A Simple Checklist For Writing Effective Cover Letters

Martin Yate CPC
NY Times Bestseller
Professional Resume Services

There are really two steps in the creation of a polished cover letter. The first happens now. You want to make sure that all the things that should be included are—and that all the things that shouldn’t, aren’t. 

The final proofing is done before sending. Warning: It is easy, in the heat of the creative moment, to miss crucial components or mistakenly include facts that give the wrong emphasis. Check all your letters against these considerations:

Contact Information

Have you missed any
crucial components?

• You need contact information, name, address, zip code, personal telephone number, and e-mail address at the top of the page; if in rare instances you have to run to second page (and avoid this at all costs) remember to include your name, telephone number and email address.
• Your current business number is omitted unless it is absolutely necessary and safe to 
 include it. This will only be the case if your employer understands that you are leaving and you have permission to use company time and equipment for your search.

• If your letter is more than one page long, and is going by traditional mail, each page should be numbered “page 1 of 2,” etc., and the pages are stapled together. Remember the accepted way of stapling business communications: one staple in the top left-hand corner.


• Does your letter state why you are writing?

• Is the letter tied to the target company?

• Is it focused on a target job, such as skills that apply from the ad or agenda items addressed during a conversation?

• Does it include reference to desirable professional behaviors?

• Is your most relevant and qualifying experience prioritized to lend strength to your letter?

• Have you avoided wasting more space than required with employer names and addresses?

• Have you omitted any reference to reasons for leaving a particular job? Reasons for change might be important at the interview, but they are not relevant at this point. Use this precious space to sell, not to justify.

• Unless they have been specifically requested, have you removed all references to past, current, or desired salaries?

• Have you removed reference to your date of availability? If you aren’t available at their convenience, why are you wasting their time?

• If your major is mentioned, if relevant to an advertisement?

• Do you mention your highest educational attainment if it is relevant, and do you mention your major if it adds credence to the message?

• Have you avoided listing irrelevant responsibilities or job titles?

• Have you given examples of your contributions, your achievements, and the problems you have successfully solved during your career?

• Have you avoided poor focus by eliminating all extraneous information?

• Is the letter long enough to whet the reader’s appetite for more details, yet short enough not to satisfy that hunger?

• Have you let the obvious slip in, like heading your letter “Letter of Application” in big bold letters? If so, cut it out.


• Substitute short words for long words, and one word where previously there were two.

• Keep your average sentence to less than twenty-five words. Break longer sentences into two, if they cannot be shortened.

* At the same time try to vary the length of sentences.

• Keep every paragraph under five lines, with most paragraphs shorter, this leads to more white space on the page and makes your message more accessible to the reader.

• Make sure your sentences begin with or contain, wherever possible, powerful action verbs and phrases. 

Join Martin every week to learn more about networking for job search, getting more job interviews and turning job interviews into job offers at his free weekly webcasts. Day and evening broadcasts are available at:  http://my.knockemdead.com/webcasts.

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Martin Yate
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