Writing a cover letter in 7 easy steps
Making a good cover letter is easy. Follow the steps in this guide and recruiters will be calling you in for an interview in no time. Let’s get started.
Pick a template.
Cover letters look best on a professional template. Templates are preformatted designs you can use to easily organize your content in an eye-catching way. Browse our template library or jump directly into our Cover Letter Builder to find a style that suits you.
If you aren’t ready to think about the design, that’s okay. You can write your cover letter in a separate doc before you pick a template.
Pro tip:Match your cover letter template to your resume template for consistency.
Start with the header.
The cover letter header can be at the top left, top right or in the top center of the page, depending on which template you choose, and should include your:
- Phone number
- Email address
Consider also including your LinkedIn profile or professional website if you have one.
Here’s how your header should look:
City, State ZIP Code
March 16, 2021
Hiring Manager’s Name
Hiring Manager’s Title
Company City, State ZIP Code
Pro tip:The contact information in your cover letter heading should be identical to the contact information you use for your resume. If you add a link to your portfolio on your resume, then add it to your cover letter, too.
Greet the hiring manager professionally and politely.
You should always address the hiring manager or recruiter by name whenever possible. Sometimes a job ad will include the name and email address of the person who placed the ad.
If you don’t have a name, search for it. Comb through the company’s website, dig deep online, call the company or use LinkedIn to learn the hiring manager’s name and greet them like so:
“Dear Sam Smith,” “Dear Dr. Kenney,” “Dear Professor Liu.” Never use informal greetings like “Hi,” “Hello,” or “Good morning.”
Pro tip:If you can’t find a name to address, then write a greeting like “Dear Sales Hiring Manager or “Dear Sales Team.”
Introduce yourself enthusiastically.
Start your cover letter by showing interest and exuding confidence. Tell the employer who you are and why you’re writing.
Here are two positive and enthusiastic cover letter opening lines:
Opening paragraph for a social media role:
“I am greatly interested in being considered for the social media associate position with [Company Name]. I have admired [Company Name]’s excellence in consumer product marketing and its dedication to social causes for many years. As a social media coordinator with three years of experience in the nonprofit sector and a lifelong human rights advocate, I think I’m just the person to fill the role.”
Opening paragraph for a technical writer role:
“I’m very interested in your job posting for a technical writer with [Company Name]. I am a methodical and detail-oriented professional with more than five years of experience as a technical writer for software companies in Silicon Valley. You will find that I have a track record of exceeding deadlines and improving workflows to ensure that projects run smoothly and efficiently. I’m sure my experience and varied skill set could benefit the position and [Company Name].”
Pro tip:Your cover letter introduction should be brief and get right to the point, leaving the rest of your letter for the details.
Tell employers exactly why you’re
the best candidate for the job.
The body of a cover letter includes up to three paragraphs that describe your qualifications in detail. This section explains why you’re interested in the position, what you hope to accomplish for the company, and which of your past achievements prove you’re perfect for the role.
Here are a few tips for writing an enticing body paragraph:
Demonstrate your personality. Cover letters are meant to give employers a glimpse of the person behind the letter. Show them what makes you unique.
“I see myself as a positive person with a lot of energy. My friends sometimes ask me how I manage to balance work as a server while pursuing a degree in nutrition science.”
Describe specific aspects of your related experience. Part of this is calling out your most admirable and relevant achievements and briefly telling the stories behind them.
“I realized the potential for viral videos for increasing market reach early in my career. Over time, my portfolio of successful productions grew to include video marketing campaigns for [company names], interactive social media advertisements and paid marketing strategies that increased brand awareness as much as 35% across the fashion industry.”
Talk about atypical aspects of your resume if you have them. These may include employment gaps, a string of short-term jobs, or a job or industry that is much different than the one you’re applying to. Addressing any unique circumstances gives you the chance to explain why those experiences add to your qualifications.
“Two years ago, I became my mother’s primary caregiver when she became seriously ill. During this difficult period, I was inspired to change my focus to health care. I enrolled in an online associate degree program and became a home health aide. I am available to work full time now, and I’m eager to apply my new skills to your open home care assistant position.”
Pro tip:Always talk about your qualifications as they apply to the company’s needs and not in terms of what you want to get out of the job.
Highlight your key accomplishments and qualifications in a bullet-point list
Close your cover letter with an invitation to follow up.
A cover letter closing is where you reiterate your interest, thank the hiring manager for their time, and invite them to contact you or say that you’ll follow up with them.
“I look forward to speaking with you about how I can apply my specialized skills and passion for nursing to the lead nurse position in your department. You can reach me at [phone number and email] Monday through Friday. Thank you for your time and consideration.”
Pro tip:There’s a fine line between inviting the hiring manager to connect and being pushy or desperate. Avoid statements like, “I really want this job, please contact me for an interview” and “I will call you tomorrow to discuss my qualifications.”
The signature is where you politely sign your cover letter. Popular signoffs include “Sincerely,” “Thank you,” and “Respectfully.”
After your closing paragraph, add a line break, write your signoff, add another line break and sign your full name.
Pro tip:Avoid informal signoffs, such as “Cheers,” “Love,” “Take care,” or “Warmly,” even if you know the hiring manager very well.
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A well-written cover letter: final checklist
Before you send your cover letter to a prospective employer, there are a few things you should keep in mind. As you give your document a final proofread, ensure you’ve accomplished the following points.
