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How to write a great cover letter in 2024: tips and structure


A cover letter is a personalized letter that introduces you to a potential employer, highlights your qualifications, and explains why you're a strong fit for a specific job.

Hate or love them, these brief documents allow job seekers to make an impression and stand out from the pile of other applications. Penning a thoughtful cover letter shows the hiring team you care about earning the position.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to write a cover letter — and a great one, at that.

What is a cover letter and why does it matter?

A professional cover letter is a one-page document you submit alongside your CV or resume as part of a job application. Typically, they’re about half a page or around 150–300 words.

An effective cover letter doesn’t just rehash your CV; it’s your chance to highlight your proudest moments, explain why you want the job, and state plainly what you bring to the table.

Show the reviewer you’re likable, talented, and will add to the company’s culture . You can refer to previous jobs and other information from your CV, but only if it helps tell a story about you and your career choices .

What 3 things should you include in a cover letter?

A well-crafted cover letter can help you stand out to potential employers. To make your cover letter shine, here are three key elements to include:

1. Personalization

Address the hiring manager or recruiter by name whenever possible. If the job posting doesn't include a name, research to find out who will be reviewing applications. Personalizing your cover letter shows that you've taken the time to tailor your application to the specific company and role.

2. Highlight relevant achievements and skills

Emphasize your most relevant skills , experiences, and accomplishments that directly relate to the job you're applying for. Provide specific examples of how your skills have benefited previous employers and how they can contribute to the prospective employer's success. Use quantifiable achievements , such as improved efficiency, cost savings, or project success, to demonstrate your impact.

3. Show enthusiasm and fit

Express your enthusiasm for the company and the position you're applying for. Explain why you are interested in this role and believe you are a good fit for the organization. Mention how your values, goals, and skills align with the company's mission and culture. Demonstrating that you've done your research can make a significant impression.

What do hiring managers look for in a cover letter?

Employers look for several key elements in a cover letter. These include:

Employers want to see that your cover letter is specifically tailored to the position you are applying for. It should demonstrate how your skills, experiences, and qualifications align with the job requirements.

Clear and concise writing

A well-written cover letter is concise, easy to read, and error-free. Employers appreciate clear and effective communication skills , so make sure your cover letter showcases your ability to express yourself effectively.

Demonstrated knowledge of the company

Employers want to see that you are genuinely interested in their organization. Mention specific details about the company, such as recent achievements or projects, to show that you are enthusiastic about joining their team.

Achievements and accomplishments

Highlight your relevant achievements and accomplishments that demonstrate your qualifications for the position. Use specific examples to showcase your skills and show how they can benefit the employer.

Enthusiasm and motivation

Employers want to hire candidates who are excited about the opportunity and motivated to contribute to the company's success. Express your enthusiasm and passion for the role and explain why you are interested in working for the company.


A cover letter should be professional in tone and presentation. Use formal language, address the hiring manager appropriately, and follow standard business letter formatting.


How do you structure a cover letter?

A well-structured cover letter follows a specific format that makes it easy for the reader to understand your qualifications and enthusiasm for the position. Here's a typical structure for a cover letter:

Contact information

Include your name, address, phone number, and email address at the top of the letter. Place your contact information at the beginning so that it's easy for the employer to reach you.

Employer's contact information

Opening paragraph, middle paragraph(s), closing paragraph, complimentary close, additional contact information.

Repeat your contact information (name, phone number, and email) at the end of the letter, just in case the employer needs it for quick reference.

Remember to keep your cover letter concise and focused. It should typically be no more than one page in length. Proofread your letter carefully to ensure it is free from spelling and grammatical errors. Tailor each cover letter to the specific job application to make it as relevant and impactful as possible.

How to write a good cover letter (with examples)

The best letters are unique, tailored to the job description, and written in your voice — but that doesn’t mean you can’t use a job cover letter template.

Great cover letters contain the same basic elements and flow a certain way. Take a look at this cover letter structure for ref erence while you construct your own.

1. Add a header and contact information

While reading your cover letter, the recruiter shouldn’t have to look far to find who wrote it. Your document should include a basic heading with the following information:

  • Pronouns (optional)
  • Location (optional)
  • Email address
  • Phone number (optional)
  • Relevant links, such as your LinkedIn profile , portfolio, or personal website (optional)

You can pull this information directly from your CV. Put it together, and it will look something like this:

Christopher Pike

San Francisco, California

[email protected]

Alternatively, if the posting asks you to submit your cover letter in the body of an email, you can include this information in your signature. For example:

Warm regards,

Catherine Janeway

Bloomington, Indiana

[email protected]

(555) 999 - 2222


2. Include a personal greeting

Always begin your cover letter by addressing the hiring manager — preferably by name. You can use the person’s first and last name. Make sure to include a relevant title, like Dr., Mr., or Ms. For example, “Dear Mr. John Doe.”

Avoid generic openings like “To whom it may concern,” “Dear sir or madam,” or “Dear hiring manager.” These introductions sound impersonal — like you’re copy-pasting cover letters — and can work against you in the hiring process.

Be careful, though. When using someone’s name, you don’t want to use the wrong title or accidentally misgender someone. If in doubt, using only their name is enough. You could also opt for a gender-neutral title, like Mx.

Make sure you’re addressing the right person in your letter — ideally, the person who’s making the final hiring decision. This isn’t always specified in the job posting, so you may have to do some research to learn the name of the hiring manager.

3. Draw them in with an opening story

The opening paragraph of your cover letter should hook the reader. You want it to be memorable, conversational, and extremely relevant to the job you’re pursuing. 

There’s no need for a personal introduction — you’ve already included your name in the heading. But you should make reference to the job you’re applying for. A simple “Thank you for considering my application for the role of [job title] at [company],” will suffice.

Then you can get into the “Why” of your job application. Drive home what makes this specific job and this company so appealing to you. Perhaps you’re a fan of their products, you’re passionate about their mission, or you love their brand voice. Whatever the case, this section is where you share your enthusiasm for the role.

Here’s an example opening paragraph. In this scenario, you’re applying for a digital marketing role at a bicycle company:

“Dear Mr. John Doe,

Thank you for considering my application for the role of Marketing Coordinator at Bits n’ Bikes.

My parents bought my first bike at one of your stores. I’ll never forget the freedom I felt when I learned to ride it. My father removed my training wheels, and my mom sent me barrelling down the street. You provide joy to families across the country — and I want to be part of that.”

4. Emphasize why you’re best for the job

Your next paragraphs should be focused on the role you’re applying to. Highlight your skill set and why you’re a good fit for the needs and expectations associated with the position. Hiring managers want to know what you’ll bring to the job, not just any role.

Start by studying the job description for hints. What problem are they trying to solve with this hire? What skills and qualifications do they mention first or more than once? These are indicators of what’s important to the hiring manager.

Search for details that match your experience and interests. For example, if you’re excited about a fast-paced job in public relations, you might look for these elements in a posting:

  • They want someone who can write social media posts and blog content on tight deadlines
  • They value collaboration and input from every team member
  • They need a planner who can come up with strong PR strategies

Highlight how you fulfill these requirements:

“I’ve always been a strong writer. From blog posts to social media, my content pulls in readers and drives traffic to product pages. For example, when I worked at Bits n’ Bikes, I developed a strategic blog series about bike maintenance that increased our sales of spare parts and tools by 50% — we could see it in our web metrics.

