How to Write a Cover Letter With Tips and Tools

This step-by-step guide can help you write an effective cover letter from start to finish. Use the following diagrams, advice and accompanying tools to prepare a letter that perfectly highlights your professional accomplishments and ties them to the needs of an open job position.

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What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a supporting document that accompanies your resume when you submit a job application. The purpose of this letter is to buoy the claims on your resume with concrete examples of your accomplishments and professional experience. Your cover letter will include each of the following sections in order to successfully sway hiring managers to reach out and invite you to an interview

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1. Contact InformationThis section includes your contact information and the hiring manager’s info. Your details make it easy to find your information without toggling between your application, resume and cover letter. You need to do a little digging to find the hiring manager’s contact information. This attention to detail indicates that you’re invested enough in the job to do unpaid research.
    2. Formal GreetingConsider this a written handshake. A formal greeting establishes a professional relationship and segues into the meat of your cover letter.
      3. Professional IntroductionYour opening statement makes the case why you’re the ideal candidate for the position. Support your stance by quickly outlining how your experience or skill set meets the job requirements. Don’t go into specific details — that’s where the body of your letter comes in.
        4. Body ParagraphsProve you’re the right candidate for the position in this section. In one-to-two paragraphs, use accomplishments, quantifiable metrics and a warmly-written tone to convince the hiring manager to seriously consider your application. More importantly, it has to persuade employers to grant you an interview.
          5. ConclusionYour concluding paragraph performs multiple tasks in two-to-three short sentences. It reaffirms your argument as the most qualified candidate, expresses gratitude for the hiring manager’s time, and invites them to continue the conversation via phone or an in-person interview.
            6. SignatureYour final salutation and signature serves as a formal end to your letter, and lets the hiring manager know that you’ve concluded your introduction and application proposal.
              • How Do You Write a Cover Letter?

                With the right tools and resources, you can write a professional 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 is customized to your career achievements and the job you are seeking.

                If you’d like additional help, consider visiting our Cover Letter Builder. This online tool comes with pre-built and customizable templates, pre-written paragraphs that you can tweak, and additional writing tips.

                1. Display your contact details

                Do not overlook this cover letter section or think that it’s not valued by hiring managers — it serves as an informal introduction and can subtly indicate your attention to detail. For your personal information, you want to do the following:

                • Keep the tone professional by using a professional name, not a nickname.
                • Use a professional, and current, email address and phone number.
                • Include a link to your online portfolio or LinkedIn profile.
                • Include your current city and state, but feel free to omit your street address.
              • You need to do a little digging to find the hiring manager’s contact information, but it’s worth the extra effort and shows your attention to detail. The job description usually states the name of the hiring company, but you’ll need to access the company directory to find a business address, phone number and associated hiring manager. You’ll want to include:

                • Your name
                • Your phone number
                • Your email
                • Your city, state and ZIP code
                • Two paragraph breaks
                • Name of the hiring manager
                • Name of the hiring company
                • The full address of the hiring company
                • Phone number of the hiring company

              Contact Information Example

              Sara Tompkins

              M: 415.555.4444 | stompkins@example.com | www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-tompkins

              San Francisco, CA 94129

              2. Open with a greeting

              Say goodbye to generic or unaddressed greetings, such as “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” Thanks to the internet, you can easily find the name of a department’s hiring manager or HR representative. It is best to personalize your cover letter to the person who will ultimately read it, such as “Dear Principal Margot Florent.”

              Search professional social media accounts such as LinkedIn or the company website to find the correct contact person. If you can’t identify the person by name, you can use the name of a senior member of the department and address your letter to that person. It’s a safe and logical guess — the senior member will either be the correct point person or work directly with the correct contact.

              If nothing works and you cannot find an appropriate name at all, then address your letter to the company itself, such as “Dear Gap Inc.”

              Although you should avoid generic greetings, it’s equally important to avoid an intimate or casual hello. You shouldn’t write to the president of an organization using “Hi, Sam.” A safe option is to start your letter with “Dear,’ followed by your contact’s title, and first and last names. This tone strikes a balance between personal and professional.

              Salutation/Greeting Example

              Dear President Samuel Moore,
              • 3. Write a short introduction

                This two-to-three-sentence paragraph is intended to introduce both yourself and your interest in the role. Your letter’s introduction can make or break your opportunity to secure a job interview by failing to captivate your audience. You can make this interview-killing mistake in two ways: starting with an uninspired statement, or writing about your needs instead of those of your potential employer.

                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 the hiring manager wonder if you want the job solely to climb the career ladder.

                Thankfully, these are easy hurdles to overcome with some light effort on your part. Look into any of the following topics as they relate to the company to which you’re applying, and consider how they align with your professional or personal interests:

                • The company’s business model
                • Its mission statement
                • The office culture
                • Its products or services
                • Its charitable contributions

              If anything aligns with your own personal interests and professional accomplishments, make that connection in your opening statement. This first sentence will demonstrate a tailored interest in the job, and that you looked at the business as a whole and wish to contribute to its growth as well as your own professional advancement.

              Once you’ve written your opening statement, begin making the case as to why you are the ideal candidate for the position. And, cover the basics: why are you applying for the job and how you learned about the opening. Make your declaration brief. (You will write more on your case in the body paragraphs.) Support your stance by quickly addressing your experience or skill set. Remember, do not go into details yet.

