University of Wisconsin–Madison

Cover Letter Writing

AIDA: A Four Step Philosophy of Cover Letter Writing

A is for Attention.  Grab It!

As readers first work their way through piles of job applications, they merely scan and skim.  You want the reader to stop, read more closely, and then separate your submission from the others for more careful consideration.

The easiest way to get noticed is to not do what everyone else does.  In the case of a job cover letter, most applicants rely too much on canned samples found in how-to books:  “I am writing this letter of application for the position I saw advertised . . . ”  It’s acceptable to use these sample letters as a starting point, but it’s crucial that you add your own style and personality.

I is for Interest.  Build It!

Again, respond to what the organization wants and needs.  Avoid using vague phrases that really don’t tell the reader anything.  Be interesting and specific.  Tailor your letter to respond directly to the advertisement or job description.

The reader is certain to be interested, especially when you clearly prove that you know exactly what the organization wants in an employee.  To keep building interest, continue with a confident and convincing “you” message.  Describe your assets, then sell potential employers on the benefits of putting your talents to work for their organization.

D is for Desire.  Create It!

Continue to persuade prospective employers of the benefits their company will reap when you are hired.  Make the reader want to meet you in person.

And don’t forget that you will impress a potential employer if you package your sales literature attractively.  Select fine quality paper.  Have your resume printed on it, purchase enough extra sheets for cover letters and thank you letters, and buy matching envelopes.  Also, be sure that your packet is absolutely free of errors.  Have someone else besides yourself proofread your letters carefully.  Just one tiny mistake can eliminate your submission early in the process.  Every employer desiresemployees who pay attention to details and produce error-free work.

A is for Action.  That’s What You Want!

If you’ve done an effective selling job in your cover letter, the employer’s hand should be reaching for the telephone to punch in your number before his or her eyes reach the bottom of the page.

Adapted from:  “AIDA Is A Four-Step Process for Writing A Dynamic Cover Letter That Can Help You Land Your Dream Job,” by JoAnn Byrne

Cover Letter Writing Advice

  • Be brief – keep the cover letter to one page!  It is meant to grab attention.
  • Too much information, in too many pages, actually dulls attention.
  • Tailor your letter to each job search situation.
  • Use one tool to emphasize points, and only emphasize something truly outstanding.
  • Avoid combining bold, underline, and italic all in one cover letter.  If a point must be emphasized, use bold.  Overuse of bolding actually causes points to lose their importance.

ABSOLUTELY AVOID

  • Spelling errors.  Be sure you correctly spell the name of the contact, title, company, and address.
  • Grammatical errors.
  • Usage errors.
  • Slang.
  • Abbreviations.
  • Repeated use of “I” and “my” to begin sentences or points.
  • Avoid cute or sexy email addresses that represent you in an unprofessional context.
  • Avoid graphic elements, such as drawn lines, boxes, and automatic columnizing.
  • Use of tabs to set columns on résumés.