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How to Write a Job Application Cover Letter
Writing a cover letter is essential when applying for jobs. This is the perfect way to express how your specific skills are relevant to the open position. Wow your future employer with this simple cover letter example format.
Write a First Draft
Writing a first draft makes your letter concise and professional, states The Balance Careers. Organize your thoughts by making a list of what you’re trying to convey. Make sure you prioritize certain aspects like your previous job experience and why you would be a good fit for the position. Clearly state what position you’re interested in and why. Think about why you’re applying and what caught your eye about this specific position. Your cover letter will be easier to write after your thoughts are collected and organized.
Customize Your Salutation
When writing a salutation, make sure you know who you are writing to. Is this person the owner of the company or a Human Resources administrator? If you’re not sure, research the company to find out. Addressing your cover letter to a specific person shows initiative and attention to detail. After your salutation, start your letter with a short introduction of yourself. This gives future employers insight into who you are and the purpose of your cover letter.
Your cover letter should be no more than one page, so keep your points brief. Clearly state what position you are interested in and why. Explain why you are a good fit for the company because of your past job experience. If you have no similar job experience, let the employer know why you are changing career paths. Expand on your skills and give specific examples of how that skill set helped you at your last position. Name projects you’ve worked on and show results.
Close Your Letter
End your cover letter with a brief sentence and sign off. Thank the employer for their time and express your interest towards the job again. Let them know you’ll follow up with them if you do not hear back within a week and leave your contact information. Sign off with a professional farewell and leave room for a signature if sending a hard copy.
Edit and Proofread
As you finish writing your cover letter, make sure you take time to edit and proofread your document. Make sure it’s structured in a professional format with the company’s information, the salutation and introduction, the body of the letter, a brief closing sentence and farewell. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes to ensure a formal result. Make sure all names are spelled correctly, as well.
MORE FROM QUESTIONSANSWERED.NET
How to Write a Cover Letter in 2023 + Examples
After weeks of heavy job search, you’re almost there!
You’ve perfected your resume.
You’ve short-listed the coolest jobs you want to apply for.
You’ve even had a friend train you for every single interview question out there.
But then, before you can send your application and call it a day, you remember that the job ad requires a cover letter.
Now you’re stuck wondering how to write a cover letter ...
Don’t panic! We’ve got you covered. Writing a cover letter is a lot simpler than you might think.
In this guide, we’re going to teach you how to write a cover letter that gets you the job you deserve.
- What’s a cover letter & why it’s important for your job search
- How to write a convincing cover letter that gets you the job (step-by-step!)
- How to perfect your cover letter with the Novoresume free checklist
- What excellent cover letter examples look like
New to cover letter writing? Give our resumes 101 video a watch before diving into the article!
So, let’s get started with the basics!
What is a Cover Letter? (and Why It’s Important)
A cover letter is a one-page document that you submit as part of your job application (alongside your CV or Resume).
Its purpose is to introduce you and briefly summarize your professional background. On average, your cover letter should be from 250 to 400 words long .
A good cover letter can spark the HR manager’s interest and get them to read your resume.
A bad cover letter, on the other hand, might mean that your application is going directly to the paper shredder. So, to make sure this doesn’t happen, it’s essential to know how to write a convincing cover letter.
How does a good cover letter look, you might ask. Well, here’s an example:
Keep in mind, though, that a cover letter is a supplement to your resume, not a replacement. Meaning, you don’t just repeat whatever is mentioned in your resume.
If you’re writing a cover letter for the first time, writing all this might seem pretty tough. After all, you’re probably not a professional writer.
The thing is, though, you don’t need to be creative, or even any good at writing. All you have to do is follow a tried-and-tested format:
- Header - Input contact information
- Greeting the hiring manager
- Opening paragraph - Grab the reader’s attention with 2-3 of your top achievements
- Second paragraph - Explain why you’re the perfect candidate for the job
- Third paragraph - Explain why you’re a good match for the company
- Formal closing
Or, here’s what this looks like in practice:
How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter (And Get Hired!)
Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, we’re going to guide you through the process of writing a cover letter step by step.
Step #1 - Pick the Right Cover Letter Template
A good cover letter is all about leaving the right first impression.
So, what’s a better way to leave a good impression than a well-formatted, visual template?
You can simply pick one of our hand-picked cover letter templates , and you’ll be all set in a jiffy!
As a bonus, our AI will even give you suggestions on how to improve your cover letter on the go.
Step #2 - Start the Cover Letter with a Header
As with a resume, it’s important to start your cover letter with a Contact Information section:
Here, you want to include all essential information, including:
- Phone Number
- Name of the hiring manager / their professional title
- Name of the company you’re applying to
In certain cases, you might also consider adding:
- Social Media Profiles - Any type of profile that’s relevant to your field. Social Profiles on websites like LinkedIn, GitHub (for developers), Medium (for writers), etc.
- Personal Website - If you have a personal website that somehow adds value to your application, you can mention it. Let’s say you’re a professional writer. In that case, you’d want to link to your blog.
And here’s what you shouldn’t mention in your header:
- Your Full Address
- Unprofessional Email - Make sure your email is presentable. It’s pretty hard for a hiring manager to take you seriously if your email address is “[email protected].” Whenever applying for jobs, stick to the “[first name] + [last name] @ email provider.com” format.
Step #3 - Greet the Hiring Manager
Once you’ve properly listed your contact information, you need to start writing the cover letter contents.
The first thing to do here is to address the cover letter to the hiring manager .
That’s right, the hiring manager! Not the overly popular “Dear Sir or Madam.” You want to show your future boss that you did your research and are really passionate about working with their team.
No one wants to hire a job seeker who just spams 20+ companies and hopes to get hired in any of them.
So, how do you find out who’s the hiring manager? There are several ways to do this.
The simplest option is to look up the head of the relevant department on LinkedIn. Let’s say you’re applying for the position of a Communication Specialist at Novoresume. The hiring manager is probably Head of Communications or Chief Communications Office.
So, you do a quick lookup on LinkedIn:
And voila! You have your hiring manager.
Or let’s say you’re applying for the position of a server. In that case, you’d be looking for the “restaurant manager.”
If this doesn’t work, you can also check out the “Team” page on the company website; there’s a good chance you’ll at least find the right person there.
Here are several other greetings you could use:
- Dear [Department] Hiring Manager
- Dear Hiring Manager
- To whom it may concern
- Dear [Department] Team
Step #4 - Write an Attention-Grabbing Introduction
First impressions matter, especially when it comes to your job search.
Recruiters get hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of applications. Chances are, they’re not going to be reading every single cover letter end-to-end.
So, it’s essential to catch their attention from the very first paragraph .
The #1 problem we see with most cover letter opening paragraphs is that they’re usually extremely generic. Most of them look something like this..
- Hey, my name is Jonathan and I’d like to work as a Sales Manager at XYZ Inc. I’ve worked as a sales manager at MadeUpCompany Inc. for 5+ years, so I believe that I’d be a good fit for the position.
See the issue here? This opening paragraph doesn’t say pretty much anything except the fact that you’ve worked the job before.
Do you know who else has similar work experience? All the other applicants you’re competing with.
