Yes, You Need a Cover Letter: Here’s How to Make It Good

Categories: Getting Help, Guide, Leadership, Management & Communication Skills
Yes, You Need a Cover Letter: Here's How to Make It Good

Are cover letters still necessary in a job search?

When you submit your resume to an organization and it is shared among the necessary people, some won’t bother to read your cover letter. Others will be more interested in your social profiles, especially LinkedIn and Facebook, than any cover letter.

Still, most career coaches and experts agree it’s best to play it safe and provide one. The potential consequences of not providing one when a recruiter or hiring manager expects it are much worse than submitting one and having it ignored.

A cover letter ensures that the people you want to see your resume receive it and explains why you are sending it. So make certain your letter clearly identifies the position you are seeking. If you are reaching out to a specific contact in order to build a relationship independent of a current open position, make sure you personalize the letter.

More importantly, a cover letter should put you, your resume, and your career in context so readers can see how well you will fit in with their organization and meet their needs. The cover letter is an opportunity to demonstrate your personality, your perspective on your achievements, and your goals for the future. It helps you build a narrative around the list of achievements your resume or CV describes.

If you don’t take the time to think strategically about your cover letter and make sure it is well written, you are missing an important opportunity.

So how do you write a cover letter that works?

Louise Fletcher, founder of Blue Sky Resumes, recommends using the “AIDA formula” to make the most of your communication:

  • Capture the reader’s Attention.
  • Deepen their Interest.
  • Create Desire.
  • Encourage Action.

When you have identified what makes you a good fit for the position and the unique value you would bring to the company, capture attention by asking a question crafted to get the reader to acknowledge that distinct value you bring. Deepen their interest by explaining how you are the solution they seek. Create desire by demonstrating the success you’ve had in your career as a result of your skills. Encourage action by stating clearly what you would like to happen: that they review your resume, call you, or schedule a meeting or interview.

The finance sector has fairly conservative expectations for resume, CV, and cover letter format. Victoria McLean, a former Goldman Sachs recruiter, current managing director of City CV, and participant in the recent #FinanceCVs Twitter Chat, recommends a four-paragraph template to use, which can work in combination with Fletcher’s AIDA strategy.

The first paragraph is an introduction that addresses the basic practical function of the cover letter. The second paragraph describes why you are a potential asset. The third paragraph explains why you are a good fit for the job or opportunity you’ve targeted. The fourth paragraph demonstrates that you know about the organization, respect it, and would be a successful addition to it. Conclude with a call to action, such as a request to contact you to schedule a meeting or an interview.

If you have hired your share of finance professionals and have thoughts on what else works well in cover letters, share your insights in the comments below.

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

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3 comments on “Yes, You Need a Cover Letter: Here’s How to Make It Good

  1. I would add a cautionary note: Most over-educated people, which, I’d bet, includes every subscriber to Enterprising Investor, overwrite. We use too-long words in too-long sentences. In the mistaken belief that they add zip, we love adverbs. We should avoid them.

    For tortured souls like us, there is a wonderful tool: The Fog Index. It is an algorithm that purports to measure how much education a reader needs to have to get her/his head around a piece of writing. Some benchmarks: The Bible, Shakespeare, and Mark Twain are a 6. Reader’s Digest is an 8. The Wall Street Journal tries to get below 10, but seldom succeeds. I was once asked to comment on a paper co-authored by an academic pal. Its Fog Index was 34. Neither he nor his colleague had any idea what they were trying to say. A free copy-and-paste site that calculates a Fog Index is here:

    P.S. The Fog Index of the two paragraphs above is 9.1.

  2. wafula Charles said:

    I have great interest in learning and having more copies of cover letter to improve on my writing skills

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