How to Write an Effective Cover Letter

Cover letter concept in word tag cloudIs a cover letter necessary? Unless a prospective employer explicitly asks for one, no.

But the fact is that even though a cover letter may seem antiquated, it can be a valuable, door-opening tool for job seekers.

While a resume showcases your qualifications to do a job, a cover later expresses your interest in the opportunity.

Not only does it express why you want the job, it also:

  • personalizes your application
  • explains your resume
  • allows a potential employer to get a peek at your personality
  • helps your resume stand out
  • shows that you are willing to do research/work for the job

Tips for Writing a Great Cover Letter

Let’s be honest. If resume writing is no fun, writing a cover letter is even less fun. But taking the time to craft a strong cover letter can really go a long way in helping you land a great job.

Here are some tips for writing a cover letter that stands out:

Look for samples.

Before getting started, do an online search for cover letter templates and samples.

These are great resources.They offer structural guidance on how to format your cover letter and give you an idea of what it should sound like.

It is important to remember that while these are great tools to help get you started, you should avoid copying a sample cover letter you found online. It will not only sound completely generic, it will actually sound like you copied a template. That’s not going to help you land the job you want.

Use a human voice.

Nothing screams “template!” more than overloading your cover letter with robotic language.

We’re not saying to “dumb-it-down.”  And we’re not saying to be informal. Professionalism is always important. Just don’t force jargon into your cover letter that doesn’t sound like you.

It’s OK to let your personality shine through.

Tell a story.

Rather than repeat everything that is on your resume, use the cover letter as a platform for sharing your story. Describe, using real examples, how your skills and experiences meet the requirements for the job.

Remember, this is an opportunity for the employer to get a glimpse of who you are.

Know your audience.

While it is certainly important to make sure your cover letter paints a picture of who you are and what skills you bring to the table, it is also important to make sure you’re catering your cover letter to the prospective employer.

Check out their website. Read their story. Learn more about their company culture. Then, matching their tone, tie your skills and experience to their mission and values.

Avoid clichés.

Everyone thinks they are a “team-player,” “detail-oriented,” a “self-starter,” and “uniquely-qualified.” Now, you could, in fact, possess all of those characteristics. Just find a new way to say it.

Your goal is to stand out from the other applicants.

Show and tell.

The job or company may be awesome, but don’t get caught up in gushing about the opportunity. Brag about yourself – without being arrogant.

Highlight your skills. Prove to the hiring manager that you’re great for the role. And don’t just tell them about your successes. Show that you were successful, by using numbers and stats.

Include the hiring manager’s name.

Avoid writing “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Hiring Manager” when addressing your cover letter. Take a moment to find out the name of the hiring manager. Let them see that you cared enough about the opportunity to do the research.

Skip the references.

If a hiring manager wants to learn more about you, they are going to ask you for a list of references. Don’t bother including “references available upon request” in your cover letter.

Keep it short and sweet.

Remember, you just want to capture the hiring manager’s interest, so that they call you back. You’re not writing your autobiography. Keep your cover letter to no more than one page.


Don’t let a simple grammatical or spelling mistake be the reason that a potential employer doesn’t call you back. Review your cover letter. Then have someone else review it, too.

Taking a few extra minutes to proofread your cover letter is more than a good idea. It’s a must.

How TERRA Can Help You

TERRA Staffing is a leading temp agency with several resources available for job seekers. We partner with companies large and small, across a variety of industries and we can help open the door to new career opportunities.

Getting started with us is simple. Just check out our current job openings. We have offices in the Seattle-Puget SoundPortland-Metro, and Phoenix-Metro areas and our expert recruiters are waiting to speak with you!

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