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As if a resume isn't enough, some companies will expect or require a cover letter. A cover letter is a document that can be sent with your resume to give more information about your skills and interests in a particular workplace. A cover letter is the “first impression” you’re giving to potential employers. It’s with the cover letter, that you can explain why you are a good candidate and how they will benefit by hiring you.

People looking for jobs often make the mistake of providing a summary of their resume in their cover letter and leave it at that. NOT GOOD. Cover letters can be a powerful way to grab the attention of a hiring manager by using storytelling. A compelling narrative can work wonders when getting your point across and can very well catch the desired attention of a potential employer. If your cover letter doen't make them want to read your resume, they won't.

This is your opportunity to explain your triumphs and the journey that helped you acquire the right skills and life experiences to make you an ideal fit. In some ways, a cover letter can be more important than a resume as the resume is often analyzed by applicant tracking systems before a human ever sees it.

Employers often look not only for skills and knowledge, but also for how well you will fit into their work culture. A powerful narrative can tell them all they need to know about you, your aspirations, and if you will be a good fit not only for the job, but also in their work environment.

Employers appreciate when they can see you did the job of researching and understanding the company, what’s their mission, how it aligns with your goals, their requirements, and their work culture. You can achieve this by telling a story that links your work experience (and sometimes your personal life) to the potential work position.

Now let’s talk about the do’s and don’ts

Cover letters are not a summary of your resume. In order words, this is not the place for you to just repeat what is already stated in your resume. You could briefly list your qualifications if it flows with your narrative well, but don’t simply copy paste your resume.

A strong introduction is essential, then a plot, the body, and a conclusion. It should be able to fit on a double-spaced, single page with standard margins.

According to Sean Mclain Brown (Twitter: @seanmclainbrown) this is how you produce a good cover letter:

  1. Think small. Think about how you might share a story of your life with a stranger if you had only a few minutes.

  2. Identify a story from your time in service that was particularly difficult. Drop your reader into the story after something already has happened. (Never start at the very beginning; it's boring and takes too much time.)

  3. Identify and describe the conflict and the aftermath.

  4. How did you overcome and what did you learn?

  5. How does what you learned make you an asset to the company?

  6. Complete the story circle. Conclude by mentioning something you wrote in your opening and how that makes you the right candidate.

  7. Be authentic. There's no reason to make up or overdramatize your experiences. It doesn't matter whether you were never in combat (fewer than 10% of troops ever experience combat). All service to this country has merit. Believe in the power of your story and the difficulties and challenges you overcame. Your accomplishments are important.

  8. But in your efforts to be authentic, be careful not to overshare. Relate only the essential elements of the story and strike a balance between your personal and professional experiences

Not all jobs will require a cover letter but if they do, spend to time to make it professional, informative, and gramatically correct. Remember if your looking for your next career visit today. Fill out your profile and let us help you find your next opportunity.


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