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Stomping the Yard: Career Cover Letter Basics

When it comes to writing a resume and cover letter, many flounder in both and for the same reason—failing to see and express the results of their work. Beyond this goal, there are two other important objectives for cover letter writing: writing for SEO and proving position fitness with anecdotes.

My previous articles have dealt with using valuable resources such as your school’s career center and resume tips, but this article will focus on cover statement tips: don’t re-state your resume, don’t write inappropriately, what to write about, how to draw focus to and away from things, etc. are just a few strategies that will be discussed.

Don’t Re-write Your Resume

Do not re-write in your cover letter any information that can be obtained from the resume. It shows lack of succinctness—a reason not to hire you. Furthermore, if you are applying for a job, you should be able to write ½ to 1 page about why you and the company would make a mutually beneficial fit. Your resume is your chance to further clarify the trajectory of your career, qualify attributes via anecdote, and appear to personify the qualities both explicitly and implicitly stated in the job ad.

Don’t Write Inappropriately

The interviewer is not an expert in your field or a friend, but should not be a complete stranger to you. Cover letters should be addressed to the specific human resources (HR) staff member that will be handling the hiring process for your applied for position. Your hiring manager, while familiar with the qualifications, is likely not familiar with all of your industry lingo.

What to Write About

A cover letter should essentially be the lead paragraphs of an autobiography in inverted pyramid format. It should contain answers to the primary questions: who, what, when, where, and the why of you are. You will likely find yourself with many things classified beneath each category. Prioritize them in list form before classifying the primary questions list.

The cover letter provides the opportunity to get personal, as long as you can directly relate how the addition of information will translate to job performance. Draw a personal and career trajectory that extends from “most recent” and “most relevant” and continues with job aspirations. Your job aspirations should point out specifics about initiatives in the company that will support these aspirations.

If you have important job relevant information that is not articulated in your resume, the cover letter is probably your most ideal placement opportunity. It’s the place to include a quote from a letter of recommendation, a guiding philosophy, or a descriptive and memorable sound bite.

How to Draw Focus toward and Away From Content

The easiest way to focus content toward or away from content respectively is to place information higher up, in plain text, and in the middle of a paragraph. By focusing attention toward and away from information you can provide a more truthful and/or more positive facade.


Cover statements are the flesh of the story, connecting keywords with more examples that were not used in the resume. The document is your chance to write the stories in plain English that you want HR individuals to know. It is your opportunity to both intuit and display the qualities expressed both explicitly and implicitly in the job announcement.

Jeremy Bemidele bio pic

Jeremy Bamidele is journalist, publicist, and adjunct professor based out of Los Angeles, California. His work has been published in Forbes, Huffington Post, PR Week, JET Magazine, and numerous newspapers across the United States. He is an alumnus of UC Berkeley and a current graduate student at the University of Southern California. He can be reached at Jeremy