How to Write Ridiculously Persuasive Cover Letters

A cover letter should tell a story in which the candidate is presented as an impact player—that is, someone a hiring manager wants to have on their team.

Effective resumes and cover letters are most persuasive when they paint a clear picture of the candidate’s accomplishments and successes.

Berkley Law tells its students and alumni that a “cover letter is as important as your resume because it is often read first and plays a vital role in your quest for an interview.”

A cover letter that only focuses on the duties and responsibilities that an individual has had rarely wins interviews. Princeton University counsels its students that “a well-written cover letter introduces your resume and directs your reader’s attention to specific areas of your background.”

A cover letter with two or three carefully worded examples of when the candidate has excelled, backed up with qualitative or quantitative information, is often all that is needed for a corporate recruiter or headhunter to take a closer look at a candidate’s resume.

Many candidates struggle to figure out what examples of earlier career accomplishments to include.

A 2009 article on reported on a Microsoft corporate careers blog post that provided advice that remains highly relevant and helps point the way. The way to write a great cover letter is to communicate MSA “Made, Saved and Achieved” history, which is defined as “Made the company money, sales, etc.; Saved the company money, time, etc.” and “Achieved (awards, recognition, etc.) personally”

One strategic way to include MSAs in a cover letter is to have one bullet point for a Made statement, one for a Saved statement and one for an Achieved statement. Meaning one example in each area and to keep each statement to no longer than two lines. The MSA section should come in between the introductory paragraph and the closing paragraph and should be the bulk of the cover letter. Long introductions and long conclusions are not a good idea.

Some final tips:

Berkley Law suggests that proofing is vital and explains that cover letters “should be clear, brief, and written in a business letter style, without any typographical errors.” further recommends that job seekers “review your resume…Are you just listing “stuff” you did? Or, are you incorporating specifics that entice an employer to want to know more about you?”

Harvard Law encourages candidates to“go into detail about your background and skills instead of reiterating what is already on your resume (and), do not begin every sentence with “I (verb).”