Thanks to the input of all of our team members, including our bike mechanics, my content delivered results.”

5. End with a strong closing paragraph and sign off gracefully

Your closing paragraph is your final chance to hammer home your enthusiasm about the role and your unique ability to fill it. Reiterate the main points you explained in the body paragraphs and remind the reader of what you bring to the table.

You can also use the end of your letter to relay other important details, like whether you’re willing to relocate for the job.

When choosing a sign-off, opt for a phrase that sounds professional and genuine. Reliable options include “Sincerely” and “Kind regards.”

Here’s a strong closing statement for you to consider:

“I believe my enthusiasm, skills, and work experience as a PR professional will serve Bits n’ Bikes very well. I would love to meet to further discuss my value-add as your next Director of Public Relations. Thank you for your consideration. I hope we speak soon.


Tips to write a great cover letter that compliments your resume

When writing your own letter, try not to copy the example excerpts word-for-word. Instead, use this cover letter structure as a baseline to organize your ideas. Then, as you’re writing, use these extra cover letter tips to add your personal touch:

  • Keep your cover letter different from your resume : Your cover letter should not duplicate the information on your resume. Instead, it should provide context and explanations for key points in your resume, emphasizing how your qualifications match the specific job you're applying for.
  • Customize your cover letter . Tailor your cover letter for each job application. Address the specific needs of the company and the job posting, demonstrating that you've done your homework and understand their requirements.
  • Show enthusiasm and fit . Express your enthusiasm for the company and position in the cover letter. Explain why you are interested in working for this company and how your values, goals, and skills align with their mission and culture.
  • Use keywords . Incorporate keywords from the job description and industry terms in your cover letter. This can help your application pass through applicant tracking systems (ATS) and demonstrate that you're well-versed in the field.
  • Keep it concise . Your cover letter should be succinct and to the point, typically no more than one page. Focus on the most compelling qualifications and experiences that directly support your application.
  • Be professional . Maintain a professional tone and structure in your cover letter. Proofread it carefully to ensure there are no errors.
  • Address any gaps or concerns . If there are gaps or concerns in your resume, such as employment gaps or a change in career direction, briefly address them in your cover letter. Explain any relevant circumstances and how they have shaped your qualifications and determination.
  • Provide a call to action . Conclude your cover letter with a call to action, inviting the employer to contact you for further discussion. Mention that you've attached your resume for their reference.
  • Follow the correct format . Use a standard cover letter format like the one above, including your contact information, a formal salutation, introductory and closing paragraphs, and your signature. Ensure that it complements your resume without redundancy.
  • Pick the right voice and tone . Try to write like yourself, but adapt to the tone and voice of the company. Look at the job listing, company website, and social media posts. Do they sound fun and quirky, stoic and professional, or somewhere in-between? This guides your writing style.
  • Tell your story . You’re an individual with unique expertise, motivators, and years of experience. Tie the pieces together with a great story. Introduce how you arrived at this point in your career, where you hope to go , and how this prospective company fits in your journey. You can also explain any career changes in your resume.
  • Show, don’t tell . Anyone can say they’re a problem solver. Why should a recruiter take their word for it if they don’t back it up with examples? Instead of naming your skills, show them in action. Describe situations where you rose to the task, and quantify your success when you can.
  • Be honest . Avoid highlighting skills you don’t have. This will backfire if they ask you about them in an interview. Instead, shift focus to the ways in which you stand out.
  • Avoid clichés and bullet points . These are signs of lazy writing. Do your best to be original from the first paragraph to the final one. This highlights your individuality and demonstrates the care you put into the letter.
  • Proofread . Always spellcheck your cover letter. Look for typos, grammatical errors, and proper flow. We suggest reading it out loud. If it sounds natural rolling off the tongue, it will read naturally as well.


Common cover letter writing FAQs

How long should a cover letter be.

A cover letter should generally be concise and to the point. It is recommended to keep it to one page or less, focusing on the most relevant information that highlights your qualifications and fits the job requirements.

Should I include personal information in a cover letter?

While it's important to introduce yourself and provide your contact information, avoid including personal details such as your age, marital status, or unrelated hobbies. Instead, focus on presenting your professional qualifications and aligning them with the job requirements.

Can I use the same cover letter for multiple job applications?

While it may be tempting to reuse a cover letter, it is best to tailor each cover letter to the specific job you are applying for. This allows you to highlight why you are a good fit for that particular role and show genuine interest in the company.

Do I need to address my cover letter to a specific person?

Whenever possible, it is advisable to address your cover letter to a specific person, such as the hiring manager or recruiter. If the job posting does not provide this information, try to research and find the appropriate contact. If all else fails, you can use a generic salutation such as "Dear Hiring Manager."

Should I include references in my cover letter?

It is generally not necessary to include references in your cover letter. Save this information for when the employer explicitly requests it. Instead, focus on showcasing your qualifications and achievements that make you a strong candidate for the position.

It’s time to start writing your stand-out cover letter

The hardest part of writing is getting started. 

Hopefully, our tips gave you some jumping-off points and confidence . But if you’re really stuck, looking at cover letter examples and resume templates will help you decide where to get started. 

There are numerous sample cover letters available online. Just remember that you’re a unique, well-rounded person, and your cover letter should reflect that. Using our structure, you can tell your story while highlighting your passion for the role. 

Doing your research, including strong examples of your skills, and being courteous is how to write a strong cover letter. Take a breath , flex your fingers, and get typing. Before you know it, your job search will lead to a job interview.

If you want more personalized guidance, a specialized career coach can help review, edit, and guide you through creating a great cover letter that sticks.

Ace your job search

Explore effective job search techniques, interview strategies, and ways to overcome job-related challenges. Our coaches specialize in helping you land your dream job.

Elizabeth Perry, ACC

Elizabeth Perry is a Coach Community Manager at BetterUp. She uses strategic engagement strategies to cultivate a learning community across a global network of Coaches through in-person and virtual experiences, technology-enabled platforms, and strategic coaching industry partnerships. With over 3 years of coaching experience and a certification in transformative leadership and life coaching from Sofia University, Elizabeth leverages transpersonal psychology expertise to help coaches and clients gain awareness of their behavioral and thought patterns, discover their purpose and passions, and elevate their potential. She is a lifelong student of psychology, personal growth, and human potential as well as an ICF-certified ACC transpersonal life and leadership Coach.

3 cover letter examples to help you catch a hiring manager’s attention

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Top 21 Cover Letter Tips [to Land the Job!]

Background Image

You’ve narrowed in on the perfect job and you’ve got your resume down.

There’s one more step before you send out that application: the cover letter.

The cover letter is ESSENTIAL in the job application process. It complements your resume by giving the hiring manager a taste of your personality and enthusiasm for the position.

If you’re wondering whether you’re doing it right, stop worrying. We’ve got you covered!

In this article, we’ll give you all the cover letter tips you’ll ever need!

