Do you need to write a cover letter (also known as a job application letter) for a job? You may feel as though the document is unnecessary since you are already providing a resume with plenty of information.
Not so! A cover letter serves an important purpose: it presents the case for why you should be hired and distinguishes you from other candidates. Your cover letter is where you can show your passion for the position and the company, and highlight your most relevant qualifications. A well-written cover letter will supplement your resume by focusing on why you're a well-qualified candidate for the job.
Many employers require cover letters as part of the job application process. However, even when an employer does not explicitly ask for a cover letter, you should send one. A Robert Half survey reports that 58% of employers prefer to receive a cover letter and find them to be valuable.
A strong cover letter can make your application stand out from the crowd.
Review these tips for writing and sending a cover letter. Then, use the cover letter sample below as a guide for when you write your own cover letter.
When to Write a Cover Letter
Even when an employer does not directly ask for one, be sure to always send a cover letter. When shouldn’t you send a cover letter?
The only time you should avoid sending a cover letter is when a job listing explicitly says not to send one. In that situation, it's more important to follow the directions on the job listing.
How to Write a Cover Letter for a Job
Make a Match
In your cover letter, address the top skills and abilities you have that match the job description. Ideally, you should select the qualifications that are most relevant to the position for which you are applying:
- Review the job description and try to determine which qualifications seem to add the most value to the position.
- Provide a specific example of a time you demonstrated each of these qualifications.
Consider Using Bullets
One great way to showcase your skills and achievements is to include a bulleted list of your most impressive qualifications in the body of your cover letter. Using four or five bulleted items helps this information to “pop” on the page.
Quantify Your Achievements
When describing significant professional successes, make this information even more impressive by quantifying your contributions with numbers, percentages, or dollar amounts in boldface.
Customize Your Cover Letters
While it might seem tedious, you should always customize each letter to fit the specific job for which you are applying. After all, an effective cover letter must illustrate how your experience matches up to the requirements outlined in the job listing. Failing to do so can quickly get your application eliminated from the pool.
Echo the keyword phrases that are emphasized on the job announcement in your cover letter.
Employers often now use sophisticated applicant tracking systems to provide a first review of the cover letters and resumes they receive. The more industry-specific keywords your cover letter includes, the more likely it is that your application will be advanced for a deeper review.
Explain What's On Your Resume
You can use your cover letter to go into detail about something in your resume that needs explaining.
Proof and Edit Your Cover Letter
A CareerBuilder survey reports that typos and grammatical errors can cost you an interview, as can not including a cover letter.
Be sure to thoroughly proofread each cover letter before sending it, looking for grammar and spelling errors. Consider asking a friend or family member, or even a career counselor, to read over your cover letter. It can be helpful to print a copy of your cover letter and edit it with a pen in hand. Reading it out loud is another good way to catch mistakes.
Review Examples and Templates
For help writing your cover letter, read samples like the one below, as well as cover letter templates. Remember to tailor any example or template to fit your own experiences and the job for which you are applying.
Want more tips? Review the top 10 cover letter writing tips for more details on how to craft a successful cover letter. It’s smart to familiarize yourself with what it takes to write an effective cover letter before you get started writing. That way, you can spend less time on editing and more time on getting it right from the start.
You can also use a cover letter sample, like the one below, for inspiration.
Be sure to tailor any samples you use to match your own background and the job for which you are applying.
As a reminder, always rework your cover letter to fit each specific position that you apply for. In addition to tweaking the content, don’t forget to update the salutation, the job title, and the company name.
Sample Cover Letter for a Resume
This is a cover letter sample for a resume. Download the cover letter template (compatible with Google Docs or Word Online) or read the example below.
Sample Cover Letter for a Resume (Text Version)
Joseph Q. Applicant
123 Main Street
Anytown, USA 12345
August 17, 2020
Director, Human Resources
123 Business Rd.
Business City, NY 54321
Dear Ms. Smith,
I am interested in the author's assistant position at Acme Company, as advertised on LinkedIn. I am currently employed as legislative director for Assemblywoman Nora Kiel, Chairperson of the NYS Assembly. I believe that the skills and experiences I have gained at this position make me an ideal candidate for the job of author’s assistant.
As legislative director, I have developed strong writing and editing skills. For example, one of my main duties is to prepare Assemblywoman Nora Kiel’s personal legislation, which deals with issues related to her position as Senior Member of the NYS Assembly Standing Committee.
This duty requires meticulous writing and editing skills, and an ability to convey complex legal ideas clearly. I have prepared dozens of pieces of legislation and received praise for the clarity of my writing.
I have also gained extensive experience in legal and policy research – fields that you state the author’s assistant must be familiar with. My experience in the NYS Assembly has afforded me the opportunity to become familiar with the consolidated and unconsolidated laws of the State of New York. In particular, through my work with Assemblywoman Nora Kiel, I have become heavily involved in the current welfare and Medicaid reform movement. I am always eager to learn more about state legislation, reading up on these topics on my own time to become more knowledgeable. I would love to bring this passion for policy and law to your company.
I am confident that my experience in the Legislature and my research and writing skills qualify me for consideration. If you would like, I can provide you with current samples of my work. I have also enclosed my resume. I look forward to meeting with you and discussing my qualifications in more detail.
Joseph Q. Applicant (signature hard copy letter)
Joseph Q. Applicant
Sending an Email Cover Letter
If you're sending your cover letter via email, list your name and the job title in the subject line of the email message. Include your contact information in your email signature, but don't list the employer's contact information. Skip the date, and start your email message with the salutation.