Instead, you want to start off with 2-3 of your top achievements to really grab the reader’s attention. Preferably, the achievements should be as relevant as possible to the position.
So now, let’s make our previous example shine:
My name’s Michael and I’d like to help XYZ Inc. hit and exceed their sales goals as a Sales Manager. I’ve worked with Company X, a fin-tech company, for 3+ years. As a Sales Representative, I generated an average of $30,000+ in sales per month (beating the KPIs by around 40%). I believe that my previous industry experience, as well as excellence in sales, makes me the right candidate for the job.
See the difference between the two examples? If you were the hiring manager, which sales manager would you hire, Jonathan or Michael?
Now that we’ve covered the introduction, let’s talk about the body of your cover letter. This part is split into two paragraphs: the first is for explaining why you’re the perfect person for the job, and the latter is for proving that you’re a good fit for the company.
So, let’s get started...
Step #5 - Explain why you’re the perfect person for the job
This is where you show off your professional skills and convince the HR manager that you’re a better fit for the job than all the other applicants.
But first things first - before you even write anything, you need to learn what the most important requirements for the role are. So, open up the job ad and identify which of the responsibilities are the most critical.
For the sake of the example, let’s say you’re applying for the position of a Facebook Advertiser. You scan the job ad and see that the top requirements are:
- Experience managing a Facebook ad budget of $10,000+ / month
- Some skills in advertising on other platforms (Google Search + Twitter)
- Excellent copywriting skills
Now, in this section, you need to discuss how you fulfill these requirements. So, here’s how that would look for our example:
In my previous role as a Facebook Marketing Expert at XYZ Inc. I handled customer acquisition through ads, managing a monthly Facebook ad budget of $20,000+ . As the sole digital marketer at the company, I managed the ad creation & management process end-to-end. Meaning, I created the ad copy , images, picked the targeting, ran optimization trials, and so on.
Other than Facebook advertising, I’ve also delved into other online PPC channels, including:
- Google Search
Are you a student applying for your first internship? You probably don’t have a lot of work experience to show off in this section. Learn how to write an internship cover letter here.
Step #6 - Explain why you’re a good fit for the company
Once you’ve written the last paragraph, you might be thinking - I’m a shoo-in for the job! What else do I need to write? I’ll just wrap up the cover letter and hit that sweet SEND button.
Well, no. You’re not quite there yet.
The HR manager doesn’t only look at whether you’ll be good at the job or not. They’re looking for someone that’s also a good fit for the company culture.
After all, employees that don’t fit in are bound to quit, sooner or later. This ends up costing the company a ton of money, up to 50% of the employee’s annual salary .
Meaning, you also need to convince the HR manager that you’re really passionate about working with them.
How do you do this? Well, as a start, you want to do some research about the company. You want to know things like:
- What’s the company’s business model?
- What’s the company product or service? Have you used it?
- What’s the culture like? Will someone micro-manage your work, or will you have autonomy on how you get things done?
So, get to Googling. Chances are, you’ll find all the information you need either on the company website or somewhere around the web.
Then, you need to figure out what you like about the company and turn that into text.
Let’s say, for example, you’re passionate about their product and you like the culture of innovation / independent work in the organization.
You’d write something like:
I’ve personally used the XYZ Smartphone, and I believe that it’s the most innovative tech I’ve used in years. The features such as Made-Up-Feature #1 and Made-Up-Feature #2 were real game changers for the device.
I really admire how Company XYZ thrives for excellence for all its product lines, creating market-leading tech. As someone that thrives in a self-driven environment, I truly believe that I and Company XYZ will be a great match.
What you don’t want to do here is be super generic for the sake of having something to write. Most job seekers tend to mess this one up. Let’s take a look at a very common example we tend to see (way too often):
I’d love to work for Company XYZ because of its culture of innovation. I believe that since I’m super creative, I’d be a good fit for the company. The company values of integrity and transparency really vibe with me.
See what’s wrong here? The example doesn’t really say anything about the company. “Culture of Innovation” is something most companies claim to have.
The same goes for “values of integrity and transparency” - the writer just googled what the values for the organization are, and said that they like them.
Any hiring manager that reads this will see through the fluff.
So, make sure to do a lot of research and come up with good reasons why you're applying.
Step #7 - Wrap up with a call to action
Finally, it’s time to finish up your cover letter and write the conclusion.
In the final paragraph, you want to:
- Wrap up any points you couldn't in the previous paragraphs. Do you have anything left to say? Any other information that could help the hiring manager make their decision? Mention it here.
- Thank the hiring manager for their time. It never hurts to be courteous, as long as you don’t come off as too needy.
- Finish the cover letter with a call to action. The very last sentence in your cover letter should be a call to action. You should ask the hiring manager to take some sort of action.
And now, let’s turn this into a practical example:
So to wrap it all up, thanks for looking into my application. I hope I can help Company X make the most out of their Facebook marketing initiatives. I'd love to further discuss how my previous success at XYZ Inc. can help you achieve your facebook marketing goals.
Step #8 - Use the right formal closing
Once you’re done with the final paragraph, all you have to do is write down a formal “goodbye” and you’re good to go.
Feel free to use one of the most popular conclusions to a cover letter:
- Best Regards,
- Kind Regards,
And we’re finally done! Before sending off the cover letter, make sure to proofread it with software like Grammarly, or maybe even get a friend to review it for you.
Does your cover letter heading include all essential information?
- Professional email
- Relevant Social Media Profiles
Do you address the right person? I.e. hiring manager in the company / your future direct supervisor
Does your introductory paragraph grab the reader's attention?
- Did you mention 2-3 of your top achievements?
- Did you use numbers and facts to back up your experience?
Do you successfully convey that you’re the right pro for the job?
- Did you identify the core requirements?
- Did you successfully convey how your experiences help you fit the requirements perfectly?
Do you convince the hiring manager that you’re passionate about the company you’re applying to?
- Did you identify the top 3 things that you like about the company?
- Did you avoid generic reasons for explaining your interest in the company?
Did you finalize the conclusion with a call to action?
Did you use the right formal closure for the cover letter?
5+ Cover Letter Examples
Need some inspiration? Read on to learn about some of the best cover letter examples we’ve seen (for different fields).
College Student Cover Letter Example
Middle Management Cover Letter Example
Career Change Cover Letter Example
Management Cover Letter Example
Senior Executive Cover Letter Example
Want to discover more examples AND learn what makes them stand out? Check out our guide to cover letter examples .
Next Steps in Your Job Search - Creating a Killer Resume
Your cover letter is only as good as your resume. If either one is weak, your entire application is for naught.
After all, a cover letter is just an introduction. Imagine going through all this effort to leave an amazing first impression, but flopping at the end because of a mediocre resume.
...But don’t you worry, we’ve got you covered on that end, too.
If you want to learn more about Resumes & CVs, we have a dedicated FREE guide for that. Check out our complete guide on how to make a resume , as well as how to write a CV - our experts will teach you everything you need to know in order to land your dream job.
Or, if you’re already an expert, just pick one of our resume templates and get started.
