Cover Letter Tips to Display Competency and Confidence

May 13, 2014

The Cover Letter.  A defining factor for many applicants, a pivotal consideration for many internal and external recruiters.  How can candidates not only improve but master their cover letter?

A follow up to 10 Interview Questions you need to ask and Improving your resume to pass the ‘skim’ test, we look to share some of the leading advice from across the industry on how to improve your cover letter to make the next step in your career.

Related: 7 Reasons Your Resume Should Never Be Outdated

1. If Emailing Your Cover Letter, Don’t Just Attach Cover Letter


A common faux pas applicants commit, attaching a cover letter (as opposed to pasting it into the body of the email) is a big mistake.  What’s wrong with this practice, you ask? Most hiring managers aren’t going to open the cover letter and read it. They’ll go straight to the resume instead.

How do you fix this? Copy and paste it into the body of the e-mail. Whoever received the e-mail will be much more likely to read it if it’s already right there in front of their face.

2. Outline what You Can Offer

This isn’t you making a general proclamation of, “Hey, I’m great. I swear!” You need to scrutinize the job description and use whatever other information you’ve gathered about the opening, determine the key requirements and priorities for this job, and make it instantly clear to the reviewer that you can deliver the goods on these key things.

3. Bullet Points Aren’t Just for Resumes

Your cover letter is your chance to explain exactly why you are the best person for the job, and while it’s important to customize your résumé, it’s even more important to customize your cover letter. Try picking three desired qualifications from the job description, and organizing your note under those three bullets.

4. Use Powerful Words

Again, a non-resume specific tip, the use of power words in your resume is vital to building your influence on a recruiter or hiring manager.  Think of strong terms that you, as an aspiring leader of company finance, can accomplish.  Here are 21 of the best terms for a resume or cover letter:












Under Budget











You have the unique opportunity to provide freeform and open ended value statements regarding what you can offer to a company.  Use it wisely.

5. Match Values to Those of the Company

We live in an age of information.  Company information is readily available.  If a company values financial transparency, honesty, and community involvement; your cover letter needs to address those values and meet them with experiences.

Employers want to hire someone who will be a good cultural fit and can help the company meet its goals. “It is not enough to look at a position and the qualifications and say you’d be a good fit,” says Godorov. Make sure you convey why and how you would add value—a key factor in the hiring process, she says. “Perhaps make a note of their great leadership program and opportunities for growth and development within that that also attracted you to the company,” apart from the job listing.

6. Grammar, Grammar, Grammar

If you expect to land a career as a rising executive, it is vital for you to look professional.  This goes for your cover letter, as well.  Think of your cover letter as an evaluation of how you will adapt to the culture and write within an organization.

Write, Rewrite, Proofread, and proofread again. Some hiring managers will toss your entire submission based on one single mistake.

7. Add Salary Requirements at the End of the Cover Letter

Just like at an interview, you don’t discuss salary until the latter stages of the interview process – when you’ve had the chance to reveal what you have to offer and why you make the best fit candidate. Take the same approach here where you build up your case regarding your experience, skills, talents, etc. before mentioning information on desired salary.  Further, provide a range.

Employers typically have a budget to work with. Rather than state a figure like $90K, indicate a range like $90,000 to $100,000.

8. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing

Finish off by quickly (and I mean quickly) explaining how your experience or worldview will help you at the job. That’s key. That’s the closer. And it can be done in one to two seconds. If it goes any longer, you’re just rambling.

Common in Marketing and Sales, the call to action and move to close are of the highest importance.  You have sold the hiring manager on your value, don’t leave them hanging with a weak finish.

The Overture Group cares about helping candidates make the most out of their executive career search.  Specializing in helping chief executives and financial leaders continue career growth, we are hiring on all cylinders to connect the best candidates with the best companies. Contact us to get the most from both your recruiting and career search needs.

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