Writing attention-grabbing cover letters


ready-for-work-by-tammy-mcintyreIf you’re not getting interviews, then perhaps your cover letter needs to be recrafted. Even if your résumé is put together extremely well, a bad cover letter will eliminate you from the candidate list. Here are proven tips that will help you create an “attention grabbing” cover letter.

The cover letter is your first impression; it is your sales pitch. You have one page to show your interest in the company, showcase your experience, and convey that you are the right fit for the organization.

(Courtesy of Hubspot)
(Courtesy of Hubspot)

Each time you submit a resume for a job opening, you should include a cover letter. Its primary role is to get the recipient to read the résumé (and in turn, call the applicant for an interview).  An effective cover letter must:

  • Be free of typographical errors
  • Specifically list what job you are applying for
  • If possible, be addressed to a specific person within the company
  • Be properly addressed — dig deep to find out who will be reading your cover letter and greet that person by name. Never use “To Whom It May Concern” or anything else general in nature.
  • Highlight key achievements as they relate
  • Be no more than one page in length — less than one page is better
  • Be free of past pay history. Information about your past pay may be used to screen you out before you have a chance to display your talents and transferable skills.

Include your best contact information in the letter so it is easy for your prospective employer to reach you. Ensure that your answering machine message is professional just in case a prospective employer has to leave a message.

Select the most unique and valuable piece of work experience in your resume –– something most other competitors for this position will not have under their belts. Include a sentence about this towards the top of your cover letter.

Remember, you are answering the question, “Why should I meet you?” You must sell yourself, your skills and your accomplishments to the reader.

Stick with action words that are clear and concise. Instead of saying, “I was in charge of six people,” say, “I supervised a team of six service employees.”

Action words are powerful. Don’t be afraid to be different; talk about your qualifications and background that set you apart from the competition.

Review and edit your letter. Have someone else review the letter before you send it. Many positions include written communication skills as a basis for screening applications. The cover letter is often used as part of this assessment by hiring managers and committees.

In some cases, a single missing comma or period, misspelled word, or poorly structured sentence could lead to a negative score on these criteria. A well-composed and technically accurate letter may convey the message that you are a professional, have passion for getting the job, and have a strong aptitude for detail. Aim for a concise, articulate, and well-written letter.

Make sure to ask for the interview and provide some possible dates and times where the interview can occur. Provide the interviewer with next steps (call me, wait for my call, visit my LinkedIn page, etc.).

Add a “thank you” to the hiring manager at the bottom of your letter. Mention that you know there are other candidates to choose from, and that you appreciate the time spent reading your letter and considering your experience.

Make sure you sign your name in pen at the bottom, and include a “positive” P.S. with some personality. Example: P.S. I’m eager to meet and talk with you.

Follow these simple tips to get more attention from every cover letter you write.


Look for regular “Ready for Work” columns on finding, keeping and succeeding in meaningful work. Tammy McIntyre, M.Ed. is a workforce development consultant providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to mcintyre_tammy@rocketmail.com.