The cover letter process can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. When you break it down into parts, a great cover letter can be done by anyone. This workshop-style guide provides you with a step-by-step approach to building a cover letter from heading to closing (and in that order), and free cover letter templates to get you started.
A good Cover Letter will accomplish three main objectives:
Introduce you to the hiring manager
Explain why you would be a good fit for the position
Answer any questions hiring manager might have after reading your resume
This Cover Letter Guide will walk you through all the steps of creating a Great Cover Letter:
Cover Letter Heading
Contact information, date, and employer address - what to include and what not to include, and how to format your information.
Cover Letter Introduction
How to start a Cover Letter? Introduce yourself, explain why you are writing the cover letter, and grab attention by providing just one or two facts that show that you are a great candidate for the position.
Cover Letter Argument
What do you have to offer to the prospective employer? Use professional accomplishments and your current position to convince the hiring manager that you should be interviewed for the job.
Cover Letter Closing
How to end a Cover Letter? Suggest next steps, include your resume, indicate your interest, and thank the hiring manger.
You might be wondering if a cover letter is really necessary. As a professional, the cover letter should never be treated as optional. According to Monster.com, the only time you should omit the cover letter is when you’re specifically asked not to include one. Otherwise, you’ll want to include a tailored cover letter to leverage every possible advantage in a competitive job market.
While a resume shows your experience as a professional, it may not convey how your skills could be a good match for the position you are applying for. The main purpose of cover letter is to make connections. For this reason, the cover letter should not just summarize the resume, it should supply an explicit understanding of how your professional experience makes you a prime candidate.
Hiring managers will read your cover letter to see if you tailored it to the job at hand.
The rest of this guide is structured in a workshop format. You can use the following steps to build an effective cover letter from top to bottom, or work on one section of an existing letter.
The basic format of a cover letter should follow traditional business letter format. A heading should be at the very top of the page; center-aligned often works best. The heading should display: your contact information, the date, and employer address.
If you already have a resume, copy the heading from your resume directly onto the cover letter. This ensures uniformity within your two documents.
Be sure to include your middle initial if you have one, so that you are less likely to be confused with another professional in your field with a similar name.
If everyone knows you by a middle name or nickname, provide that name in quotes or parentheses between your first name and last name: Katie “Kay” Clark. Additionally, list any professional credentials (M.D., CPA, Ph.D.) that are integral to the job.
For help on other name questions, please see The Ladders for guidance.
Use a professional email address that is based around your name. This is not the time to use an email address that shows your wild side or your questionably inappropriate college nickname.
Include the number where you are most easily reached. This is likely your cell phone number. If you are including your phone number on professional correspondence, be sure your voicemail recording does not contain jokes or sarcastic remarks. Use a generic neutral greeting as this is what employers will hear if you do not answer.
Mailing Address is not always required. There are some points to consider when it comes to deciding to include a mailing address or not:You might want to include your mailing address if:
While there is nothing wrong with placing the date at the very top of your cover letter, it is best to follow the format of a business letter. This means the heading comes at the top, followed by the date. Keep two empty lines between the heading and the date (if you are pressed for space later, you can cut this down to one line of space).
Use the long date format - this means you write the full date, including spelling out of the month, the day, and the year written with four digits.
Although job applications are most often completed online, it is still a good idea to include the employer address if you can find one. Tailoring a formal letter, complete with an employer address, implicitly demonstrates your ability to be cordial, professional, and precise. Also, adding an employer address is one more detail that shows you are interested in that company specifically.
Press enter twice to add two lines of space after the date. This is where you will enter the employer address.
Cover Letter Heading Examples
This section is where you introduce yourself, and grasp the hiring manager’s attention. Why are you writing the cover letter? What sets you apart?
The greeting of a cover letter sets the tone immediately, and should be personalized whenever possible. When you personalize the greeting, you demonstrate to the potential employer that you are seeking their company out specifically.
Who to address cover letter to? Look at the job ad you are responding to and see if you can find a contact. If you are unable to find one, consider doing a bit of sleuthing online to find the appropriate person to address the letter to.
You have a name
If you have a contact from the ad or from searching online, use that name in your greeting. Using the adjective “Dear” is always a safe and appropriate choice. Then, ensure you include the person’s last name with their appropriate title, if known.
You don’t have a name
If you absolutely cannot find a contact for the position, use a more generic business greeting. According to a recent survey, “Dear Hiring Manager” and “To whom it may concern” are the top two preferred greetings when you have no name to which you can address the letter:
How to begin a cover letter? The first sentence should include your name. Even if the recruiter skims the rest of the cover letter, at least your name will be in the first sentence, reiterated from the heading. This provides you with the best chance that the hiring manager will make the connection between you as a person and the skills picked up by skimming the rest of what you have written.
If you wish to omit your name purposely, you can begin your cover letter with The Purpose section.
Go back to the job ad and ensure that you have the job title correct. This section is meant to demonstrate to the hiring manager that you’ve done your research and are clear on what type of position you are applying for (if you have that information).
What is one aspect of the job ad that is most closely aligned with your current experience? This could be an educational credential, a certification, an achievement, or a former/current job title.
In this section, it is important to demonstrate to the hiring manager that you are clear on what the position entails as well as which of your skills will be most transferrable and related to the position.
Cover Letter Introduction Examples
Introduction section should be short and digestible, 3 or 4 sentences.
