David Grimes, director of people and talent operations at Taulia LLC, gave us his insight as a hiring manager and human resources industry veteran:
“From my perspective, I sincerely appreciate cover letters, as they signal to me an amplification of interest and offer an additional opportunity to convey that [job candidates] have taken the time to truly review the position or organization and see an alignment.” He notes that “when done well, a cover letter can provide a window into the candidate as they picture themselves at our organization.”
So, how do you make a cover letter that influences hiring managers to interview you? We’re here to show you!
Our detailed guide will cover:
Table of Contents
What is a cover letter, and how long should a cover letter be?
A cover letter is a one-page business letter, between 250 and 500 words, that can:
- Introduce you to hiring managers.
- Provide a glimpse of your personality.
- Give an overview of your qualifications.
- Tell employers why you want to work for them.
- Explain circumstances like job hopping or gaps in employment.
- Launch your career.
What should a cover letter look like?
All cover letters follow a basic business letter structure that looks like this.
Your contact information
The current date
The hiring manager’s name and title
The company’s address
The hiring manager’s email address
A salutation (greeting)
An opening paragraph
A closing paragraph
How to write a cover letter for a job
What should a cover letter say? Follow the steps below to learn what to write in a cover letter to pique a prospective employer’s interest.
STEP 1 Add your contact information.
Place your name, city, state, ZIP code, phone number and email address in your cover letter heading. Your email address should be professional like Jdoe@email.com and not personal like email@example.com. Include links to your LinkedIn profile or professional online portfolio if you have one.
STEP 2 Add the recipient’s address.
Here’s how to address a cover letter correctly:
First, write the current date followed by a space. Then include the hiring manager’s name and title, company address and hiring manager’s email address (in that order).
It should look like this:
Pro tip Always follow instructions in the job ad. If an ad directs you to address your cover letter to a human resources team member or the HR department, use the information the prospective employer provides for the recipient’s address.
STEP 3 Address the hiring manager (by name).
Writing a good cover letter salutation is relatively straightforward. Always start with “Dear Ms., Mr., Miss or Mrs. [surname]. If you do not know the person’s gender or marital status, then use “Dear [hiring manager’s full name],” but if your research doesn’t turn up a name, then use “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Hiring Team.” If you know their title, then write “Dear [Title].
Don’t use informal language like “Hello,” or “Hi,” or old-fashioned salutations like “Dear Sir or Madam,” or “To Whom it May Concern,” to greet the person reading your letter.
Pro tip What if you don’t know the hiring manager’s name? Try to find it! Doing so conveys resourcefulness, interest and determination — all qualities most hiring managers want in their employees. Search the company’s website, look on LinkedIn or call the HR department and ask. It can’t hurt!
- Dear Lucy Garcia,
- Dear Ms. Lowe,
- Dear Hiring Manager,
- Dear Vice President of Marketing,
- Hi there!
- Hey Mr. Jones,
- Dear Sir,
- Sam Spade:
STEP 4 Grab the hiring manager’s attention with a powerful opening paragraph.
The first few sentences of a cover letter are the most important because they have to grab the reader’s attention immediately and keep them on the page. But how do you start a cover letter?
Think of your introduction as a sales pitch: You’ve got to convey your message clearly and concisely in a compelling way. Try some of the following time-proven techniques to get prospective employers to notice you and want to learn more:
Exude confidence, passion and enthusiasm.
Talk up your skills and experience.
Show you’ve done some research.
Mention an interesting fact or statistic from an article, news story or the company’s website.
Highlight an impressive accomplishment, award or honor and use numbers when possible.
Tell a story about why you are applying.
Mention a shared contact (only if you’re sure it’s a positive connection!)
STEP 5 Tell them why they should hire you in the main body of your letter.
While your resume should summarize the most notable aspects of your career, the body of your cover letter should paint an in-depth picture of your professional life and provide insight into your personality. Here’s how to write a cover letter body that complements your resume and stands out from the competition.
