How Can I Write a Winning Cover Letter?

By in Ask the Coach, Get Your Foot in the Door, Important Skills, Job Search Advice on

0 Comments / Leave a Comment

Megan from National University asks:

“I need help writing a cover letter including some ideas on how to write one. I currently serve as an intern and this company is hiring.  However, their hiring process for internal candidates is not as formal as with an outside applicant.  How can I put together a winning cover letter?”

Thanks for your question, Megan.  Cover letters take valuable time to write.  Let’s face it: no one wants to write a cover letter.  Are cover letters even necessary in today’s job market?  The answer is “Yes”, but only if the cover letter is well written.  Cover letters can impress a hiring manager in ways that a resume by itself may not.  It helps answer the question from an employer’s perspective, “Is this a candidate worthy of an interview?”.

Keep in mind that today’s job market is extremely competitive.  Statistics show that for every corporate job opening, a company receives an average of 250 resumes!  You’ll really need to stand out to get an interview to navigate successfully to a job offer.

Some job seekers are convinced that a “one size fits all” cover letter approach works.  Is using a “generic” cover letter easier?  Yes!  However, it will not get you the results you are looking for in your search for employment opportunity.  Consider that employers will spend 20 seconds or less reviewing your cover letter, resume, and/or application so you’ll need to highlight your value proposition (what you can do for them) as effectively as you can.

Generic cover letters will tell a prospective employer:

  • You are not really interested in their company or position.
  • You are lazy, because it took too much time, effort, and energy to tailor your cover letter.
  • You are probably applying to everything, and their company really doesn’t matter.

Here are some basic guidelines to use when developing your cover letter content:

Address your cover letter to a specific person.

Begin with “Dear Mr. or Ms.”, followed by the last name of the person and a colon (i.e. Dear Mr. Smith:).

Don’t use the first name of the addressee as it is too impersonal.  If you really want the position, exhaust all ways of finding a contact name before going generic.  When you have to use a generic salutation, use “Dear Hiring Manager:”.

Breaking Down the Cover Letter:

1st Paragraph – The Hook (get them interested)

Clearly and concisely express who you are, what you are writing them about, and where you heard about the position.  Also, consider adding a “hook” – something that will get the reader interested and more likely to continue reading.

Example:  “I am a sophomore international business student at National University and I am writing in regards to your marketing internship posted on your company’s website.  With over two years of experience building brands through internships at Fortune 500 companies, I possess the experience and drive to produce immediate results for your team.”

2nd Paragraph – Your Value Proposition (show how you fit)

Show you are qualified for the job.  Summarize your relevant background, mention specific skills and experiences you have that are applicate to the position.  If you are replying to a posted advertisement, then make sure to incorporate keywords used in their specific posting.

Example:  “As a member of Student-Athlete Advisory Board, I have extensive experience researching key constituent / customer issues, collaborating with others to develop potential solutions, and implementing effective solutions with measurable improvements.  I understand your company uses SalesForce CRM and I have been using this software the last two years.”

3rd Paragraph – Research Company (show your interest and research)

Demonstrate your knowledge of the company and why it interests you.  This is where you subtly let them know you’ve done your research, and you are certain you would make a good fit.

Example:  “This must be a very exciting time for ABC Enterprises, as you make the transition into infrared technology.  I have been researching this type of work, and when I read about your latest project on LinkedIn, I immediately searched for job openings at your Fort Lauderdale location, where most of your testing and prototyping is being done.  By combining my marketing background with my computer knowledge, I am confident my skills would meet your needs.”

4th Paragraph – Request for Interview/Closing Paragraph (indicate interest in interviewing for position)

Encourage further communication.  Mention that your resume is attached or enclosed, and that you are interested in learning more about the position, as well as their company.  Offer days and/or times that would be most convenient, and tell them how eager you are to work for them.

Example:  “I’ve attached my resume for your consideration.  I would enjoy having the opportunity to learn more about your specific needs while discussing the relevance of my background and accomplishments through an interview.  Please feel free to contact me at 561.555.1212 or via e-mail at at your convenience to schedule a date and time to meet. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for your time and consideration.


Student Name”

E-Mail Correspondence:

E-mail is becoming increasingly popular in the job application process.  However, before you use e-mail to correspond with an employer, make sure you think through the content and subject line so that it works as an efficient tool.  This has to be the most professionally written e-mail you have ever sent as every word counts.

Common Mistakes

  • Using emoticons (don’t use 🙂 or 🙁 or others)
  • Being too informal
  • Misspellings and poor grammar
  • No capitalization or using ALL CAPS
  • Using text shortcuts (i.e. btw, omg, lol, and others)

Type the cover letter right into the body of the e-mail, removing the date and address blocks.  Start with the salutation and begin writing.  Make sure you mention that your resume is attached.

