Great Resumes Fast » Resume Writing Tips » How to Write a Cover Letter Employers Will Read: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to write a cover letter employers will read - a step by step guideI recently received an email from a job seeker who wanted to know how to write a cover letter. It’s probably one of the most highly researched topics when it comes to job searching and job search documents. Second to it—although I haven’t actually done the research to prove it—is likely: Do I really need to use a cover letter? It’s a question I hear from people every day—and an important one because a great cover letter can be the determining factor in landing an interview.

However, I want to start by clarifying that the traditional cover letter style as you most likely know it is outdated and useless. Employers no longer want to invest the time reading the same verbiage on 500 cover letters. In an effort to provide a valuable answer to the two questions I put together this article with step-by-step directions for how to write a cover letter.

First things first – remove any resemblance to a traditional cover letter’s opening line.

Get rid of “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Hiring Manager.”

Technology is so advanced that I can type in a name and get a list of addresses and a Google Earth map. Creepy, yes. But it’s just that easy to spend a couple of minutes finding out the name of the person in charge of hiring for the position you want. Jump on LinkedIn, do your research, and find the person’s name. Address your cover letter to that person. If you receive a general email “Dear Valued Member” or a direct mail piece “Dear Recipient at 12345 Main Street” you know already they don’t know who you are and it’s spam. Impress the employer by taking the time to find their name.

Follow up their name with an opening sentence that doesn’t sound like a rehearsed speech.

You know the line I’m referencing: I’m submitting my resume in response to the position of ______that you posted on Indeed/Monster/LinkedIn, etc. I am the perfect candidate for this position because I’ve already been doing this job for 5 years.

Where to start… OK, first try an alternative opening. Use a question like:

Are you looking for a deadline-driven executive resume writer who writes interview-winning resumes within 3-5 business days while offering exceptional personal service? I provide dedicated attention and personalized advice to job seekers while maintaining a 5-star client satisfaction rating. I create high-quality, visually-engaging resumes that attract employer attention and navigate through complicated applicant tracking systems.

Next, do your best to find a common connection or how you fit into their culture.

While you’re doing your research to determine who you need to address your cover letter to, you might as well start researching the company’s culture, the department you’d work for, the company’s mission, and more—to make sure it’s a good fit for you. Make the connection on your cover letter between who you are (your personal brand), the value you can offer the company that no one else can, and how that fits into the organization, culture, and the position you want.

Here’s a great example. I reached out to a prospective writer the other day about an opportunity with my company. She responded very authentically and let me know how she had heard about and admired my company and the content I’ve written for years. She went on to make the connection between her previous and current work and how it aligns to the values of my company (quality, speed, personal service, treating others the way I would want to be treated). Granted, this is an example within my own company but completely applicable to how you can easily point out these common connections in your own cover letter. They show that you’re a great culture fit and you don’t have to invest five paragraphs of writing when a simple line or two calling attention to it is great. The other bonus is it shows the employer you’re interested and you’ve taken the time to do some research.

Another way to get attention is to point out how you provide a solution to an important problem the company is trying to solve.

What is the company’s biggest need or pain point right now? Tie their problem into how you are the solution. You can use three short bullet points with provable results to do this. As an executive resume writer, mine might say:

My clients enjoy results like these with their new resumes:

  • Double the interviews generated in 2 weeks or less.
  • 50% increase in resume response rates.
  • In 2 months or less, 85% of my clients are employed—crushing the average job search time by 75%.

I’m providing proof of how I solve my clients’ problems—and doing so with quantifiable statements. Numbers are hard to ignore and dismiss because they provide tangible and measurable proof of how you provide value.

Shorter is really better.

The cover letter as you’re probably visualizing it in your head is gone. Long-winded, life-storytelling, boring cover letters are counterproductive. Forget the fluffy talk. Keep it short. Really short. In fact, you need to aim for 150 words or fewer. Employers are short on time and attention—and the chances are VERY high that they’re going to be reading those introductory words on their mobile devices. Write an e-note that will show up on their phone or iPad screen without them having to scroll to read it all. It can be a challenge to write concise, but start writing and then go back and edit to cut non-essential information out—and then repeat that exercise as many times as you need to until you’ve cut it down to approximately 150 words.

Don’t forget a great call to action.

When I write value proposition letters, e-notes, or cover letters (whichever moniker you prefer to use) for my clients, I end with a compelling call to action. Mine might say:

Ready for results like these? Let’s chat!


Want to learn more? Visit my website


Interested? Let’s talk! Call me at 1.800.991.5187


I’ll give you a call next week to follow up.

Customize your call to action and if you tell them you’ll call, be sure to follow up. Get them to take action—whether that action is to call you, email, view your LinkedIn profile, or visit your online blog or portfolio. Ultimately, you want them to be compelled to contact you.

Final advice to take with you.

Real people enjoy connecting with others who are authentic; not putting up a front, false image of who they are or giving us that creepy “I’m trying to sell you something” vibe. Remember to be real and genuine when you write your cover letter. I promise you that employers have read enough canned, regurgitated content to last them a lifetime. Be yourself, share why you’re passionate about the company, interested in the position, what you can bring to the table and why it should matter. They’ll appreciate your honesty and enthusiasm, not to mention the fact that it’s sincere.

I hope these seven step-by-step tips have helped you think about how to write your cover letter. I’d love to hear your best tips for writing a cover letter that employers will read. Feel free to share them below!

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About the author

Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast

Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.

What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.

You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!

I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!


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