A cover letter is not a summary of the key points of a resume - or a career. Rather, it's a conversation with a smart, skeptical acquaintance. The new acquaintance is the person we hope will be our next employer or client.
In that conversation our not-so-hidden-agenda is to persuade that new acquaintance that we are the best fit for the job or the assignment.
To do that, as in all conversations, we mirror the mindset of the other party. Otherwise we won't engage.
We connect the dots on that mindset by analyzing the help-wanted ad. We have to read between the lines to uncover who these people really are and what are they looking for in the professional they will make an offer to.
By this stage of our careers, we Baby Boomers are experts at reading between the lines. No, we don't expect transparency. The communication patterns of business are indirect.
There is no payoff in adopting a tone and how we present ourselves in ways that don't mesh with what we have concluded is the culture of the organization. No, we can't "be ourselves." This is a selling situation. In sales we mirror mirror mirror. After all, human beings feel safe buying from those like themselves.
The last step in the process of producing a cover letter is checking it over for typos, grammatical errors, and missing words. The preferred way to do that is to read the draft aloud, while eyeballing the text.