13 Tips for Crafting Killer Cover Letters

Crafting killer cover letters is one of the greatest challenges job searchers face. Too many cover letters miss the mark by failing to focus on the critical key words. The worst ones, by far, are the ones that go on and on. Here are 13 tips for crafting killer cover letters that hiring managers will want to read. Following these tips will help you to get that coveted interview instead of the dreaded rejection letter.

  1. Keep it SHORT.

    A great cover letter is short, direct, and succinctly states how you might help the employer, not vice versa. Employers skim cover letters for 7 to 10 seconds so you need to quickly get to the point. Eliminate any words that do not add value. Mark Twain famously said “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” Editing is key.

  2. Address it to a real person.

    There are a number of ways to find an actual person to whom to address your cover letter. My favorite tip is to use LinkedIn. Search the company and the terms “human resources” and “recruiter” or “talent acquisition” and the location where you are applying. More often than not, this will produce the name of a person to whom you can address your letter.

  3. State why you are writing.

    The right answer is that you are applying for the job. Please don’t start with “my name is”. It’s in your email address and on your resume and in your signature. In short, it’s unnecessary.

  4. “Name drop” an inside contact.

    Be sure to ask your contact first if it’s okay to do so. Many companies offer referral bonuses to employees whose referrals lead to a hire. It’s a potential win-win for both you and your friend. You land a job, and they get some bonus cash.

  5. Say WHY you want to work there.

    Include a detail or two from the research you did on the company. Mention a fact that made you absolutely certain that this is the company where you want to start your career. Everyone likes to believe that they are your first choice.

  6. Make it readable.

    Both digitally and in print. There is a good chance that the hiring manager will get a printed copy of your cover letter, so the font size should be 11 point at a minimum. If it doesn’t fit on one page at 11-point font, it’s a sign that it needs editing.

  7. Highlight two or three talents.

    Use key experiences to demonstrate that you would be a great fit for the position. Do not squeeze all the experience from your resume into your cover letter. That’s what your resume is for.

  8. Get creative.

    Consider an alternative to the dry, rote cover letter, especially if you are interested in a creative role. A client of mine used the company’s app to spell out “Hire Me!” He took a screen shot and included it at the top of his cover letter. It impressed the recruiter so much he got the interview.

  9. Know the key words.

    TagCrowd and Wordle allow you to copy a job description to create a bubble diagram highlighting the key words and their relative importance. Or go “old school” and take a highlighter to the job description.

  10. Then use them!

    Many companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to screen resumes and cover letters for key word matches. An ATS turns your application into a numeric score. Too few key word matches and you won’t make the cut. Be sure to focus on the most important key words in your cover letter to help your odds of getting through the ATS.

  11. Match your experience to the role.

    Demonstrate that you have the skills needed to hit the ground running. Focus on how you can help the employer solve a need that they have, the one the job is designed to fill.

  12. Never lie or exaggerate.

    Lying will catch up with you and is a sure fire way to lose the job you lied to get. Trustworthiness and credibility are critical character traits. A good reputation is hard to attain so don’t blow it before you’ve started your career.

  13. PROOF READ. Use spell check but don’t rely on it to do all the work for you. Here’s how spell check can cause your downfall. Enlist a friend to help too. Four eyeballs are better than two.

Leverage these 13 tips and you’ll soon be crafting killer cover letters that recruiters will want to read. Combined with a stellar resume, a well-written cover letter can help you score the all-important interview that hopefully will lead to a job offer. And after all, isn’t that your goal?


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7 Tips For Acing a Phone Interview

phone interview

A phone interview is the gateway to a face-to-face interview so why do so many people fail to prepare properly for them? You might be thinking that you are merely interested in finding out more about the job opportunity, having submitted an application and possibly a cover letter. Or perhaps a recruiter contacted you via LinkedIn.

