A Proven Formula for Writing Cover Letters That Win Interviews

writing cover lettersWhat is the most effective formula or strategy for writing cover letters that win interview?

While there are certainly examples and templates out there that you can reference, there isn’t really a specific step-by-step formula for writing a stellar cover letter. It really comes down to who your audience is and what kind of information is important to them. It’s also about the best way of communicating that visually and verbally.

To give you a fairly high-level overview that I find to be effective, keep these points in mind:

Before You Start

Be sure to use the same formatting as your resume, including the header that has your name and contact info.  Creating uniformity in your presentation sets a professional tone.  In general, the cover letter should make the connection between the skill and experience-based qualifications in your resume, and your interest and relevance to the particular role, organization, and industry at hand.  This can be particularly import for career changers looking to illustrate why they’re making a change, and why that transition (that may or may not include hands-on experience) will be a smooth one.

Open By Mentioning the Position and Organization

It sounds unnecessary, but a hiring manager can be recruiting for 100s of different positions, particularly if they’re a third-party placement firm, so you need to be clear as possible in the opening.  This also makes it easy for them to forward your letter and resume along to the appropriate party.  If you’re unsure how to address your reader, go with a simple greeting such as “Dear Hiring Manager”, or even “Hello-“.  “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam” sound antiquated.

Dear Hiring Manager:

I’m reaching out to you with interest in the Graphic Designer role with Aspyre Solutions.  I have over 6 years of experience…

Supplement Your Resume, Don’t Recreate It

Follow your opening with a 1 to 2-line overview of your expertise and what you bring to the table.

My background combines over 7 years of experience creating compelling integrated campaigns for clients in the retail and fashion space, with a strong knowledge of designing interfaces for mobile and tablet platforms. I’ve collaborated with a number of highly-respected creative agencies including Digitas, Publicis, and BBDO to create award-winning work that speaks to customers’ goals and expectations.

The Next Paragraph Begins the Main Body

How you approach it will differ depending upon your current employment situation and what you’re trying to convey.  In a typical case, you might start off by introducing your current role and organization with a brief overview of what you do there, and any pertinent details to supplement that, such as accomplishments or ways that you’ve really positively impacted the company. The goal isn’t to reiterate what’s on the resume, but to give a compelling lead in that suggests that what you’re currently doing is relevant to the role you’re applying for. You might do the same for previous roles, but again, be concise.

As Senior Designer for the ABC group, I lead a group of 3 digital designers in the creation of integrated marketing campaigns across print, web, and mobile for high-end fashion clientele including Ralph Lauren, JCrew, and Louis Vuitton.  With 5 years of experience at the agency, my role is duel-focused on both hands-on design work and project leadership, serving as the primary point of contact between cross-functional agency teams, vendors, and clients. I recently served as the lead creative on a digital campaign for XYZ brand, which won multiple One Show awards and helped elevate the agency’s reputation as a key player in the fashion advertising space.

Personalize and Tailor A Stellar Cover Letter

This is where you might discuss why you feel you’re a great fit for this particular role and organization.  Tailoring your cover letter is important because it shows that you did your homework and research.  This is how you effectively customize a stellar cover letter.  What aspects attract you to the role?  How do you see yourself really thriving in this type of culture?  What do you bring to the organization that’s particularly unique?  You might go into personal attributes here as well, perhaps soft skills like how your ability to be flexible and adapt quickly makes you a strong candidate for successfully navigating a career change, or your passion for your work has proved valuable in moving up through your organization.

 I’ve been following Aspyre Solutions’ work and am intrigued by the new direction the agency is taking in establishing itself as experts in the multicultural advertising space.  This appeals to me greatly, as I also bring experience within the Hispanic market sector from my last role as a Designer for DraftFBC, in addition to being a native Spanish speaker and having lived in Mexico for 3 years.  To gain more experience in that space while leveraging my existing knowledge of the market would be the ideal next move in my career.

Close By Inviting Them to Contact You

Your closing statement needs to be confident and action-inducing. Also, be sure to thank them in advance for their consideration.

 I welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss the position and my qualifications in more depth.  Thank you in advance for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you regarding next steps.


Dana Leavy-Detrick

One thing to note is that a stellar cover letter may address other areas outside of those mentioned, particularly if you’re changing careers, or perhaps making a transition from being self-employed for a long period of time back into the traditional 9 to 5.  Another potential area is discussing an employment gap. I advise you to do so in a way that points back to your strengths.  Took time off to travel?  What skills or knowledge, or cultural immersion did you gain along the way?  It’s not the place to discuss maternity leave, illness, or other information that might be better left to a one-on-on conversation during an interview.

Remember, this is your first impression, so make it your best.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Brooklyn Resume Studio.




DanaAbout the Author: Dana Leavy founded Aspyre Solutions, focusing on small business development and career consulting. Her mission is to support creative and socially-conscious small businesses. She also offers career transition coaching and business consulting.

Dana has helped hundreds of professionals execute effective career plans to find and DO the work they are passionate about. She has presented seminars on navigating careers, transition and work-life balance to several colleges and universities. Her advice has been featured on MSN Careers, Fox Business News, NewsDay, CareerBuilder.com, GlassDoor and About.com. Follow Dana on Twitter!



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