We’ve divided  our cover letter tips into three main parts, in order of importance:

  • Essential Tips - These tips are fundamental to writing a killer cover letter.
  • Important Tips - These cover letter tips are also important, but not as essential.
  • Nice-to-have Tips - Not super important, but these tips can still be a nice addition to your cover letter.

9 Essential Cover Letter Tips

Tip #1 - get the basics right.

Before we get into any of the other tips, we want to make sure you know what a great cover letter looks like .

In a nutshell, a cover letter consists of six main parts:

  • A header , which contains your contact information
  • A greeting for the hiring manager
  • The opening paragraph , where you open with an attention grabber and list your top achievements
  • The second paragraph , where you explain why you’re the perfect candidate for the job
  • The third paragraph , where you explain why you’re compatible with the company, its work culture, and its goals
  • The closing remarks

cover letter tips

Tip #2 - Tailor your cover letter to the position

You might be tempted to write one awesome cover letter and use it for every position you apply to.

After all, if it’s so good, it should work everywhere, right?

The thing is, the whole point of a cover letter is to show your achievements and enthusiasm about the particular company and position you are applying to.

Different positions have different requirements and responsibilities. You can convince a recruiter to hire you if you make a case for why you’re great for that particular position , not why you’re great in general. 

This is why a one-letter-fits-all approach does not work.

To personalize your cover letter to the exact position you are applying for, you should:

  • Identify the position’s key responsibilities and get a sense of what kind of person they are looking for.
  • Write a cover letter that demonstrates how you can handle those responsibilities and how you’re the right person for the job.

Both candidates are applying for the position of brand development manager in company XYZ.

I am responsible and creative. I have also done well in all my previous positions. I enjoy the work culture in your company and I believe I would be a great fit here.

A brand development management position in XYZ is key to successfully launching XYZ’s brands into e-commerce. In my previous positions, I have led 14 projects and have developed four separate brand launch plans, all of which have raised awareness of the brands within 6 months of the launch plan application.

Rose obviously sends the same cover letter to all job applications because there is nothing position-specific about the way she describes her skills. 

Candance, on the other hand, has identified the position’s requirements and key roles and demonstrates how she’s a great fit for it.

Now, which one would you hire based on what you read?

Tip #3 - Use your professional email

This might sound obvious, but it’s something important that might easily slip your attention.

If you use that [email protected] email you made in the fourth grade in your cover letter, the hiring manager immediately X-s you out.

No silly puns and no pop culture references: use a professional email that has your first name and last name.

Tip #4 - Don’t repeat your resume

The hiring manager already has your resume. If you simply repeat the information you’ve provided there, what’s the point in writing a cover letter at all?

So what exactly can you say besides what they already know?

Think of the cover letter as the “story” behind your resume. Write about what makes you passionate to do what you do and why you’re a good fit for the position.

Let’s say that in your resume you mention that you worked as a tech assistant and highlighted your key responsibilities. 

In your cover letter, you want to highlight how working as a tech assistant prepared you for the position you are applying for and why you’re passionate about joining the team. 

This way, the hiring manager can also see part of your personality and motivation.

Tip #5 - Make it easy to read

You might be tempted to use long, convoluted sentences and SAT words to show how you’re a professional, sophisticated person.

You don’t want the hiring manager to spend five minutes on one sentence wondering just what the heck you are trying to say.

Keep your language simple and your sentences short and straightforward.

Tip #6 - Keep it short

This one’s pretty simple: don’t drag out your cover letter. One page is more than enough.

The golden rule is to keep it between 250-400 words long in 3-6 paragraphs .

You don’t want to risk the hiring manager getting tired and stopping halfway through reading it.

Tip #7 - Follow submission instructions

The company usually specifies the format you should use when submitting your application.

Look out for specifications about:

  • File format (Word, PDF)
  • Font & margins
  • Content specifics, like which sections or contact information to include

Follow those instructions to a T or the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) might end up not reading your file at all .

If there is nothing specific in the job posting, your best bet is to submit your cover letter in PDF format . Use the same font and design as your resume to enhance your personal brand .

You can pick one of our custom Novorésumé cover letter templates and start writing. 

cover letter tips example

Once you’re done creating your resume, it automatically downloads as a PDF.

Tip #8 - Proofread your cover letter

Once you’re done writing, make sure your cover letter doesn’t have any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. They’re absolute turn-offs for recruiters.

Use a spelling checker or the online writing app Grammarly to make sure your letter is flawless.

Tip #9 - Match your cover letter with your resume

Want your application to stand out from the rest?

Match your cover letter style & formatting to your resume.

CIt will make you more memorable as a candidate and show that you care to put in the extra effort by presenting a unified application package.

And you know what's the best part? Creating a matching resume and cover letter doesn’t have to be hard!

At Novorésumé, each of our resume templates comes with a matching cover letter design, so all you have to do is pick a style you like, and half the work is already done for you. 

cover letter resume matching tips

9 Important Cover Letter Tips

Tip #1 - address the letter to the hiring manager.

The days when you used “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam” to address your cover letter are long gone.

The best practice is to address your cover letter directly to the hiring manager , as “Dear Mr. Doe”.

That’s usually the head of the department you are applying for or the HR manager.

How can you find his or her name??

  • Check the job posting for any contact details.
  • Check the company’s LinkedIn and website for the job title.
  • Ask any contacts you might know inside the company.

If you still don’t have any clue who to address your cover letter to, here’s what you can use:

  • Dear [Department] Team,
  • Dear [Department] Hiring Manager,
  • Dear Hiring Manager

Tip #2 - Open up with your achievements

The first impression you make is vital because you only get one chance, and it can make or break your application.

The opening paragraph of your cover letter serves as the first impression to the hiring manager. He or she has countless cover letters to read so yours should pop out from the start.

Thus, you must start outlining why you’re a great candidate for the position in the introduction .

Let’s demonstrate how to do it correctly by looking at the two examples below.

What’s the difference between these two cover letter introductions :

“My name is Justin Brown and I would like to contribute towards ABC’s goal to create an outstanding visual experience for end customers throughout the world. Previously, I’ve worked for XYZ, a renowned graphic design company, for 5 years, where I helped create high-quality visual designs from concept to specs to final product. I believe my updated industry experience, along with my ability to adjust between the bigger picture and concrete problems, as well as my attention to detail, makes me the right candidate for the position.”

“Hi, my name is Josh and I really want to work for your company. I heard about the job opening from LinkedIn and decided to apply. I used to work as a graphic designer for XYZ for 5 years, and this is the perfect opportunity for me.”

If there’s one obvious thing, it is that the second one is a WINNING introduction. 

Why? Well, unlike Josh, Justin’s introduction:

  • Opens with an attention-grabbing sentence , highlighting how Justin can contribute directly towards the company’s goals.
  • Outlines his responsibilities and achievements in his previous position.
  • Describes what makes him the perfect candidate .

Meanwhile, Josh’s introduction doesn’t say much about him as a candidate except that he used to be employed for five years. 

Granted, Josh could be better qualified than Justin, but you could never tell from his cover letter. The hiring manager probably stopped reading and added Josh to the “Rejected” pile.

