A cover letter is a one-page document that accompanies your resume when you apply for a job.
Writing a good cover letter is an essential part of the job hunting process, but knowing how to do it right takes effort.
Combined with the cover letter examples, expert resources, and HR-approved writing tips below, you will learn how to write a cover letter for a job application or internship in no time.
What we’ll cover in this article:
- What Is a Cover Letter?
- What to Include in a Cover Letter
- General Cover Letter Example
- Entry-Level Cover Letter Example
- Writing a Good Cover Letter (in 4 Steps)
- Cover Letter Formats: Layout & Structure
- Best Cover Letters: Examples & Templates
- Additional Resources
1. What Is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter (sometimes called a covering letter) is a one-page document written to express why you’re the best candidate for a job.
It’s always included with a resume, and an effective cover letter should:
- Highlight your relevant experience
- Showcase your familiarity with the company and their goals
- Convey a bit of personality
A strong cover letter is an essential part of any job application — it will make you look like a great candidate, and can get you interviews even if your resume is lacking.
Before you start writing, you should first ask yourself:
What Is the Purpose of a Cover Letter?
A compelling cover letter should:
- Successfully introduce yourself to the hiring manager
- Make a strong case why you’d be a good fit for the job
- Prove your desire to work at the company
- Fill in any missing data that couldn’t be included on your resume
- Give the hiring manager a call to action
Get these things done, and your cover letter will be a powerful companion for your resume.
2. What to Include in Your Cover Letter
There are six distinct sections to include:
- Contact information (phone number, email address, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Cover Letter Introduction
- Call to action
The following infographic illustrates the breakdown perfectly:
3. General Cover Letter Example (With Experience)
Our first example is a basic cover letter that works for any candidate with a few years of prior work experience.
In this example, a mid-level candidate is applying for a professional consulting position. She already has four years of experience on the job that she can reference in her cover letter. She also references skills listed in the job requirements.
Here’s how she pitches her qualifications and wins over the hiring manager:
General Example [Full Text]
|Dear Mr. Gerrard,
I noticed your recent job listing seeking professional consultants. I’ve always admired the work of your well-known firm, and it would be a privilege to contribute my consulting talents and ensure even greater success at Global Consulting.
I’ve provided financial and business management consulting services for the last 4 years working at Global Technology Solutions. Within that time, I’ve helped upstarts and industry veterans alike develop efficient workforce solutions and investment strategies.
As an Associate Partner of Business Strategy, I was tasked with appraising the internal operations of global businesses and implement cost-saving strategies. Previously, I managed high-level investment portfolios as an Associate Consultant of Investments for an international bank.
Some notable contributions to my previous employers include:
• Increasing gains by over 10% through expert analysis of corporate investment portfolios
Global Consulting has achieved unbelievable success over the years, so I’m certain you won’t employ just anyone. My prior consulting experience has driven growth, cut wasteful expenses, and increased shareholder for my clients. I would be thrilled to offer these skills to Global Consulting. Thank you for your consideration for this position – I’m excited to hear from you.
4. Entry-Level Cover Letter Example (With No Experience)
There are many ways to write an entry-level cover letter that stands out and will convince hiring managers to grant you an interview.
In this example, an entry-level candidate is applying for an IT position.
Here’s how she convinces the hiring manager of her strengths and wins an interview:
Entry-Level Example [Full Text]
|Dear Ms. Francis,
My name is Megan Johnston, and I am a recent accounting graduate with extensive internship experience in preparing invoices, analyzing financial data, and managing payroll at Fortune 500 companies. I found this job posting on LinkedIn and believe I would be a great choice for Smith & Roberts Accounting’s entry-level accounting position.
As an accounting intern at Marriott International, I had the opportunity to put my academic knowledge into practice. Working under skilled junior and senior accountants in a prestigious company allowed me to develop the necessary experience that will help me succeed at Smith & Roberts Accounting. Here are three examples from my resume that highlight my accomplishments at both Marriott International and Potter & Bukowski:
• Helped manage payroll and the registration of employees to Jobs and Pensions service for our 150+ employee branch.
