Preparing a highly targeted and personalised cover letter and you are already on your way to a brand new job. Obviously, you will need a professionally written resume also! By impressing the reader (hiring professional) and they will enthusiastically move onto your resume. Disappoint the reader and your resume will be deleted.


Will a perfectly written cover letter ensure that you get the job? Of course not. However, a poorly written cover letter will guarantee that your application will not get the attention that is needed to be one of the top candidates. In the current job market there are three areas of your cover letter that you need to pay special attention to:


Target the employer’s needs:


Too many times, we write our cover letter and resume from our point of view. From the perspective of the hiring manager they want to know that you have the skills to do the job you are applying for. If the employer is looking for a candidate who is going to need to travel and spend time outside of the office then you need to emphasise that travelling is something you are willing to do (and enjoy). If you do not feel that the job is right for you, then the easy solution is not to apply for the job. However, if you do decide to apply for a certain role then target the needs of the employer and the skills that they require from the perfect candidate.


Don’t be afraid to emphasise your previous achievements:


When applying for a job you need to prove that you are the best candidate. The only way to do this, is by emphasising your achievements and all those skills that make you both unique and special. Try to establish yourself as an expert. Remember that in order to stand out, you need to be in the top 5-10% of all the candidates applying for the role.  While no one likes arrogance, employers DO want to see examples of your achievements that would make you the right person for the job.


Provide examples how you will add value to the organisation:


If you don’t believe that you have the skills to add value to the particular organisation then why is the hiring manager going to hire you?  It is not enough anymore just to present your skills and achievements but you need to prove to the reader that you are capable of adding value to the role and to the whole organisation. Providing examples of the added value expertise that you can offer should be highlighted in your cover letter to help differentiate your application as compared to others. 

During the last decade, RedStarResume has successfully written hundreds of professional resumes for candidates across the globe. From the student or entry level position to the CEO, our unique, custom-made resumes and cover letters are written specifically to match the goals and desires of our clients and to help them land jobs.


© RedStarResume Publications –

Views: 3162

Comment by Tim Spagnola on December 13, 2011 at 9:26am

Gavin - thanks for the post. You always provide good content when it comes to tips to share with candidates with regards to resumes. I am however curious to see what recruiters think of this post and just how important a cover letter is today. Does anyone really read them? Recruiters- do you advise your candidates to prepare one for each candidate present that you make? Just curious.....

Comment by Chrissy De Blasis on December 13, 2011 at 5:17pm

I agree 100% with Gavin - great post! I am also a professional resume writer and can't stress enough to my clients the importance of a well written cover letter. Even if the recruiter/ employer does not read it, I always say 'it's better to be safe than sorry'. The cover letter lets you showcase your skills, achievements, qualifications etc alot easier than what a structured CV can sometimes ie it is difficult to write in your CV that you are willing to travel or are flexible to work any roster. But you make a very good point Gavin, the cover letter must be value adding and tailored, rather than a generic template that you send out for each position you apply for.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on December 13, 2011 at 5:28pm

The only thing worse than no cover letter is a bad cover letter. :) Speaking as an internal recruiter, I like cover letters and here's why -

1. we don't have local direct competitors. It's hard for someone's resume to illustrate a clear match to one of our jobs. (if you were a widget maker at ABC company you're probably in Chicago) We of course know how to decipher transferable skills, but a cover letter that addresses my needs helps frame the resume much better.

2. it's your introduction. a good cover letter sets the stage for WHY I should read your resume - my ATS allows you to copy and past your cover letter into a text field (I love when candidates do this) and I can already have a pretty good idea of why I should call you before I have to open any attachments.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on December 13, 2011 at 6:49pm

If the cover letter is addressed to someone else about another job i don't bother with the rest of it.  If it is a long conglomeration of keywords (read meaningless buzz words) you insult my intelligence so i have an immediately preconceived idea that you are full of malarky so the resume better be a slam dunk fit or i am off to the next candidate.


The candidate who can write me a note letting me know why they are looking, what they are looking for in terms of money ( won't knock you out if you are within 10-15K of what our client is thinking), location and why, career interest or what interested them about my ad or message left for them, that candidate gets my full attention to their resume and is the first to get a call.  I know if they give me something of value in a cover letter they are A.  Serious, B. They read the ad and have good reason to be interested, C. Didn't just hit the monster "quick reply" without reading the ad.  Yes folks if the ad says Must be fluent in Japanese, spoken and written and you aren't your cover letter means nothing.

Comment by Bill Schultz on December 13, 2011 at 7:20pm

@ Sandra-I know how to say I'm sorry in Japanese.  Do I qualify?

But yes, Sandra and Amy do a good job of saying what not to do.  How can you get my attention?

1.  If you're a great match, you can send your resume with pop ups for free ipads and viagra and i'll still call you.

2.  If you are applying to a business side position, and you can't form a proper sentence, I wonder about you.

3. The more you take pieces from the job description and/or company website, the more I like you (and the easier it is to write).

4.  If you tell me you like my grabber paragraph, I'm putty......

Comment by Steven G. Davis on December 14, 2011 at 9:25am

Sandra is on the money on this one. I had one the other day, two pages of just jibberish and 43 intances of the word "I"..give me a break. In this current day of technology, why candidates are not using the multitude of resources, many for free that will guide them in producing a quality cover letter is beyond comprehension. I think back to the mid 80's when I was first job hunting and found a couple of resources/mentors before the "age of technology" and produced a great cover letter. The cover letter needs to peak my interest to "read more" is as they say the Sizzle before the steak ( resume)..Bill is correct as well, candidates typically fail to make the connection in short succinct bullet points as how they will be a success based on the job requirements..

Here's to reading more lousy cover letters!! BTW- Here's to wishing everyone in the RecruiterSphere a Happy and Healthy Christmas Season and to a fruitful and productive 2012 to all!!!


Comment by Jennifer Olsen on December 14, 2011 at 12:13pm

These three areas are right on for a cover letter. In addition, make sure your cover letter is easy to read quickly - and stick to the point (the job). Avoid straying off target or including a lot of unrelated flattery about the company or the hiring manager. I like simplicity and directness. I’ve especially liked cover letters that include grids or bulleted information. For more tips on resume writing and cover letters check out my recent blog, “Distinguish Yourself – Resume Writing Tips for Job Seekers”

Comment by Ben on December 17, 2011 at 5:10pm
Im in the camp that says if it's worth saying it should be in the CV but I know this is can be a topic that splits opinions.

To add some objectivity (but only a little!) I ran a poll on this very subject a while ago and the results were rather interesting.

Sandra contributed to the debate then also, as did a few others on here and in other forums.

I won't bore you with the detail but if anyone is interested in a slightly different take feel free to check my post out here:

In brief - cover letters I.e. long winded irrelevant blabber = no.

A cover email I.e. short, punchy, personalised to the employer and role you're applying to = Yes


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