Conquer the process of writing a cover letter with our ultimate writing guide! Learn how to write every section of your cover letter with the help of crucial preparation tips, practical examples and professional writing advice.
A cover letter is a document where you directly address a potential employer and convince them why they should hire you for a role. An effective cover letter uses narration to go in-depth about your professional skills, qualifications and accomplishments. A cover letter accompanies a resume in your job application, so it should never repeat what you highlighted in your resume but rather complement it.
Including a cover letter in your job application is always a good idea because it gives you a chance to expand upon the skills and accomplishments you’ve listed in your resume. This document also helps you show more of your personality, convey goals, and talk about different aspects of your career in a way that can’t be done in a resume.
Before writing your cover letter, you should first make sure you prepare beforehand. Similar to a resume, a cover letter should be tailored to a particular job, meaning you will most likely write a different cover letter each time you apply to a job. The following tips will guide you through gathering the necessary information and materials you need to make an effective cover letter:
Now that you’ve done all the prep work and collected all the information you need, you’re ready to tackle the cover letter writing process. We’ll begin this guide by breaking down the three main sections of every cover letter: the intro paragraph, the body paragraph and the closing paragraph. Lastly, we will cover all you need to know about the remaining sections: the heading, greeting and signature.
This two to three sentence paragraph should clearly state your interest and reason for applying to the role. Often, applicants make the mistake of writing an uninspired, generic statement instead of taking the chance to address the company’s needs immediately.
The best way to approach the intro paragraph is by first establishing a personal connection to the role or company. This connection could be anything from your compatibility with the company’s values, an interest in their business model, relating to their mission statement, or your desire to be part of developing their products or services. Show the company you know what they stand for and share your genuine interest in working with them.
Compare these good and bad examples of a cover letter’s introduction so you understand how to structure your paragraph:
“I am writing to express interest in the editorial assistant position at Today’s Bride magazine. I believe working for the magazine will surely further my journalism career.”
“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.”
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.
These paragraphs can also be broken down into bullet points if you prefer that style of writing, both are acceptable. In terms of content, you should follow these steps:
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 in 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.
Use this example of a body paragraph as reference:
“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.”
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. In summary:
Common mistakes applicants make in their closing paragraph are repeating exactly what they said in their body paragraph, keeping this section too generic, and being overly aggressive or too humble with the tone.
In conclusion, I may not be tailor made for the job, but I believe I would bring a great work ethic and enthusiasm to the position of Junior Engineer. I am more than willing to learn on the job with the right guidance since I am a fast learner. I have references available upon request if you need them.
I’m eager to continue our conversation in person. How soon can we meet?
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.
The heading of your cover letter should follow the format of a business letter, meaning that it begins with the contact information, followed by the date and the recipient’s information. For your personal information, you want to do the following:
Check out this example of a cover letter heading:
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.”
Always use “Mr.”, “Ms.” or “Dr.” when referring to the recipient, never use “Mrs.” or any other title as it would seem you’re assuming the person’s marital status, which doesn’t come into play in a business letter.
Close your letter by signing off with “Sincerely,” “Respectfully yours,” or “Best regards,” alongside your name. You can include your handwritten signature if you want to add a personal touch, but that’s not necessary.
Once you have written all the sections, revise the cover letter’s format to make sure everything is up to standard, for example, keeping your cover letter one-page long, consistent indentation and paragraph breaks, the usage of bulleted lists, and the appropriate template. After all, this is a serious business letter and it should look sharp, organized and expertly styled.
Using cover letter examples as reference when writing your own is a great way to fine tune the contents of your letter. Check out our library of cover letter examples by industry and job titles to see what type of information to include.
Now that you’ve learned to build an excellent cover letter, you should have a great resume to match. In our resume-writing guide we break down the resume writing process into a few easy steps. Additionally, you can check out our resume templates if you just want to change the look of your resume with a top-of-the-line design.
Our library of cover letter templates offers free downloadable and premium templates that will elevate the look and feel of your document. Whether you’re looking for a basic design or a more contemporary style, we’ve got what you need.
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.
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.
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 with 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.
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.
If you’re writing a cover letter for a job overseas, you’ll need to fully understand the country’s language to properly craft a convincing letter. Let’s assume you’re applying for a job in a foreign English-speaking country. Don’t think that writing this letter will follow the same rules you know from your job search experience in the U.S. A key aspect you need to check — preferably with a native speaker or someone who has worked in that country — is making sure you update your letter to match the country’s version of English (British, Canadian and Australian English have different grammar rules and spelling. The job application process in some foreign countries, especially Europe, tends to be much more formal, so shifting your cover letter’s tone to one a tad more serious is recommended.
Rate our Templates