Cover letters must offer a clear value proposition and usually serve as the first introduction. As such they have a tough role, maybe the toughest part of a job search effort, and must have a more direct approach than the resume or bio. While I list the five sections that should be included, it should be emphasized that the cover letter must be powerful in establishing a connection and compel the reader to take your follow up call. Oftentimes this letter is sent as the first contact, arrives with the resume attached, and is a the first broadcasting of your potential value.
Salutation: Address the letter directly to a specific recipient using the "Dear_____:" salutation.
Connection: Use any past contact as a point of reference. Do you know a mutual acquaintance, have worked in the same company or share a career experience represent some possible ways to open. In one or two sentences clearly state what you can do and what contribution you are uniquely qualified to make for this company.
The Hook. You must find, by research or informational interviews, a value proposition or "hook" that really opens the door for you. Express why they should read further and have any interest in you.
Qualifications: This is most effectively a brief introduction to several bulleted qualifications or advantages. This may also be a proposal and show how you can achieve results using financial analysis, metrics, or other experience-talent to get results. Avoid weak words such as help, assist, plan or handle.
Call to action: Here make a request to meet and exactly when you are going to make a contact by phone. This is important as it can keep your letter on the top of the desk because you are taking a definite course of action. If you have peeked an interest, that interest or glimmer of hope, will diminish the longer you wait to make a more direct next contact.
The cover letter is very challenging to prepare and make an effective "door opener." Keeping the cover letter simple with just five sections or less you will be able to create a compelling introduction and hopefully the first link in a chain of steps to a successful new job.