Do you need to write a cover letter to apply for a job? In most cases, the answer is yes. Your cover letter may make the difference between obtaining a job interview or having your resume ignored, so it makes good sense to devote the necessary time and effort to writing effective cover letters.
Here's all the information you need to write a cover letter that will get your application noticed. Review these tips for what to include in a cover letter, how to format it, and examples of many different professionally written cover letters.
What Is a Cover Letter?
Before you start writing a cover letter, you should familiarize yourself with the document's purpose. A cover letter is a document sent with your resume to provide additional information on your skills and experience.
The letter provides detailed information on why you are qualified for the job you are applying for. Don't simply repeat what's on your resume. Instead, include details on why you're a strong match for the employer's job requirements. Think of your cover letter as a sales pitch that will market your credentials and help you get the interview. As such, you want to make sure your cover letter makes the best impression on the person who is reviewing it.
When to Write a Cover Letter
A cover letter typically accompanies each resume you send out. Employers use cover letters as a way to screen applicants for available jobs and to determine which candidates they would like to interview. If an employer requires a cover letter, it will be listed in the job posting. Even if the company doesn't ask for one, you may want to include one anyway.
It will show that you have put some extra effort into your application.
If your cover letter stands out from the crowd of applicants, it can be the key to securing an interview.
How to Get Your Cover Letter Noticed
What’s the best way to get your cover letter noticed when the employer has to look through a pile of them? First of all, take the time to write a good one. Some hiring managers expect to receive a cover letter. In those cases, it should be mentioned in the job posting.
Even if it’s not required, though, a well-written cover letter gives you the opportunity to sell your credentials to the company and to show them why you’d be a good fit for the job.
A CareerBuilder survey reports that 40% of employers are more likely to pay attention when a cover letter is included with an application. Another CareerBuilder survey notes that 10% of hiring managers wouldn't hire a candidate who didn't include a cover letter.
Watch Now: 7 Ways Your Cover Letter Can Get You Hired
How to Write a Cover Letter
There are some quick and easy steps that you can take to write a cover letter that will impress the hiring manager. Take a look at these tips and see which ones will work best for you. Even a few small changes can make a big difference.
Types of Cover Letters
Before you start writing a cover letter, be sure that you’ve chosen the right type of letter. The style will be different depending on whether you’re writing a letter to send or upload with a resume, inquiring about job openings, or mentioning a referral.
There are three general types of cover letters. Choose a type of letter that matches your reason for writing.
- The application letter which responds to a known job opening (see cover letter samples)
- The prospecting letter which inquires about possible positions (see inquiry letter samples)
- The networking letter which requests information and assistance in your job search (see networking letter examples)
When you are applying for a job that has been posted by a company that's hiring, you will be using the "application letter" style.
Cover Letter Writing Guidelines
Here's an outline of the items that should be included in every cover letter. Before you get started, it can be helpful to review some cover letter samples, just so you have a visual of how everything fits on the page.
These cover letter examples, both written and email, are designed for a variety of different types of job applications and employment inquiries. Do be sure to take the time to personalize your letter, so it's a strong endorsement of your ability to do the job for which you're applying.
A cover letter should begin with both your and the employer's contact information (name, address, phone number, email), followed by the date. If this is an email rather than an actual letter, include your contact information at the end of the letter, after your signature. Your contact information should include:
First and Last Name
Street Address (optional)
City, State Zip (optional)
Begin your cover letter salutation with "Dr./Mr./Ms. Last Name." If you are unsure if your contact is male or female, you can write out their full name. If you do not know the employer's name, simply write, "Dear Hiring Manager." This is better than the generic and formal, "To Whom It May Concern."
Review information on how to choose the right cover letter greeting to select one that works for the job and company you're applying to.
Begin your introduction by stating what job you are applying for. Explain where you heard about the job, particularly if you heard about it from a contact associated with the company. Briefly mention how your skills and experience match the company and/or position; this will give the employer a preview of the rest of your letter. Your goal in the introduction is to get the reader's attention. To get started, see examples of engaging opening sentences for cover letters.
A referral can put in a good word and help you get hired. It’s worth taking a few minutes to see if you know anyone who can refer you to the job. Check your LinkedIn network, your college alumni network, and your Facebook friends to identify anyone who works at the company who could refer you. If you find someone, here’s how to ask them for a referral.
Body of the Letter
In a paragraph or two, explain why you are interested in the job and why you make an excellent candidate for the position. Mention specific qualifications listed in the job posting, and explain how you meet those qualifications. Do not simply restate your resume, but provide specific examples that demonstrate your abilities.
Remember, actions speak louder than words, so don't just "tell" the reader that you are, for example, a great team player with strong communication skills and excellent attention to detail. Instead, use tangible examples from your work experience to "show" these traits in action. Here's more information on what to include in the body section of a cover letter.
In the closing section of your cover letter, restate how your skills make you a strong fit for the company and/or position. If you have room (remember, just like your resume, your cover letter should be no longer than one page—here's more information on how long a cover letter should be)—you can also discuss why you would like to work at that specific company.
State that you would like the opportunity to interview or discuss employment opportunities. Explain what you will do to follow-up, and when you will do it. Thank the employer for his/her consideration.
Use a complimentary close, and then end your cover letter with your signature, handwritten, followed by your typed name. If this is an email, simply include your typed name, followed by your contact information, after the complimentary close.
How to Format Your Cover Letter
Cover Letter Length. Cover letters don’t need to be long. In fact, all a lengthy letter will do is make the reader’s eyes glaze over. A few paragraphs are plenty, and your letter should never be longer than a single page. If your letter is too long, don’t use a smaller font. Edit and cut words instead.