The good news is that you made it past the interview gatekeeper and to a phone interview. The bad news is that the phone interview is a real interview so you need to treat it as such. That means following all the same steps for preparing for a face to face interview. Continue reading

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5 Tips to Get Hired With No Internship Experience


career coach, resume help

It is still true in today’s economy that if you have graduated without one, ideally two, internships that your likelihood of getting a good job, quickly, is much, much lower. According to Forbes, “66% of employers view interview performance and relevant experience” as the most critical factors in making a hiring decision. So what should you do if you’ve graduated and your resume is seriously lacking in pertinent experience? Here are 5 tips for getting hired with no internship experience. Continue reading

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Does Your Job Search Need a Reality Check?

Reality Check
College graduates today have been bombarded with messages about pursuing their dreams and passions. Forbes calls them ”relentless optimists” stating that “millennials would rather hold out for the best job.” Unfortunately, pursuit of the perfect position can often lead to frustration and a failure to launch. That’s why it’s wise to see if your job search needs a reality check.

So how do you put a reality check on your job search without sacrificing your dreams? Continue reading

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The Must Have College Student Checklist

college student checklist

There’s a long list of must-have items on every college student’s checklist. Do a Google search and you will find numerous helpful options, with lists running the gamut from bedding, room décor, laundry needs (yes, you will have to do your own laundry), food, kitchen, bathroom and, surprise, school supplies. I find it interesting that school supplies are the last items on all the college lists, but that’s a topic for another time.

While planning for your campus entry is important, arguably what you do once you arrive on campus is far more important. This is especially true for college freshmen. College life is a new, exciting, and sometimes overwhelming, world. Continue reading

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10 Tips to Conquer your Networking Anxiety



If you’ve recently graduated from college and are looking for a job, networking is, by far, the single most effective tool in your job search. Yet many recent grads fear networking and fail to grasp why it’s so important. Understanding why you need to network and how to do it effectively can help you move past your networking anxiety and on your way to finding a great job.

According to a recent study published on LinkedIn, 85% of jobs are found via networking. Career experts agree that the majority of your job search time should be spent networking. In my experience as a career coach, my clients who actively network find jobs in nearly half the time as those who don’t. Continue reading

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6 Tips to Create More Effective Cover Letters

cover letter

Knowing how to write effective cover letters is a mission critical job search skill. I have seen countless cover letters that miss the mark. The worst ones, by far, are the ones that go on, and on, and on. Cover letters are intended to pique the interest of the employer just enough to get them to take a good look at your resume. Here are 6 tips to create more effective cover letters and help you land that all-important interview. Continue reading

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12 tips for getting the most out of your summer internship

Francois Duhamel/Warner Bros. Pictures

If you were lucky enough to score a summer internship, chances are you are several weeks into your experience. Now is a great time to step back and evaluate how you are doing, and whether you are getting the most from your opportunity. Here are several tips to make sure you maximize your internship experience – for both you and your employer. Continue reading

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The Secret To A Job Offer Is Attitude: 10 Ways To Improve Your Job Interviewing Confidence


Don't Ignore These 5 Critical Job Search Steps

Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Job searches, especially unsuccessful ones, are notorious for sucking the confidence out of anyone. Who really enjoys sending endless resumes and cover letters out only to get a computerized rejection letter? After a string of rejections, it’s no wonder that your self-confidence takes a beating.

As a career coach who works primarily with college students and recent graduates, building my clients’ self-confidence is often the most important work that we do together.

Like many of the things that you need to do to get a job, and be successful in the role, gaining confidence is an acquired skill for most people. Self-confidence gives you a positive, but not unrealistic, perception of your ability to tackle challenges, such as a new job. Continue reading

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6 Key Skills You Need to Get Hired in Today’s Job Market

If you are graduating this spring and don’t yet have that great job you’ve been dreaming of, these 6 skills will help you land a great job. Of course it also helps if you have a good GPA and a few internships under your belt. But while a good GPA helps open doors, getting a job offer takes more than academic accomplishments. Continue reading

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