Now that we’ve walked you through all the steps of writing a cover letter, let’s summarize everything we’ve learned:
- A cover letter is a 250 - 400 word document that convinces the hiring manager of your competence
- A cover letter goes in your job application alongside your resume
- Your introduction to the cover letter should grab the hiring manager’s attention and keep it all the way until the conclusion
- There are 2 main topics you need to include in your cover letter: why you’re the perfect candidate for the job & why you’re passionate about working in the company you’re applying to
- Most of the content of your cover letter should be factual , without any fluff or generalizations
At Novorésumé, we’re committed to helping you get the job you deserve, every step of the way! Follow our blog to stay up to date with the industry-leading advice. Or, check out some of our top guides…
- How to Write a Motivational Letter
- How to Write a Resume with No Work Experience
- Most Common Interview Questions and Answers
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- The Big Idea
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- Email Preferences
How to Write a Cover Letter
Advice for tackling one of the toughest parts of the job-hunting process.
Perhaps the most challenging part of the job application process is writing an effective cover letter. And yes, you should send one. Even if only one in two cover letters gets read, that’s still a 50% chance that including one could help you. Before you start writing, find out more about the company and the specific job you want. Next, catch the attention of the hiring manager or recruiter with a strong opening line. If you have a personal connection with the company or someone who works there, mention it in the first sentence or two, and try to address your letter to someone directly. Hiring managers are looking for people who can help them solve problems, so show that you know what the company does and some of the challenges it faces. Then explain how your experience has equipped you to meet those needs. If the online application doesn’t allow you to submit a cover letter, use the format you’re given to demonstrate your ability to do the job and your enthusiasm for the role.
No one likes job hunting. Scouring through online job listings, spiffing up your résumé , prepping for grueling interviews — none of it is fun. For many, the most challenging part of the process is writing an effective cover letter. There’s so much conflicting advice out there, it’s hard to know where to start. Do you even need one, especially if you’re applying through an online system?
What the Experts Say
The answer is almost always yes. Sure, there will be times when you’re submitting an application online and you may not be able to include one, but whenever possible, send one, says Jodi Glickman, a communications expert and author of Great on the Job . “It’s your best chance of getting the attention of the HR person or hiring manager and an important opportunity to distinguish yourself from everyone else.” And in a tight job market, setting yourself apart is critical, says John Lees, a UK-based career strategist and author of Knockout CV . Still, as anyone who’s ever written a cover letter knows, it’s not easy to do well. Here are some tips to help.
Do your research first.
Before you start writing, find out more about the company and the specific job you want. Of course, you should carefully read the job description, but also peruse the company’s website, its executives’ Twitter feeds, and employee profiles on LinkedIn. This research will help you customize your cover letter, since you shouldn’t send a generic one. It’ll also help you decide on the right tone. “Think about the culture of the organization you’re applying to,” advises Glickman. “If it’s a creative agency, like a design shop, you might take more risks, but if it’s a more conservative organization, like a bank, you may hold back.”
If at all possible, reach out to the hiring manager or someone else you know at the company before writing your cover letter, advises Lees. You can send an email or a LinkedIn message “asking a smart question about the job.” That way you can start your letter by referencing the interaction. You might say, “Thanks for the helpful conversation last week” or “I recently spoke to so-and-so at your company.” Of course, it’s not always possible to contact someone — or you may not get a response. That’s OK. It’s still worth a try.
Focus it on the future.
While your résumé is meant to be a look back at your experience and where you’ve been, the cover letter should focus on the future and what you want to do, says Glickman. “It can be helpful to think of it as the bridge between the past and the future that explains what you hope to do next and why.” Because of the pandemic there is less of an expectation that you’ll be applying for a job that you’ve done before. “There are millions of people who are making career changes — voluntarily or involuntarily — and need to pivot and rethink how their skill set relates to a different role or industry,” says Glickman. You can use your cover letter to explain the shift you’re making, perhaps from hospitality to marketing, for example. Think of it as an opportunity to sell your transferrable skills .
“People typically write themselves into the letter with ‘I’m applying for X job that I saw in Y place.’ That’s a waste,” says Lees. Instead, lead with a strong opening sentence . “Start with the punch line — why this job is exciting to you and what you bring to the table,” says Glickman. For example, you might write, “I’m an environmental fundraising professional with more than 15 years of experience looking for an opportunity to apply my skills in new ways, and I’d love to bring my expertise and enthusiasm to your growing development team.” Then you can include a sentence or two about your background and your relevant experience, but don’t rehash your résumé.
Read more about
How to Write a Resume That Stands Out
Chances are the hiring manager or recruiter is reading a stack of these, so you want to catch their attention. But don’t try to be funny. “Humor can often fall flat or sound self-regarding,” says Lees. Stay away from common platitudes, too. “Say something direct and dynamic, such as ‘Let me draw your attention to two reasons why I’d be a great addition to your team.'”
If you have a personal connection with the company or someone who works there, also mention it in the first sentence or two. And always address your letter to someone directly. “With social media, it’s often possible to find the name of a hiring manager,” says Glickman.
Emphasize your personal value.
Hiring managers are looking for people who can help them solve problems. Drawing on the research you did earlier, show that you know what the company does and some of the challenges it faces. These don’t need to be specific but you might mention how the industry has been affected by the pandemic. For example, you might write, “A lot of health care companies are overwhelmed with the need to provide high-quality care while protecting the health and safety of their staff.” Then talk about how your experience has equipped you to meet those needs; perhaps explain how you solved a similar problem in the past or share a relevant accomplishment. You want to provide evidence of the things that set you apart.
Lees points out that there are two skills that are relevant to almost any job right now: adaptability and the ability to learn quickly. If you have brief examples that demonstrate these skills, include those. For example, if you supported your team in the shift to remote work, describe how you did that and what capabilities you drew on.
“When you don’t get hired, it’s usually not because of a lack of skills,” says Glickman. “It’s because people didn’t believe your story, that you wanted the job, or that you knew what you were getting into.” Hiring managers are going to go with the candidate who has made it seem like this is their dream job. So make it clear why you want the position . “Enthusiasm conveys personality,” Lees adds. He suggests writing something like “I’d love to work for your company. Who wouldn’t? You’re the industry leader, setting standards that others only follow.” Don’t bother applying if you’re not excited about some aspect of the company or role.
Watch the tone.
At the same time, don’t go overboard with the flattery or say anything you don’t mean. Authenticity is crucial. “Even if you’ve been out of work for months, and would take any job at this point, you want to avoid sounding desperate ,” says Lees. You don’t want your tone to undermine your message, so be professional and mature. A good rule of thumb is to put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager and think about “the kind of language that the hiring manager would use with one of the company’s customers.” Of course, it can be hard to discern your own tone in writing, so you may need to ask someone to review a draft (which is always a good idea anyway — see advice below). Lees says that he often cuts outs “anything that sounds like desperation” when he’s reviewing letters for clients.
Keep it short.
Much of the advice out there says to keep it under a page. But both Glickman and Lees say even shorter is better. “Most cover letters I see are too long,” says Lees. “It should be brief enough that someone can read it at a glance.” You do have to cover a lot of ground — but you should do it succinctly. This is where asking a friend, former colleague, or mentor to review your letter can be helpful. Ask them to read through it and point out places where you can cut.