Convey knowledge about the company
Research is crucial when writing a cover letter. You must learn about the prospective employer so you can speak to how you’re a possible match. Applicants who make an effort to find out more about a company and show this in their cover letter are preferred because they show commitment.
While conducting your research on how to make a cover letter, ask the following questions
What product(s) or service(s) does the company provide?
What is the company culture? Do you feel you’re a good match for their culture?
What are the company’s values, challenges, mission and goals? Do you feel you could support them in achieving their mission and goals?
Who are their competitors? If you’re familiar with their competitors, it may be helpful to share this fact in your cover letter.
Tailor your message to a specific job and employer
Once you’ve done your research, you’re ready to customize your cover letter for your target company. One way to do this is to tailor your skills to the job requirements and match your achievements to the tasks of the role.
Consider your audience
To make an impact, you’ve got to think about who will be reading your cover letter. Chances are, your audience will include the following:
Applicant tracking systems (ATS)
Many hiring managers and recruiters often use ATS software, which scans and sorts cover letters and resumes to weed out those that don’t match a job’s required skills and experience. To get past them, use keywords in your cover letter that best describe the company, the job description and the position.
Recruiters rate and rank candidates for interviews. They look for the “best of the best,” scanning cover letters for achievements, awards and unique skill sets. When writing your cover letter, be sure to emphasize your most relevant successes and how you can apply them to the job.
Busy hiring managers want to see a well-thought-out cover letter that shows you understand the role, took the time to learn about the company and have the qualifications necessary to perform the job.
Demonstrate your potential value
Ask yourself the following questions to make sure you have showcased your value:
How would you help the company meet its goals? For instance, if a retail business or manufacturer wants to expand its sales operations, share examples of your related achievements in this area.
How would you help to further their mission? If you want to work for a company because you know its purpose is to sell only sustainable products, mention your passion for environmental causes. If you volunteered for a green organization, weave that experience into your narrative.
How would you help support the company’s ethics, business or values? For example, if you’ve learned that the company wants to expand its charitable outreach to nonprofit organizations and you’ve worked for nonprofits, definitely highlight this experience.
How can you help them solve a problem? Demonstrate how you can provide a solution to a problem you may have discovered through your research.
Include as many specific details as possible
Employers want to know what you bring to the table.To show them your potential, include facts and figures about past accomplishments.
Job candidates must convince prospective employers that they are a perfect fit for a role by providing related stories and anecdotes throughout their cover letters. For example, how many managers have you supported, and how many sales have you made? Did you create a new process that helped the team or the company be more efficient?
Show your excitement about the job
A great way to stand out from the competition is to show enthusiasm when you start a cover letter. Displaying interest helps employers envision you in the role and creates a connection between you and the hiring manager.
Sprinkling powerful and dynamic words, such as “motivated” and “thrilled,” for instance, emphasizes your desire to work for the company. The “Houston Chronicle” recommends describing your enthusiasm in the first sentence to grab the hiring manager’s attention. So if you’re thrilled at the idea of working at a start-up, let the company know right away.
Use the right format
Make sure your cover letter contains the proper margins, fonts and spacing, and keep it short. Otherwise, it may be swiftly rejected by the hiring manager.
We write cover letters because they expand on our resumes and provide details about our backgrounds that we can’t include in a resume. Plus, cover letters allow us to create a strong narrative around why we are the best choice for the position. When we learn how to write a good cover letter, we significantly increase our chances of landing an interview.
A cover letter should be half a page to one full page in length and stay within five paragraphs or 450 words in length. Start your cover letter with a strong introduction, follow it with three or four concise paragraphs and finish it with an attention-grabbing closer.
Here’s how to make a cover letter sound great even if you are underqualified for the job you’re applying for: Focus on your transferable skills and enthusiasm for the job. After all, the most vital letters don’t simply list qualifications; They paint a picture of a passionate applicant who will bring value to the team.
A cover letter should mention the job you want and express your sincere interest in the position and the company you’re applying for and the work they do. The body paragraphs should clearly and concisely explain why you are the best fit for the job and show real examples of how you can help the company succeed. You can do this by highlighting past achievements and matching them to the job description. Finally, a cover letter closing should express sincere appreciation for the reader’s time and convey enthusiasm and confidence.
If you need more specific advice, check out our library of cover letter examples.
Writing a cover letter for a job when you’ve never worked before can feel intimidating. Fortunately, you don’t always need a lot of experience to get hired; passion and determination can go a long way. You can also play up your skill set, class projects and testimonials to build a compelling case for yourself. In short, show your relevant experience, even if it isn’t from previous jobs.
The best place to create a cover letter online is Resume Now’s Cover Letter Builder. Use the powerful editor, its prewritten suggestions and beautiful, professional templates to make an effective cover letter in no time.
Every cover letter must include the following:
- A cover letter heading with the applicant’s and the prospective employer’s contact information.
- A salutation to address the cover letter to the reader.
- An introduction or cover letter opening paragraph that captures the reader’s attention.
- Three or four cover letter body paragraphs that show why you’re the best candidate for the role.
- A closing paragraph that reiterates your interest, thanks the reader for their time and invites them to follow up with you for an interview.
- A signoff where you professionally and politely close the letter. “Sincerely” and “Thank you” are great examples of cover letter signoffs.