Work-Integrated Learning and Career Services

Professional Perspective: Writing cover letters

January 13, 2017

Learn from the industry professionals on Professional Perspective, where they share their insights regarding various employment related topics!

In this issue, Zain Ali, Human Resource Manager at Domo Gasoline Corporation Ltd., is back to answer today’s question. Zain’s professional perspective comes from an accumulation of his personal experience as an international student and his professional work experience within various industries, and now as a Human Resource Manager.

Today’s question is:

When you are reviewing applications, what do you want to see in a cover letter?

Zain’s Professional Perspective

A cover letter is the first impression you create for the potential employer you are trying to meet with. It is something that makes a candidate stand out from the rest of the applicants who are trying to get the job. So, make sure to write an impressive and effective cover letter.

What to include in the cover letter?

Before you start writing a cover letter, read the job description and understand what the employer is looking for in an ideal candidate and what the duties of the job are. Use this information to match the employer’s needs with your skills.

Begin writing: 1st paragraph

  • Start by explaining how you found out about the job, whether through an advertisement or by word of mouth.
  • Introduce yourself by including a line or two about your background, like what program you graduated from and the role that you want to play in the industry.

Continue writing: 2nd paragraph

  • Express the most outstanding skills that relate to the job that you are applying for.
  • Generate interest by elaborating on your skills, explaining how your experience and skills can be very beneficial to the organization.
  • Remember, this is a cover letter, not a copy of your resume.

Finish writing: 3rd paragraph

  • Professionally request an interview with the employer and provide the best way to reach you.
  • Mention that you are attaching your resume and other documents that they specifically ask for such as copy of transcripts or references.
  • Thank the reader for their time

End with a professional closing, “Sincerely” and your name two lines below that.

As a hiring professional, I look for cover letters that:

  • Are tailored – Show me why you think you would be a good fit for the position.
  • Are concise – Avoid long paragraphs, use active voice and stay within a single page.
  • Show enthusiasm – Sound confident and excited for the opportunity to meet and talk about what you can bring to the organization.

My pet peeves? Cover letters with these characteristics:

  • Generic
  • Don’t focus on skills and how they would help my team
  • Overuse “I”
  • Long
  • Unprofessional
  • Contain spelling mistakes
  • Repeat the resume
  • Don’t show appreciation

For more information on writing cover letters, contact Student Employment Services to book an appointment with an Employment Advisor at 204.632.3966 or

You can also click here for more resources on cover letters:
Online Employment Resources – Job Search Preparation