In fact, it’s a great idea to share your cover letter with a few people, says Lees. Rather than sending it off and asking, “What do you think?” be specific about the kind of feedback you want. In particular, request two things. First, ask your friend if it’s clear what your main point is. What’s the story you’re telling? Are they able to summarize it? Second, ask them what’s wrong with the letter. “Other people are more attuned to desperation, overselling, over-modesty, and underselling,” says Lees, and they should be able to point out places where the tone is off.
When you can’t submit a cover letter.
Many companies now use online application systems that don’t allow for a cover letter. You may be able to figure out how to include one in the same document as your résumé, but that’s not a guarantee, especially because some systems only allow for data to be entered into specific boxes. In these cases, use the format you’re given to demonstrate your ability to do the job and your enthusiasm for the role. If possible, you may try to find someone to whom you can send a brief follow-up email highlighting a few key points about your application.
Principles to Remember
- Have a strong opening statement that makes clear why you want the job and what you bring to the table.
- Be succinct — a hiring manager should be able to read your letter at a glance.
- Share an accomplishment that shows you can address the challenges the employer is facing.
- Try to be funny — too often it falls flat.
- Send a generic cover letter — customize each one for the specific job.
- Go overboard with flattery — be professional and mature.
Advice in Practice
Case study #1: demonstrate an understanding of what the company needs..
Michele Sommers, the vice president of HR for the Boys & Girls Village, a nonprofit in Connecticut, recently posted a job for a recruiting and training specialist. “I was looking for someone with a strong recruiting background who could do everything from sourcing candidates to onboarding new hires,” she says. She also wanted the person to hit the ground running. “We’re a small team and I can’t afford to train someone,” she says.
More than 100 candidates applied for the job. The organization’s online application system doesn’t allow for cover letter attachments, but one of the applicants, Heidi (not her real name), sent a follow-up email after submitting her résumé. “And it’s a good thing she did, because she would’ve been weeded out otherwise,” Michele says.
Heidi’s résumé made her look like a “job hopper” — very short stints at each previous employer. Michele assumed she was a poor performer who kept getting fired. She was also the only candidate who didn’t have a four-year college degree.
But Heidi’s email caught Michele’s eye. First off, it was professional. Heidi stated clearly that she was writing to double-check that her application had been received. She went on to explain how she had gotten Michele’s name and information (through her husband’s boss, who was on the board) and her personal connection to Boys & Girls Village (her father-in-law had done some work with the organization).
Stand Out in Your Interview
What really stood out to Michele, though, was Heidi’s understanding of the group and the challenges it was facing. She’d done her research and “listed some things she would do or already had done that would help us address those needs,” says Michele.
“The personality and passion she conveyed in the cover letter came through during her phone screening,” Michele says. Heidi ended up being more than qualified for the job. “I wanted this role to be bigger from the get-go, but I didn’t think that was possible. When I met her, I knew we could expand it.” Three weeks later Michele offered Heidi the job and she accepted.
Case Study #2: Catch their attention.
Over the past four years, Emily Sernaker applied for multiple positions at the International Rescue Committee (IRC). She never gave up. With each application, she sent a personalized cover letter. “I wanted my cover letter to highlight my qualifications, creative thinking, and genuine respect for the organization,” she says.
Sarah Vania, the organization’s regional HR director, says that Emily’s letters caught her attention, especially because they included several video links that showed the results of Emily’s advocacy and fundraising work at other organizations. Emily explains, “I had prior experience advocating for former child soldiers, human trafficking survivors, vulnerable women, and displaced persons. It’s one thing to make statements in a cover letter, like ‘I can make a pitch, I am a creative person, I am thoughtful,’ but showing these qualities seemed like a better way of convincing the recruiter that the statements were true.”
This is what Emily wrote to Sarah about the video:
Here is a short video about my story with activism. The nonprofit organization Invisible Children made it for a youth conference I spoke at this year. It is about four minutes. As you’ll see from the video, I’ve had a lot of success as a student fundraiser, raising over $200,000 for Invisible Children. I’ve since gone on to work as a consultant for Wellspring International and have recently concluded my studies as a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar.
In each of the cover letters, Emily also made clear how much she wanted to work for IRC. “To convey enthusiasm is a vulnerable thing to do and can come off as naivete, but, when it came down to it, my enthusiasm for the organization was genuine and expressing it felt right,” she says.
This is how Emily conveyed her interest in working for IRC:
You should also know that I have a sincere appreciation of the IRC. I have enjoyed learning about your programs and have personally visited your New York headquarters, the San Diego New Roots farm, the We Can Be Heroes exhibit, and the Half the Sky exhibit in Los Angeles. The IRC is my top choice and I believe I would be a valuable addition to your fundraising team.
Emily learned throughout the process that the organization had hundreds of applicants for each position and it was extremely competitive. “I appreciated that I wouldn’t be the best for every opening but also remained firm that I did have a significant contribution to make,” she says. Eventually, Emily’s persistence paid off. She was hired as a temporary external relations coordinator, and four months later she moved into a permanent role.
- Amy Gallo is a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review, cohost of the Women at Work podcast , and the author of two books: Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People) and the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict . She writes and speaks about workplace dynamics. Watch her TEDx talk on conflict and follow her on LinkedIn . amyegallo
Jobscan > Cover Letter Writing Guide
How To Write A Cover Letter in 2023 (Expert Tips and Examples)
Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to write a cover letter that will get you noticed by recruiters.
A survey revealed that 77% of recruiters prefer candidates who send in a cover letter, even if submitting it is optional. Additionally, 90% of executives consider cover letters invaluable when assessing job candidates.
So, if you think cover letters are no longer important and necessary in 2023, think again.
Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you write a cover letter that effectively sells your skills and professional experience, increases your chances of getting interviews, and gets your foot in the door.
Table of Contents
What is a cover letter and do you still need one in 2023?
A cover letter is a letter of introduction accompanying your resume that paints why you are the best person for the job, what you bring to the table, and how you can help move the company forward.
Is the cover letter dead? No! In fact, a recent study by ResumeLab revealed that 64% of job vacancies still require that you include a cover letter in your application and 83% of HR pros said that cover letters are important for their hiring decision.
The bottom line is that a cover letter is still a valuable piece of your job search collateral. Nail your cover letter and you could end up getting that dream job.
So what exactly do you need to accomplish in your cover letter?
What is the purpose of a cover letter?
According to 49% of HR managers , your cover letter is the second best way to call attention to your resume and distinguish yourself from other applicants.
So the main purpose of your cover letter is to compel the recruiter to read more about you on your resume and move you to the next part of the hiring process.
Further, according to award-winning resume expert Melanie Denny , your cover letter is your value proposition letter. It proves why you are the best candidate to address the company’s needs with the professional skills and qualifications to succeed in the job.
Here’s an example of a great cover letter:
Now let’s get into the details of what your cover letter needs to include.
Cover Letter Structure Checklist
Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to include in your cover letter.
- Contact Details Name Address (or City, State with zip code) Phone number Email address
- Greeting Whenever possible, address the hiring manager by name.
- Opening Who are you? What are your relevant skills and accomplishments?
- Body (1-2 paragraphs) What do you know about the company? Why are you applying for this job? What value can you bring to the company? Include measurable results when possible.