              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.

              Opening Statement Example

              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 opening for an Editorial Assistant, 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 position.

              4. Build your case with one to two body paragraphs

              In one or two body paragraphs, craft your argument for the open job. No matter how well you wrote your opening statement, you still must convince your audience to continue reading your letter. More importantly, your assertion has to persuade employers to grant you an interview.

                • Build a case: Tie your relevant professional or educational qualification to 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 must have, “a strong understanding of calculus,” do not just write, “I excel in all areas of mathematics.”

                  The term calculus is probably a keyword — keywords are crucial duties that are listed on the open job posting. These are often repeated or emphasized job responsibilities that are marked in bullet points or special font treatments. Explicitly include this information on your letter. Recruiters and employers may run cover letters and resumes through an applicant tracking system (ATS) that identifies top candidates based on the keywords in their cover letters and resumes. Mathematics is not the same as calculus to an ATS.

                • Offer real-world examples: It is not enough to say that you’re a hard worker. Prove your worth with industry-recognized quantifiable metrics. Take a close look at your professional accomplishments and find strong examples. If you helped a company earn or save money, then state the amount and percentage increase. Specify 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 did not use metrics, you can still find examples to share.

                • Don’t repeat yourself: Do not restate your resume. Your cover letter provides context for your resume, and expands on any claims you hinted at on your resume in this section.

                • Personalize it for the job: Another big mistake job seekers make is failing to tailor their claims to the employer’s needs. For example, if you are applying for a job as an accountant, then it doesn’t matter that you won awards for making the best lattes at a coffeehouse. What is important is that you can handle the potential job’s challenges, and that might mean dealing with large numbers, as you did at the coffeehouse.

              Body Paragraph Example

              You need a sales manager who has experience running a high-volume store. In my last position at Blu, 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.

              You need a sales manager who has experience running a high-volume store. In my last position at Blu, 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.

              • 5. Conclude by summarizing and showing gratitude

                Your letter’s conclusion is the final section that potential employers will read before deciding whether or not to call you in for an interview. Therefore, it’s critical to close on a strong professional note that makes your reader want to meet you. Reaffirm that you are the best fit for the position, express gratitude for your reader’s time and repeat that you are interested in the job.

                • Drive your value home: Start your conclusion by summarizing your claims from the previous paragraphs. Remember to keep the employer’s needs in mind. Keep it short — ideally, one sentence is all you need to remind the hiring manager of your value.

                • Share your availability: Next, state that you are interested in an interview. Share the best times and dates to reach you and let the employer know that you would love a chance to speak and learn more about the opportunity. Be careful with your phrasing — what you perceive as enthusiastic might sound aggressive to a potential employer. For example, do not say that you will follow-up on a specific date. Unless you are specifically asked to call back on a particular day or hour, the recruiter will reach out to you.

                • Express your gratitude: Last, thank the reader for their time and consideration. This demonstrates respect. Skipping this may make you look entitled and ruin your candidacy for the job. Sign off in a way that shows that you are serious about the position. Write “Sincerely,” “Respectfully yours” or “Best regards.”

              Conclusion Paragraph Example

              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.

              Kathryn Lucero

              Upgrade With a Cover Letter Template

              The framing of your cover letter is just as important as its written content. Consider upgrading your letter with our professionally designed templates, writing tips and pre-written paragraph drafts

              Cover Letter Writing FAQ

              How do I include a referral in a cover letter?

              If you have a personal connection to the company — perhaps you know an employee or you are a longtime fan of its products — who is willing to act as a referral, you can state this in your opening paragraph. Consider sharing a story about how your professional ties to your referral sparked an interest in the company.

              How do you write salary requirements in a cover letter?

              Your cover letter is part of a professional application, and it’s fair to think about addressing your salary requirements. But, you should not mention your salary requirements in your cover letter. Your cover letter is an introduction and you haven’t yet proven that you’re a strong candidate for the job. There will be time to discuss your salary requirements further into the interview process.

              Do hiring managers read cover letters?

              A surprising study conducted by one of our sibling companies indicated that only 26% of recruiters read cover letters. However, recruiters are responsible for trimming down candidate pools that average 200 applicants to five or so strong candidates whom they then forward to the hiring manager. And almost every hiring manager does read the cover letters. After all, these are the same managers who will work and mentor you if you land the position — they'll want to be sure of your skills and communication abilities before they meet with you.

              Is a CV a cover letter?

              Although a curriculum vitae and a cover letter start with the same letter, they are uniquely different summaries. A curriculum vitae is a professional document that summarizes all of your professional experiences and connections, academic experience, conferences and publications, and unique skills. It is far more detailed than a standard resume and is usually used in academia, research and international job markets.

              Your cover letter is a personal message tailored to a hiring manager. It’s purpose is to support your resume and create a personal connection between you and a potential employer. It’s not a list of qualifications — it’s a few examples of your accomplishments that helped to define your efficiency and skill.

              Learn More About Cover Letters

              It’s one thing to learn how to write a cover letter — it’s a whole different thing to see real-world examples. Feel free to visit our examples library to see how cover letters read for a wide array of different job titles, visit our free templates library for downloadable documents, or subscribe to our builder for exclusive templates, writing tips and matching resume support.

              Cover Letter Examples

              Additional Resources

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