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How to Get Your Resume Noticed by Writing a Cover Letter

I'm a business strategist with project management and organizational skills from a corporate background. I write this to share my knowledge.

Your communication skills become apparent with a cover letter.

Your communication skills become apparent with a cover letter.

Why You Need to Include a Cover Letter

A cover letter is an excellent business strategy that shows your professionalism and communication skills that wouldn't necessarily appear in the resume.

  • I experienced writing a cover letter to go along with my resume in my job-hunting days over 45 years ago. So I know what worked for me.
  • I also experienced being in Human Resources, responsible for reviewing resumes. So I know what I looked for when hiring.

With that background knowledge, I'll help you achieve positive results when sending your resume with your job applications.

See What Happened When I Sent a Cover Letter With My Resume

When I applied for my first job after graduating from college back in the 70s, I had included a cover letter with my resume. I mentioned why I wanted to work for the company and explained what I could do for them.

When I went in for an interview, my boss told me that he had never read my resume but wanted to hire me. I was puzzled and had to ask, “Why are you so sure you want me if you didn’t read my resume?”

He answered, “I know all I need to know from your cover letter.”

He continued to explain that the effort I put into the cover letter had made such an impression that he didn’t need to know more.

He said that it showed him I could communicate well, put extra effort into things I do, and made his work easier by providing necessary information in a straightforward and logical style. A resume wouldn’t necessarily indicate any of that.

The Benefits of a Cover Letter

1. It serves as an introduction and summarizes what to expect.

These are things you would not put in your resume. But an introduction makes a connection with your potential employer that would not otherwise be possible.

2. It shows that you know how to communicate in written form.

The ability to communicate in written form and express your thoughts in writing is essential in any profession. A cover letter demonstrates those abilities.

When I was in a position where I hired people, I used to read through resumes and discovered many people didn’t know how to write English well. I often wondered where their education went amiss. They were intelligent people. They just didn't have writing skills.

Proper grammar and spelling in a cover letter help display how practical one can be in a job position. It can make a difference when applying for a high-paid job.

3. It shows that you care to put extra effort into your presentation.

If you rush to get your resume out to potential employers without caring to do a complete job by including a cover letter, that clearly shows that you won’t have the drive to complete crucial tasks at work.

Your lack of value to the firm would be known merely by leaving out that important detail. So it’s best not to be one of those people. Instead, show you have the ingenuity to succeed.

4. It provides additional information not usually in a resume.

A cover letter can reveal a human element that suggests you will get along well with other personnel.

What Is the Proper Format for a Cover Letter?

How to Format the Heading

Your contact information is essential so the recipient knows who and where you are. So, construct a heading on top with your name and address.

Include your phone number (with the area code) in the heading and specify if it’s a cell phone or home phone. It’s vital to make that clear since some people might try to text you on a landline, and you’ll never see it.

It’s also helpful to include your email address if it’s appropriate for communication.

The heading can be centered or left-justified, but avoid fancy fonts. It’s best to use a standard Times New Roman style. Experiment with sizing to see how it stands out. Generally, it’s a good idea to use a larger font for your name.

As in my example below, your address can be a single line or separate lines for your address and city. Either way works fine. It’s okay to be creative. You can give your heading a little character, as I did with a line under my name in the image below. But don’t go overboard. Keep it simple.

Example of proper formatting for a cover letter.

Example of proper formatting for a cover letter.

How to Accurately Address the Recipient

It’s best not to use a generic salutation like “To whom it may concern.” That would show you didn’t care enough to research the company to find the appropriate person.

Find the full name and address of the person you need to contract, and put that at the top, just under today’s date. Then after a single space, begin with “Dear [name]” and a colon. Less formal would have a comma instead of a colon.

The name can be the full first and last name. If you use a title, follow it with just the last name, such as “Dear Mr. Smith” or “Dear Ms. Jones.”

How to Properly Close a Cover Letter

Finish off with a call to action. Make it clear in no demanding terms what you want to occur next. Such as, "I look forward to meeting you for an interview."

Complete it with a sign-off. Many people have trouble with this simple task. They don’t want to sound silly; that’s understandable. The usual term is to say “Sincerely” or “Best Regards,” followed by your full name beneath that.

What to Avoid in a Cover Letter

  • Avoid any remarks that are not directly related to the nature of the business.
  • It goes without saying, avoid spelling and grammar errors. Always proofread.
  • Keep paragraphs short and directly to the point.

When I see long blocks of text, I usually avoid reading and go on to something else. That already is an indication that one is not capable of compartmentalized thinking—Keeping your thoughts in separate logical categories. That’s critical for any business communication.

What to Include in a Cover Letter

Don’t even think of applying for a job without knowing everything you can find about the company. Before the Internet, I used to go to the library to look up information on a company I was interested in joining.

These days it's so easy to find anything you need to know online, including locating the top personnel.

Once you fully know the organization’s inner workings, use some of that knowledge in your cover letter to show you know it. In other words, refer to specifics and how you see yourself fitting in.

Stay on topic and never go off on tangents. Remember to keep it brief. It’s best to get to the point and be done with it.

To Sum Up

Those responsible for hiring applicants don’t need to read a resume to get a good idea of the person they are considering. I learned that with the experience I mentioned with the example earlier in this article. My cover letter helped me beat the system.

So you can also reap the benefit of a cover letter to get noticed. Just remember when you’re sending a resume for a job, a well-written cover letter can help you make headway. It will make an impression and get your resume noticed.

© 2020 Glenn Stok


Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 24, 2020:

I appreciate your comment Brenda. Thank you. That's a good point, the reader might not finish reading if we lose their attention.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on November 24, 2020:

I found this article very helpful.

You are so right about getting straight to the point. If you lose the reader's attention he will not finish reading your cover letter.

Great information for you to share.

Have a great day.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 23, 2020:

Thanks for you comment, Liz. I’m glad you noticed how I used reasoning from my personal experience to back up my tips. It means a lot to know readers appreciate that.

Liz Westwood from UK on November 23, 2020:

This is an excellent and very helpful article. It is great that you can use your experience to help others. I especially appreciate your reasoning which backs up the tips given.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 23, 2020:

Thank you, Shafqat. It’s great to see that you thought so highly of it.

Shafqat M from UK on November 22, 2020:

Well-written, informative and truly useful article, shedding light on every aspect of the art of writing impeccable Cover Letters.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 22, 2020:

Thank you, Peggy, for your wonderful remarks about my guidelines. And I truly appreciate that you are sharing it.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 22, 2020:

Your suggestions are concise and to the point regarding the importance of cover letters. It should help people who are currently looking for work. I'll pin this so that others can find it.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 22, 2020:

Thank you Ivana. I'm glad you found my guidelines for a cover letter useful. It came from many years of writing business letters.

Ivana Divac from Serbia on November 22, 2020:

This is such a well-written and useful article. Thanks for sharing!