That’s why you should go beyond the basics in your cover letter’s introduction. Make your intent, contribution, and skills known upfront.

Tip #3 - Use bullet points for your qualifications

There’s a good reason why we use bullet points so much:

  • They help us list things effectively 
  • They get the point across
  • They break up the paragraphs into smaller chunks and overall makes the cover letter easier to skim or read
  • They summarize a lot of information in a digestible manner

See what we did there?

That’s what you should do when you list your qualifications in your cover letter as well. 

Instead of writing everything out, use bullet points to sum up all your successes. The hiring manager will be immediately drawn to them and WON’T just skim through your cover letter mindlessly. 

Tip #4 - Use numbers and facts

Whenever you describe your successful experiences, you want to enrich them with actual percentages, numbers, and tangible facts.

When achievements are backed up by real performance metrics, they boost your credibility.

So, instead of simply describing your achievements:

“I have previous experience with transfusion therapies and taking care of people with rare diseases. I also speak three languages, which can come in handy with patients from different nationalities.”

Use the power of numbers (and bullet points) to convince the hiring manager.

My 10 years of experience in the medical field have contributed towards my excellence in:

  • Managing the medical care of 75+ patients with rare diseases.
  • Assisting 25+ patients attending transfusion therapy. 
  • Taking care of 50+ patients from different nationalities, made easy by my fluency in English, German, and Spanish.

Tip #5 - Avoid cliches

Cliches are so overused, they risk making you look as if you have no original thoughts.

Any of the following can be a cliche (but not only):

  • I am a great team player.
  • I am a multi-tasker.
  • I have great attention to detail.
  • I am a good communicator.

After all the insights we’ve shared with you so  far, you might guess why cliches are a NO:

They add nothing of substance to your content. And you want to use the valuable space in your cover letter to showcase why you’re a great fit for the job. 

Whenever you are tempted to write a cliche, twist it by providing facts to back up your experience.

So, instead of saying : 

“I am a great team player”.

Show them why you are one by describing your experience: 

“In my previous position, I worked with five other colleagues from three different departments to arrive at a marketable digital solution for our customers. Working with individuals with diverse opinions taught me the value of effective teamwork, a lesson I am happy to utilize in this position.”

Tip #6 - Use acronyms correctly

Acronyms are great. They save up space and show the hiring manager that you speak the industry lingo, especially if you’re applying for a technical position.

And yes, chances are the recruiter understands all the acronyms you might use in your cover letter. 

Nonetheless, you should never use acronyms thinking the recruiter understands them. Instead,  write the word the first time around and put the acronym into brackets, and then you can go ahead and use just the acronym if it repeats throughout the text. 

Here’s what we mean:

I have two years of experience with Amazon Web Services (AWS). I have specifically worked with Amazon Elasticsearch (AES) in my previous position. I believe the cloud computing service model provided by AWS can be successfully applied to your business model. 

I have two years of experience with AWS. I have specifically worked with AES and AMI in my previous positions.

Tip #7- Don’t include your address

By all means, you should include your contact information in your cover letter.

However, your address or area of work goes into your resume , not the cover letter.

Tip #8 - Don’t apologize

There comes a time when you have to account for possible red flags in your work experience.

These can include:

  • Getting fired or being laid off
  • Having too many short-lived jobs
  • A gap in your resume
  • Lack of experience

You might want to rush and explain these red flags in your cover letter, just to let the hiring manager know there’s nothing to worry about.

We’re here to say NO.

Do not apologize or explain anything you think is “negative”. The hiring manager will bring up any concerns he or she might have in your interview. You’ll have an opportunity to answer there.

Tip #9 - Don’t be arrogant

Just as being apologetic is not a good look, being over-confident is equally damning.

Nobody likes someone cocky, so avoid talking in superlatives or praising your abilities. 

Let your work experience and achievements speak on your behalf.

In my previous position, I surpassed my yearly conversion targets by 34%.

I am a great employee. All my previous managers loved having me around because I was the best at my job.

4 Nice-to-Have Cover Letter Tips

Tip #1 - insert your social media and personal website.

Including your professional social media or personal website adds an extra touch to your cover letter.

Hint: We’re not talking about your Facebook or VSCO. You probably take great pictures of your food, but that will not get you hired.

If you have a LinkedIn, Github, Behance, or Dribble account, however, it can give the hiring manager something extra to look at.

If you have a personal website with your showcased work or portfolio, even better!

Make sure to add a link to those under your contact information

Tip #2 - End with a call to action

Ending a cover letter is usually the hardest part. You’ve described all your achievements, thanked the manager for their time, now what?

We recommend concluding your letter with a “call to action”, inviting your hiring manager to take further steps.

For example, you could write something like: 

“I look forward to further discussing how my legal skills and experience can help ABC with corporate and commercial transactions for its international operations.”

Tip #3 - Use power words and action verbs

Power words and action verbs are selected words you can use throughout your cover letter to make your achievements *pop* more .

So, instead of saying “I was responsible for” fifteen different times, you can use some action verbs to make your language more diverse, like:

  • I managed a team of five people.
  • I facilitated the communication and task allocation of five people.
  • I coordinated a team of five people.

They make your text flow smoothly, enhance the power of your actions, AND make your language more versatile.

If you want to sprinkle some of these magical words in your resume, check out our complete list of 340+ action verbs and power words .

Tip #4 - Get a second opinion

Sometimes when we’re writing we get so lost trying to put our thoughts into words, we lose sight of the bigger picture.

If you have a capable friend, recruiter, or career advisor, it doesn’t hurt to ask them to take a look at your cover letter. 

Have them check it for spelling and grammatical mistakes (just in case you missed any) and whether they think your cover letter does your skills and qualifications justice.

Got the green light?

Ready to go!

And that’s it!

The road to writing your cover letter is filled with Dos, Don’ts, and lots of caffeine. 

We hope you enjoyed the guide and have a good sense of what’s expected of you.

Now stop procrastinating and get to writing!

Or, check out some of our other top articles:

  • How to Write a Resume | Professional Guide w/ 41+ Examples
  • Top Cover Letter Examples in 2024 [For All Professions]
  • How to Write a Motivational Letter (and Get Accepted Anywhere in 2024)

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How to Write a Cover Letter with Examples: 25 Tips

You found our guide on how to write a cover letter with examples .

These tips provide step-by-step instructions on creating an effective cover letter. For example, steps can include understanding the purpose and identifying the target audience. The purpose of these guidelines is to help job seekers create attention-grabbing letters. These guidelines are also known as “best cover letter examples” and “writing a cover letter.”

These tips on how to write a cover letter with examples are similar to preparing for an interview , writing work emails , and business writing books .

This list includes:

  • writing a cover letter
  • steps for writing a cover letter
  • cover letter templates
  • cover letter tips
  • cover letter guidelines

Let’s get to it!

List of how to structure a cover letter (tips)

Formatting a cover letter makes it easier to read, so it is important to refine your structure. Here are some cover letter guidelines to consider.

1. Cover Letter Format

The cover letter format should be professional, clear, and concise. The formatting should match your resume for a clean and consistent look. You should use the same font, font size, and header style. These simple tips help you look organized and composed.