BONUS: As an alternative to the standard cover letter opener, if you feel comfortable getting creative, consider a nontraditional, story-based opener as described by The Muse. The following example is a re-working of the last traditional paragraph above:
In this section you discuss your professional qualifications in a more in-depth way, and explain what you have to offer the employer. Think of specific accomplishments, experience and background, skills and competences relevant to the job description. Why you and not other candidates? What makes you better?
Do not repeat what is already on your resume. You can:
Expand on your resume content
Provide additional information
Show how you fulfill the job requirements
For this section, you can use either a short paragraph or a short bulleted list. While there are no rules as to which approach is better (it’s a matter of preference and style), consider the following:
If you are presently a working professional, begin by stating your current status. (If you have no experience or are seeking a position within a new industry, simply exclude this line.)
The purpose of this section is to communicate your professional accomplishments. Examples below use quantifiable achievements and responsibilities. Include numbers and specifics that will give another person a very clear picture of your achievements.
If you have omitted the Current Position Status (as a new professional without experience or one that is shifting industries), boost your desirability as a potential employee by looking to previous academic or professional accomplishments as well as skills.
Middle Section - Paragraph Method Examples
In order to properly frame a bullet list, add one line to indicate what the list will contain:
Use short sentence pieces that highlight 5-7 quantifiable achievements, academic points, and/or skills:
This closing is simply the end of your cover letter. This section is used to suggest next steps, provide additional documents, indicate your interest, and thank the hiring manager.
Do you have a resume, transcript, portfolio piece, photo, or other job-specific document that you believe would highlight your application within your industry?
If you are including a resume, you will want to state that your resume is enclosed with your application.
If you are in artistic field where a photo, or a portfolio is expected:
Do you hope to gain an interview, receive confirmation of your application, or speak with the hiring manager on the phone? You expectations should be made clear; you want to encourage the recruiter to follow up with you in some way or another, mostly to gain an interview.
How would you like to be contacted? Include your phone #, email, or other contact information.
Next, include a line that conveys your enthusiasm for the position. This sentence demonstrates that you are particularly interested in the position at hand and are seeking a reply. Additionally, this is a formality in the letter that helps to transition you to the “thank you” line.
Conclude this section with a thank you. With this line, you convey your gratitude for the hiring manager’s time and you leave the letter with a professional and polite tone.
Exit lines are short, and come right before your name, and leave the reader with a final sense of your personality and the tone with which you are addressing them. While you can’t go wrong with any of these choices, consider which situation suits you best.
Finally, under your exit, place your full name and contact information.
Examples of Ending the Cover Letter
Enclosed you will find my resume which provides more information on my education, qualifications, and past experiences. Also, please see the following link for a sampling of my professional work: tmhdesigns.me. I would like to ask you for the opportunity for an interview, so that I can further explain how I could benefit your organization. Please find my contact information below.
Thank you for your consideration.
The attached resume provides a further portrait of my professional history. I hope that you will grant me the opportunity for an interview, so that I may further convey my talents and abilities, as well as other benefits I can bring to your organization. Please feel free to contact me at the phone number below. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
Mary Murphy Jennings
Please also find my resume attached to this application. I hope that you will grant me the opportunity for an interview, so that I may further convey my talents and abilities, as well as other benefits I can bring to your organization. My contact number is below.
Thank you for your time.
Damon J. Haus
Here you will find 283 cover letter templates. Sample cover letter is used within the templates, there is some basic content that will help to facilitate your completion of the cover letter with your own information. These cover letter templates match our most popular 283 resume templates, all of which makes it easy for you to construct a uniformed pair of documents for your job applications.
If you are applying for a job in a traditional or non-creative field, it’s a good idea to keep your resume on the conservative side. Cover letter templates in this category can successfully be used in most industries.
These cover letter templates do not use any special characters, graphics, tables or charts, to ensure your application gets through the ATS. ATS Optimized cover letters offer clean and organized layouts with traditional fonts and prominent titles. View 26 ATS Optimized Cover Letter Designs.
Basic designs with a little extra color and creativity to incorporate a little more personality. Cover letter templates in this category rely on typography, white space, and color to create professional yet creative designs. View 28 Clean and Simple Cover Letters.
Modern cover letters are classic and streamlined but with an added modern twist. These are great for candidates who are creative, progressive, and current on the latest technology. View 57 Modern Cover Letter Designs.
The Contemporary cover letter designs have a very modern, up-to-date, dynamic look. Layouts in this category often have two-column or three-column formats, and they read like actual newsletters with headlines and possibly photographs. View 26 Contemporary Cover Letter Designs.
Portfolio templates allow you to highlight creativity and accomplishments in a visual way. Showcase a few samples of your best work up front, in your resume, or in your cover letter. View 11 Portfolio Cover Letters.
Organize all the content into tables to get an organized layout, where columns are lined up nicely to create a structured look. Tabular cover letters should not be submitted through applicant tracking systems (ATS) as spacing may be inserted or removed as the document is “parsed” into the system. View 15 Tabular Cover Letter Designs.
These visually stunning and non-traditional layouts are fancy and bursting with creativity. When selecting from this category, make sure your choice will be considered appropriate in your industry. View 82 Creative Cover Letter Designs.
Need a resume? See over 400 Free Resume Templates in Microsoft Word.
Enjoyed our templates? Don't forget to like and share!