A Crash Course In Cover Letters: Adapting An Old School Tool For Your Digital Job Search

by Forbes, Inc. and J. Maureen Henderson

What's in the book?

A step-by-step tutorial on creating cover letters that present your personal brand.

    • A Crash Course in Cover Letter Writing
    • A Cover Letter Cautionary Tale: What Not To Do
    • Social Search: Taking Your Job Hunt Online
    • A Social Media Job Search Success Story
    • Your Digital Job Search
    • Ten Quick Tips
    • Quick Application Hacks No One Tells You About



Today, job seekers need to build active, networking-based methods into their job searches. They have to have a game plan—and it's got to be crafty, bold and strategic. Hiding behind a computer and machine-gunning resumes into blind mailboxes over and over again is the recipe for a super long, frustrating job search.

Cover letters, we hear, are redundant, a waste of time for the applicant and the hiring manager, no longer useful in the age of online applications; and no one knows how to write them, anyway. This is just plain wrong.

Done right, cover letters provide an additional means by which you make your case for hiring to the employer. Far from being job search relics, they continue to provide value—both to you and to the hiring manager—in the application process. And, yes, they are still considered essential documents by a majority of employers. As reported by the Washington Post, 53% of employers surveyed give the edge to applicants who include cover letters over those who do not, and 91% claim that a well-written cover letter improved the odds of a less qualified candidate reaching the interview stage. A cover letter can truly make or break your application.

In this book, you'll find out:
  • Whether to leave that graduate degree off your resume and what you can fake
  • What you never should when describing your skill set
  • How to find a job with social media savvy
  • How to make sure social media isn't working against you
  • How to stand out in the slush pile


J. Maureen Henderson is a business strategist, copywriter and Forbes contributor. She writes primarily about career issues affecting young professionals and recent grads, with an emphasis on the often messy intersection of demographics, economics, technology and pop culture. In addition to Forbes, her work has been featured in venues such as Salon, The Atlantic and The Huffington Post. She blogs at Generation Meh, is prolific on Twitter and has an abiding love of dachshunds and the Eurovision Song Contest.


If possible, address your letter to a person. If the job ad itself doesn’t have a contact person, try matching up the email where you address your application with a name on the corporate website. If that doesn’t yield results, see if you can sleuth out the name of the company’s manager or director of human resources (via the corporate website or LinkedIn) and address it to him or her.

Lead with the future, not the past. Start your letter by mentioning the position you’re applying for (the company might be staffing multiple vacancies at once) and a brief sentence in which you state the skills you think would best allow you to excel in the role.

Link your skills and experience to what was included in the job description. Make a connection between what they want and what you offer. You can’t cover every desired qualification, but you should zero in on the top three and provide examples from your work history that illustrate your ability and experience in undertaking these tasks. Don’t worry if you sound too pedantic. The hiring manager is going to be glancing through a lot of cover letters, so make his or her life easier by being as explicit as possible in how you fulfill the job ad’s requirements.

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