2. Header and Contact Details

When creating a cover letter, the header is the first item potential employers see. This section contains your contact information and the date. Your name, address, phone number, email address, and professional social media links are crucial parts of the header.

It is important to ensure that all information is accurate and current. The date should align with your contact details on either side of the page. A properly designed header establishes a professional first impression. Further, employers can readily contact you for additional communication.

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3. Salutation

Your cover letter opener should include a professional greeting addressed directly to the hiring manager. If possible, research the manager’s name for personalized engagement. For example, “Dear Mr. Smith” stands out. If you do not know the hiring manager, then default to a general “Dear Hiring Manager.” This opener shows respect and formality.

4. Opening Paragraph

When writing a cover letter, the first paragraph introduces you to a potential employer. It is important to begin clearly stating the specific position you are applying for and how you found out about the job opportunity. You can also touch on your relevant experience or skills that show why you are a good fit for the role. However, remember that you do not need to repeat your entire resume on the cover letter.

This paragraph establishes the tone for the rest of your letter and encourages the reader to continue learning about you. Creating an interesting opening paragraph can grab the attention of hiring managers. By showing your enthusiasm and skills, you make a positive initial impression.

5. Body Paragraph

In the body paragraph, you should write details that support the main points of your cover letter. This section should expand on your qualifications, experiences, and achievements. This info can highlight specific examples demonstrating why you are the ideal fit for the position. Each sentence should add value and relevance to your application, showcasing your skills. Writing a strong body paragraph can greatly enhance the overall impact of your cover letter.

Readability is an important factor in your letter. Try to avoid walls of text. Many recruiters skim cover letters, so perhaps line breaks and bullet points to make the letter easier to scan. Be sure to incorporate plenty of white space. Also, consider placing your most important achievements and information strategically in highly visible spots, such as the start of a line or a paragraph, to increase the likelihood of a reader noticing them. Incorporating keywords from the job posting is another smart move.

When writing your cover letter, avoid replicating your resume. The cover letter is a chance for you to provide additional information that might not be evident in your resume or CV, such as your motivation to work for the company or individual achievements or experiences that make you desirable for the role. Be sure also to use action language and mention accomplishments and results instead of simply stating duties.

6. Closing Paragraph

To close a cover letter, express gratitude for the reader’s time and consideration. This section should also reiterate your interest and invite further contact. For example, “Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the possibility of discussing my qualifications further. Feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience.” Overall, showing gratitude and offering a call to action helps close out your writing.

7. Signature

A signature provides a personal touch and enhances the document’s professionalism. First, start by choosing a closing salutation. Friendly and professional phrases work best, such as “All the best” or even “Sincerely.”

Your signature should be at the end of your document. This signature must be clear and contain your full name. If you are submitting a cover letter online, then consider using a digital signature. Another option is to sign your name using a program like Procreate and insert the signature in the document as an image. Taking this extra step can differentiate you from other applicants.

Tips on what to include in a cover letter

There are several steps for writing a cover letter. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Understanding the purpose of a cover letter helps you write a successful document. The letter highlights your skills and experiences, showing why you are the ideal candidate for a specific job. With a cover letter, you can introduce yourself to potential employers. This document highlights relevant experiences, skills, and accomplishments. Be sure to tailor this info to the job you are applying for.

Additionally, the letter shows your enthusiasm for the position while addressing job requirements. Finally, you can provide context for parts of your resume and showcase your communication skills. Overall, a well-crafted cover letter offers interviewers a personalized introduction.

2. Audience

To craft an effective cover letter, it is important to identify your audience. You should research the firm and role to find out who the hiring manager is. Letters should address this individual directly. Further, be sure to find out more about the company itself. With this information, you can tailor your skills and experiences to meet the expectations of the potential employer. Understanding your audience provides direction for your content and tone.

3. Professional Tone

Throughout your cover letter, maintain a professional tone. To show respect toward the receiver, avoid inappropriate or casual language. Be sure to always address the reader formally unless they have indicated otherwise. This style demonstrates your professionalism and maturity. Writing well sets a positive impression even before managers read your qualifications.

4. Relevant Keywords

Knowing the right keywords is one of the top cover letter tips. Recruiters commonly use screening software to assess cover letters. These keywords often match the job description. For example, if you are applying for a sales role, terms like “performance targets” or “customer acquisition” might be relevant. Tailoring your cover letter with such keywords can showcase your understanding and fit for the role.

5. Measurable Achievements

Measurable accomplishments are crucial in a cover letter. This information offers solid proof of your skills. When describing measurable accomplishments, emphasize specific numbers or percentages to highlight your achievements. For instance, mention increasing sales by a certain percentage or reducing costs by a particular amount. By showcasing measurable achievements, you effectively prove your worth to potential employers.

6. Soft Skills Highlight

To complement your technical abilities, highlight your soft skills within your cover letter. Leadership, communication, teamwork, critical thinking, and flexibility are attractive traits in potential candidates. You can demonstrate these skills through practical examples and professional experiences. When writing, show what you achieved and how you accomplished it.

7. Hard Skills Highlight

A cover letter should focus on hard skills, highlighting expertise and qualifications that are applicable to the job. Hard skills include skills like technical knowledge, data analysis, or language proficiency. Adding these specifics to a cover letter can capture the employer’s interest. For example, referencing software proficiencies can showcase your suitability for the position. By effectively showcasing hard skills, you can position yourself as a qualified candidate.

8. Company-Specific Content

When writing a cover letter, it is crucial to include content specific to the company. Customizing your letter for the company you are applying to demonstrates genuine interest and effort. Referencing the company’s particular projects or values shows that you have done your research. By showing how your skills fit the company’s requirements, you can set yourself apart as a strong candidate. This individualized approach can make a lasting impression on hiring managers.

9. Proofreading

Proofreading your cover letter ensures it is free of errors and maintains a professional tone. Once you have written your cover letter, make sure to carefully reread it for any spelling or grammar errors. Reading the letter out loud can help you find any awkward phrasing or unclear sentences. Further, ask for feedback from a friend or colleague before sending out your cover letter. A proofread cover letter can leave a favorable impact on prospective employers.

10. Application Follow Up

After submitting a job application, it is important to follow up. This step shows your interest and enthusiasm for the position. You can send a courteous email one week after applying, stating your continued interest in the role. The email should be brief and professional, thanking the hiring manager for reviewing your application. Be sure to specify why you are excited about the opportunity and briefly reiterate your relevant skills. Following up on job applications is a crucial part of the application process.

Tips for writing cover letters

Crafting cover letters can be a time-intensive process. Here are helpful tips to make writing cover letters easier.

1. Make a Master Cover Letter

Instead of starting each letter from scratch, make a master cover letter with all of your experiences and achievements. When starting a new application, you can copy and paste the relevant information from the template into your company cover letter.

Using AI can speed up the process of crafting your letter and help you tailor and personalize the letter to specific companies, positions, and job postings. Software like Grammarly and Teal have AI Cover Letter Generators that can help.