- Closing Reiterate your interest. Add a Call to Action. Mention any attachments. Use a professional sign-off like “Best” or “Sincerely” before your full name.
Here’s an example for the visual learners out there:
Now that you know the basics of what to include in your cover letter, let’s go through the process from start to finish to see how you can write a cover letter that will make you stand out from the rest of the candidates.
How to write a cover letter in 9 steps
It can be intimidating to try to parse down all your best qualities into a few quick paragraphs for your cover letter.
Here are 9 steps you can take to make sure you’re headed in the right direction:
Step 1. Do your research
Before writing your cover letter, thoroughly read the job description and the requirements for the job.
Melanie Denny , award-winning resume expert, likens the job description to your cover letter cheat sheet. And when checking the job description, she says you need to consider the following:
- What are the company’s priorities?
- What are their goals for the role?
- What outcomes and accomplishments in your previous roles match the goals?
- What are the key phrases and verbiage the company uses?
This will help you customize your cover letter, angle yourself and your narrative to fit the role better, and impress the hiring manager.
Try reaching out to the recruiter, hiring manager, or someone working in the company if you want more in-depth information about the company and the position you are applying for.
Step 2. Customize your cover letter for every job
Make sure your cover letter matches the job you are applying for. Writing a generic cover letter is a missed opportunity as this will not appeal to the recruiter or hiring manager. According to research from ResumeGo , 81% of HR professionals value job-specific cover letters over generic ones. Jobseekers who had tailored cover letters received a 53% higher callback rate compared to those who had no cover letter.
Remember, your cover letter is your chance to prove that you are passionate about working for a given company, so take the time to write a tailored cover letter for each position . You can do this by mentioning your skills and experience that are directly related to what’s mentioned in the job description. If you’re applying for a data analyst role that requires expertise in Microsoft Power BI, cite an example of a Power BI dashboard you built and how it helped the company.
Read our full guide: How to Optimize Your Cover Letter
Step 3. Include all of your contact info
You should make it easy for the hiring manager to reach you. In your cover letter, list these three things:
- Address (including zip code– for ATS purposes )
- Phone number with area code
- Email address
- Name of the Hiring Manager
- Name of the Company
- Address of the Company
Traditionally, your contact information is included in the upper left corner of your cover letter if you’re writing in a document. If you’re writing an email, this can be included beneath your signature at the end of the message.
Cover Letter Header Example:
Jane Jobscan Seattle, WA 98101 (555) 555-5555 • [email protected] linkedin.com/in/jane-jobscan
February 25, 2023
Lavinia Smith Hiring Manager Media Raven, Inc. Plantersville, MS 38862
Step 4. Address your cover letter to a real person
According to Melanie Denny, resume expert and President of Resume-Evolution, addressing your cover letter to a real person and addressing them by their name feels more personal and shows recruiters and hiring managers that you took time and did the research.
You can usually find the hiring manager’s name by searching the company website or LinkedIn profile, or by calling the company and asking which hiring manager is assigned to the particular position.
Once you learn the name, a simple greeting of “John” or “Hello John” is all you need.
If you can’t find the hiring manager’s name, you can use any of the following:
- Dear Hiring Manager
- Dear (Department) Team
- To whom it may concern
Read our full guide: How to Address a Cover Letter
Step 5. Write a strong opening statement
Melanie Denny suggests that you start your cover letter with a bang. This will hook the hiring manager’s interest and show them how you can be a valuable addition to the team.
Here are things you can do:
- Open with a thought-provoking question
- Make a big claim about what you can do for the company
- Say something relevant and specific to the company
“I want to bring the marketing department of Media Raven Inc. to the next level and help the company exceed goals and reach more customers as Marketing Manager.”
Step 6. Prove how your professional background and skills help the company in the body of your cover letter
Take advantage of this real estate and prove to the prospective employer how your background, values, and professional experiences position you as the best fit for what the role requires.
This is especially important if you are switching careers. Highlight your relevant accomplishments in your cover letter, showcase your transferable skills, and explain how you can help the company address its challenges and succeed.
“As the Director of Marketing at ABC Company since 2018, I directed all phases of both the creative and technical elements of marketing initiatives, including data mining, brand creation, print/web collateral development, lead generation, channel partner cultivation, customer segmentation/profiling, as well as CRM and acquisition strategies.
Perhaps most importantly, I offer a history of proven results, as evidenced by the following marketing accomplishments for my current employer:
- Captured a 28% expansion in customer base since 2018, achieved during a period of overall decline in the retail industry.
- Led national marketing campaign (comprised of trade shows, media, and PR initiatives) for my company’s newly launched technology services division
- Developed and executed SEO strategy that achieved and sustained top 3 rankings on Google (organic, nonpaid results) for key product search terms.
- Oversaw the creation of a new company logo and rebranded 100+ products to cement a cohesive corporate identity and support new company direction.”
Just like when writing a resume, your cover letter should only include the most relevant and positive information about you. To home in on the right skills and qualifications to mention, try scanning your cover letter .
Read our full guide: What Do You Put in a Cover Letter?
Step 7. Write a strong closing statement and a call to action
Use the closing of your cover letter to:
- Thank the hiring manager for their time
- Mention any attachments (resume, portfolio, samples)
- Invite to schedule an interview
- Let the hiring manager know that you will follow up
Keep the closing professional and try not to sound too eager since that can come off as desperate. You must also keep in mind the tone and personality of the company you’re communicating with.
“Given the opportunity, I’m confident I can achieve similar groundbreaking marketing results for Media Raven, Inc.
Ms. Smith, I would welcome the chance to discuss your marketing objectives and how I can help you attain them. Feel free to call me at (555) 555-5555 or email me at [email protected] to arrange a meeting. I look forward to speaking with you.”
Read our full guide: How to End a Cover Letter With a Call to Action
Step 8. End with a professional closing salutation
To finish out the closing , use a formal signature. You can use “Sincerely,” “Best,” “Regards,” “Yours,” or any other professional signoff.
Use your first and last name as your signature. If you’re sending your cover letter in the body of an email, make sure it’s your personal email account that does not list your current work signature beneath the email. Your other option is to write the cover letter in a word document, save it as a PDF, and attach it to your email.
Step 9. Optimize your cover letter for the ATS
The Applicant Tracking System or the ATS is a software that companies use to screen applications and shrink their pool of applicants. Through the ATS database, a recruiter or hiring manager can just search for specific skills and keywords and the ATS will return a list of the top candidates who match the search criteria.
To optimize your cover letter for ATS, you need to:
- Carefully read the job description
- Take note of skills and resume keywords frequently mentioned
- Incorporate these keywords into your cover letter
Read our full guide: How to Optimize Your Cover Letter to Beat the ATS
Does your cover letter pass the test?
Scan your cover letter to see how well it matches the job you're applying for. Optimize your cover letter and resume with Jobscan to get more interviews.
How to Format Your Cover Letter
A cover letter is a letter, but that doesn’t mean you should just plop everything onto the page in a stream-of-consciousness flow. After all, cover letter formats determine the order in which the hiring manager learns about you, which can significantly influence their first impression. Use the format order below as a guideline for building the structure of your cover letter.
Notice how the topics flow like a conversation? When you first meet someone, you introduce yourself, tell them your name and a little about yourself, and then leave the conversation open for future meetings.
