Use the first

paragraph to capture the recipient's attention and make him or her want

to read further.

2. Use the center section of your cover letter

to explore your experiences, successes, and skills that have supported

your performance. Oftentimes, I use bullet points to focus the hiring

manager's attention on the most important pieces of information, which

also helps to break up a heavy-looking one-page letter. Bullet points

also allow for a quick way to tailor your cover letter to a specific

opportunity, should that be necessary.

3. Close with an

action-oriented statement. Do not take the passive approach and wait

for a hiring manager to call you. Of course, if the posting says no

calls, don’t call; but most of the time, a follow-up call is

appropriate to reiterate your interest.

4. Keep it brief.

Generally cover letters should be no more than one page and include

ample white space to facilitate ease of readability. Don’t however make

it so brief that at a quick glance it looks like you aren’t bringing

anything to the table.

5. Do all you can to obtain the name of

the hiring manager and address your cover letter accordingly. When all

else fails, address the letter to Dear Hiring Manager.

6. Use

the same heading from your résumé in order to present a clean and

professional package. Don't forget to sign your letter if you are

sending a hard copy.

Take a look at the cover letter I have presented (click here),

it engages the reader by immediately introducing the candidate’s

qualifications, using an attractive format to pull the reader’s eye

through the main section of the letter, and providing proof and support

of claims made in the letter and résumé. As you can see, a cover letter

can serve a much higher purpose than you might have thought, by

capturing increased interest in your candidacy.