Cover Letters: The Basics

by Robin Galante

Cover Letter Basics

Remember this: cover letters matter! A cover letter can be the most important part of any package you send out into the world: it's your opportunity to show hiring managers why you are the perfect candidate for their position. It's also an opportunity to let your personality and background shine.

There are several things you should include in a cover letter: first, a simple introduction. What sets you apart from others in your field in terms of style, skills and experience. Next, it's important to speak directly about the specific position you are applying for and why you want to work for that particular company.

Here's a general outline to get you started when you write your cover letter. I use this outline for most of my clients' cover letters and it seems to do the trick!

Part 1: How'd You Get Here?

In your first paragraph, let them know how you found out about the company and/or the position you are applying for. Tell them you believe your skills, background, and personality are a perfect fit for the position.

Part 2: Who Are You?

In the second paragraph, talk a bit about your experience as it directly relates to the position you are applying for. This is important if you are applying for an accounting job, don't go on and on about your last job in customer service. Keep it relevant.

Part 3: Your Experience + Their Requirements = A Perfect Match!

Print out the job description and highlight the duties they mention that you have done in the past. Then, circle which of their qualifications you meet. Hopefully, it will be most if not all. In this paragraph (or two) write about each point, methodically tying your experience and skills together with what they need.

Part 4: Close the Deal

Lastly, conclude your cover letter by telling them why you want to work for them and make them believe they are the only job you are applying for. This may not be the case, and you don't have to lie, but make them feel as if they are the only company in the world. Nobody likes to read something that seems insincere or canned (which is why I never, ever use templates!).

Why do you want to work there? Think about their values, their work environment, and in the last paragraph, summarize how your skills and experience are a perfect fit for the position. Tell them you would love to set up a time to speak with them about this exciting opportunity. Then, sit back and wait for your phone to ring.


Robin Galante is a freelance writer based in San Francisco, CA. She writes original, custom-tailored resumes and cover letters (no templates!) for clients all over the country. As a writer, she also specializes in web content, marketing copy, proofreading and editing. At night, she puts down her computer and picks up her guitar; in addition to being a freelance writer, she is a singer-songwriter and performs in venues all over the Bay Area. You can learn more about her resume services on her website, or email her at robin2therescue@yahoo.com.

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