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Learn the anatomy of an effective cover letter | PhoenixNews

Learn the anatomy of an effective cover letter

By University of Phoenix

  • Oct 02, 2020
  • < 1 min read

By Steven Starks, senior manager of career counseling programs and operations at University of Phoenix

Cover letter purpose

As the document that personally introduces you (and your resume), a cover letter can be a powerful tool in a job search. The primary purpose of a cover letter is to get the reader’s attention, and ultimately, to get you an interview. However, a cover letter serves many other functions, allowing you to:

  • Tell the story behind specific skills and achievements to give them more explanation or to add color to your background.
  • Describe exactly how you could contribute to the success of the team/company.
  • Show your knowledge of the company/industry.
  • Point out a mutual connection.
  • Build rapport and likability by offering a small window into your personality and motivations.
  • Demonstrate strong communication skills.
  • Explain something unusual on your resume, such as a gap in employment.


Know your audience

Successful candidates demonstrate a match between what employers want and the background, education and experience they bring to the role. Below are steps you can take to learn what employers want for the roles you’re targeting.

  • Examine the job description to identify requirements for the role.
  • Research the company’s mission, culture and current challenges.
  • Talk to people in the role and companies you’re targeting by conducting informational interviews.

Content and structure are just as important. Our guide walks you through proper heading, format, paragraph content, and some important dos and don’ts. We even provide cover letter examples.

Get started by downloading this Cover Letter Guide.