Not All Cover Letters Are Created Equal

by: Keith Carlson

You’ve found a nursing position you’d like to apply for, and your resume is a robust document highlighting your career as a nurse; however, when you sit down to write a cover letter, you just don’t know what to say. A cover letter is important, so doing it right can make or break your chances of landing an interview.cover-letters600-x-853-Pinterest

Buzz(word) Kill

Buzzwords may sound good but they don’t necessarily mean much. “Team player”, “collaborative”, and “self-starter” are three overused phrases that don’t really say anything useful, even though you’ll see them on countless cover letters in myriad industries. Buzzwords and clichés are like placeholders for more creative, powerful language; using more specificity will automatically improve your writing.

Rather than “collaborative team player”, try “three years of experience leading multidisciplinary clinical team through Magnet application process”; make your language choices clear, informative, and specific.

Buzzwords and clichés are like placeholders for more creative, powerful language.[icon name=”twitter” class=”” unprefixed_class=””]

Use Their Language as a Clue

When crafting a letter in response to a job posting, read the ad with a curious eye, highlighting the terms and phrases that jump out at you. Thoughtfully written ads tell you what the employer wants to hear.

If you’re responding to a job posting for a position that requires experience in the use of Epic or other EMR software, speak to your expertise with that form of EMR. If an ad states that the employer is seeking a nurse with supervisory experience, respond with targeted information demonstrating your history as a supervisor or leader; and remember to quantify any aspects of your experience that you can.

A cover letter needs to be concise, and it needs to fit on one page, including your professional letterhead. [icon name=”twitter” class=”” unprefixed_class=””]

Another way to use more effective language in a cover letter is by perusing the website of the organization to which you’re applying. What does their mission statement or values say about them? Has the facility won an award or special recognition that makes them unique? If so, how can you use that information to demonstrate to the reader that you understand the organization and feel an alignment with their modus operandi?

Make It Powerful

A cover letter needs to be concise, and it needs to fit on one page, including your professional letterhead. A dense cover letter with long paragraphs and run-on sentences will not garner much attention; be clear, brief, and powerful. Guard against buzzwords and clichés, and use language that clarifies why you are the ideal candidate.

Your successful cover letter needs to speak directly to the position for which you are applying, as well as to the organization itself. Your cover letter should not simply be a regurgitation of the contents of your resume; rather, it is an opportunity for using prose to highlight and strengthen the case being made by your resume.

Since a cover letter can indeed make or break your application, make every word count, and value the powerful professional real estate that a well-written cover letter truly is.


Keith Carlson RN, BSN, NC-BC

Keith Carlson RN, BSN, NC-BC

StaffGarden Contributor

You can read more from Keith on his award-winning blog, Digital Doorway and listen to him on RNFM Radio & on The Nurse Keith Show. 
As a Board Certified Nurse Coach, his passion is to help nurses & healthcare professionals create satisfaction in their personal & professional lives.

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