Writing a Great Cover Letter to Get a Job after 50 - dummies

Writing a Great Cover Letter to Get a Job after 50

By Kerry Hannon

Copyright © 2015 AARP. All rights reserved.

The cover letter is part of the dynamic duo that gets you past the first cut when applying for a job after 50, so spend some time writing a cover letter that catches the hiring manager’s eye.

People who screen résumés get tired of reading the same old cover letter attached to hundreds of résumés that often looks something like this:

Dear Sir or Madame;

I am writing to submit my résumé for the position of Chief Cook and Bottle Washer at the Purple Valley Resort and Spa. As you can see in my enclosed résumé, blah, blah, blah . . . and more blah.

Here are some suggestions to jazz up your cover letter:

  • Launch into a story. For example, “Several years ago, I landed a position as a technical writer for. . . .” Keep the story short, snappy, and engaging, and be sure it leads up to reveal the mystery of why you’re perfectly suited to the position. Wouldn’t you really rather read a story than a blah, blah, blah letter? So would a hiring manager.

  • Take a chance. A friend applied for a job as a copywriter. He started his cover letter with this:


    Please help. I am a creative writer trapped in the career of a technical writer. During this uncomfortable period, I have authored and coauthored numerous how-to books on a variety of topics — everything from computer basics to real estate investing to slam poetry.

    The company requested a portfolio of his work. He didn’t get the job, but that letter had someone interested enough to look at his work.

  • Challenge the reader. You may know something that the hiring manager doesn’t. If you can teach the reader something of value, you may get the job or at least convince the person to invite you in for an interview. Here’s an example:


    Chances are good that you are going to receive a stack of résumés from highly qualified candidates, but only one of those will include the experience I have with . . . .

    You then proceed to explain how this particular experience/knowledge/skill is so useful in the position they’re trying to fill — something they may not have realized they needed.

These are just a few examples of how to write a compelling cover letter. The point is that you want to do something, anything other than the usual drivel that will send the reader into a coma. Spark their interest. They’ll want to meet the only person who had the guts to take a chance and the creativity to entertain and enlighten them.

You may not get the job, but you’ll get past the first cut, and the person will read your résumé, which is precisely the purpose of a compelling cover letter.