- Provide further details about work accomplishments you list on your resume, and use numbers to quantify the results of your actions. Numbers provide impact and help make your capabilities resonate with hiring managers.
- Showcase your most relevant skills and detail how you can apply them to the job for the company’s benefit.
- Explain what’s motivated you to change careers or jobs and how your skills will contribute to the company’s success. Job-change cover letters focusing on transferable skills are more effective because they show prospective employers that they can perform the necessary work.
- Draw a connection between your work experience and the new target role by connecting your previous job responsibilities with what the new position requires. Don’t have work experience? No problem! Connect this new opportunity with a personal or school project, extracurricular activity or internship.
- Show you understand the company culture, goals and values and explain how you’re a great culture fit. Doing so will help convey that you’re the best candidate for the role.
STEP 6 Write your closing paragraph.
When you write a cover letter closing statement, make it clear that you’re excited about the possibility of working for the employer and that you are confident you have the expertise to be successful at the job.
You must also thank your reader for their time and consideration, and perhaps most importantly, end with a call-to-action that encourages the reader to follow up with you.
Remember that you’re writing a cover letter to a specific person, so thank them for their time and consideration. You should also encourage the recipient to follow up (e.g., “I look forward to further discussing my qualifications with you.”).
Here are a few examples of how to create a cover letter closing statement.
STEP 7 Sign off.
What goes in a cover letter sign-off? Honestly, it’s not complicated, but you have to get it right if you want a chance at the job.
That means you must be respectful, polite, professional and formal.
- Best regards,
- Kind regards,
- Thank you,
- Take Care,
Now that you know what to put in a cover letter don’t forget to proofread your document at least once when you’re finished writing. Typos and grammatical and spelling mistakes can reduce your chances of getting hired. When you’ve finished, have someone else read it for you, too, just to be sure it’s application-ready.
And there you go! That’s how to write a good cover letter.
Cover letter writing checklist
- Did you choose a design that matches your resume?
- Contact information
- Are your name, location, phone number and email address up-to-date and displayed at the top of your cover letter?
- Did you add a link to your professional portfolio or website and your current LinkedIn profile (if you have them)?
- Did you add the current date at the top of your cover letter?
- Company information
- Did you address your letter to the hiring manager by name and include their title, email address and the correct company address?
- Did you greet the hiring manager, recruiter, or HR associate by name or title?
- Did you use a polite but formal greeting?
- Opening paragraph
- Are the first few sentences of your cover letter clear and compelling?
- Do you convey enthusiasm for the job?
- Body paragraphs
- Did you effectively express how you can apply your skills, experience and achievements to the target job to help the company achieve its goals?
- Did you highlight one or two things you like about the company, such as their values or culture, and why?
- Closing paragraph
- Did you thank the reader for their time?
- Did you end your cover letter with a call to action?
- Did you use a proper, formal closure to end your letter?
How to make a cover letter fast
The best place to start a cover letter is a professional cover letter template.
Download one for free to create a cover letter from scratch, or use one of our expertly designed templates with our Cover Letter Builder to make a cover letter in minutes.
Our templates frame your qualifications with the correct formatting, and they meet the latest applicant tracking system (ATS) requirements.
Our builder makes writing a cover letter a snap with:
- Job-specific phrases and skills: No matter the job you’re applying for, we give you the right words and relevant skills you can incorporate with just one click.
- Step-by-step guidance: Get expert advice at every step to help you present your best self and get the job.
- Easy customization: Write a cover letter for every job application and save as many versions of it as you need.
- Multiple download formats: Save and export your cover letter as a PDF, DOCX or plain text.
Pro tip always match your cover letter template to your resume template for a polished job application.
Cover letter tips
We’ve given you almost all the cover letter advice you need, but we’ve saved some of our favorite pointers for last.
