How to Write a Compelling Cover Letter

Q. In my recent searching for jobs, I have found it hard to come up with a compelling cover letter. I imagine you have seen a lot of cover letters and maybe you could give some pointers on a great introduction.

What stands out? How can I grab the attention of the HR person enough to be considered against many other cover letters? Do you have some examples of really good cover letter introductions? I think once I get a good start, I can move on from there.


A. Cover letters can be the hardest part of the application process. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • A cover letter is a specific part of the application package and it has a special job to do. Your resume tells who, what, where and when. Use your cover letter to tell the why and the how about you and your career.
  • Recruiters are looking for people with fire, with passion. Resumes seldom show that. Cover letters can. Pour passion into your cover letter.
  • Remember the power of story. Tell a tight little story in your cover letter that says something about what makes you a journalist.
  • Treat your cover letter as a sample of your writing. How you say things can matter as much as what you say.

Have a career question? E-mail it to me at

Coming Tuesday: This Canadian college journalist has an upcoming trip to Ghana and asks how she can do some freelancing in addition to the journalism work she is going there to do.

  • Joe Grimm

    Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website.


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