Strike the Right Tone with Your Cover Letter

You should think of your cover letter as you introducing yourself to the company you want to work for and explaining why they should want to know you. You probably haven’t met before, so this first impression is very important. What’s the most effective way to communicate your interest and value?

Write to the Company’s Voice

Your cover letter is an official communication, so the logical thing to do with it is to write formally, right?

It really depends on the company. Is the organization casual? Straightforward? Elegant? Serious? Funny? The best hint you’ll find will be in the position description and job announcement themselves. You can also review the organization’s website to get an idea of how they regard themselves—deeply serious or lightheartedly and so on. Use the same kind of language when you write your letter.

Write with a Purpose

Your cover letter should be persuasive, convincing the hiring manager to look at your résumé and interview you. You need to show confidence in your abilities and pride in your work without likewise seeming arrogant, and you want to demonstrate that you are eager to help the company without sounding desperate or overbearing.

In other words, tell your story and explain why you’re a great candidate, and do it simply and naturally. If the company you’re applying to seems to prefer a more formal tone, use it, but also remember that you need to be communicating about yourself.

Get Help if You Need It

Even writing a basic cover letter can be hard to get right, so don’t be afraid to put some work into it and ask others for their input. Does your letter read well? Does it “sound” right? Friends and family members can help, or you can request the assistance of a GoodProspects Virtual Career Coach or Virtual Career Mentor.

If you get help from someone else, make sure to show them the announcement, website or other resources that you used when finding the right tone for your cover letter.

The following paragraphs are examples of opening paragraphs for cover letters used to apply for a fictitious sales position at a clothing store. Of the three, which do you think would be the best tone to use?

“I write today to express my abundant interest in your open sales associate position, as advertised on Having extensively studied business, finance and sales techniques, and with several months’ elevated on-the-job training, I know I am the best candidate for the position.”

“When you say ‘retail,’ that echo you hear on the wind is the universe whispering back my name. I could sell sand to a camel and turn your ho-hum sales floor into a gee-whiz shopping experience. You’re looking for a sales associate? Look no further, because it would just be a waste of your time.”

“I saw your ad for a sales associate on and am writing to express my interest. With two years of direct retail sales experience and four months of pre-managerial training, I am an excellent candidate for the position.”