Cover Letters


This lesson is a review of the application process and a starting point with cover letters.

Please complete the lesson plan as well as all check for understanding action items


Please allow yourself 30-40 minutes to complete this lesson plan.

  • Introduction
  • Review of the Application Process
  • Purpose of the Cover Letter
  • Parts of the Cover Letter
  • Tips/tricks and things to avoid

Learning Goals

After you complete this lesson you should be able to:

  • Have a solid understanding of the application process
  • Understand the purpose of a cover letter
  • Reflect on what needs to be in a cover letter
  • Draft/write a cover letter for a job application

After you complete this lesson, you’ll synthesize your learning with this Exit Ticket.

Application Process

Please review section 2 of this lesson to review the application process.

The actual application you submit refers to 3 things:

  • Analyzing the job posting
  • Customizing your resume
  • Customizing your cover letter

Your application materials do matter! Common mistakes we see from job seekers include not thoroughly reading the job posting and not customizing resumes and/or cover letters. So, once again, you should always customize your application materials. Not doing so hurts your chances at the company. Let’s take a look at these steps more closely.

Step #1: Analyze the Job Posting

In any job posting, pay attention to the keywords that are used. Words that are used more than once are very important, and these are the words you want to make sure to incorporate into your resume and cover letter. Highlight the words and phrases in the posting that speak to specific skills or experience that you have as well as specific skills or experience that are similar to what you have done in the past.

  • What projects have you done that showcase these skills?
  • What transferable skills do you have from previous experiences?
  • What new skills can you start to learn?

Step #2: Customize Your Resume

The skills you have listed on your resume should match the skills that the company is looking for based on the job posting. Note: that doesn’t mean you should lie – ever. If you don’t have a skill, don’t put it on your resume. Your projects and experience descriptions should also demonstrate what the company is looking for. Reword these descriptions to showcase the skills and mindsets that the company is looking for.

JobScan is a great tool that allows you to upload a job posting and your resume to see how they match up to optimize your chances.

Final step!: Cover Letters

Why even write a cover letter?

Cover letters can seem daunting, but they don’t have to be. It’s important to understand their importance in order to know how to write them well. A common misconception is that a cover letter should be all about you as the candidate. However, your cover letter is actually a space to demonstrate your understanding of the company. Another common misconception is that a cover letter should regurgitate everything on your resume. It should actually complement your resume; your resume is a space to tell about you, your cover letter allows you to show much more.

Start with this frame in your mind – the cover letter is a love letter to the company. How? Again, start by demonstrating your understanding of the company.

  • What research have you done?
  • Who from the company have you talked to?
  • Go back to the job posting – what are they looking for? What needs do they have based on this posting?
  • What problem is this company trying to solve?
  • What is exciting about this company?

Then, talk about yourself, but remember – this still isn’t really about you. Talk about yourself in relation to the company. First, provide an introductory hook. Show what you know about the company and why you’re interested in the position. Then, show why you’re qualified for the job. A great way to template out your story is by a quick summary: “Merging my background in X and Y, I now help [industry] improve [these outcomes].” You can also break your story into parts:

    1. Here’s what I did in the previous phase of my career + what I learned from that…
    1. And here’s what I can do for you based on what I’ve learned….

Now, create a connection between you and the company:

  • What can we do together?
  • It’s not about what you can get from them; it’s about what you can give to them

But, how do I format the cover letter?

First paragraph: The hook
  • Show why you’re interested in the position
  • Mention how you found out about the opening
  • State the position you’re applying
  • Use the title from the job listing
Middle paragraph: Why you? Why this company?
  • Connect your accomplishments, skills and knowledge to the position and company
  • Demonstrate the soft skills the role requires by using examples from your experience
  • Tie the company to your experiences
Final paragraph: Now, bring the company + you together
  • Summarize what you would bring to the position and suggest next steps by requesting a meeting or a call (be specific)
  • Thank them for reading your materials
  • Ask for the interview

Do’s and Don’ts on Cover Letters

There is no one-size-fits-all way to write a cover letter; there are multiple ways to write an effective cover letter. However, there are some general rules to follow:

  • Any time you mention yourself connect it explicitly to the job/company
  • Keep it concise (no more than a page; half a page is ideal)
  • If you’ve met someone at the company, drop their name!
  • State the position you’re applying for in the first line

If you find yourself with:

  • Very long/wordy cover letters, try reading it out loud to find extraneous details. Cut those to make easily skimmable, shorter paragraphs
  • A cover letter that is all about you, try reframing sentences about you by starting the sentence talking about the company and seguing into how you can provide value to them based on your experiences and skills
  • Grammar and spelling errors, try Grammarly or the Hemingway App. Reading cover letters aloud or having a peer proofread will also help you catch a lot of those mistakes.

Check for Understanding

  1. Complete this exit ticket. Completion of this exit ticket is required for your professional development this module.

  2. Read through the following cover letters (15 mins):

    Make note:

    • What do you notice about these cover letters?
    • What is effective? What value could they bring to the company? How do you know?
    • What could be changed to make the letter more effective?
  3. Work on a cover letter for a job you are interested in based on a job description, and be prepared to share it with your Homeroom group for feedback.

    • Tailor your cover letter from a job description
    • Use the job description to choose key skills and responsibilities to highlight
    • Then focus your cover letter on the 2-to 3 of the most important skills that resonate the most with you
    • Use the recommended Guided Cover letter template to format, structure and create your cover letter.

    Here are additional resources for cover letters

Due Dates & Reminders

  • Complete the exit ticket for today’s lesson by EOD Friday of Week 4.
  • Create a cover letter based on a job description * Due date #1: Wednesday of Week 5 during homeroom
  • Final due date: EOD Friday of Week 5 in end of mod survey