3. Start with a Hook

Like any good piece of writing, a strong start entices readers to continue. Try to include a compelling hook in your first sentence or first paragraph to catch the recruiter’s attention, demonstrate your personality and unique value as a candidate, and make your application more memorable.

4. Label Your File

When submitting a cover letter as an attachment, it is wise to name your file practically. For Example [YOUR NAME][COMPANY] [POSITION] [MONTH] [YEAR]. This simple step demonstrates your professionalism and attention to detail, and also makes it easier for the recruiter to keep track of your cover letter. Not to mention, good organization can help you keep track of your submission materials and prevent you from sending the wrong letter to a company.

5. Do one last check before you hit send

It is wise to review your cover letter one final time before you hit send. Be sure to do a thorough spelling and grammar check, and make sure the formatting is clear, consistent, and that converting the document to a new file format does not affect your layout. Most importantly, double check that the hiring manager, company name, and position are correct, especially if you copy and paste the same letter into new applications.

Cover letter templates

Below are a few cover letter examples to help you start your writing journey.

1. Standard Cover Letter

[Your Name]

[Your Address]

[City, State, Zip Code]

[Your Email Address]

[Your Phone Number]

[Today’s Date]

[Hiring Manager’s Name]

[Company Name]

[Company Address]

Dear [Hiring Manager’s Name],

I am writing to express my strong interest in the [Job Title] position at [Company Name], as advertised on [where you found the job posting]. With a [mention years of experience or relevant background] in [relevant field or industry], I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to [Company Name] and further develop my skills in [mention specific area or skill related to the job].

During my time at [Previous Company/Organization], I [describe relevant achievement or responsibility that showcases your skills]. Additionally, my experience with [mention relevant software, tools, or techniques] has equipped me with the ability to [highlight a skill or capability relevant to the job description]. I am confident that my background in [specific area] aligns well with the requirements of the [Job Title] position.

I am particularly drawn to [Company Name]’s commitment to [mention a specific aspect of the company’s mission, values, or projects]. I am eager to bring my [specific skill or expertise] to your team and contribute to [mention a goal or project relevant to the company].

Thank you for considering my application. I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to discuss how my background, skills, and enthusiasm can benefit [Company Name]. Please find my resume attached for your review. I am available for an interview at your earliest convenience and can be reached at [Your Phone Number] or via email at [Your Email Address].

2. Entry-Level Cover Letter

I am writing to express my interest in the [Job Title] position at [Company Name], as advertised on [where you found the job posting]. As a recent graduate with a [mention your degree or educational background] from [University/College Name], I am excited about the opportunity to begin my career journey and contribute to [Company Name].

While I may be new to the industry, I have gained valuable skills and experiences through internships, coursework, and extracurricular activities. For instance, during my internship at [Previous Company/Organization], I developed proficiency in [mention a relevant skill or task]. Additionally, my coursework in [mention relevant subject areas] has given me a strong foundation in [mention a relevant area of knowledge].

I am particularly impressed by [Company Name]’s commitment to [mention a specific aspect of the company’s mission, values, or projects]. I am eager to bring my enthusiasm, fresh perspective, and willingness to learn to your team. I am confident that my combination of academic achievements, internship experiences, and passion for [mention a relevant industry or field] make me a strong candidate for the [Job Title] position.

Thank you for considering my application. I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to discuss how my skills and eagerness to contribute can benefit [Company Name]. Please find my resume attached for your review. I am available for an interview at your earliest convenience and can be reached at [Your Phone Number] or via email at [Your Email Address].

3. Career Change Cover Letter

I am writing to express my interest in the [Job Title] position at [Company Name]. As someone with a diverse background in [mention your current or previous industry], I am eager to use my skills in [transferable skills] to make a successful transition into [new industry or field].

Throughout my career, I have developed strong skills in [mention relevant skills or experiences from your previous career]. While my background may seem unconventional for the [new industry], I am confident that my abilities in [mention transferable skills] are directly applicable to the requirements of the [Job Title] role at [Company Name].

I am particularly drawn to [Company Name]’s [mention a specific aspect of the company’s mission, values, or projects]. I am excited about the opportunity to bring my unique perspective, adaptability, and passion for learning to your team. I am committed to making a meaningful contribution to [Company Name] and am eager to embark on this new career path.

Thank you for considering my application. I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to discuss how my skills and experiences can benefit [Company Name] in the [new industry or field]. Please find my resume attached for your review. I am available for an interview at your earliest convenience and can be reached at [Your Phone Number] or via email at [Your Email Address].

Final Thoughts

Mastering cover letter writing can significantly increase your chances of landing your dream job. This document allows you to showcase your skills, qualifications, and passion in a way that your resume cannot. Be sure to tailor each cover letter for every job application and include specific examples where possible. Further, proofread your work before sending it off because first impressions matter!

Next, check out our posts on virtual interview tips , steps on writing a job posting , company culture fit , and communication books.

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FAQ: How to write a cover letter with examples

Here are frequently asked questions about how to write a cover letter with examples.

What are the key elements of a cover letter?

There are several key elements of a good cover letter.

Here are a few examples:

  • understanding its purpose
  • identifying your audience
  • writing compelling opening and closing paragraphs
  • highlighting hard and soft skills
  • showcasing quantifiable achievements
  • tailoring content for each company you apply to

These tips will help you create an eye-catching cover letter.

What should the tone of a cover letter be?

The tone of a cover letter should be professional yet approachable. It is important to convey your qualifications while also showing some personality.

How do I tailor my cover letter to a specific company?

To tailor your cover letter for a specific company, research the company’s values, culture, products, or services. Then, highlight how your skills and experiences align with the company’s needs.

What are some common mistakes in a cover letter?

Cover letters are notoriously difficult to write.

Here are a few common mistakes to avoid:

  • being too generic
  • focusing too much on yourself instead of how you can contribute to the company
  • including irrelevant information
  • making the letter too long or too short
  • having grammatical errors

By avoiding these issues, you can ensure your cover letter stands out.

How do I follow up after sending my cover letter?

After sending your cover letter, wait about a week before sending a polite follow-up email. If you still do not hear back after another week, then it is okay to send one more follow-up.

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8 Tips and Tricks for Writing Effective Cover Letters for Job Openings

Learn eight tips and tricks for effective cover letters, including examples of phrases you can use in your cover letters for job applications.

[Featured image] Job applicant wearing a white blazer and glasses works on creating an effective cover letter next to some windows.

Although a fantastically structured resume highlights a job prospect's qualifications, a well-written cover letter provides a distinct but complementary prospect: the potential to illustrate that you're the best fit for the position on one succinct page. 

Consider the fact that your cover letter is your opening impact. Take advantage of this chance by presenting something that really reflects you. In only 10 minutes, you could indeed give your cover letter a massive boost that is bound to make a significant impact. 

We've gathered helpful tips on cover letters for job applications in one spot to ensure your letter is in great form and that composing it is convenient and easy. Check out the following suggestions for making your cover letter stand out.

1. Write unique letters for each position available.

Certainly, using the same   job application cover letter template you composed for your prior application, changing the firm name, and sending it out is far quicker and more efficient. However, most recruiters would like to see that you're really enthusiastic about the role as well as the firm, which necessitates writing a unique letter for every position you compete for.

