Sample cover letter. Cover letter examples. Free cover letter samples. Sample cover letters. Hardly makes for rivetting reading, does it? Dull as they are, these phrases account for a huge percentage of job hunters’ search engine queries. Why? Because their owners are stuck, unsure how to write a cover letter which is both professional and effective. They pin their hopes on the notion that some free online cover letter templates will provide them with the results they need—and are disappointed when they severely fail to do so.

The Problem with Free Cover Letters

Not all is lost—these searchers know what many do not. They are savvy to the fact that a cover letter makes them look polished in the eyes of the recipient, explicitly states who their CV is for, helps them articulate their understanding of the target organisation, and communicates their eagerness to further its aims.

So where are the searchers going wrong? Why do the templates they download fall so short of expectations?

The answer is that the templates lack a personal touch. Being generic, they are unable to speak to a particular employer’s requirements, or even to those of a specific industry sector. It’s true that you can recycle certain cover letter elements (‘I am a self-motivated individual’ is a perennial favourite), but the remainder of the text should, at a bare minimum, make reference to your:

  Current position;
  Industry sector;
  Significant strengths;
  Unique selling points.

Writing Your Cover Letter

The process of creating an outstanding cover letter begins with research, and lots of it. You will need to examine the following elements as they relate to your target occupation:

  Industry subject matter and terminology;
  Technical and business practice innovations;
  Recent events and their societal impact;
  Current recruitment trends and salary scales.

The background details accumulated from this research will form the bedrock of your cover letter, the firm foundation on which your application will be laid. With this initial groundwork out of the way, you must now discover as much as you can about the employer to whom your cover letter will be sent. Find out:

  The nature of the organisation’s business;
  Its most high-profile customers and clients;
  Recent developments and past history;
  Staff requirements and mission statement.

Remember: the more you understand about your selected occupation as a whole—and your chosen organisation in particular—the stronger your cover letter will be. Individuals who submit hackneyed, non-specific cover letters (we’re looking at you, Mr. Free Cover Letter Sample) immediately betray their ignorance of both.

By way of proof, take a look at the following passages from a couple of sample cover letters:


Dear Sir/Madam,

I want you to know that I am very interested in your field. A business contact has told me that you are the acknowledged leader in your industry. As a self-motivated individual who works well on my own initiative—as well as within a team environment—I am writing in order to apply for work within your organisation.


Dear Professor O’Connor,

Having gained a degree in Nursing from UCC, and spent over twenty years working as a senior staff nurse at Saint James’ Hospital, I am very much aware of the Mater’s reputation as one of Ireland’s most distinguished hospitals. A colleague of yours, Dr. Manoj Guvaro, has alerted me to the fact that you are currently seeking an experienced night nurse to oversee the maternity ward—a position for which I am most eager to apply.

Putting yourself in the place of the professor, which cover letter would spark your interest? In just two sentences, the second letter speaks to an actual need within the hospital, mentions the name of a relevant contact, and provides powerful incentives to interview its author—without even seeing her curriculum vitae.

Addressing Your Cover Letter

If at all possible, try to address your cover letter to an individual within the organisation, rather than the organisation itself. You may not have a name to hand, but acquiring one is easy to do.

Phone the organisation, then ask the receptionist for human resources, recruiting or personnel. One of these departments will provide you with the name of the person responsible for job applications. If there is no such department (common in small organisations) or you are transferred to a machine, hang up and hit redial. This time, simply ask the receptionist for the name of the boss.

Mention Contacts in Your Cover Letter

One final piece of advice: if you know someone who works in the organisation, mention them by name in your cover letter, and send them a copy of your job application. You aren’t the only person who wants this vacancy, and in the battle of wits between your rivals and you, such contacts will make for some powerful ammunition.

Free Cover Letter Templates Are Not the Answer

Free cover letter templates may seem like an easy solution to a complex problem, but they are no match for those which have been custom-built to the goals of the writer and the needs of the reader. The effort involved is real and significant, but the final rewards will be more than worth the effort.


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4 Responses to

  1. Maria M says:

    Interesting post with great advice. The trouble I have is that being unemployed, my cover letters don’t get me anywhere, and age is a factor too. Also internships at 50?

  2. I like it when people get together and share ideas.

    Great blog, continue the good work!

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