Uncovering Cover Letters

Some hiring experts say candidates should not apply for a position if they do not send a cover letter with their résumé. Writing effective cover letters that detail qualifications for a specific job requires awareness of the dos and don’ts hiring managers look for in these persuasive requests.

Good cover letters have the following characteristics:

  • Address the reader.
  • Name the job title.
  • Promote the applicant using examples of experience and education as they pertain to specifics named in the job ad.
  • Target and tailor the letter to a specific job.
  • Make it easy for reader to respond by providing contact information.
  • Ask for an interview.
  • Refer to an attached résumé.
  • Avoid errors in spelling, grammar, and formatting.
  • Concentrate on the organization’s needs instead of the writer’s.

Task: Read the following cover letter and list its weaknesses. Your instructor may ask you to revise this letter before showing you an improved version.

To Whom It May Concern:

I saw your accounting associate position listing yesterday and would like to apply right away. It would be so exiting to work for your esteemed firm! This position would really give me much needed real-world experience and help me become a CPA.

I have all the qualifications you require in your add and more. I am a senior at Colorado State University-Pueblo and an Accounting major (with a minor in Finance) and have completed 64 units of upper-level course work. Accounting and Finance are my passion and I want to become a CPA and a financial advisor. I have taken eight courses in accounting and now work as a part-time financial advisor with Primerica Financial Services in Pueblo. I should also tell you that I was at Target for four years. I learned alot, but my heart is in accounting and finance.

I am a team player, a born leader, motivated, reliable, and I show excellent composure in stressful situations, for example, when customers complain. I put myself through school and always carry at least 12 units while working part time.

You will probably agree that I am a good candidate for your accounting position, which I understand should start about July 1. I feel that my motivation, passion, and strong people skills will serve your company well.


Camille Montano

Letter’s Weaknesses

  1. Fails to use the receiver’s name in the salutation.
  2. Neglects to identify the position title and specifically where the announcement appeared.
  3. Fails to back up assertions with evidence of qualifications.
  4. Offers little to show how her qualifications fill the position requirements.
  5. Fails to promote her experience and special skills.
  6. Overworks the pronoun I. Nearly every sentence begins with
  7. Fails to refer to her résumé, and does not request an interview.
  8. Does not make it easy for the reader to respond.
  9. Has several typographical, punctuation, and spelling errors.

[Instructors: You may choose to ask your students to write the letter as an e-mail or as a letter that is attached to the job application as a PDF. Our revision is formatted as a letter, which you can download here.]






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