Writing Effective and Compelling Cover Letters

If you’re a job-seeking professional, writing effective and compelling cover letters may be the key to landing in front of a hiring manager interviewing for your dream job. This article is designed to be your guide, your step-by-step blueprint to creating a cover letter that leaves a powerful and lasting impression.

Firstly, let’s address the elephant in the room: not all recruiters read cover letters – if you do a quick search, you will find the number is all over the board from 18%, 26%, 50% to 83% of recruiters reach cover letters. However, don’t let this fact diminish the importance of crafting a compelling cover letter. Especially when a job posting mentions that a cover letter is optional, it becomes your secret weapon. It’s a golden opportunity to stand out among a crowd of applicants, showcasing your unique skills, experiences, and the value you bring to the table. Not only that, if it’s optional, is this a test to see if you are willing to go above and beyond?

Cover Letters: What’s the Point?

Think of your cover letter as a special message to your future boss. It tells them who you are, why you’re excited about the job, and why they should be excited about you. It’s a golden opportunity to make a great impression and stand out among other candidates. That’s why writing effective and compelling cover letters is so important. It’s not just a formality, but a powerful tool that can help you land your dream job. It’s your chance to show your enthusiasm, share your accomplishments, and demonstrate how well you’d fit in the team. Not only that, it also shares your story – do you have a gap because you were a caretaker for a brief period of time, or took a position that was outside of your career path due to a layoff.

Cover Letter Best Practices

So, how do we create an impressive cover letter? Here are some top tips:

  1. Make it personal: Don’t write a one-size-fits-all letter. Tailor it to each job and company. Show them you’ve done your homework about who they are and what they do.
  2. Keep it short and sweet: Aim for no more than one page. Remember, hiring managers will likely skim read and so they will appreciate the brevity.
  3. ATS Optimization: Many companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to filter applications. Make sure your cover letter includes relevant keywords from the job description to pass these digital gatekeepers.
  4. Proofread: It’s important to check your letter for spelling and grammar errors. A well-written, error-free letter shows you pay attention to details.
  5. Dear X: Make sure you research and try and figure out who the hiring manager is for the role
  6. Big Wins/Notable Achievements: Consider including a brief, easy to read section on your greatest achievements so you can show the reader the value you can bring to their company.
  7. References: Do not include ‘References Available Upon Request’ at the end of your cover letter. They will assume you will provide references if and when needed.

Writing a Compelling Cover Letter Introduction

The first few lines of your cover letter are like the opening scene of a movie. They should grab the reader’s attention and make them want to continue. This is why we need to ditch the old-fashioned ‘To whom it may concern’. It’s impersonal and can make your letter seem generic.

Instead, address the hiring manager directly. But how do you find their name? That’s what we’ll explore in the next section. By using a direct greeting, you show respect and make a personal connection from the very start. Your introduction should also briefly mention the job you’re applying for and express your excitement about it. This sets the stage for the rest of your letter, where you’ll share why you’re the best fit for the role.

By following these cover letter tips and best practices, you’re on the right path to creating compelling cover letters that leave a lasting impression. Stay tuned for more advice on how to find the hiring manager’s name and further personalize your cover letter.


  1. “As an experienced project manager who has consistently delivered projects 20% faster than projected timelines, I was thrilled to see the opening at XYZ Corp.”
  2. “As a digital marketer who has increased online sales by 50% over two years, I’m eager to apply my innovative strategies to your advertised role.”
  3. “In this rapidly evolving business landscape, my agility, innovative approach, and proactive attitude have allowed me to stay ahead of changes and drive consistent results in my past roles. This skillset will serve your enterprise well in your X position.”

Identifying Your Cover Letter Audience

Finding the hiring manager’s name can seem like a game of hide and seek. But, with a little detective work and a dash of resourcefulness, you can uncover this information and add a personal touch to your cover letter.

Your first step is to explore your existing network. Perhaps you know someone who works at the company, or maybe a friend of a friend does. LinkedIn is an excellent tool for this. The platform’s ‘Connections of’ feature can reveal if you have any mutual connections with employees at the company. If you do, don’t hesitate to reach out to these connections. They might be able to provide you with the hiring manager’s name or introduce you to someone who can.

Professional networking events, both physical and virtual, also present opportunities to meet employees from various companies. Engaging in conversations at these events could lead to valuable information about the hiring team of the company you’re interested in.

If your network doesn’t yield results, you can turn to the company’s website. Check the ‘About Us’ or ‘Team’ page for potential leads. Alternatively, the company’s LinkedIn page may list key personnel, including hiring managers.

If these strategies don’t pan out, it’s perfectly acceptable to call the company’s HR department. Politely explain that you’re preparing a job application and would like to address your cover letter to the appropriate person. This approach shows your initiative and commitment to getting things right.

In all of this, remember to respect privacy and maintain professionalism. The goal is to establish a connection, not to invade anyone’s personal space. A well-addressed cover letter can set a positive tone for your application, opening doors to your next professional adventure.

Writing a Personalized Cover Letter to Increase Effectiveness

Personalization goes beyond just addressing the hiring manager directly. To craft a truly compelling cover letter, you need to show that you’ve taken the time to understand the company and the role.

Research the company’s mission and values. Mention a recent project or accomplishment that impressed you. Highlight how your unique qualifications and experiences align with the company’s needs and culture. Remember to use keywords from the job description to enhance ATS optimization. This will not only help your cover letter pass through digital filters but also demonstrate your fit for the role.


Writing effective and compelling cover letters may seem daunting, but with these cover letter tips and best practices, you’re well-equipped to make a lasting impression. Remember the importance of personalization, from addressing the hiring manager directly to aligning your experiences with the company’s needs. Keep your tone professional yet accessible, and proofread your letter to ensure it’s free of errors. And remember, even if a cover letter is optional, it’s a golden opportunity to stand out. So, take the initiative and make your cover letter shine. Happy job hunting!

About Simply Great Resumes

Simply Great Resumes is an Executive and Professional Resume Writing Service located in Milwaukee (previously Minneapolis) who partners with business leaders and emerging professionals within Global Fortune 500, large private, mid-sized, and start-up enterprises since 2012.

A solopreneur business, Simply Great Resumes is owned by Kerry Gustafson. Kerry is a recognized, award-winning professional who holds industry-leading certifications – Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), Certified Career Coach (CPCC), and Certified Interview Coach (CIC) through the first association for career professionals in the world, PARW/CC. Dedicated to partnering and delivering on client career goals and branding strategies, Kerry holds an incredible industry-high referral rate. Year over year she exceeds 90%. This is a testament to the results she delivers and the value she provides to her high-performing clients.