Writing Cover Letters

Cover Letters are evil, IMHO. I can’t seem to thinkup a good way to write one, and I can’t seem to get any kind of good examples on-line. How do you write a cover letter?
Note: I put this in CS because it has to do with something which is, in essence, a bit of an art. And of course, while it may not be great literature, it does involve self-expression.

This is the formula that has worked for me:

Dear name-of-person-hiring:

I was pleased to see that Company has an opening in Position I Want, as my career goals and experience are directly in line with this opportunity. My experience and education have prepared me with excellent knowledge of Three Highlights and other relevant skills required of this position.

The following are details of how I meet the criteria for this position:

Bulleted List Matching All (or at least most of) Position Criteria.

My Secondary Emphasis, combined with my Tertiary Emphasis, will allow me to make a substantial contribution to Company. I believe that a challenging position, such as the one you are offering, will provide an excellent opportunity to utilize my skills to meet your needs.

Attached is my resume for your review. I welcome the opportunity to discuss with you personally how my skills and strengths can best serve your company.


Your Name

Hmm. Simple and straighforward. I may give it a try. My real problem is just finding positions; they are hard to come by and have a lot of competition.

Mine’s pretty similar,

Dear Whomever is Concerned,

I would like to express my interest in the position of (blah) being advertised in (paper/website/toilet wall) on (date).

I am currently seeking employment in (relevant fields/areas that match the job or others within the same area), on a permanent or long-term contract basis.

I believe my prior experience in (roles), and my ability to learn and implement new skills will serve this position well. Skills I can bring to the company include (list of skills relevant to role). My ability to take up new tasks and adapt to a changing/challenging/team-based (etc) environment will also be an asset to the job and the organisation.

I am available to start on (date[or usually I put in ASAP]), and can be contacted at any time on (mobile phone number) or (home phone number). I look forward to hearing from you.



This has served me pretty well. It’s also the same basic layout I use for putting job applications in for hubby, and he hasn’t had too much trouble getting at least to the first interview stage. Feel free to share, if you like.

I always heard tat you shouldn’t use the word “I” too much, but I can’t think of any possible way to talk about yourself without it!

I was told that too, but the basic template I use was actually given to me by an employment agency rep in a workshop I was doing whilst unemployed at one time, and that includes most of the "I"s.

YMMV, of course. Whichever’s most comfortable for you is going to be the one that’s best, as it’s harder to make it work if you’re using something you think is patently stupid.

I was told to use a person’s name as the start of your first paragrah:

“Mr. Blah Blah said that I should contact your about this position.”

Perhaps, you could spice it up and say that Mr. Blah Blah recommended you for the position, but I think you get my point.

As for the body, I found great success using bullet points (those not found in your resume) which are tailored to show how you fit the position perfectly. And, remember, this whole letter shows how you are a perfect match – this is not the time to be humble.

In conclusion, state how you are a team player, quick learner, great to work with, and that you have experience, and reiterate that qualification you think is what the employer is looking for.

I was told to use a person’s name as the start of your first paragrah:


Sadly, I have no such reccomendation and have never met anyone in the places I’m applying for.

You need to start off with a first sentence that’s confident but not demanding. Leave off verbs such as “think” or “feel.” “I” is OK, though I prefer not to start out the letter with it. And remember to stress what you are able to give to them, not what they are offering you.

For instance:

“With my ten years experience as X, my skills as a Y fit in well with the description your position of Z.”

“I am excited about the chance to be able use my experience to help your organization. Please call me to discuss the position further.”

Don’t say:

“I am applying for the job.” They know that.
“I’ve attached my resume.” Of course you have. They can see it.
"Enclosed please find . . . " See above. Plus, it’s stilted and overly formal.
“I think I can do the job.” You don’t know?

Use the cover letter to list the things on your resume most relevant to the job. Nothing else. Also, show enthusiasm for the position (within reason). Write in a lively, but to-the-point manner (most cover letters are deadly dull; if you write one that’s interesting to read, you’re on the top of the pile for callbacks).

You must show the reader that you are a potential asset. Show, don’t tell. The best cover letter makes the reader think, “this guy would be good in the job” without specifically telling them to think that.

Unless you’re applying through an employment agency, who deals with a lot of jobs and you could be applying for any of them. Then it’s a good idea to specify which job you’re going for. That’s part of why I include the notification of which job I’m applying for.

I have to give a huge shout out to Snickers for his post on the T-letter. This form of cover letter is not only extremely easy to write, but since you use more key words in it, automated cover letter readers will pull it more often. This means more humans will read your cover letter. The table structure of the T-letter makes it easier for the human to read your letter. When it comes to getting your resume looked at an easy to read cover letter is key.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I got three interviews within a month of when I started to use this form.

I hate writing cover letters, too. I just has to write one yesterday, though, and decided to use this format . It’s a little different from a traditional cover letter, and for me it was MUCH easier to write.
Good luck!

Er, make that "I just had to write one yesterday…and yes, I did proof it.
And I see that I have been beaten to the punch by Maus Magill anyway, with his “T-letter”.

Emony Dax, it’s pretty much the same thing.

When I read the link after Snickers posted it, my first reaction was, “My god, that’s so frackin’ easy.”

I cannot recommend the “T-letter” or “two column” format enough. Your object in writing a cover letter is to:

  1. Have something that PeopleSoft will be more likely to pull. This means putting in more keywords. Those will be found in the job posting.

  2. Have an easy to read letter. Remember, an HR rep who has to look at 2 billion letters per day will be looking at your letter. You want something that they can quickly skim over and say, “Ooh, I want to look at that resume.”

  3. Have a format that’s easy to write, because let’s face it, writing cover letters sucks.

Excellent advice so far. The only thing I would add is to do some actual research on the company you are applying to. Demonstrating in your letter that you are at least fairly familiar with the company, their industry, and products is always a good sign.

Hmmm… how do I show that I know a little about the company on my cover letter?