Cover Letter Tips 2016

2016 Cover Letter Tips

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In May Microsoft published an interesting study detailing research on the changes in our attention spans over the last several years. From 2000 to 2013 our attention spans dropped from 12 seconds to a mere eight seconds. We now have an attention span one second shorter than that of a goldfish. Let that sink in for a minute … Which makes me wonder … What effect does dwindling attention span have on our job searches—and our cover letters? It means the cover letter as we know it is dead.


– Super text-dense, making up one full page—sometimes more—in content.

– A long-winded introduction that doesn’t add value to the candidate but merely states where you heard about the position and why you may be interested.

– A lengthy body of text consisting of 2-3 paragraphs—that typically either repeats points in the resume or tries to make a connection between experience and the position to which you’re applying.

– A long closing paragraph—which may or may not include a follow-up method or contact information.

– Some people get carried away and delve into a long career narrative or life story.


HOW WE NEED TO WRITE COVER LETTERS – Also referred to as an E-Note, Power Note, or Value Proposition Letter.

2016 Cover Letter Tip #1: Keep It Short Before You Lose Them

Our shortened attention spans are the result of the digital age—it has changed the way we consume information; our brains are changing, and it’s affecting more than just how we use our mobile devices or consume content online. It’s changing how we conduct our job searches, requiring that we state only the most critical information—in the most concise way.

For those who aren’t professional writers, have a hard time writing about themselves, or find it hard to spare the details, it is creating a real challenge. So what do you do? First … forget the cover letter as you know it. It’s a part of the past—and we’re moving on to better strategies for job searching.

2016 Cover Letter Tip #2: Mobile Devices Rule the Day

E-notes, power notes, or value proposition letters (the new cover letters) have to meet the demand of an increasingly mobile device-dependent audience. Mobile device content consumption and e-mails have seen massive increases over a short time; some research indicates increases of 80%, while others have tracked a 123% surge in usage. Meaning employers are reading your e-mails and opening your resumes on their mobile phones. An e-note—which is the content in the e-mail that your resume is attached to—should be brief and fit on a single screen without having to scroll. Please don’t expect to write a concise e-note with your first draft—not even the best professional writers in the world nail it the first time. We are masters at editing. Go through and write your first draft­—then go back and edit. Strive to use fewer than 150 words so the entire text will be optimized to fit on a mobile screen without scrolling.

2016 Cover Letter Tip #3: Create Space

Incorporate plenty of white space when you write your e-note. Using white space in your e-note breaks up content into digestible pieces. Consider Twitter and the impact that it has had on our entire generation. We’re required to say it in 140 characters or fewer. Twitter had the foresight to recognize that their audience’s attention span was short—and they didn’t want to lose it. Not only is your audience’s attention span shorter than it used to be, but hiring managers are just plain pressed for time. Make Twitter’s 140-character limit your guide and endeavor to create tweet-sized sentences in your cover letters.

2016 Cover Letter Tip #4: Ask and State to Engage and Fascinate

I teach job seekers to write a Value Proposition Letter—that always starts with an interesting question or fascinating fact. For example, my value proposition letter might start out by asking:

Are you a hectic CIO with no time to write your resume?

Or it might say:

Are you a time-pressed executive being recruited for a dream role that requires a resume yesterday?

See how I’m speaking to my audience? Busy CIOs and time-pressed executives—while also recognizing and acknowledging their problem. They need a resume NOW—and they don’t have the time to do it themselves.

Start your e-note, power note, or value proposition in the same way. Talk to your audience; ask a question or state an engaging fact that points to their biggest need. You always want to speak to the need.

2016 Cover Letter Tip #5: The Solution to the Problem

Have their attention? Great. Now show them you have the solution to their problem: YOU!

Use 3 short bullets with provable results:

My clients enjoy results like these:

In 2 weeks or less my clients are going on several interviews.

Resume response rates increase immediately by 75%.

80% are employed in 2 months or less, crushing the average job search time by more than 50%.

Then tie the need and the solution—YOU—into your brand and what you do:

I work with busy C-level executives on tight deadlines to create interview-winning resumes within 3-5 business days.