Your cover letter is just a like having a conversation with someone for the first time. Keeping that in mind will help you to keep things simple and focus on the right information.
Below are some examples of how to format your cover letter for different types of applications.
How to format your cover letter for a job
- State your name
- Explain your work history
- Tell them what you can do for their company
- Say goodbye
How to format your cover letter for an internship
- Explain your coursework history and education
- Explain what you can gain professionally
How to format your cover letter with no experience
- Explain your skillset and character qualities that make you well-suited for the role
- Outline entry-level achievements
You can also check out our cover letter templates to help you as you write your own cover letter.
Do you want to save time and receive instant feedback on your cover letter? Check out Jobscan’s cover letter tool .
Cover Letter Examples
Here are some examples to help you create a cover letter that will make you stand out and give a strong first impression.
1. Internship Cover Letter Example
2. Career Change Cover Letter Example
3. Operations Manager Cover Letter Example
4. Communications Professional Cover Letter Example
5. Software Engineer Cover Letter Example
Cover Letter Do’s and Don’ts
Aside from the basic steps of how to write a cover letter, there are some things you definitely need to make sure you avoid – and things you can’t skip! Follow these do’s and don’ts for writing a cover letter, and you’ll end up with a much better result.
- Customize a cover letter for every job application that asks for one.
- Incorporate the top skills or keywords from the job description in your cover letter.
- Include the company name and address, the job title, and point of contact’s name on your cover letter.
- Incorporate relevant and compelling measurable results in your cover letter.
- Explain, briefly, any dramatic shifts in a career (i.e. you are changing industries or job titles).
- Use company information to relate your interest in the job.
- Keep your cover letter concise.
- Convey WHY you are right for the position.
- Use a cover letter unless one was requested.
- Attach a cover letter directly to your resume unless requested to do so.
- Use the same boilerplate cover letter for multiple job applications.
- Over-explain your work history, employment gaps, or qualifications – save it for the interview.
- Badmouth any of your past employers.
- Use the cover letter to complain or tell about your job search journey.
- Use non-standard formatting like tables, columns, or graphics. (ATS can’t read those and your cover letter copy might not be scannable by the system.)
- Use long paragraphs.
More Cover Letter Tips
- When emailing your cover letter, be strategic with your subject line. Never leave the subject line blank, and double-check for specific instructions in the job posting. If possible, use the email subject line to sell yourself. For example: “Experienced Software Engineer Seeks Senior Level Mobile Position.”
- Keep your cover letter brief and to the point. The hiring manager will be reading many cover letters. By carefully selecting your words and experiences to include, you can stand out from the crowd of applicants.
- Be confident. Let the hiring manager know the reasons why you deserve this position, and make yourself believe them too!
- Your cover letter should not be simply a rephrasing of your resume. Let your personality show and go into further detail about your most valuable skills and experiences.
- Do your research on the company and position before writing the cover letter. It should be customized to that specific company’s values and needs. Hiring managers can spot a generic resume from a mile away.
- Use the job posting as your guide for what topics, skills, and experience to focus on.
- The best cover letters include keywords from the job posting. Applicant tracking systems may scan your cover letter along with your resume and will be using these keywords to sort through the applicants.
- Check for spelling and grammar errors.
- Send your cover letter as a PDF to avoid readability issues and to present the most professional application package.
- Scan Your Cover Letter with Jobscan to make sure you’re checking all the boxes.
Optimize Your Cover Letter with Jobscan’s Cover Letter Scanner
In addition to resume scans, Jobscan Premium users can also scan their cover letters against a job description.
This generates a report of the top hard skills and soft skills found in the job description that should be included in your cover letter, plus additional checks for optimal length, contact information, measurable results, and more.
Here’s how it works:
Your cover letter gives recruiters, hiring managers, and prospective employers an overview of your professional qualifications and relevant accomplishments that position you as the best candidate for the job.
So you have to make your cover letter powerful and interesting enough to make the recruiter or hiring manager read your resume and move you to the next step of the hiring process.
Here are key pointers when writing your cover letter.
- Make sure you’ve read the job description and done your research about the company.
- Get to know the name of the recruiter or hiring manager so you can address your cover letter properly.
- Include relevant and measurable accomplishments in the body of your cover letter to prove to the hiring manager that you have what it takes to succeed in the job.
- Keep your cover letter short and concise.
- Your cover letter is not a substitute for your resume so don’t just copy and paste whatever is in your resume into your cover letter.
One last important reminder!
Having a strong cover letter is not enough. You also need to create a killer resume to make sure you stand out and land job interviews.
Learn more about writing a cover letter
How to Address a Cover Letter
10 Tips for Writing a Cover Letter
The Career Change Cover Letter: How to Get it Right
What Do You Put in a Cover Letter?
Is Your Cover Letter Robot-Approved?
How to End a Cover Letter with a Call to Action
Frequently asked questions, what are the different types of cover letters.
There are four types of cover letters.
- Application cover letter An application cover letter is what you send to the recruiter or hiring manager along with your resume.
- Prospecting cover letter You send this when you want to inquire prospective employers about open positions in their company or put yourself top-of-mind when they do decide to hire.
- Networking cover letter You will send this to professionals in your network in hopes of getting referrals, introductions, job search advice, and job opportunities.
- Career change cover letter This is what you send when you are switching careers or industries.
What tense should I use when writing a cover letter?
It can be appropriate to change tenses throughout your cover letter.
For example, you can explain who you are in the present tense and explain important aspects of your work history in the past tense. You can switch to future perfect tense when discussing the ways you would perform if given the position.
Think of it like this, “I am ABC, I did XYZ previously, and I look forward to doing EFG in this position.”
What to include in a cover letter
Our cover letter guidelines above explain how to write a cover letter more deeply, but in summary, you should always include your name, relevant work experience, and reasons why you are right for the job in your cover letter.
When not to include a cover letter
- When the job posting clearly states not to include a cover letter
- When you don’t have the time and energy to customize your cover letter. It’s better not to send a cover letter than to send a half-baked and mediocre one.
- When you are applying online and there is no field to upload your cover letter.
- When your cover letter has a lot of typos and errors.
What should you send first: a cover letter or a resume?
Typically, your cover letter and resume will be sent as a pair, but your cover letter is meant to be an introduction to your resume. If it is an email, use the cover letter in the body and attach your resume, otherwise, attach both.
Pro Tip: Be sure to review all instructions in the job description to follow the hiring manager’s requests.
How long should a cover letter be?
According to 70% of recruiters, a cover letter should not exceed 250 to 300 words.
Although there is no hard and fast rule about this, the ideal cover letter length should be around half a page to one full page in length to keep your message concise, clear, and easy to digest.
Should a cover letter be sent as a file attachment?
If it is not specified in the job posting, a cover letter can be sent either as an attachment (PDF is best) or in the body of an application email with your resume attached.
How to share a cover letter with a potential employer
There are several methods of sharing a cover letter with potential employers, depending on their application process.
Cover letters can be written on a document and turned into a PDF to be uploaded to a job application website or attached to an email along with your resume.
In other cases, your cover letter can simply be written in the email message to a hiring manager, with your resume attached.