I think Smith & Roberts Accounting’s efforts to implement ‘strategy-driven’ service offerings are a great direction for the company. With this approach, Smith & Roberts Accounting will have more autonomy in choosing which corporate entities they wish to work with.
I am thrilled at the prospect of working with Smith & Roberts Accounting and would like to come in for an interview as soon as possible. Please contact me at (423)135-8789 or via email at [email protected] so we can arrange a meeting. Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you.
5. Writing a Good Cover Letter (4 Steps)
These simple steps will show you exactly what you need to do:
1. Address Your Cover Letter
To professionally address your cover letter, simply include:
- The hiring manager’s contact information (first name, last name, address, phone number, and email)
- Your own contact information (first name, last name, address, phone number, and email)
When addressing your cover letter, put your contact information in the header (centered, at the top of the page), with your employer’s contact information above “Dear [hiring manager’s name]”.
Here’s an example of a properly addressed cover letter:
Include a Cover Letter Greeting
Great cover letters start with a personalized greeting to the hiring manager. This means you’ll have to do some research in order to find the hiring manager’s name.
Here’s how to do that:
- Look through the company website
- Check Linkedin (if they’ve added a resume to LinkedIn you can even get their current title)
- Call the company to ask for the correct name.
If you truly can’t find an appropriate name, “To Whom It May Concern” is still a professional and reasonable option – despite what other resume websites (like the Muse) may say.
Alternatives to “To Whom It May Concern” include:
- Dear Sir
- Dear Madam
- Dear Hiring Manager
Even if you end up addressing the wrong person, it still shows that you’ve made an effort — and to hiring managers, that’s what counts (at least when it comes to your greeting).
2. Start With a Strong Opening
Your cover letter introduction is the first thing a hiring manager will see, so it’s critical you make a great first impression.
Your Cover Letter Opening Line
The first sentence of your cover letter should simply include:
- a personal introduction
- an explanation of how the job opening was discovered
Your opening line is a formality, but still important. You’ll have time to elaborate on the job title you are seeking and the value you offer a company later.
Your Cover Letter Opening Paragraph
The rest of your first paragraph should briefly describe your skills and background.
A great cover letter introduction states:
- The position you’re applying for
- A short blurb regarding your background
- A brief introduction to your accomplishments or talents
Here’s a breakdown of a sample introduction one candidate used to start their cover letter:
|I am writing to you regarding your company’s Customer Service Representative opening. I have been working as a Customer Care Specialist at Satellite TV Co. for more than 2 years now, and during that time I’ve developed impeccable phone manners and an ability to politely deal with disgruntled customers. I am accustomed to working on multiple projects simultaneously, and can offer new ideas to help your company grow and surpass all goals and objectives.|
Your background includes information like your degree, area of study/expertise, career goals, or relevant job experience. Make sure to emphasize anything that is relevant to the position.
3. Write Informative Body Paragraphs
The body paragraphs of your cover letter are what will sell you as a potential hire.
Your second paragraph should directly respond to the job description and the job requirements posted by the company, and explain why you’re qualified to handle this role.
Use this paragraph to prove how your previous work experience, skills, achievements, and abilities make you perfect for the position, and how this expertise will help you to meet the needs of the company.
Pull words and phrases from the job description for use in your cover letters, and try to demonstrate that you’re flexible. There’s no faster way to make a hiring manager think, “This person seems like a good fit.”
Here’s an example of a job description:
|Essential Duties and Responsibilities
Here’s how the applicant wrote their second paragraph. Notice how the skills and duties use the same words.
|Duties at my previous company included making 60 outbound calls a day to businesses and private individuals in order to solicit sales. During my tenure, I implemented a new sales strategy, improving our customer satisfaction ratings and exceeding monthly sales goals by an average of 11%. My experience at Satellite TV Co. has helped me improve my customer service acumen, hone my organizational skills, and has provided me with extensive knowledge of how to upsell services and goods to potential clients.|
If you have transferable skills and related work experience, you should still use the language from the job description – even if you don’t have all of the skills mentioned in the job posting. You’ll just need to thoroughly explain how your experience is transferable.