You can change the wording to accommodate your audience, the results, the problems, the space you have, or any number of other factors. What’s great is that it’s completely customizable.

2016 Cover Letter Tip #6: A Formula to Follow

Use the following point to keep your e-note creation easy. You won’t have to start from scratch every time you write a new one, and writing will be easier and faster.

Remember to keep each point short!

  1. Engage or fascinate
  2. Target the need
  3. You are the solution
  4. Prove it!
  5. Money – Employers want to know how you made it, saved it, or contributed to it
  6. Brand – Make the connection
  7. Close with a call to action
  8. Edit – 150 words or fewer

2016 Cover Letter Tip #7: Call to Action

When I write value proposition letters for my clients I end with a call to action. Mine might say:

Ready for results like these? Let’s chat!

Yours could say:

Want to learn more? Visit my website


Interested? Let’s talk! Call me at 1.800.991.5187

Customize your call to action in any way you want. Get them to take action—whether that action is to call you, e-mail, view your LinkedIn profile, or visit your online resume. Don’t let them stop after reading your e-note; you want them to be so compelled by the solution you provide that they just have to act.

Keep these tips in mind as you write your next cover letter, and you’ll be miles ahead of your competitors.

Having a hard time writing your own cover letter? Let’s chat! Visit my website at, call my office at 1.800.991.5187 or connect with me on LinkedIn to discuss how I help busy job seekers create interview-winning cover letters, resumes, and LinkedIn profiles that cut their job search time by 50% or more and secure interviews in 2 weeks or less.



INFOGRAPHIC: What Employers See When You Apply on LinkedIn

About Post Author

Writing a cover letter in which you’re able to flout your awesome skill set, showcase your winning personality, and somehow not sound like a robot cheeseball narcissist can be a real challenge. But your cover letter is one of first tools that will take you from where you are presently (a.k.a. the Island of Unemployment/Current Career Discontent) to the greener pastures of your dream job. Make sure the boat that’s going to carry you that distance is sleek, quick and leak-proof by enacting the following:
1. Don’t fuck up the basics. Obvious, right? You would think so. But cover letters that blunder badly right out of the gate are more common than you might think. Make sure the most basic elements of your letter—addressee, proper formatting, design, job title as it appears in the listing—is pristine. It’s essential to convey an attention to detail and seriousness about the prospective job. Super basic errors suggest you didn’t take the time to review your work before sending it off and that you couldn’t be bothered to research simple information correctly. Not a great way to begin the conversation. Print it out and read it, even if you’re submitting it electronically. Make changes, print it out again, and then read it again. Ask a friend or family member to take a look at it. Then make changes, print it out again and read it again (yes, again!) before you send it off. Your cover letter needs to be immaculate.
2. Show, don’t tell. Are you having flashbacks to your high-school English class? Good. This is one of the oldest principles of compelling writing, and a cover letter is no exception. The person reading your cover letter has probably seen some variation of the following sentence approximately one million times: “I’m an incredibly hard worker, extremely organized, and I think I’d be a great fit for this company!” Instead of resorting to something so generic and predictable that it holds almost no meaning, describe an occasion from a previous job or position that clearly illustrates the attributes you want to highlight. On the flip side of that coin: be sure to keep it efficient and as brief as possible!
3. Answer the ad. Most job listings hand you a literal map via the job description and required skills. Don’t make this process any harder than it needs to be! Absorb the language used in the job listing and put it back out there when you’re writing your letter. A demonstrated understanding of what, specifically, the job entails and why your skill set and background are a good match goes a long way. 
4. Do the extra homework. So you’ve adhered to all of the above; now, you’ve got to separate yourself from the bunch. Demonstrate that this is a company with which you are well versed. Read interviews given by the CEO. Familiarize yourself with when, where and why the company was founded. Mention recent developments or bits of news that you find to be particularly exciting—prestigious awards, an impressive recent earnings report, advances in technology, major press—to show them you are passionate about the trajectory of the company. In other words, flattery goes a long way (but don’t overdo it; no one likes a kiss-ass). 

-Deena Drewis

This article has been updated since it was originally published on 6/8/2016.

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