Here are our top five tips for how to write a cover letter that makes an impact:
- TIP #1
Follow instructions. This is probably the most important cover letter tip: Read the job description carefully and do what it says. If the job posting says to send your letter as a PDF, don’t send a Word document. If it tells you to send your cover letter as an email attachment, then do so. If the job posting says to write your cover letter in the body of an email, then do that. If you fail to follow all instructions in a job ad, you will likely not be considered for the position.
- TIP #2
Tailor your cover letter to the job. Hiring managers know a generic cover letter when they see one — and they usually ignore them. That’s why it’s critical to customize your cover letter to show your enthusiasm for the specific job and company you’re applying to. To do this, use keywords from the job description when they apply to you. Doing so also ensures ATS software can find you and signals to hiring managers that you meet their requirements.
Our Cover Letter Builder makes it fast easy to customize a cover letter for every job you target.
- TIP #3
Don’t apologize. If you have some of the required skills for the job, play them up but never point out the skills you lack. The same goes for experience: If you are qualified for the job but don’t have much experience in the field, don’t apologize. Instead, focus on experiences like volunteering, school projects and community service you’ve done that make you a good fit and play up your transferable skills.
- TIP #4
Don’t overshare. While using your cover letter to explain a career change or job gap is a good idea, sharing every detail about your life or career is not a good idea. Here are some of the biggest no-no topics to keep to yourself when you create a cover letter:
- Political views.
- Current or past salary or salary expectations for the target job.
- Exaggerations and lies (about anything).
- Personal details such as marital status, family background, financial situation, ethnicity or religious beliefs
- Negative thoughts about your former boss, company or coworkers.
- Irrelevant personal hobbies.
- Details about work from more than three years ago that doesn’t pertain to your target job.
- TIP #5
It’s possible to be too enthusiastic. We stress the importance of conveying enthusiasm for the job, passion for the work, and a keen interest in the company when you write a cover letter because you should. However, use caution when displaying your zeal for the role. Keep the tone professional, be genuine and never present yourself as desperate.
Cover letter examples
Cover letter examples by job and industry
Get inspired with our professionally crafted cover letter examples for top jobs and industries. You can use them with our builder to make a cover letter that’s as unique as you are.
Cover letter examples by situation
Example of a cover letter for a job with no experience.
Use this example to help you make a cover letter for a career change.
Here’s what to include in a cover letter if you have employment gaps.
Example of how to write a “cold call” cover letter.
This example shows how to write a cover letter for a job that isn’t advertised.
Here’s how to write a cover letter for a temporary to a permanent position.
Example of a cover letter for a job with the same company.
This example shows how to write a cover letter when seeking a promotion.
How to write a cover letter: important takeaways
Let’s recap the basics of what to include in a cover letter one more time:
- A cover letter is a one-page document that complements your resume and helps you market yourself as the best candidate.
- Address the letter to the hiring manager. If you don’t know who to address the cover letter to or can’t find their name, it is acceptable to address the letter to the department.
- Write a cover letter introduction that immediately grabs the hiring manager’s attention and compels them to keep reading.
- Cover letters should explain why your skills and experience are perfect for the job and why you want to join the employer’s company.
- A good cover letter thanks the hiring manager for their time and consideration before signing off. Remember to prompt them to follow up.
- It’s a good idea to use a professionally designed template to ensure your cover letter is formatted correctly.
- Consistency is essential, so ensure your cover letter and resume match.
- A good cover letter is a custom cover letter. Tailor yours to your target job and use keywords from the job description if they fit your abilities.
More help writing a cover letter
Get Hired Fast: Best Cover Letter Writing Tips of 2022
From researching the company to cutting the fluff, these seven cover letter tips will help you write a cover letter in the right frame of mind.
5 Qualities That Are Part of Every Successful Cover Letter
Ever wonder what makes one cover letter effective but not another? Read on to learn the secrets of a good cover letter.
4 Ways A Cover Letter Can Launch Your Career
More than an introduction, a cover letter could take you to the next level. Read more to find out how.