How to title and save your cover letter
The key in every aspect of job applications is to make yourself an easy “yes” for your potential employer. That means making it easy for the hiring manager to keep track of your application materials for later review. With this in mind, make sure your full name and the phrase “cover letter” are included in the file label. Other helpful details might include the job title you’re applying for or the year of your application.
Here are a few examples:
- Your Name_Cover Letter_Job Title.pdf
- Cover Letter_Your Name_Job Title.pdf
- Job Title_Your Name_Cover Letter.pdf
- Your Name_Cover Letter_2023.pdf
- Cover Letter_Your Name_2023.pdf
Explore more cover letter resources
Cover Letter Formats
ATS-Optimized Cover Letter
Cover Letter Templates
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It's important to get your cover letter right. It's your one opportunity to sell your skills and experience to potential employers. Find out how to write and format a cover letter and take ideas and inspiration from our cover letter templates
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a document sent alongside your CV when applying for jobs. It acts as a personal introduction and helps to sell your application.
Cover letters are necessary as they give you the chance to explain to an employer why you're the best candidate for the job. You do this by highlighting relevant skills and experience; therefore, you should always write your cover letter with the position you're applying for in mind.
Not to be confused with personal statements for your CV , cover letters should complement your CV but not duplicate it. The consensus among recruiters when it comes to the length of these documents is the shorter the better. Typically, three to five short paragraphs, cover letters should not exceed one A4 page.
If sending electronically, put the text in the body of the email rather than as an attachment, to avoid it being detected by spam filters.
Applications should always include a cover letter unless the job advert instructs you differently.
How do I write a good cover letter?
Before writing your cover letter it's important that you do your research. While reading the job description thoroughly is essential, it's not enough on its own. To help you craft a successful cover letter you’ll need to find out more about:
- who will be reading your cover letter
- the organisation and its culture
- the industry it operates in and any relevant news
- company competitors and market position.
- the organisations goals over the next five years.
When writing your cover letter keep it brief, while making sure it emphasises your suitability for the job. Cover letters can be broken down into the following sections:
- First paragraph - The opening statement should set out why you're writing the letter. Begin by stating the position you're applying for, where you saw it advertised and when you are available to start.
- Second paragraph - Highlight relevant experience and demonstrate how your skills match the specific requirements of the job description. Summarise any additional strengths and explain how these could benefit the company.
- Third paragraph - Cover why you're suitable for the job, what attracted you to this type of work, why you're interested in working for the company and what you can offer the organisation. This is a good opportunity to show off your knowledge of the company.
- Last paragraph - Use the closing paragraph to round up your letter. Reiterate your interest in the role and indicate your desire for an interview. Now is the time to mention any unavailable dates.
Once finished read through the document and cut out any unnecessary words and sentences. Don't fill up space by repeating what's already covered in your CV. As a rule, only mention your current salary or salary expectations if the employer has specifically asked you to. If you're asked to include this information, put it between the third and last paragraphs.
Unless the job advert states differently (for example, it may ask you to provide your CV and cover letter as a Word document) save with a .PDF file extension to make sure it can be opened and read on any machine. Windows PCs and Macs don't always work in harmony - Windows use a .docx file extension and Macs .pages but if the recruiter uses the opposite system, they may not be able to open your file. Using a .PDF file extension should solve this.
If you need help with your CV take a look at how to write a CV .
How should I address a cover letter?
Always try and address your cover letter directly to the person who will be reading it. Bear in mind that you're more likely to receive a reply if you send it to the right person.
If you're struggling to find a named contact, you can use a general greeting such as:
- Dear Sir/Madam
- Dear Hiring manager
- Dear Human resources director.
However, general greetings should only be used once you have exhausted methods of finding a named contact.
How do I sign off?
How you sign off your cover letter depends on how you addressed it. If you include a named contact, sign off 'Yours sincerely'. If you use a general greeting, finish with 'Yours faithfully'.
Example cover letters
- Sample cover letter - Used to highlight your skills and experience and to express your suitability and passion for the job, cover letters are used to encourage recruiters to look at your CV. Attention to detail is crucial and spelling, grammar and formatting needs to be spot on. Take a look at our sample cover letter for inspiration.
- Speculative cover letter - These can sometimes be an effective method of creating an opportunity. To ensure that speculative cover letters are successful you'll need to do your research on the company you're applying to. Using our cover letter template, discover what to include in speculative applications.
- Cover letter by a Masters graduate - You probably embarked on a Masters to expand your subject knowledge, gain industry contacts and improve your job prospects but to really make it work you need to know how to sell your postgraduate qualification to employers.
- Cover letter for a jobseeker with no experience - It can be tough applying for a job with no experience, but our example cover letter shows you how to promote yourself to an employer if you haven't got any directly related work experience.
- Explaining a gap in your CV - Knowing how to navigate around gaps in your CV can be tricky but it's a mistake to try and gloss over them. Your cover letter is the perfect place to explain these gaps in your employment history to potential employers. Take a look at our sample cover letter to find out how to go about it.
- Cover letter for changing career - Find out how to explain a change of direction in our example cover letter for career changers. You'll need to briefly cover why you want to change career and relate your past experience and wealth of skills to the industry/job you’re applying to.
- Cover letter by an international graduate - If you'd like to expand your horizons by working abroad, take a look at our cover letter of an international student applying for a job in the UK. You’ll need to do your research if you apply for a job in another country, as application rules may differ.
- Disclosing a disability - Just like your gender, marital status and dependants your disability doesn't affect your ability to do a job and you're not legally required to disclose it on your CV or in your cover letter. However, if you would like to disclose a disability to outline any adjustments you may need, this sample cover letter will show you how.
- Internship cover letter - To set yourself above the competition you need to successfully sell your relevant skills and experience while conveying your passion for the role. As well as explaining to employers what the opportunity could do for you, you'll need to communicate what you could do for the company. Discover how to craft the perfect application for a formal internship with our internship cover letter template.
- Apprenticeship cover letter - Apprenticeships are an increasingly popular route into work, as well as a great alternative to university. Find out how to apply for these roles with our apprenticeship cover letter example.
For inspiration and guidance on crafting a CV see example CVs .
When should I follow up my application?
It's always a good idea to follow up on a job application if you don't hear back. If two weeks have passed and you've had no response, send an email to the hiring manager to check that your application has been received. Use this opportunity to reiterate your interest in the role and why you think you'd be an asset to the company.
Keep this email brief. It shouldn't act as a second cover letter or attempt to replace or repeat the original.
What are some top tips for writing a cover letter?
With employers often receiving lots of applications for each vacancy, you need to ensure that your cover letter makes a lasting impression for the right reasons. These tips will increase your chances of success:
- Tailor to the organisation - You should rewrite your cover letter every time you apply for a position in order to target the company. Sending out a generic letter for all applications rarely yields positive results and recruiters can spot your lack of time and effort from a mile away.
- Format - Presentation is important so you'll need to format your cover letter properly. Make sure the document is as uncluttered as possible, use the same font and size as you use in your CV and if you're sending it through the post or handing it in use good quality plain white paper to print it on.
- Use keywords that appear in the job advert - This lets the employer know that you’ve read and understood the job description. It also demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to tailor your application to the job.
