How to Write a Great Cover Letter

By February 9, 2015 No Comments

By: Taunee Besson

crumpled paperQ. “Give me a choice between writing a cover letter and swimming with sharks, and I’ll head for the beach! Can you offer an easy-to-follow approach for writing cover letters that captures a recruiter’s attention and increases my chances of landing an interview?”

A. You aren’t alone in your distaste for writing cover letters. Most job seekers are intimidated by the task. It’s very common to doubt one’s ability to compose a letter guaranteed to pique the interest of a hard-nosed recruiter.

Fortunately, by using the neat little formula I’m about to divulge, you will create cover letters that produce a much better-than-average response. While there are just a few ingredients, together they create a powerful synergy.

The most important thing to remember is this: you must always tailor your letter to the job you’re pursuing. A one-size-fits-all approach may save you time, but it will alienate your reader. If you want to capture an employer’s attention, compose your letter with his interests in mind.

Begin by addressing your cover letter to a real person, if possible. If the ad lists a company, but not the individual responsible for hiring, call the firm’s receptionist to find out who is collecting resumes for the position. Saying, “Dear Mr. Janson,” is a lot better than “To Whom It May Concern.”

Use your first paragraph to establish a bond between you and the reader. Mention the person who referred you. Do a little research on the company and list several reasons why you are interested in working there. Be complimentary. Show you’ve done your homework. Don’t start your letter with, “I saw your ad in the Dallas Morning News.” Everyone does that. A targeted first paragraph can set you apart from the crowd more than any other component of your letter.

Now that you have your reader’s fond attention, tell him about yourself. Write a few sentences that briefly highlight your accomplishments, skills and personality traits most relevant to his needs. You can even use two columns headed by “You Need” and “I Have,” if you want to be very to the point.

In your final paragraph, tell the recruiter you will call or email him in a few days to confirm receipt of your resume and schedule an interview. Then be true to your word. Employers like candidates with initiative and perseverance. Unless the ad says “NO calls,” don’t hesitate to make the first contact. You’ll be one of a very few enterprising candidates who do.


Taunee Besson headshotTaunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979, which works with individual and corporate clients in career change; job search; executive, small business and life coaching; college major selection and talent management.

“One of the smartest minds in the career field,” according to Tony Lee (VP of CareerCast Operations at Adicio and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal’s Online Vertical Network), Besson began writing for the Dallas Times Herald in the early 80s. Having read several of her columns, Lee asked her to contribute regular articles to the Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly (NBEW) as well. Since then, she has been a triple award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com  and Senior Columnist for CareerCast.com, as well as WorkingWoman.com and Oxygen.com. At Lee’s request, Besson authored five editions  of NBEW’s Premier Guide to Resumes and three of its Premier Guide to Cover Letters. She has also written articles and/or been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money and Yahoo among others.

Taunee has worked on community nonprofit boards and committees for over 30 years including Girls Inc., Women’s Center of Dallas, Girl Scouts and Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Volunteers of America and Mortarboard, among others. She was a member of the Leadership Dallas in 1987 and Leadership America in 2003.

In 1994, the Dallas Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development chose her as its “Professional of the Year”. Her NBEW columns were selected for the “Ten Best Article Award” in 1990, 1994 and 1997.  
In 1999, Alpha Gamma Delta, a 200,000 member fraternal organization, named her as one of three “Distinguished Citizens” at its biannual international convention.

Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.  

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