Your cover letter is the first chance you have to make a good impression on your future employer. A good cover letter can open up the door to the next step in your job-search process, while a bad cover letter can slam the door shut on your chances of ever even getting your resume seen.


Whether it’s the traditional typed, formal cover letter or a Word document that you are quickly downloading onto a company’s Web site, there are certain rules which you should follow:


  1. Get personal. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, let your personality shine, and show your enthusiasm for this particular job and company. But don’t overdo it!
  2. Differentiate Yourself. Specifically show how you can add value to this company through your skills, attitude, experience, and desire.
  3. Address Company Needs. Here, you should match up the qualifications for this particular job with your skills, and, in a sentence or two, describe how you will fill their needs.
  4. Be Concise. I probably should have mentioned this first, but you need to write tightly, address each of the three points (above) concisely, and get to the point quickly.
  5. Don’t Linger. Keep your cover letter moving, cover the first three points in no more than three short paragraphs. You want the reader to be able to quickly see why you are a candidate worth contacting.
  6. Be Gracious. Conclude your cover letter with a brief final paragraph in which you thank the reader for their time and interest, and express how you will follow up this cover letter and hope that they do so, too.