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The Gateway to Your Resume: Writing an Effective Cover Letter

You’ve polished your resume, and now you’re ready to apply for that new job. But not so fast! Before you send off your resume, be sure to include a cover letter. Our specialized career advisors at Dress for Success tell us that employers are less likely to consider your application if it doesn’t include a cover letter. The purpose of the cover letter is to tell the employer what type of position you’re seeking, and to direct the hiring manager to particularly powerful parts of your professional history. Your resume will then require less tweaking with each application because the letter, which should be tailored differently each time, will do that for you.

Here are some basic guidelines to get it started. A cover letter should:

  • Fit on one page
  • Have regular font size (10 or 12 point)
  • Have readable font (Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri)
  • Be kept to approximately three or four paragraphs

It should also include the following information:coverletter

Personal Information

Your name, email address, and phone number should be placed somewhere at the top – prominent, but not distracting. This makes it easy for the recruiter to identify and contact you.


Include the date on which you are sending the cover letter, near the top and below your name.

Recruiter & Company Information

Include the name of the recruiter as well as the company’s name and address. If the recruiter’s name isn’t given, search for them online through their company website or on LinkedIn. If you still can’t locate it, call the company and find out. This is a chance to showcase your resourcefulness. Be sure to spell their name correctly, and include their title.


Direct the cover letter to the recruiter who oversees the position. If you were previously unable to find their name, addressing them with “Dear Hiring Manager” should be a last resort.

Introduce yourself as if you were speaking to a respected relative or colleague. In this first paragraph, include the position for which you are applying, and briefly identify the skills, values, or goals you have that align with the organization. If it’s relevant, talk about how you came across the company – especially if you’ve been referred by someone, or have attended an event hosted by the employer.


The body allows you to persuade the reader that you are the ideal candidate for the position. When writing this part of the letter, clearly demonstrate that you understand their needs. Make it a point to draw relevant connections between your past experience and the job requirements. You can also highlight your most relevant skills and accomplishments, provide brief anecdotes about your work history, and identify key responsibilities or qualifications that you possess which would be useful for the role.

Keep in mind that some companies use software programs to screen cover letters and resumes. When this is the case, be sure to use the exact keywords you’ve identified in the job description – such as a specific type of degree, number of years of experience, particular software or communication skills, project management background, etc – and directly reference them in the letter.


Conclude on a high note. Close the letter by summarizing your main points, and explain why you are the right match. Let the employer know when you plan on contacting them next, and thank the reader for taking the time to consider your application.

Before sending your cover letter, make sure you proofread, edit, and proofread again. Get someone else to review it for you – after reading it so many times, you may stop noticing mistakes. Employers will pay particular attention to grammar, punctuation, and formatting, so make sure the way you craft your letter represents the quality work ethic that you possess.

Need help proofreading your cover letter? You may qualify for a free, one-hour session with one of our career consultants. Give us a call at (604) 408-7923 to find out!

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