How to write a cover letter that could get you hired in 3 simple steps

"The third section is what I call 'the closer.' It's the call to action."


Recruiters spend an average of just 7.4 seconds skimming through a resume before deciding whether to move forward with an applicant, according to a 2018 study by career website Ladders.

Fortunately, it's not the only component of the application that can help you catch a recruiter's attention. That's where a cover letter comes in. It, and your resume, are "both incredibly important," says Amanda Augustine, career expert at TopResume.

"I'm trying to get as much information as possible to make an educated decision on whether or not this person not only meets the qualifications but will also be a cultural fit for the organization," she says.

Break the cover letter down into three sections taking up no more than one page altogether, Augustine suggests. Here are the three key cover letter components she and other experts say they look for.

Start with 'an introductory paragraph'

The first paragraph is "an introductory paragraph," Augustine says, "which often explains how you came about this job and why it interests you."

This section is an opportunity to show the company or organization that you've done your research and know its mission, goals, and initiatives. Take some time to read through the company's website and Google news articles about them to get to know what they're about.

When you write that first paragraph, "show how you connect to that organization," says Augustine. Give specific examples of why its activities speak to you, to prove that "you've done your homework" and truly want to work for that company, specifically.

Tell them, 'I'm qualified, here's why'

The middle section of your cover letter is what Augustine likes to call the "I'm qualified, here's why" section. This is the section in which you'll mirror back what qualifications the job description asks for and give examples of your experience to prove you meet those qualifications.

A job description lists its most sought-after qualifications first. Pick three to five qualifications from the top of the list. Say, "I know you're looking for someone with these top three or five things," explains Augustine, and then give concrete examples of how you've exhibited those qualifications in previous jobs.

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This is a good section to incorporate keywords and terms relevant to the role. "If there's jargon that makes you appear really knowledgeable," says Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster, "insert that jargon in the cover letter."

If you can find a natural way to weave some of those in, they're another example of how deep your knowledge of your field really is, she says.

Finish with 'the call to action'

"The third section is what I call 'the closer,'" says Augustine. "It's the call to action."

"One thing I always like to emphasize is that job seeking is a sales and marketing exercise," she says. "All marketing [materials] tend to have a call to action. You're trying to drive the reader to do something."

In the case of your cover letter, you're striving to get employers to respond to your application. As you wrap up your case for why you should be hired, this third paragraph is your opportunity to do that.

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Consider closing by saying you're looking forward to the opportunity to discuss how you can leverage your skills to help the company grow or that you hope to hear from them soon to talk about how you might contribute. Let them know you'll follow up in a week's time to see if they need anything else and to please feel free to reach out to you with questions or to discuss your application further.

This way, "you're giving yourself an action," says Augustine, "and you're also encouraging them to take action."

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