Does Your Cover Letter Get An A Or F? Here's The Test

Many proclaim cover letters to be outdated in an era of digital communications and ever-shortening attention spans. Yet even a cursory look at what top-level professionals are actually putting out there reveals the truth: reports of the cover letter’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Related: How To Write A Cover Letter That Will Get You Hired Why? Because hiring is a fundamentally human endeavor, not simply a mindless match-up of skills to experience, and a resume leaves precious room for the person behind the qualifications to shine through. Some call it a cover letter. Others a value proposition letter, or an intro letter. But the core goal remains the same: make a powerful connection with the reader, and compel him or her to bring you in for an interview.

Here's A 3-Question Test For Determining Whether Your Letter Is Helping Or Hurting You:

Question #1: Is It All Killer, No Filler?

Start by answering the question, "How will you help me or my company?" in as few words as possible. Provide just enough context into what you're currently doing to make the next few bullet points, all quantifiable, make sense. Exit with a clear action (...will follow up within two weeks to....). There should not be a single sentence in this letter which doesn't either a) establish credibility, b) demonstrate real VALUE, or c) communicate PASSION for the job.

Question #2: Is It Impressive To EVERYONE?

Confidence isn't filling your cover letter with industry jargon; that just comes across as trying too hard. Consider the fact that an enormous percentage of total readers for your letter will have ZERO hands-on understanding of what you do, or what's necessary to do it. These people need to be blown away by you as much as anyone else. Boil what you do down to its essence. Think about the larger scale impact of your actions. You didn't just create a new network infrastructure and guide teams in maintaining and upgrading it. You established the technical foundation for $90M+ in new annual revenues and a growing, coast-to-coast subscriber base.

Question #3: Is Its Purpose Clear?

A letter like this can really only have two purposes, and a common mistake is trying to cater to both. Purpose #1, you are writing a "general" intro letter about your strengths and achievements in a particular role (CEO, Director, and so on.) and why it positions you to deliver great results for a company. Purpose #2, you're responding to a job posting or some other notification about a position that has opened up.

General Letter:

Hone in on 2-3 key aspects of your value, and structure the entire letter around them. Concrete results can radically transform impact- list metrics briefly (34%+) and try to highlight the RESULT first, followed by details on how you pulled it off.

Specific Posting:

The secret sauce for answering a job posting is the content of the posting itself. Closely analyze and highlight the industry keywords, skills and qualifications they most desperately need to address (which you have). Now frame the letter from a POV of addressing these areas. FIT IS EVERYTHING at this stage- skip creativity and make it blindingly obvious that you're the best person for the job.

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About the author

Anish Majumdar, CEO of is a nationally recognized executive resume writer, LinkedIn expert, and interview coach. Surveyed clients report a 40-60% reduction in placement times through working with him, and typically secure offers at least $10-40K higher. Schedule a free LIVE Resume Critique with Anish, or connect with him on LinkedIn. Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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