- Identify your USPs - They're your unique selling points. Be positive about what you have to offer and clearly outline how your skills and experience meet those requested in the job description. Demonstrate why you're the perfect candidate.
- Include examples - Back up the claims in your cover letter with real evidence or examples that show how and when you've used your skills and experience.
- Save a copy - If you’re invited to interview you might need to refer back to it.
If you're a student or recent graduate, you can make an appointment with your university's careers and employability service to access further help when writing your cover letter. You'll be able to talk with specially-trained advisers, get advice on what to include and have a professional eye look over your application before sending.
To make sure you don’t trip up read about the 5 things to avoid when writing a cover letter .
Find out more
- Learn more about applying for jobs .
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Cover Letter Writing Guide
The purpose of a cover letter.
Anatomy of a Cover Letter
Sometimes called a “letter of intent” or “letter of interest”, a cover letter is an introduction to the rest of your job application materials (e.g., resume/CV, research statement, teaching philosophy, writing samples, etc.). The purpose of a cover letter is to quickly summarize why you are applying to an organization or for a particular position, and what skills and knowledge you bring that make you the most suitable candidate for that position. The cover letter is often the first impression that a prospective employer will have of you, especially if they do not know you, or have not heard about you from their network of contacts. First impressions count, and so getting your cover letter right is a critical step in your job application process. Like all your job application materials, it may take time and focus to write your cover letters well. You will likely have several drafts before you come up with a final version that clearly articulates your skills and your understanding of the employer and the job requirements.
While your resume briefly states your skills, knowledge, experience, and (most importantly) what you have achieved using your abilities, the cover letter gives you an opportunity to create a narrative that shows the path you have taken in your career or education, emphasizing the skills you’ve used along the way, and explaining why the position you are applying to is the next desirable step on this path. To find out more about the structure of the cover letter, you can see some examples here. Also, it is important to know that there are some differences between cover letters written for faculty positions and those written for non-faculty positions. You can review some of the key differences of cover letters for faculty positions here .
When you start the process of looking for job opportunities, you will probably read through lots of job advertisements. You will notice that most job ads ask for a cover letter of some sort. The exception to this might be when you apply for some jobs through an employer’s online job application system, where they may ask you to upload your letter as a document, cut and paste the contents of your letter into specific fields, or they may not ask for a letter at all. For most jobs, and whenever you are submitting a formal application, cover letters are usually expected – and can be very helpful – even if a letter is not requested in the job ad itself.
Cover Letter Etiquette
You might be tempted to send the same version of your cover letter to multiple employers, especially if you are applying for similar types of positions. Don’t. It can be fairly obvious to an employer when they receive a stock letter, and this will make a bad first impression. Tailor your letter to the employer and to the specific job. This may require you to do some background research on the employer’s website, or talk to someone you know (or don’t yet know) who already works there. Use this information to explain why you want to work at that particular place, doing that particular job. It takes time, but it is worth it. You’ll probably have more luck with three tailored cover letters than with 30 stock letters sent out to 30 different employers. Your cover letter will be read by someone as part of a formal job application, so make certain that it is free of spelling mistakes, grammar issues, and typos. Make sure your cover letter fits onto 1 page (for non-academic position applications), has consistent margins and formatting, and a readable font that is between 10-12pts.
When Not to Use Cover Letters: There are some occasions during the job search process where cover letters shouldn’t be used. During career fairs, you would typically only hand out your resume to employers (and a 1-page resume is ideal). Employers want to be able to quickly scan your resume for the key points, and you should be able to verbally communicate some of the ideas that a letter might contain (for example, why this company interests you). Recruiters won’t have the time to read a letter.
Timeline: Getting Started with your Cover Letter
Step 1: The first step to writing a good cover letter is to first have a good resume. For information on putting these documents together, click here . Your cover letter expands upon some of the information you include within these documents, and describes the role you have played in achieving your academic or non-academic goals (i.e., showing how your experiences have made you the best candidate for the position).
Step 2: The next step is to find an open position that interests you, or at least the type of job to which you want to apply. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all cover letter, as each should be tailored to each job you apply to, but there will certainly be parts of the letter that will stay much the same, and be appropriate for multiple jobs. This might mean changing some of the key words in the letter, so that you are describing your experience in the employer’s language (using some of their keywords), not your own.
Step 3: Go through the job ad and carefully note all of the requirements and skills the employer is looking for. Based on your background research of the employer and the people you have spoken to who know about this employer, try to identify the two or three most important skills that the employer is looking for. You should then try to create a cover letter that illustrates that you have these skills and have used them effectively. Your cover letter will be stronger if it addresses these requirements and the job duties. Ensure that you talk about your experiences in the language used by the employer, echoing their words in descriptions you use to illustrate your skills. Write out a list of the keywords that you highlighted from the job ad, and then next to each of these words, write a brief statement that illustrates the fact that you have this skill/ability/knowledge using a specific example. You may not have an experience for all of the requirements, but the more you think about what you have achieved, the more likely it is that you will find something relevant to talk about. When you have all of this information, then you can begin to structure it within the format of a formal cover letter.
Cover letter template
Here is a general template for a cover letter:
Your Name Street Address City, State, Zip Email and phone number
Mr./Ms./Dr. Name Title Organization
The opening paragraph should explain why you are writing, giving your specific employment interest. Mention how you found out about the position. If it was advertised, refer to the website or resource in which you saw it. If a contact told you about it, say so. It is also helpful to include an overall summary of the key skills, knowledge areas, or experiences that you are bring to this role right here in the first paragraph. If you start off with these very specific conclusions that confidently state that you have what the employer is looking for, then the reader will also have a lot of confidence that your letter and resume are worth reading. The next paragraphs will then expand on and illustrate what you are summarizing in this first paragraph.
The middle paragraph(s) should summarize the aspects of your background which will interest the employer. The more information you have about the organization and its needs, the better. Discuss your qualifications in terms of the contributions you can make. While you should not repeat your resume verbatim, don’t hesitate to refer to the most important information discussed in it. Ideally, both your cover letter and your CV/resume would be able to stand alone. It is not necessary to describe yourself in superlatives. Rather than saying, “I can make a uniquely valuable contribution to your organization,” give the employer enough relevant, targeted information to allow the reader to reach that conclusion independently. Be specific and credible. Tell stories that have a touch of drama, for example: “When I was working as the president of X student group, one of the challenges that we faced was XYZ.” Once you have created a touch of drama, describe how you used your skills to overcome it, for example: “So what I had to do was build relationships with administrators on campus by communicating the critical role our group played in doing ABC.” Once you have told the story, reflect on it in terms of how this is particularly relevant for the reader, for example: “I really enjoyed being placed in a position where I had to reach out to contact and bring them all together by creating a shared vision for everyone to buy into. I think this combination of strong marketing skills and relationship building will be valuable to the role of Advertising Associate.”
The closing paragraph should explain why the position and the particular organization is attractive to you, and should hopefully pave the way for the interview. Provide an authentic reason why you are excited about bringing your skills to the role, and what you will also gain from being in the role. Speaking with former or current employees at the organization as part of your networking will help in this regards. You can also offer to send any additional information, restate your contact details, and state that you look forward to hearing from them.