Cover Letters 101: What’s your Cover Story?
Cover Letters 101: What’s your Cover Story?

Creating a cover story is not a deception; it can be a tool to protect you from a past that does not fully define you and it can help you exercise your right to finding a satisfying career.


Framed image of cover story

Think of your cover letter as a cover story …


Okay, so, you are sitting at your kitchen table staring at an embarrassingly outdated resume, or perhaps, with your laptop open at a busy cafe as you Google ‘How to write a cover letter’ all the while feeling hopelessly stuck. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Maybe you struggle to write a cover letter when you feel your past employment is not your best asset. This is an issue that many job applicants encounter. The process can be unduly stressful. It really doesn’t have to be if you take the right approach or solicit the right kind of professional help.

“Asking for help does not mean that we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence” – Anne Wilson Schaef


It can be difficult to find work even when you’re an assertive and accomplished person. When your confidence has been shaken by an unpleasant (or even emotionally unhealthy) work experience it can be especially problematic. That is where experienced career coaches come in. The right coach can support you and help you get over that invisible hurdle or hurdles. It’s about creating transparency and self-assurance within job-hunting. Also, building skills to reinvent your career.  Sometimes, what’s necessary includes career psychology


Classic fountain pen and paper

Even in our “modern” times, a well-written cover letter is important

 “The resume focuses on you and the past. The cover letter focuses on the employer and the future. Tell the hiring professional what you can do to benefit the organization in the future. ”  Joyce Lain Kennedy, Cover Letters for Dummies



How do you look great on paper when you apply for that desired position if your work history is complicated or absent?  The first way to address this difficulty is to construct a great cover story within your cover letter. Now, that’s not meant as an invitation to start fabricating information.  Rather, it’s often wise to focus on the intended employer, by showcasing your strengths, education and overall moral character. It’s also about showing how that information will meet the needs of your future employer.  Part of your cover story is also about omitting aspects of your work history that a potential employer might find irrelevant or unsuitable for the position.  For example, if you are seeking employment as an administrative assistant you don’t need to draw attention to the fact that over 5 years ago you were bussing tables at a greasy spoon restaurant before being fired by an ill-tempered manager. We all have past jobs we wish to forget and that’s okay.  It’s more about finding the common ground between what you’ve done, what you know, and what’s required for the new role.  


Classic typed cover letter

The Cover Letter Still Counts!

Here are some tips to get started:

  1. When possible, connect the dots between your past accomplishments, experience, and lessons learned and how those will be relevant in the new role.
  2. Focus on what the employer needs and how you can help the potential employer accomplish those objectives.
  3. Keep it factual and verifiable.
  4. Don’t sell yourself short, this really is your time to speak up for yourself or you won’t make it past this important initial screening step.
  5. What they say is true – yes, you may get yourself screened out if your letter has spelling and/or grammatical errors. Use spell-check. Proofread, twice. Don’t ruin your good first impression with rookie mistakes in your otherwise well-crafted cover letter.


Depending on the amount of time you have available and your skill as a writer, this list of suggestions may be easier said than done. If you could use some strategic help with an important cover letter, then please contact me by email, phone, or via direct message on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn if you’d like to discuss any of these topics in more detail.


More than career coaching, it’s career psychology®.


I/O Advisory Services – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.


Easily share this article using any of the social media icons below.

Latest Posts

Six Leadership Lessons from Ted Lasso

Six Leadership Lessons from Ted Lasso

Many of my executive coaching clients have referenced the show. In particular, they’ve made note of Jason Sudekis’ portrayal of a kind and caring leader who emphasizes relationship building, leads with empathy, and empowers others to be the best version of themselves, on and off the field. In this blog, I highlight six leadership lessons that we can learn from watching Ted Lasso on Apple+.

Dr. Helen’s Top 5 Blog Posts of 2021

Dr. Helen’s Top 5 Blog Posts of 2021

It’s the time of year for “best of” lists and articles as we recount memorable moments and events of the past year, and it’s no different for me. May I present my top 5 most-read blog posts from 2021! If you’re new to this space, this is also a good way to catch up on what you’ve missed. This blog covers career development, leadership, workplace culture, equity, diversity, and inclusion – and it’s well-indexed so it’s easy to search.

Signs of Burnout

Signs of Burnout

As acknowledged in Part One of this two-part series on burnout, we all have certain levels of stress in our work and careers. But if that stress is continuous and it’s stretching us too thin, then it can predispose us to develop burnout. Burnout is one of those things that doesn’t just go away. Someone dealing with burnout is a bit like an old rechargeable battery that gets depleted quickly and cannot hold a charge for very long.

Pandemic Burnout: Are You at Risk?

Pandemic Burnout: Are You at Risk?

Periodic stress can help us level up. But prolonged stress — constant, chronic pressure and anxiety that feels like it never ends – leads to feelings of emptiness, apathy, and hopelessness, not to mention physical and mental exhaustion. That can lead to prolonged mental and physical health problems, including burnout.