Are You Hiding Under Your Cover Letter?

Today’s article is the second in a four part series focusing on job search and attainment. Regardless of where you stand in your current position, they are useful skills for the potential employee and employer.

I spoke with a number of my HR colleagues, monitored my own behavior, and found each of us has our own sequence for reading job applicants’ resumes and cover letters. I happen to be in the “look at the resume first” camp. Many colleagues say they read the cover letter first believing they get a better sense of a person. Whatever the reading methodology, we all agree the cover letter plays an important role in the job seeking process.

What is the purpose of the cover letter? It is very simple—at best it can get you an interview, at least, it will get your resume passed one step closer to the decision maker.

I’d be a wealthy woman if I had a dollar for every letter I read that started with “The purpose of this letter is to apply for…” Boring!

Instead, place the position after the person’s address as a “Re:” as in “Re: Financial Analyst—private equity position.” Start your letter with a dynamic sentence, one that reflects you and what you can do for the employer. “As a recognized leader in the field of network security, I bring to every assignment ten years of experience defining and delivering solutions…” is a start.

Always keep in mind you are really writing a sales letter. You are selling what you can bring to the company or firm, selling your potential. The type of work you specialize in will determine the tone of the pitch. I would expect a PR executive to have a bit more of an edge to his or her writing style than someone applying for a position in a law firm.

You shouldn’t put everything on your resume in your letter; however, you should hit all the highlights. Both the resume and the cover letter need to be customized for the job posting. The letter should be addressed to a specific person using their title. The company name needs to be incorporated into the narrative and show an understanding of the reader’s needs.

It may seem obvious, but spelling and grammar count. Poor writing skills and sloppy proofreading are deal breakers. Never proofread your own materials. You know it too well and you can easily miss obvious errors. Ask a colleague or friend to take a serious look at your piece before you send.

Finally, a cover letter should always close with an action or expectation. State you will call the person by a certain day to answer any questions.  Say you are interested in meeting them in person and would like to schedule an appointment. Be eager and action-oriented, not desperate or demanding.

Your cover letter may be the first impression a potential employer has of you. Make it a great one.

Try this: Create a list of words that best describe you and what you do. Craft them into concise sentences and then place them in related paragraphs—a dynamic opening, an explanation of what you do, then highlights and successes, and finally a call to action. With a proper greeting and a “Yours truly,” you have a cover letter. 

Jane Cranston is an executive coach, career coach and “The Job Search Expert” based in New York City. She shares with success driven executives and professionals techniques, skills and goal setting strategies that advance their careers, increase people management skills and assists them in career change or job search. Receive Jane’s free "Competitive Edge Report" and the free audio download “Creating a Career Strategy” by visiting

About the Author

Jane Cranston - Executive Coach NY (New York)Executive and career coach, “The Job Search Expert,” Jane Cranston understands the challenges and opportunities in the workplace. She integrates years of experience as an accomplished senior executive with global brand name companies, with the lessons learned from opening three successful businesses, and then applies her education and coach training. This sophisticated mix affords her clients her unique perspective, business sensibility, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Jane is the founder and Managing Director of ExecutiveCoachNY, an executive and career coaching business based in New York City with clients nationwide. She coaches success-driven executives and managers to develop a career strategy that accelerates advancement, increases compensation, enhances people-management skills as well as gets the competitive edge in all business activities.

Coaching with Jane is dynamic, structured, forward-focused as well as fun and inspirational. Working with clients in fields such as finance, technology, media and entertainment, real estate, and the law, she assists them in recognizing and achieving their full potential at work and in their personal lives.

Clients claim coaching with Jane has “changed my career focus,” “helped me better understand how to motivate my staff,” “given me ideas that have increased my income by $100,000s,” and “made me realize what is my part and what isn’t,” and claim coaching is “the best thing you could do for yourself.”

Jane’s soon to be published “Great Job Tough Times” is a step-by-step job search system designed to assist managers and executives looking for employment, or contemplating leaving their current positions, with their resume writing, interviewing skills, networking techniques, and negotiating need to get the right job fast.

Jane Cranston is frequently seen on CNN’s “Your Money” and quoted in nationally syndicated newspapers, magazines, as well as Internet article sites and virtual programs. She authors the free, twice monthly, “Competitive Edge Report.” Learn more on her website


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