Although it's acceptable to reuse a few powerful lines and keywords from one cover letter to another, don't submit a completely generic letter. The line "I am eager to apply for the job opening at your firm," sends a clear message to recruiters, human resources, and hiring managers that you sent your cover letter to just about every job posting in the area. A personalised cover letter can help communicate your enthusiasm for the role to employers.

2. Focus on the job specifications.

Though you could be the smartest and most outstanding applicant for a position, your cover letter should demonstrate how your talents meet the job requirements. When drafting your cover letter, pay very close attention to the scope of work and specifications mentioned. Use relevant keyword phrases to highlight your accomplishments and excellence. Take into account, though, that everyone can paste basic keywords and buzzwords in their cover letters. Instead of stuffing keywords into your cover letter at random, be strategic and support your claims with specific examples that correspond with what the firm desires in a candidate.

Do your homework about the firm, as well as its goods and services, concerning the position. When it pertains to securing positions available, ever more firms are emphasising cultural compatibility.  Thus, knowing the cultural context of a firm may help you target your cover letter for the greatest results while also improving your position as the desired applicant.

3. Prioritize the employer.

Ask yourself, "What is it about the firm that appeals to me and tends to make me want to be employed there instead of at one of the countless others?"  Begin with these traits and mention them in your cover letter. The goal of a cover letter is to demonstrate how your history, talents, and expertise aligns with the organizational requirements as they relate to the position you're applying for. 

Keeping it personalised also entails writing to a real person. Use the word "you" throughout your cover letter. This creates the impression of direct conversation and personalisation. Additionally, while locating the appropriate department head or recruiting manager might take some time, doing just that shows effort and ingenuity.

4. Have an impactful opening line.

There is no need to start with your name because the recruiting manager can see that on top of your cover letter. It is indeed a good idea to indicate the position you're competing for as the prospective employer may be looking at applicants for a half dozen different positions. A common line you can use is "I am thrilled to apply for [ job ] with [ company ]." However, consider beginning with a crisp first phrase that showcases your enthusiasm for the organisation you're submitting to, your love for the task you perform, or your previous achievements.

5. Include statistics, numbers, and data.

Stats are attractive to recruitment agencies because they demonstrate that you have had a demonstrable influence on the organisations or firms where you have worked. Here are some questions you can address in your cover letter for a job application:

Did you increase the company's customer base and by how much? 

Have you put together some kind of a large variety of events? 

Have you ever increased the efficiency of business operations? If so, by what percent?

What exactly was your role in helping the company during a certain crisis?

6. Include a call to action and follow up.

Numerous cover letters are missing one crucial component: a  call to action. Even as communicating thanks is crucial, adding how you will follow up with the potential employer is even more powerful. Including a call to action not only shows confidence, but also offers the opportunity to demonstrate that you're able to take responsibility. Regardless of whether you indicate that you will call this week to follow up on the status of your resume or convey that you will be continuing to look forward to the next discussion, adding a call to action provides an opportunity to prove that you're dependable.

One piece of advice, though: If you say you will be following up, remember to do so. Although it is difficult to know what a prospective employer is thinking while reviewing applicants, it's important to be engaged and reliable throughout the entire process.

7. Try different templates and formats.

In case you are trying to apply in a more conventional organisation, you should generally stick to the basic three to five paragraphs structure constituting an introduction, body, and conclusion. A fresh approach could very well be suitable if you're looking for a much more innovative, entrepreneurial job or have to demonstrate to the prospective employer, for instance, how your journey started and has brought you from point A to point B.

8. Make your conclusion impactful. 

It's easy to dismiss the last few words of your cover letter: "I look forward to discussing the scope of work with you." However, your conclusion section is your final opportunity to highlight your passion for the firm as well as how you would be a fantastic choice for the role. You may also utilise the conclusion of your letter to provide vital facts, such as your willingness to move for the position. Here are some conclusion lines that can come in handy:

"I'm excited about [ company's ] goal and therefore would be delighted to offer my [ insert your outstanding skills here ] to this job."

"My proficient ambitions are aligned with [ company's ], and I'm eager to discover and flourish in its setting."

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tips on writing a good cover letter

How to write a cover letter for a job: 5 essential tips

Learn how to create a cover letter that will get an employer's attention.

Before you start writing your cover letter, read the job posting carefully. Pay attention to the primary responsibilities, as well as the desired skills and experience for candidates. Keep the posting handy so you can refer back to it while you write.

Learn the sections of a cover letter and download our free template .

Customize your letter

One of the most important cover letter tips: do not use the same generic letter for all of your applications. Employers will be able to tell you didn’t take time to create a unique letter for them. Instead, open your cover letter by sharing why you’re excited about the job and employer, and why you’re the right candidate.

Supplement your resume, don’t repeat it

You include your resume in your job application, so don’t summarize it in your letter. Instead of listing your experience, highlight the reasons why you’re a good fit for the job. Is there an anecdote, project, or trait that doesn't belong on your resume but illustrates your strengths?

For example, were you nominated as club secretary because of your knack for organized, color-coded spreadsheets? Does the manager at your part-time job regularly compliment your talent for turning angry customers into happy ones? These can help illustrate your attention to detail and interpersonal skills.

Include keywords and supporting details

It is common for employers to scan resumes and cover letters for keywords related to the job. Be sure to incorporate any skills or experience that you have that are listed in the description.

And while your resume lists your technical skills and experience, cover letters are a great opportunity to talk about desirable soft skills like communication and project management. If you’re mentioning soft skills, provide support. For example, if you want to highlight your leadership skills, you can detail the time you led a major group project that received rave reviews from your professor.

Address any missing pieces

Your cover letter is meant to highlight your unique strengths and tell the employer why they should interview you. If you don’t have a lot of experience on your resume, take time to outline your biggest strengths as related to the job—with concrete examples.

If you don’t meet all of the qualifications listed in the posting, mention this in your letter. Be forthright and use this opportunity to explain to the hiring manager why you’re still a good fit for the job.

Proofread and ask for feedback

Carefully read through your cover letter when it's ready and check for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. Have a friend or family member review it as well and give their feedback.

Don’t forget to contact your school’s career center and schedule an appointment to go over your cover letter, resume, and other application questions you may have. Get started on your cover letter by downloading our free template .

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tips on writing a good cover letter

How to Write a Cover Letter

S omebody hiring you for a job will skim your resume, or may use an applicant tracking system to review it, but they will read your cover letter if considering you for a position .

Resumes are a vital tool for landing a job, and no job seeker should rush writing it, but the cover letter is worth lavishing time and attention on, too.

So if you’re looking for tips on how to write a cover letter, open up a document, and let’s get writing.

What Is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a letter that you’ll submit to an employer along with your resume and anything else, like a portfolio of your work, when you apply for a job. The cover letter makes a case for why you’re the person the company should hire.

If your resume is analogous to your brain – offering the facts and the logical reason why you should be hired – the cover letter is your heart – possibly striking an emotional chord with the employer and at least getting to the heart of the matter of why you, and no one else, is right for the job.

