How to Write Strong Covers Letter that Lead to Interviews


While your resume illustrates your skills and experience in an easy-to-scan format, your cover letter should showcase your personality and writing skills. 

Note: this should be done in a professional way, but in a way that offers a glimpse of who you are and how you could benefit the organization you’re applying to.

People connect with people.  So use that point to your advantage as a springboard to engage the hiring manager.  You can have all the education and skills an organization could possibly want, but if the tone and style of your cover letter are off-putting in some way, chances are someone else will get the interview (equally skilled or not).

I’m a huge proponent of writing your own cover letters and not hiring those out for someone else to write for you.  Since you’re showcasing your personality (and writing style) here, only YOU can really do that in an authentic way.

So here’s a list of points for consideration in crafting a cover letter that lands an interview:

  1. Include Pertinent Information at the Beginning

State at the beginning the title of the job you’re applying for, as well as where you found the listing.  (This second point helps hiring managers know which sources are getting them the best candidates.  Essentially, it saves them money in job advertising costs.)

2. Mention WHY You Are Applying to THIS Organization

Nonprofit organizations care about their mission.  You need to tap into this emotion with your cover letter.  Why is the organization and its mission important to you?  You can include a personal or professional reason here, but if you’re using a personal reason, be careful about being TOO personal in your cover letter.

You want to go for some emotion here, but not discomfort.  So if you have a deeply personal connection to an organization’s mission, less can be more in how you explain that.

3. Focus on HOW You Can Benefit the Organization

You don’t want to regurgitate the skills already listed on your resume here.  What you’re aiming for is to highlight your greatest assets as they apply to this role and how it relates to furthering the organization’s mission.  What can you bring to the role from day one that will be most helpful to them? 

Also, what can you learn about the culture of the organization online?  Use this information as a way to connect why you would be a great fit for their team.

4. Tell a Story

This seems to be beyond traditional advice in terms of writing a professional cover letter.  But people LOVE stories and tend to absorb information better when it’s communicated as a story.  The challenge here is to keep it brief yet compelling.  So tell a story about what we discussed in number three above.  Describe a time when you did benefit an organization (whether as an employee or volunteer) with the skills and attributes that are unique to you – the ones that make you shine and that they would love to have working on their team.

5. End Strong

You want to end your letter with something that relates to the organization’s mission, and how you would love to work with them to help further their strategic goals.

Tips to Remember

  • Address Your Cover Letter to a specific PERSON (do some homework here and find SOMEONE in the organization to whom it makes sense to address your letter.  Use LinkedIn or a Google search.  If you’re unable to find a person’s name that makes sense, address your letter to “job title Search Team” or something more specific and less general than “Dear Sir or Madam”)
  • Keep the tone professional, yet personable and friendly
  • Review, edit, and review again – NO typos, grammatical mistakes or misspelled words
  • Keep it to ONE page

If you can nail these points with a personable professional cover letter that communicates in an engaging way, and you have the skills to back it up, you’ve just implemented one of the most effective strategies for receiving that phone call or email requesting an interview.