How To Write Cover Letters That Work

Sometimes there is confusion about the exact meaning of theterm "cover letter".

That's because when most people use that term, they don'trealize that there are two main types of cover letters.There are "document transmittal cover letters", and thereare "resume cover letters".


A document cover letter is a letter of transmittal thatexplains and conveys an attached document to a second party.

The types of documents that this type of cover letter isused for typically include: reports, plans, legal papers,applications, manuscripts, contracts, travel documents,booklets, manuals, brochures, product samples, photos,artwork, etc.

A document cover letter is normally a short one-pagebusiness letter that very briefly explains the attached orenclosed document(s) that is being sent. It only containsthe essential information such as why the document(s) isbeing sent, what the recipient is expected to do with it,and any applicable deadlines.


When most people use or hear the term "cover letter" theyare thinking of resume cover letters.

Resume cover letters are used for one purpose only - toconvey resumes or curriculum vitae to prospective employers.

A resume cover letter is normally a concise one-pager thatintroduces you, explains why you're writing, summarizesyour key skills, abilities and experience, and asks therecipient to get back to you. Its main purpose is to capturethe attention of the recipient enough to get that person tolook at the attached resume with interest.

Of the two types of cover letters, by far the most commonlyrequested at my Writing Help Central Web site is the coverletter for a resume or curriculum vitae.


When drafting a cover letter for a resume or cv, there area number of important rules of thumb to follow. Thefollowing list is an adapted summary of a similar list inmy eBook "Instant Home Writing Kit".

1. Address It To A Specific Person

Even when sending an unsolicited resume to a company youshould take the time to find out the name of the appropriateperson and write the letter to that person. At least it willreach their office. Resumes sent to "Dear Human ResourcesManager" are almost always a waste of time. Name someonespecifically and it will at least make it into an in-basket.

2. Keep It Short And Focused

Remember, your resume already says it all. Keep the lettershort and focused and don't repeat what is already in theattached resume or c.v. Never exceed one page in a coverletter.

3. Be Enthusiastic

Express your interest in the job and the new company withenthusiasm. Show that you really want the job, and that youwould really like to work for that particular company.

4. Focus On The Needs Of The Employer

Throughout your cover letter make it clear that you areinterested in the needs of the employer. You are there tohelp them. You are part of the solution. Try to make thisthe subliminal message of your entire letter.

5. Show That You've Done Your Homework

Demonstrate a good knowledge of the company and industryfor which you are applying. A one-liner, or a phrase ortwo in the appropriate place in your letter that shows youare interested, and understand that the company's problemswill give you instant credibility (i.e. do some simpleInternet research).

6. Use The Appropriate "Buzzwords"

Every organization has its own ways of doing things and itsown lingo. Look through key documents such as annualreports, corporate Web sites, etc. Try to spot key words,terms, and phrases that are often repeated. Every companyhas them. Use as many of these "hot buttons" as you can inyour cover letter - where appropriate, of course. Forexample, if the "Message From the CEO" in the annual reportmentions the phrase "action plan for the future" threetimes, make sure you work that term into your cover letter.Don't overdo it, of course.

7. Summarize Your Skills and Abilities

If possible, without making the letter too long, summarizeyour overall skills and abilities in bullet-point form.This can make them stand out in a way that they wouldn't,buried in the resume or cv.

8. Promise To Follow Up

In the final paragraph, clearly state that you will befollowing up by telephone in a few days to see if you cananswer any questions. Make sure you do this. Industryexperts say that over 80% of people never do this crucialfollow-up and just wait for the phone to ring.

The challenge of course, is to try to address all of thesepoints in a three or four paragraph letter. It can be done!

To see a fully-formatted "real-life template" of a resumecover letter, go to the following link:

© 2005 by Shaun Fawcett

Shaun Fawcett, is webmaster of the popular writing help He is also the author of severalbest selling "writing toolkit" eBooks. All of his eBooks andhis internationally acclaimed f-r-e-e course, "Tips and TricksFor Writing Success" are available at his writing tools site:

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