How to Write a Cover Letter That Makes You Stand Out

Learn how to write a cover letter that makes your skills shine in front of employers

Do you ever feel that writing a cover letter is one of the worst parts of the job search process? It’s okay. You’re not alone. While there’s no scientific data on the rate of cover letter hatred among jobseekers, a quick internet search proves that this particular document is extremely unpopular.

It doesn’t have to be like that. With the right tools and resources, you can write a superb cover letter with ease. That’s why we put together comprehensive step-by-step tips to help you learn how to write a cover letter that’s personalized and, well, perfect! Check out our advice and get ready to write your own winning cover letter!



Why Cover Letters are Key


Some data suggest that cover letters are useless, but that’s not true. A 2015 Jobvite survey concluded that 55% of hiring managers don’t read cover letters.

However, that means that a whopping 45% still do. Because you can’t guess which type of hiring manager you’ll get, it’s safer to include a well-written cover letter than nothing. As long as you’re writing a cover letter, then you might as well do it perfectly.

A lot of jobseekers make a devastating mistake when writing their cover letters: they rehash their resumes. Why is this a mistake? You see, your cover letter is intended to complement your resume, not summarize it. This means that you must provide details, share stories, and do what it takes to paint a picture of you as a potential employee.



Ultimately, it’s crucial to use the space in your cover letter as an opportunity to prove that you’re the best person for the job. Here you can expand on your proudest professional achievements, answer questions about your work history, and share a bit of 
your personality.



The 3 Cover Letter Formats

You may know how to write a cover letter, but what if we told you that there are different types that serve particular purposes? In addition to the application cover letter, which is the common letter style sent alongside a job advertisement, you can also get hired by writing a prospecting cover letter and a networking cover letter. We’ll explain each one and discuss when to utilize it.

Let’s start with the most familiar one: the application cover letter. As we mentioned earlier, the application cover letter is the letter that you send to employers in response to a job post. This means that you write a cover letter that addresses the needs of the employer and argues that you’re the best fit for the role.

But what if you want to apply for a job that doesn’t exist yet? In that case, you would write a prospecting cover letter. Now, this type of letter is trickier because you don’t have a job description for guidance. Instead, you write a letter to a company and argue that they need an employee with your skill set. The prospecting cover letter is best for a jobseeker who has their heart set on working for a specific organization, but can’t find an open job that fully matches their capabilities.

Then there’s the networking cover letter. You create this type of letter if you want to connect with someone already in your network, or make a new contact. This letter contains a request to connect, a brief elevator pitch about your professional past, and a specific call to action. The call to action may be as simple as connecting, or you might want something more, such as an informational interview with an organization. Regardless, you must ask your reader to take a specific action on your behalf so that you can move forward.

Create My Cover Letter

Which Sections Should I Include in My Cover Letter?

1 Contact Information
Include your full name, phone number, email address, and city or zip code of residence. You don’t need to include your physical address. Double check your information to ensure that it’s correct.
2 Salutations/Greetings

Address your letter to the hiring manager. You can probably find this person’s name online.
3 Introduction
Use this section to catch your reader’s attention, state your enthusiasm for the job, and begin your argument. Don’t forget to tell them how you found the job.
4 ARGUMENT
In your second and third paragraphs, craft an argument that claims that you are the best person for the role. Address the organization’s needs and explain why you’re the ideal person to help them, using your professional background to support your claims.
5 CONCLUSION
Close your letter with a call to action and thank your reader for their time and consideration. Sign off with a professional note, such as “Sincerely” or “Respectfully yours.”

Contact Information

Include your full name, phone number, email address, and city or zip code of residence. You don’t need to include your physical address. Double check your information to ensure that it’s correct.

Address your letter to the hiring manager. You can probably find this person’s name online.

Use this section to catch your reader’s attention, state your enthusiasm for the job, and begin your argument. Don’t forget to tell them how you 
found the job.

In your second and third paragraphs, craft an argument that claims that you are the best person for the role. Address the organization’s needs and explain why you’re the ideal person to help them, using your professional background to support your claims.

Close your letter with a call to action and thank your reader for their time and consideration. Sign off with a professional note, such as “Sincerely” or “Respectfully yours.”


