Anatomy of a Killer Cover Letter

By Hillary Kawahara| February 24, 2016

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parts of a cover letter

How to Write a Killer Cover Letter

When applying for jobs, most people focus on polishing their resumes. But equally as important is the cover letter. More than just stating your prerequisites on your resume, consider your cover letter the personal aspect of your application—it’s your chance to tell your story to a potential employer.

It humanizes what you look like on paper. So instead of copy / pasting the same thing over and over, take some time, put some heart and soul into it, and be authentic.

Here are the 4 essential parts of a cover letter that will leave a lasting impression on the hiring manager:

The 4 parts of a cover letter:

  1. Introduction
  2. Qualified skills and experience
  3. Reason to interview
  4. Conclusion/call to action

The Introduction

  • After entering the correct header (Name and Address in the upper left-hand corner), it’s time to begin your letter. Eliminate wordiness; keep it brief and to the point. Just like your resume, no cover letter should exceed one page.
  • To begin, start your letter with who you are addressing and what position you are applying for. (Avoid To Whom it May Concern at all costs—the person on the other end is a human, not a robot). Spend an extra 15 minutes on LinkedIn to find the hiring manager’s name, or simply say, Dear [COMPANY] Representative.
  • In the first sentence, state what position you are applying for. I am applying for the editorial spring internship position. Next, if you have a referral or a unique way you found the position, state that here. Keep the language exciting and engaging to hook the reader from the start, just as with any book, article or blog post. The beginning is vital!

Qualified skills and experience

Now that you’ve hooked the reader and stated why you’re writing to them, it’s time to convince the hiring manager that you’d be a great fit for the company. This is the place to sell yourself. List two to three skills or experiences you have that would make you qualified for the job.

My two years of experience serving as editor for The Daily News, as well as being a chief member in the Society of Professional Journalists with a major in Journalism – News and Information, makes me an ideal candidate for the position.

Then, dive a bit deeper into your experience.

I had three front-page features and served as the lead reporter for the Politics section. During that time, I interviewed Mayor Green when he came to town in the spring of 2014, covered all four student electoral debates, and was lucky enough to be front-and-center for the Brown vs. Black rally, which was a historical moment at our school I will never forget. That particular issue was the third most read in the paper’s history.  

Remember: first and foremost, keep it professional, but also add in your personality and what values you believe in. This will give you a human aspect and a taste for how passionate you are about the industry.

Reason to Interview


Next, it’s time to tie the strings together: how would your experience help the company? What can you bring to the table? This is where you can show you’ve done your homework. It’s time to pay homage to the company, express what you love about it, and how you can help contribute to make the company an even greater success.

Your ‘Tea with Larry’ series is my favorite. I love how the paper humanizes the politicians and actually has a sit-down conversation over tea to talk about their personal lives, their families, but also their hopes and dreams for the future of their careers. I want to be a part of a community that values this, and with my in-depth interviewing skills, outgoing personality, passion for telling people’s stories and quick turnaround times with assignments, I would be a great asset.

Have any great ideas for the company? Give a teaser of them here. This is where you stand out from the crowd. This is where you communicate how badly you want this. If you don’t know much about the company, state what you do like about them and how much you want to learn more. Tie in your experiences to how you could help them.

Read more about negotiating your starting salary mythbusters

Conclusion/call to action

Conclude the letter with a thank you for reading and a general statement of why you’d be a great fit. And most importantly: leave with a call to action.

I’d love to chat further about my background and this amazing internship opportunity. I would like to schedule a call next Tuesday or Wednesday to chat more about the position. I look forward to speaking further.


 Your Name 

Be confident, honest, professional and most importantly: be yourself. Hiring managers go through dozens of applications a day, and know which cookie-cutter phrases come straight from the book. Here are some additional pointers to check off your list before submitting your letter:

  • Have a trusted family member, friend or teacher read through your letter – an outside perspective is always a good idea.
  • Proof – use Spell Check or enlist the help of a grammar-savvy friend to make sure nothing is misspelled or grammatically incorrect. If you can’t spell ‘internship’ correctly, how can you expect to get hired?
  • Keep the font simple. You don’t want the hiring managing squinting and unable to read your letter you worked so hard at. Times New Roman, Cambria, or Arial are always trustworthy and simple fonts.
  • Once submitted, follow up once, maybe twice but not more. You want to seem interested but don’t look desperate. The right fit will come to you.

Good luck on your next job hunt!

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