Here are some things to consider when writing a professional e-mail:

  • Always introduce yourself the same way you would in a cover letter (Dear Mr./Ms.).
  • In the subject line, make it obvious why you are writing – “Application for Marketing Internship Position”.
  • Use spell check and proofread it. There is no room for error in this correspondence.
  • Use a standard font style and size. Calibri is fine, and keep it between 10 and 12 point size.
  • Name your attachment effectively: “Your Name: Resume”.  Employers receive hundreds of resumes, and they need to be able to separate you from the others by name.
  • Stay professional: Do not assume that if an employer is informal that you should be.

Cover Letter in E-Mail Format:

Dear Mr. Smith:

Most people start studying business administration in college, but I got my start when I was 12 years old.  I am now a 2nd year Business Administration student at Lynn University pursuing my passion for growing businesses, while pursuing my bachelor’s degree.  I learned about ABC Company’s internship program through and I am eagerly applying for your position.

It all began when I set up a lemonade stand in my family’s front yard, when my dad taught me how to market my lemonade stand to increase sales.  He, along with other relatives, offered on-going advice on how to reduce expenses, while growing sales.  I am proud to report that I made over $1,000 dollars during my first month as a 12-year-old selling lemonade.

At Lynn University, when I am not competing as a member of the NCAA Division II Lacrosse team and tutoring 8th grade students in geometry, I spend my free time with the Investment Club, working on growing our group’s investment holdings and portfolio.  I would enjoy the opportunity to speak with you about these experiences, while describing how I am certain I could contribute to the internship program at ABC Company.

I applied on-line through your web portal, however, I also attached my resume for your consideration.  I look forward to speaking with you about my qualifications.  If you need any additional information, you can reach me by calling 954-555-1212 or via e-mail at

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Joe Student

Cover Letter in Presentation Format (sent via snail mail):

Bill A. Smith
123 Anywhere Street • Boca Raton, FL  33431 • (561) 555-1212 •

March 1, 20xx

Mr. Richard Anderson
Human Resources Director
Miami Heat
111 Anywhere Street
Miami, FL  11111

Dear Mr. Anderson:

Professional basketball is more than a game – it is entertainment.  It has the power to deliver excitement and passion while creating energy and intensity in the stands, on the court, and on the screen.  Owners of established sports franchises know that success is more than a winning scoreboard – it is creating a dynasty and brand that define the fans and organization.  As a candidate for the Miami Heat internship, I promise to deliver results to organizational goals beyond your expectations as an energetic, dedicated individual with proven success in deadline-driven, sports entertainment environments.

My qualifications in event production, live entertainment, and media relations would make me a valuable asset to the Miami Heat.  From small-scale events to Fortune 100 productions, I’ve received recognition as an innovative, self-motivated professional with a strong work ethic and outstanding interpersonal skills.  As your intern, I will make it my mission to use my personal record of success to assist the Miami Heat, one of the greatest organizations in sports, in their quest for a 4th NBA World Championship.

I am prepared to put all my energy and passion into the Miami Heat organization.  I believe my résumé and experience highlight my ability to produce results, however, I would enjoy having an opportunity to talk with you personally about your needs and how I can assist the Miami Heat to achieve its aggressive objectives.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Bill A. Smith

Bill A. Smith

Enclosure:  résumé

Putting It All Together

Job seekers, especially college students, spend very little time crafting powerful cover letters. In fact, most will use a generic cover letter for all positions.  Recognize that a well-written cover letter has the power to get the reader more interested in your story, which is closer to landing the interview.  Spend time researching the company, while building a “hook” to get them interested.  Also, make sure to have others proofread your work before sending the letter.  Your career center can provide this assistance in addition to others whom you trust.  Good luck and best wishes!

Here’s to your success,

Bob Nealon


Have a question for the Coaches? Submit it Here!

About the Author

Robert Nealon

For almost 10 years, Bob Nealon has been a South Florida-based career coach, focused on training and coaching college students and professional-level clients to achieve success in their employment search campaign and careers. He has trained over 5,000 clients with strategies on how to best compete in today’s ultra-competitive market to land the job and advance their career. Currently, he is a career coach at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from Indiana University, a master’s degree in Sports Administration from Indiana State University and is a multi-credentialed career coach holding industry certifications as a Certified Professional Career Coach, Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Employment Interview Professional, Certified Empowerment and Motivational Coach, Global Career Development Facilitator, and Florida Certified Workforce Professional. He is an active member of Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, Center for Credentialing and Education, Florida Association of Colleges and Employers, National Association of Colleges and Employers, and National Career Development Association. Connect with Bob via LinkedIn and Twitter.

Posted in: Ask the Coach, Get Your Foot in the Door, Important Skills, Job Search Advice
Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.