Contact Information


Sarah Tompkins
415.555.4444
stompkins@example.com
San Francisco, 94129
www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-tompkins

Salutations/Greetings

Gone are the days of generic greetings, such as “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to find out to whom your cover letter concerns, or whether or not a sir or madam (or neither) will read your cover letter. Therefore, you should address your cover letter to the person who will ultimately read it: “Dear Principal Margot Florent.”

You can find this person’s name on LinkedIn or the company website. If you search but can’t identify the person, then grab a name from a senior member of the department and address your letter to them. A guess is a step in the right direction. Feeling bold? Call the organization and ask to learn more about the position. If you’ve tried everything and can’t find an appropriate name, then address it to the company itself, such as “Dear Gap Inc.”

It’s easy to be too generic or too familiar. We already told you to avoid generic greetings, but it’s equally important to avoid a chummy salutation. For example, don’t greet the president of an organization like this: “Hi Sam!” Instead, start with “Dear,” address the person’s title, and use their first and last name.


Salutations/Greetings


Dear President Samuel Moore,

For more help, try our downloadable cover letter examples.

Opening Statement: 1st Paragraph

The best cover letters show enthusiasm for the job at hand. If you have a personal connection to the company — perhaps you know an employee, or you are a longtime fan of its products — state this in your opening paragraph. Consider sharing a story that captures your interest in the organization or the job itself.

But what if you lack a personal connection? In this case, it’s smart to research the company, identify something about it that excites you, then mention this in your opening statement. While showcasing your interest, don’t forget to cover the basics: why you’re applying for the job and how you learned about the opening.

Once you complete your opening statement, then begin your argument that you’re the ideal candidate for the position. At this point, your declaration must be brief. (You will expand upon your case further in your body paragraphs.) Support your stance by quickly addressing your experience or skill set. Remember, don’t go into details yet.

Many jobseekers ruin their chance of earning an interview because they fail to captivate their audience at the beginning of the cover letter. You can make this devastating mistake in two ways: starting with an uninspired statement, or writing about their needs instead of the employers’. Openers like “I am writing to express interest in the editorial assistant position at Today’s Bride magazine” will put the hiring manager to sleep. Similarly, an introduction that explains that “Working at Today’s Bride magazine would help me further my journalism career” will make employers wonder if you want the job or if you just want to climb another rung up the proverbial ladder.


Opening Statement: 1st Paragraph


I first read Today’s Bride magazine in fall 2014, and immediately fell in love with its couture bridal photography, engaging articles, and overall creativity. When I learned about your open Editorial Assistant role, I knew I had to apply. Because of my two years as an editor’s assistant at Luxury Plate and five years of success as a sales associate at David’s Bridal, I am confident that I am the best candidate to fill this role.

I am excited to apply for the position of Marketing Manager at Pie in the Sky. The company has become a success story because your marketing team understands how the combination of humor and digital marketing techniques sparks viral content and speaks to the Internet generation. As a creative person, I wish to use my writing skills and knowledge of trends and humor to help Pie in the Sky continue to “wow” it’s audiences with superior content.

The Argument: 2nd and 3rd Paragraphs

Your second and third paragraphs are crucial. This is the space to craft your argument. No matter how well you wrote your opening statement, you still must convince your audience to continue reading your cover letter. More importantly, your assertion has to persuade employers to grant you an interview.

Build a case based on your most relevant professional or educational accomplishments. Tie these into the requirements stated in the job description. Use the language exactly as it appears. For example, if the job advertisement notes that the ideal candidate possesses “a strong understanding of calculus,” then don’t write “I excel in all areas of mathematics.” This is because recruiters and employers run application materials through an applicant tracking system (ATS) that identifies top candidates based on the content of their cover letters and resumes.

But it’s not enough just to say that you’re a hard worker; instead, you must produce evidence of the fact. Inserting quantifiable metrics is the best way to do this. Take a close look at your professional past and you should find strong examples. If you helped the company earn or save money, then state the amount. Share the number of projects you completed in a given time frame. Note the number of people that you managed or trained. Even if your past positions don’t work closely with metrics, you can find examples to share.

