When you apply for a job, you may be required to submit a cover letter with your resume. Even if it isn't required, it's typically a good idea to write one when you're applying for jobs. A well-written cover letter helps you stand out in a sea of candidates, making it more likely you'll be selected for an interview.
Your cover letter should highlight the points on your resume that make you a superior candidate for the position you are seeking. It should not simply recap your resume, but rather point out details and expand on specific key assets that are essential for success in the job.
What Information to Include in the Letter
Think of your cover letter not just as an introduction or a statement of intent to apply for a job, but as a golden opportunity to market yourself, your skills, your qualifications, and your training to an employer.
As a powerful marketing document, its primary purpose is to persuade a hiring manager to give a closer review to your resume than the typical quick scan.
You're in charge here, so highlight the accomplishments and experience that will make you a compelling candidate. Be choosy!
The Body of the Letter
Start off the body of your letter with pertinent information about how you were referred to the opportunity and your interest in the position.
The bulk of the letter, however, should focus on your qualifications for the job, relevant training, and why you would make an excellent candidate. You can cover this ground in a few paragraphs or take advantage of bullet points.
Ideally, your letter will be easy to read—use action-oriented language, and avoid very long paragraphs, which can be taxing on the eye. Remember, you don't want to duplicate your resume here. Instead, you want to connect the dots for the hiring manager between the posted job and your experience.
And, aim to "show, not tell"—that is, instead of saying, "I'm very detail-oriented," you could say, "At Company X, I ran the marketing newsletter, sent to 50,000 customers, from start to finish, ensuring that it went out in a timely manner, included all the relevant promotions from 15 departments, and was free from any errors."
In closing, you can include your plans for following up with the hiring manager: “I will call next week to follow up on the status of my application.” You should also thank them politely for their time. Use a business-like closing, such as “Sincerely,” “Best Regards,” or “Yours Truly,” followed by your name and signature (on a hard copy).
If you're emailing the cover letter, you can include an email signature.
Keep length in mind. Your cover letter should not be more than a page in length, and a half-page is likely preferable.
How to Address a Cover Letter
Sometimes a job posting lists the name of the hiring manager, and in that case, you should address your letter to him or her. In cases where a name isn’t listed, you should make an effort to find out the right person to whom to address your letter.
It’s always better to address your application materials to the appropriate hiring manager.
If you can’t find his or her name by reviewing the company's corporate website or calling their front office, you may use the address of the company and an alternative salutation, such as “Dear Hiring Manager." Here are tips for how to address a cover letter, along with helpful examples.
General Cover Letter Sample
You can use this sample as a model to write a cover letter. Download the template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online), or read the text version below. Use this sample as inspiration—do not copy it directly.
General Cover Letter (Text Version)
123 Main Street
Anytown, CA 12345
July 14, 2020
Head of Academic Affairs
Business City College
123 Business Rd.
Business City, NY 54321
Dear Mr. Lee:
I am writing in reply to the classified ad you posted seeking to fill the position of Graduate Student Advisor for the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree program at ABC College.
Having earned my Master of Arts degree in Academic Advising from XYZ University, I understand the importance for informed academic counseling and program planning in a higher education environment.
I have also experienced first-hand the comforting effect of being able to contact an advisor who genuinely cares for the professional growth and success of students.
During my career as an electrician prior to my graduate studies, I was elected Chairman of the Executive Board where I sat as the union’s representative to the apprenticeship advisory board. In this capacity, I was able to be an effective advisor to apprentices who were experiencing scholastic problems that threatened their future in the industry. I particularly enjoyed working with older apprentices who were seeking a career change and had problems adjusting to the obligations of work, school, and family life.
I believe that both my educational background in Academic Advising and my work-related duties of counseling and advising students enrolled in learning programs qualify me for consideration for the position of Graduate Student Advisor. I look forward to discussing how my skills can be of value to ABC College as it prepares to move into the new millennium. Thank you for your time, consideration, and forthcoming response.
Adam Applicant (hard copy letter)
Before You Send Your Letter
Always carefully proofread your letter. The last thing you want to do is make a typo in the name of the company! Also confirm that you have the email or snail mail address correct.
It can be helpful to also take one last look at the job posting. Review the job requirements, and then confirm that your letter shows that you fit the bill. For a second opinion, you can reach out to a friend and ask for feedback on the letter.
Sending an Email Cover Letter
When you're sending your cover letter by email you don't need to include the employer contact information or your contact information at the top of the letter. Instead, list your contact information in your email signature under your name.
Review More Examples
Looking for more examples of how to write a cover letter? Review more cover letter samples for a variety of career fields and employment levels, including an internship cover letter sample, as well as entry-level, targeted, and email cover letters.