Job Search Toolkit

Create Your Cover Letter

A compelling cover letter can be the gateway to getting the job interview. Remember, a cover letter is often a future employer’s first introduction to you as a person and an employee. It will often become the first impression that they retain and be critical in their decision of whether or not to invite you to interview with them. 

Take Action:

Review the checklist below to assess whether your cover letter is up to snuff.

1. Is your cover letter less than half a page with 11-12 point serif font and one inch margins?

  • If your answer is yes, great. Move to the next step.
  • If your answer is no, look at the guidance below and work on editing it down. Do not try to cheat by adjusting font size and margins – this will take real editing of the words on the page.

2. Is my cover letter addressed to a real human being?

  • If your answer is yes, great. Move to the next step.
  • If your answer is no, then do your research to find an appropriate point of contact.  If you absolutely can’t find a name, move into the body of the letter rather than including “To Whom it May Concern” as your salutation.  That phrase will make you look like an amateur.  If your answer is yes, great.  If applicable, state your connection to this person in your opening paragraph.

3. Does my opening paragraph…


Include what appeals to you about the opportunity?
Grab their interest?
Show that you have done your homework?
State why you think this position is a good fit?

If you cannot answer with a strong and bold “yes” to each of these, take a moment to revisit what you have written using the tips below.

  • The first sentence should say who you are, the job you are pursuing, why you are excited about it, and how you heard about it.
  • The next sentence should highlight the most relevant skills and experience from your resume that make you great candidate for this position. Do not overdo it and restate everything that is on your resume. If they like your cover letter, they will read your resume with interest.
  • Convey a sense of excitement about the position and company. The reader will be able to sense if you have done your research on the company. Share why you are interested in the job and demonstrate your understanding of what the company does. Then make clear why you are a good fit for the position and the company.
  • Use your own voice. Do not use words and phrases that you would never use during a conversation. This one pager should be professional and sound like you.

4. Does your letter end with a call to action – asking for an interview?

  • If yes, great. Move on.
  • If no, fix it. The whole point of the cover letter is to secure an invitation for an interview. If you do not ask for it, you will not get it. Consider one of two techniques:         

1) State when you will contact the person in the letter to set up an interview. 
2) Make yourself available for them to contact by including your email and phone number. Keep in mind you can still reach out to them after a little time has elapsed.


5. Is your resume…

On good quality paper?
In a readable font?
In standard business format?
Free of typos and grammatical errors?
Signed with a good quality pen?

If you answered “no” to any of the above, fix it.

  • Even if the content of the cover letter is perfect, you can ruin your chances by using poor quality paper, a hard-to-read font, sloppy formatting, or a signature with ink blots or dried out ink.
  • It is okay to have the cover letter reflect the true you, but do not use neon green paper and a calligraphy font. Let your personality come out in your words not the visual aspects of your cover letter. You can never go wrong with neutral colored paper and standard fonts.
  • No matter what, proofread your cover letter more than once and consider having someone else look at it with fresh eyes. There is no excuse for a typo. 


Download this activity as a worksheet