What to Include in a Cover Letter for a Job

When writing a cover letter, specific information needs to be included: a contact section, a salutation, an introduction to the hiring manager, information on why you are qualified for the job, a closing, and your signature. The way the information is listed and the format depend on how you are sending your letter. 

The goal of your cover letter is to make a case for getting selected for a job interview, so it's important to include all required information along with a compelling argument for why you would be a strong candidate for the position.

It can be time-consuming to write a custom cover letter for each job you apply for, but it's important to take the time and effort to show the company why you are a good match. The more your experience and your skills match the job description, the higher your chances of getting picked for an interview.

Be sure to include information in your letter about how you possess the particular skills and requirements that the employer is seeking. Don't simply repeat what's in your resume. Your resume lists your skills, but your cover letter should highlight how you have put those skills to use.

Before you start writing, review cover letter examples and make sure that your letter explains how your skills relate to the criteria listed in the job posting. Looking at examples of effective cover letters will give you a starting point for creating your own letter.

Here's what to include in a cover letter to send with a resume when you apply for a job.

01
What to List in a Cover Letter Contact Section

block format cover letter
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When writing a cover letter to mail or to upload to a job board or company website, the first section of your cover letter should include information on how the employer can contact you.

Printed or Uploaded Letter
List the following information in the contact section:

Hiring Manager Name (if you have it)
Title
Company
Address
City, State Zip Code

Date

Your Name
Address
City, State Zip

Email Cover Letter
When you send an email cover letter, include your contact information in your signature instead of listing your contact information at the top of the message:

Your Name
Street Address 
City, State Zip Code 
Email 
Phone 
LinkedIn

Here's more information, with examples, on how to address a cover letter.

02
Choose an Appropriate Salutation

Man reading cover letter
 Fizkes /  iStock / Getty Images Plus  

It's important to include an appropriate greeting at the beginning of the cover letter or message. If you have a contact person for your letter, be sure to include their name in your letter.

Consider salutation examples that are appropriate for cover letters and other employment-related correspondence.

For example:

  • Dear Hiring Manager (if you don't have a contact person)
  • Dear Mr. Smith
  • Dear Ms. Jones
  • Dear Rory Dolan
  • Dear Dr. Milliard

03
Highlight Your Qualifications in the Body Section

block format cover letter
Pali Rao / iStock 

The body is the most important part of a cover letter or an email message applying for employment. The body of a cover letter includes the paragraphs where you explain why you are interested in and qualified for the posted job:

  • Why you are writing.
  • How you are qualified for the job.
  • Appreciation for being considered for the position.

Be specific by referencing the employer's job requirements as listed in the job posting in this part of your cover letter.

04
Include Keywords in Your Letter

Highlighting keywords
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Including keywords related to the jobs for which you are applying in your cover letters can help you get selected for a job interview. These are specific words hiring managers look for when considering applications.

As hiring processes have become automated, online applicant tracking systems are programmed to search for keywords.

05
Choose an Appropriate Closing

closing of cover letter
peepo / Getty Images

Make sure to close your letter in a professional manner. Casual closings as you would write to a friend or a family member are not appropriate in a letter to a potential employer. 

For example:

  • Best
  • Best regards
  • Respectfully
  • Regards
  • Sincerely
  • Thank you
  • Thank you for your consideration

06
Add Your Signature to the Letter

Businessman writing on paper at desk
Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

What is included in a cover letter signature depends on whether you are sending or uploading a cover letter document or using an email message as your cover letter.

Hard copies of letters should be signed by hand. Scanning your signature to include on PDFs can be a nice touch, while emails should include a professional electronic signature that includes your contact information.

07
Review Cover Letter Examples

Screenshot of a cover letter template
©TheBalance 2018

Here's an example of the final product, including information on why the applicant would be an excellent candidate with a summary of his qualifications for the job. 

Download the template for this cover letter here and also review more cover letter samples with free templates you can download to use as a starting point for your own letter.

John Bigham
111 Maple Street
Anytown, MA 02222
555-555-5555

September 1, 2018

Shaun Lee
Human Resources
Goodspring
123 Business Rd.
Business City, NY 54321

Dear Mr. Lee:

I am writing to state my interest in the position of Assistant to the Director of Goodspring. I believe that my work experience and education have equipped me with the skills necessary to be a successful candidate for this position. 

During my years with XYZ Wellness, I have been responsible for everything from accounting, bookkeeping, marketing and maintaining records to scheduling appointments and greeting clients and their families at the door. I have proudly overseen our growth from a startup business to a well-respected contributor to the community. 

I have also been in charge of organizing our very successful annual golf fundraiser and dinner. Last year, we raised $145,000 for our local homeless shelter. 

Your mission is an important one, and I would very much appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about how I can contribute to your team and help you continue to provide the services so vital to our community. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

John Bigham (signature hard copy letter)

John Bigham

When you're sending an email cover letter (see below) your contact information should be listed after your signature.

08
What to Include in an Email Cover Letter

email message on screen
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The body of an email cover letter should contain the same information as a document cover letter, but two big differences are the subject line and your contact information.

Many employers ask that specific information is included in the subject line, and you must follow those instructions carefully. Contact information should be included with your electronic signature.

09
What Not to Include in a Cover Letter

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There are some things that don't belong in a cover letter. Don't go overboard. Including too much information can hinder your chances of getting an interview. Keep your letter concise and focused, and don't include extraneous details.