Here’s an example:
|I also understand that Big Corp is seeking a candidate with experience in mobile sales. While I don’t have any direct knowledge of mobile sales, I do however, have extensive experience writing sales emails. I’m confident that my skills related to email, such as persuasive copywriting, lead generation, and demographic research, are transferable and will allow me to quickly contribute to your team.|
This is the part of your cover letter where you really make clear what you have to offer as a prospective employee, so be sure to take your time and make it great.
Use the third paragraph to illustrate how you’ll use your abilities to help the company succeed.
|I also understand that Big Corp is seeking a candidate that can make an immediate impact on their sales numbers. While at Satellite TV Co., I consistently surpassed monthly sales goals by 8% on average, and served as a model for effective sales strategy. I’m confident that my proven track record and aptitude for making cold calls will allow me to be an instant contributor to the team’s success at Big Corp.|
This example quickly demonstrates the candidate’s skills, and how they’re able to use those skills to contribute to the company’s goals.
Your third paragraph is also the perfect opportunity to tie your cover letter and resume together.
Use this section to cover resume content that you didn’t have space to explain on your resume. For instance, elaborate on one of your more impressive work accomplishments here.
Just be sure to keep things consistent between your resume and cover letter, or it might get confusing for the reader.
4. Write a Professional Cover Letter Closing
Your closing paragraph is where you push the hiring manager to contact you by including a convincing call to action (CTA).
A strong CTA should:
- Inform the employer that you’d love to come in for an interview
- Tell them that you’ll reach out within a week if you don’t hear back
- Thank them for their time, and for the potential interview opportunity
You want your CTA to have conviction, but don’t make it sound pushy or aggressive. Including your email address or other contact information is also a plus, but try to keep it short.
Here’s an example of an irresistible closing paragraph CTA:
|I’m looking forward to discussing the position and my qualifications with you in more detail soon. I’ll be in touch next week to follow up, just to make sure you’ve received my application.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
This candidate’s CTA is simple, yet hits upon all the major points of an effective closing. Being polite and direct is a good way to leave the right impression here.
6. Formatting Cover Letters: Layout & Structure
You cover letter’s margins, font size and style, and alignment all factor into the hiring manager’s overall impression of you.
Here are a few quick cover letter format tips:
- 1” – 1.5” margins. If you’re having trouble fitting everything on one page, you can adjust within reason.
- Don’t go below a 12-point font unless absolutely necessary. Anything below 12 is hard to read, causing strain on the eyes.
- Choose an appropriate font. The best cover letter fonts include Helvetica, Times New Roman, and Calibri.
- Keep all your paragraphs left-aligned. It’s important to have uniform formatting throughout your resume and cover letter.
How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?
Cover letters should not exceed one page, and should be around 200-300 words, with three to four paragraphs.
This gives you time to introduce yourself, hit your main selling points, and inform the hiring manager of your interest in the position.
7. Write Your Best Cover Letter
You’ve made it this far, which means you’re dedicated to creating the most professional and effective cover letter possible. More interviews and better jobs await you in your job search.
Now it’s time to push forward and take the time to write a great cover letter. If you’re not yet sure where to being, you should have a look at our cover letter examples and cover letter templates for inspiration or just a jumping off point.
You can also check out our new and improved cover letter builder, which generates a perfect cover letter just for you and takes the guess work out of cover letter writing!
Check out our comprehensive guide to find out if cover letters are necessary in 2020.
8. Additional Resources
- Cover Letter Examples
- Cover Letter Templates
- Cover Letter Format
- How to Address a Cover Letter
- How to Start a Cover Letter
- Are Cover Letters Necessary?