Cover Letter Font Options. Your cover letter should be formatted like a professional business letter. The font should match the font you used on your resume, and should be simple and easy to read. Pick a font that’s easy to read. Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, and other similar non-script, sans-serif fonts work well for body text.
Font Size. Size is important too—make your text too small, and the hiring manager may not want to make an effort to read it. Depending on the font, somewhere between 10- and 12-point font size is usually best for readability.
Page Margin Settings. Standard margins are 1" on the top, bottom, and left and right sides of the page. You can adjust them as necessary to make more room on the page.
Letter Spacing. Add a space between the header, salutation, each paragraph, the closing, and your signature. You can reduce the font and margin sizes to keep your document on a single page, but do be sure to leave enough white space for your letter to be easy to read.
Customize Your Cover Letter
It is very important that your cover letter be tailored to each position you are applying to. This means more than just changing the name of the company in the body of the letter.
Each cover letter you write should be customized to include:
- Which job you're applying for (include the job title in your opening paragraph)
- How you learned about the job (and a referral if you have one)
- Why you are qualified for the job (be specific)
- What you have to offer the employer, and why you want to work at this specific company (match your skills to the job description, and read up on the organization's mission, values, and goals to mention in your letter)
- Thank you for being considered for the job
Here's more on how to personalize your cover letter.
Show the Employer That You’re a Fit
One of the most important steps to writing a cover letter that stands out is showing the company that you’re a professional candidate who meets the job requirements. When you do so, you’ll make it easier for the hiring manager to decide that you’d be a candidate worth interviewing.
Match Your Cover Letter to Your Resume. Choose the same font for both your resume and cover letter, and your application will look polished and professional. Don’t mix and match fonts. It’s fine to have a different font for your page headers, but be consistent with the font you use in your cover letter and resume content.
Match Your Skills With the Job Qualifications. One of the most important ways to get your cover letter noticed is to make a clear match between the job requirements listed in the help wanted ad and your credentials. Don’t expect the employer to figure it out. If you do it for them, it will up your chances of getting an interview.
Highlight Your Most Relevant Skills. Don’t use your cover letter to rehash and repeat everything in your resume. This is an opportunity to focus on the specific skills and attributes you have that will benefit the employer. Focus your letter on the top few skills that best qualify you for the job.
What Not to Include in a Cover Letter
You want your cover letter to stand out for the right reasons. There are some things you shouldn’t include in your cover letter if you want to make a good impression. It's not helpful to include personal information or mention how you left your last job. Stay focused on the job at hand and your qualifications for it.
Finally, never include salary requirements unless the employer specifically requests that you do. Even then, be careful how you respond. You don’t want to knock yourself out of contention for the job because you’re asking for too much money. You also don’t want to get an offer for less than you’re worth.
Make Sure Your Cover Letter Is Perfect
Before you send your letter, you should review every detail carefully. Even a small typo could be enough to take your application out of consideration for the job.
Check for Typos and Grammatical Errors
Don't click send or upload your letter before you have taken the time to proofread it thoroughly. Read your letter out loud, and you may pick up some more mistakes. You can even try reading it backward to really focus your attention.
Include an Email Signature
When you email a cover letter, be sure to include a signature with your name, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile URL if you have one. That will make it easy for the recruiter to get in touch with you.
Email It to Yourself
There’s one more thing to do before you send your letter: Email a copy to yourself for a final check. Make sure the formatting is just as you want it—and proofread it one more time.
Cover Letter Samples
Printed or Uploaded Cover Letter Sample
60 Main Street, Apt. 2C
Centerville, NH 03071
August 1, 2021
100 Business Road, Ste 100
Centerville, NH 03071
Dear Mr. Chang,
I’m writing to express my enthusiastic interest in the role of senior tech support specialist at ABC Corp. I have 10 years of experience in tech support roles, including my current job at XYZ LLC, and I’d love to put my skills to work for ABC.
In addition, I have the following qualifications:
- Consistently excellent customer satisfaction, first call resolution, and quality scores
- Excellent communication skills, including the ability to resolve issues quickly and professionally over the phone, chat, or in-person
- The ability to translate complex technical terms into plain English
- A passion for technology and helping others
In the job listing on Indeed, you mentioned that you were specifically looking for someone who was willing to work evening shifts and be on call over the weekend. I worked evenings and weekends in my previous position as Lead Help Desk Technician at LMK Inc., and I enjoy the schedule. (Plus, that’s when the really interesting calls come in!)
I’d love to talk to you about the position and how my skills and experience can help make your team’s job easier. I’m available via cellphone at 203-555-4343 or email at email@example.com.
Liz Johnson (signature hard copy letter)
Email Cover Letter Sample
Subject: Project Coordinator Position
I am a project manager with experience managing complex projects across diverse settings. My project management skills are complemented by customer service experience and data analysis expertise, skills that I believe would make me an excellent fit for the Project Coordinator role at Cumbria Holdings.
Most recently, I was responsible for project management across all aspects of the business. This included the development of programming initiatives, analyzing and managing data, managing market research endeavors, conceptualizing and implementing marketing projects, amongst other activities. I relied on my strong communication, interpersonal, and organizational abilities to oversee numerous moving parts internally, while also managing internal and external relationships along with project budget and finances.
I was also responsible for customer service and client communication. As this was a fast-paced environment that required me to interact with numerous stakeholders and manage numerous projects simultaneously, I developed strong time-management skills. I am highly skilled in Excel and data analysis, especially as it relates to project reporting. I am now looking for a role where I can build on my project management skills.
Thank you so much for your consideration for this position! I look forward to hearing from you. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions at all.
Review More Cover Letter Examples
Need more inspiration for your own cover letters? Review these cover letter examples and downloadable templates for many different types of jobs.