Your University Name    the Competitive Edge

with Ross Macpherson, President, Career Quest

In this video, Ross Macpherson focuses on the topic of cover letters and answers the questions and comments of “Do I even need them?”, “I never read them so why should I bother?” and “What are these emails I keep hearing about?” which clarifies the power of using cover letters in job applications.

Question: Do You Even Need a Cover Letter?
Answer: Yes as you don't know who you're getting.

The quick answer to this question is it depends.

There are a lot of HR managers who read them and a lot who don't. And that’s the big problem. So when in doubt, always send one and send a fantastic one.

The Basic Structure of a Cover Letter

3 part structure of cover letters - contains 3 simple parts that are very powerful

  1. The opening: strong start - open with a strong and compelling opening statement
  2. The middle: sell yourself - be concise & extremely direct to the point
  3. The close: call to action - thank them with a phone call or provide the next step
The Opening
  • Who am I addressing?
    • To a name if you have it
    • NOT to whom it may concern
    • "Greetings," and jump right in
  • Must grab their attention.
  • Do not mention "in respect to the posting" – this line is flatly ignored as it is boring.
  • Hit them with something hard…

How to start? 4 options:
  1. Open with qualifications/credentials
  2. Open with achievements -- performance/results
  3. Open with a story or quick little anecdote
  4. Open with a connection - "Marjorie Chan suggested I contact you..."
    "Thank you for speaking with me at the ABC Conference. It was a pleasure meeting you. As you may recall, ..."
The Middle
  • Sell yourself into the role. Be concise.

What structure?
  • Don't: use long paragraphs
  • Do: use short paragraphs & bullets

How to sell yourself? 3 options
  1. Highlight qualifications
  2. Highlight results
  3. T-format lists – Table where you put requirements on the left side and on the right hand side the qualifications that match it
    Be specific and brief.
  • No matter what option you choose, pick the one that will sell you the best.

The Close
  • Thank you + Call to action
  • Some sort of a next step: can be an interview or a phone call

Step: 2 options
  1. Focus on call to action
  2. Focus on results

So that's the basic structure: opening, middle and close. Strong opening, really compelling middle that will sell you into the role and a close that brings up the next step or a call to action.

The full length of this must be half a page to 2/3 of a page is the absolute most. The shorter the better.

E-notes: Shorter is better.

Applications are being opened through smart phones. Be really concise using an e-note.

Get concise: 2 options
  1. Highlight results
  2. Highlight qualifications

Expert BIO
with Ross Macpherson, President, Career Quest

Ross Macpherson is the President of Career Quest, a Certified Personal Branding Strategist, Certified Online Identity Strategist, Certified Interview and Job Search Coach, and is recognized as one of the best resume writers in North America. With over 15 years experience in the career industry, he specializes in advanced strategies that help senior and executive professionals throughout the US, Canada, and internationally. His work has been featured in 18 career publications.


Ross routinely speaks to MBA programs across North America, and is known for delivering powerful and entertaining sessions that teach real-world success strategies. He has also spoken at major career events, global industry conferences, professional associations, and executive networking groups across the U.S. and Canada, and his high-energy style has consistently put him at the top of the career management speaking circuit. Contact Ross at