The resume should convince the employer that you have the background for the job; the cover letter should make it clear that you’re going to be an amazing employee and a pleasure to work with. After all, if all goes well, these people may be hanging out with you on their lunch break or working closely with you when you’re dealing with stressed out or difficult clients. That's arguably almost as important as you actually being capable of doing the work you're being hired for. And because of that, an employer would like to have a sense of your personality and who you are. A well-crafted cover letter can do that.

Choosing a Header

So how should you start the cover letter? Most resume experts will tell you to try and find the hiring manager's name, if at all possible. Assuming you have it, then you'd go with "Dear Mr. Smith" or "Dear Ms. Smith." You might want to address the person by their first name, according to Jennifer Fishberg, founder of Career Karma Resume Development & Career Services, which is based out of Highland Park, New Jersey.

That is, if you’ve already had contact with the person, or there has been a referral, going with a first name might be fine, Fishberg says.

“But if you’re unsure, err on the side of the formal,” Fishberg says.

And what if you’re applying blindly and have no idea who is going to read the cover letter? Perhaps the classic and tried-and-true “To Whom It May Concern”?

That would be a hard no, according to Fishberg.

“’To Whom It May Concern’ is a non-starter,” she says. “It just screams that this is one of a hundred mass-produced letters you've sent out and couldn't be bothered. Part of the job of the cover letter is to humanize you to the reader, so an impersonal greeting doesn't help your cause there,” Fishberg says.

So what should you go with? “If you really can't find a name, then ‘Dear Hiring Team’ can work,” Fishberg says.

The Opening

So once you’ve addressed whom you’re writing to, as you can imagine, you’d better seem pretty compelling quickly. You’re competing with a lot of job applicants.

“A strong cover letter grabs the reader's attention from the first line,” Fishberg says.

Easy to say, not always easy to pull off. But Fishberg suggests that you might want to highlight what you know of your employer’s “pain points” and your ability to offer solutions. Your employer has some sort of problem or wouldn’t need to hire somebody. The employer hopes that by hiring you, you will solve those problems.

“Start with an attention-grabbing sentence,” says Deb Harrison, a former high school English teacher and now growth and change consultant who has worked with companies in recruiting and with individuals searching for jobs. She is based out of Montgomery, New York.

Harrison says that attention-grabbing sentence might involve a relevant quote, statistic or anecdote. But don’t go overboard with your quotes, statistics or anecdote. “Make it clear in the first paragraph why you are applying for the specific job,” Harrison says.

Writing the Body

OK, you feel good about how you’ve addressed whoever is reading your letter. You’ve got the reader hooked. Now here’s where things can either soar or start to fall apart.

There’s so much to think about, including:

Length. Most job sites will encourage you to write a cover letter that’s half a page to a page long. Harrison says that “recruiters have a lot to look through, so too much information may not even get read, but it should provide enough to stand out to the recruiter.”

Tone. “Type like you are speaking in an interview ,” says Pete Milne, managing director of Robert Walters North America, a professional recruiting firm. “It is so easy to be overly formal in written form.”

That may sound like the opposite of what you want since formal would seem to equate being professional, but no, Milne asserts. Being overly formal can really backfire.

“The tendency to use bigger words or complex language is tempting in order to show your intelligence levels. However, long sentences, difficult to read paragraphs and convoluted language are all signs of poor communication,” he says. “No one should have to dissect what you are trying to say. Make it obvious and super easy to read.”

Milne adds: “Also, imagine the shock when you turn up to an interview and sound nothing like your highly formal, legal-sounding cover letter. Stay true to yourself and be confident with your real tone of voice and personality.”

Details. As in, they matter, but don't go overboard here either. “Stick to the important stuff – a cover letter isn’t a biography,” Milne says. “As much as I encourage professionals to spend a good amount of time on a cover letter, there also needs to be an understanding that this will likely be scanned over by your prospective employer – hence the need to keep the language simple. See a cover letter as your highlights reel."

And only, Milne adds, including the highlights that are relevant to landing the job.

But if you feel like your cover letter needs a little something else, even if it has nothing to do with the job, you can probably get away with it, within reason, according to Milne.

“There is no harm in including that you are an avid surfer, but don’t go on about it unless you like to compete on a professional level, and tie in how getting to the finish line is a core makeup of your personality," Milne says. "All roads lead back to whether you will be good at this particular job or not.”

You may start to feel like this cover letter is as hard to write as a novel or television script, but you don’t have to close with a powerful ending for the ages or a cliffhanger, fortunately. Harrison advises that in your final paragraph and sentences you encourage the reader to take action – that is, reply to you (and be sure to provide your contact information). She also suggests you reiterate your enthusiasm for the position and thank the reader for considering your application.

Kyle Elliott, a career coach who lives in Santa Barbara, California, had a suggestion for the ending, if you have room and think it needs more punch.

"Because social proof is powerful, a creative and powerful way to end your cover letter is with a testimonial from a supervisor, colleague or client. You don't need to ask for an entire letter of recommendation here either. You can repurpose a testimonial from your LinkedIn profile or take a snippet from a performance review you received at work," he says.

And there you go. You’re done. Almost.

Review Your Cover Letter

That was just a first draft. You need to look over your cover letter again, especially if you really want this job . There are a lot of pitfalls that you want to make sure you didn’t stumble into while writing your letter.

For instance, you shouldn't only worry about typos or misspelling names, but getting basic facts incorrect.

“Frustratingly, the No. 1 thing that professionals can often get wrong in a cover letter is the company name or role that they are applying for,” Milne says.

Think about how that looks to a recruiter or potential employer, misnaming the company or even the type of job you’re applying for.

“Often the reason this happens is because job hunters typically use the same cover letter for multiple applications – barring a few tweaks,” Milne says.

"A copy and paste job when it comes to cover letters is lazy and can be borderline offensive or off-putting to recruiters or organizations depending on how obvious it is that you are firing off the same cover letter to multiple organizations," Milne says.

Repetition can also be a problem. In other words, are you repeating everything in the cover letter that you put in the resume? Not a great idea, according to Elliott.

“You want to avoid the common mistake of summarizing your resume when writing your cover letter. Instead, use your cover letter as an opportunity to express your interest in the company and role, as well as what sets you apart from other candidates,” Elliott says.

Sure, you knew that already – but it’s still easy to fall into the repetitive trap.

“Specificity is your friend when writing your cover letter. Give specific examples as to why you're drawn to this company compared to its competitors,” Elliott says. “Additionally, explain what distinguishes you from other applicants. If you offer a specific type of experience, knowledge or skill, be sure to call this out in your cover letter.”

Final Tips on Writing a Cover Letter

Finally, the important thing is to take writing a cover letter seriously.

"Cover letters often get a bad rap these days, both from job seekers and from the hiring side," Fishberg says. "Treating the cover letter as an obligatory nuisance is a missed opportunity to differentiate yourself from other applicants."

And if you can differentiate yourself, you'll have really pulled something off. You may even get hired .

"The perfect cover letter is the one that shows you've done your homework and understand this particular job and this company's needs. It's not one-size-fits-all," Fishberg says.

Copyright 2023 U.S. News & World Report



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