It’s easy to make a catastrophic mistake and deter hiring managers from inviting you to an interview. For starters, don’t restate your resume here. This is your chance to provide more context. If you refer to a claim in your resume, then expand upon it here. Another big mistake jobseekers make as they learn how to write a cover letter argument is failing to tailor their claims to the employer’s needs. For example, if you’re applying for a job as an accountant, then it doesn’t matter if you made the best lattes at Starbucks. What is important is that you can handle the potential job’s challenges.


The Argument: 2nd and 3rd Paragraphs


You need a sales manager who has experience running a high volume store. In my last position at Blü, we attracted an average of 10,000 customers every day. Despite the hustle and bustle, under my leadership, the store’s overall revenue increased by 10% during my first year in the position. I trained 15 new hires that year, and 10 of them — all of whom were just teenagers — worked for us for at least 18 months.

I see that you prefer bilingual candidates with excellent listening skills. It’s these two talents that helped me excel at Blü. Because the store was located in a dense shopping center, we attracted customers from all over the world. My fluency in Spanish and basic conversational skills in Tagalog helped me understand our customer’s needs and what products were best for them. Better yet, my active listening capabilities helped me realize that we weren’t catering well to these customers. I listened to their complaints and worked with the store’s owner to improve our customer service. As a result, we increased our number of repeat customers by approximately 20%. Thanks to this experience, I feel confident that I could successfully handle every trial and tribulation that B.DOT faces.

Conclusion

The conclusion of your cover letter is the last thing that employers will read before deciding whether or not to give you a chance. Therefore, it’s critical to close on a strong, professional note that makes your reader want to meet you.

The best way to write a strong conclusion is to reaffirm that you’re the best fit for the position, express gratitude for your readers, and indicate that you’re interested in the job.

An easy way to start your conclusion is to summarize your claims from the previous paragraphs. Remember to keep the employer’s needs in mind as you do this. Keep it short — ideally, the hiring manager already read your entire argument.

Next, state that you’re interested in an interview. Be careful when you do this because what you might perceive as enthusiastic might sound aggressive to an employer. For example, don’t tell your readers that you plan to follow up with them on a specific date. Unless they explicitly shared it in the job description, you don’t know what their recruiting process is like and you may interrupt it. Rather, tell the employer that you’d love a chance to chat with them and learn more about the opportunity.

Lastly, thank your audience for their time and consideration. This action demonstrates respect. Skipping this step may make you look entitled and turnoff employers.

Sign off in a way that shows that you are serious about the position. Write “Sincerely,” “Respectfully yours,” or “Best regards.”


Conclusion


To summarize, I believe that I am a strong candidate for the Junior Engineer role at BART because I excelled in BART’s internship program; this includes my team’s first place win in the intern project challenge and consistently making accurate calculations. BART plays a necessary role in the Bay Area, so I would welcome the chance to learn more about the position and how I can help BART meet its needs.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Kathryn Lucero



Essential Cover Letter Writing Tips

Now that you know how to write a cover letter well, read these takeaways and apply them to your cover letter writing habits. Good luck!

Write a unique cover letter every time – Though you may feel tempted to write one cover letter and send it to multiple organizations, don’t do it. You will ruin your chance to connect with your reader and convince them that you’re the best fit. Keep the job description open on a separate tab as you write your cover letter so that you can refer to it often as you write.
KISS it (Keep It Short and Sweet) – Your cover letter should be no longer than a page. Condense your most relevant information in a way that allows them to see and understand your capabilities easily. If you can’t identify the company’s needs well enough to state your case, then can you even face the challenges that lie ahead?
Use one of these fonts – Choose a professional, versatile font, such as Cambria, Times New Roman, or Arial. Ensure that it matches your resume’s font as well. As for size, the range is from 10pt. to 12pt.
Personalize your cover letter – Start by addressing the hiring manager by name (to the best of your abilities) and address the employer’s needs throughout your cover letter. Make it clear that you took time to learn about the company and care about its needs.
Consider sharing social media handles and your personal website – Including this information helps employers learn more about your personality and determine if you’re a good culture fit. Before you share your social media links, clean up your appearance. Delete extreme views and everything that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see.
To follow up, or not to not to follow up? – Reread the job description. See if it shares a hiring timeline. If it does, then mind their process. However, you can follow up after a week if you see no such thing. After that, wait for them to respond to you.