How to write a cover letter
A cover letter is an essential part of any job application. Its purpose is to supplement your resume, giving potential employers more information about your background and interests. This guide offers tips for writing a cover letter that will grab hiring managers’ attention and make your application stand out in a sea of competitors.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a short introduction to who you are and what you can offer a potential employer.
It serves to add context to your resume by discussing how your interests, experience, and personal traits make you the best candidate for the role. Conventional wisdom from cover letter tips also suggests you can use the space to offer explanations for things your resume can’t explain, like a gap in employment or a career pivot.
Because it’s persuasive in nature, a cover letter can boost your standing as a candidate, especially if a hiring manager isn’t convinced by what’s on your resume. You can increase your chances of landing your desired role by using your cover letter to clearly show how you can benefit the company.
What is the basic formula of a cover letter?
While searching for advice on how to write a cover letter, you may discover that the cover letter and resume articles you find online make it challenging to determine the best format to use.
While you should tailor each cover letter to the industry and job you’re applying for, following widely accepted cover letter examples can help you come across as polished and professional, making it more likely your application will be seriously considered.
Most hiring managers will expect to see the following basic elements included.
The heading of your letter is essentially everything that comes before the opening sentence. Start by providing your name and contact information, then do the same with the company’s contact information. Follow this with the date and a salutation addressed directly to the hiring manager.
According to most cover letter tips, your introduction should state what role you’re applying for, where you found out about it, and why you’re excited to apply.
Conveying enthusiasm for the role draws the hiring manager in and helps them connect with you right away. Employers want to hire candidates who want to work for them, as this makes them more likely to be happy, engaged, and productive.
The body of your cover letter is where you’ll let your work experience and personal traits shine through.
In the paragraphs following your introduction, offer details about your current position, the skills that make you the right fit for the job, and the personal traits that fuel your passion for the profession. If you want to explain anything the hiring manager may find in your resume, you can do so here.
In your closing, you’ll thank the hiring manager for their time and ask for a follow-up call or interview. Although that may seem like a bold move, hiring managers tend to like it when candidates are direct and display a real desire for the roles they’re pursuing.
Regardless of how you send your resume, make sure you note any attachments or enclosures you’ve included (like your resume or supporting documentation) at the bottom of your letter. This lets the hiring manager know they need to look for additional documents to review.
What are some helpful guidelines when writing a cover letter?
Writing a good cover letter is no small feat. Whether you plan to start with cover letter templates or try crafting one on your own, keep the following best practices and tips for writing a cover letter in mind.
Research the company
Take some time to research critical details about the company you’re applying to in order to gain a clearer understanding of its mission, values, and current initiatives. Your cover letter will be stronger if you can connect your experience, skills, and personal traits to the organization’s overall goals.
Customize the letter per role
Make it a point to write a fresh cover letter for every role you’re applying for. This may seem like a lot of work, but using cover letter templates and examples can help. Tailoring your cover letter to each role gives you an opportunity to highlight relevant skills and traits and makes it easier to convey passion and enthusiasm.
Address the hiring manager when possible
Starting your cover letter with “Dear Sir/Madam” makes it look like you haven’t done your homework. Instead, address your cover letter directly to the hiring manager by name.
If you don’t know their name, you may be able to find it by conducting a quick LinkedIn search. You can also try asking a contact at the company if you have one. However, don’t underestimate the power of simply calling the company to ask who you should address your cover letter to.
Begin with a compelling opening
While a cover letter isn’t an essay or news story, you still need a way to hook the reader, draw them in, and make them want to know more.
After specifying the role you’re applying for and how you found out about it, try leading with an impressive accomplishment, conveying excitement about company news, pointing out a mutual connection, or even telling a relevant story.
Concretely discuss your experience and background
Avoid being vague about your work experience. Use the first body paragraph to tell the hiring manager about your responsibilities in your current role. If there’s no obvious connection to the role you’re applying for, spell out the connections that exist.
When discussing your background, it’s wise to quantify your achievement (e.g., how much sales revenue you’ve closed) to demonstrate your true impact.
Avoid repeating information already in your resume
Your cover letter should provide context for what the hiring manager will see in your additional documents.
The idea is to show how your education and work experience align with your passion and future professional goals. Highlight your awards, prestigious affiliations, and relevant hobbies or volunteer work and show how they make you the best candidate for the position.
Remain enthusiastic and close strongly
Maintaining a passionate yet professional tone throughout the cover letter is crucial. It’s equally important to end the letter just as strongly as you started it. Two especially useful cover letter tips are to thank the hiring manager for their time and to be bold enough to ask for an interview or meeting to discuss the role further.
Personalize your layout
You can use a standard layout for most cover letters, with your personal information typed at the top and the rest of your letter below. In some cases, however, you might consider using a layout where your details are listed on the left side of the page.
Some candidates may also prefer to add a splash of color. Remember to tailor your layout to your profession and personality. As long as the cover letter and resume template you use are professional, hiring managers will likely have no problem with you injecting a little flair.
Follow up accordingly if needed or specified
If you don’t hear back within a reasonable time frame, you may need to send a follow-up email to the company.
Use a professional tone for your follow-up message, but don’t be afraid to remind them of your relevant skills and convey continued enthusiasm for the role. Tell the hiring manager you look forward to hearing from them, and consider attaching your original cover letter and resume so they won’t have to hunt them down.
“You can increase your chances of landing your desired role by using your cover letter to clearly show how you can benefit the company.”
Make potential employers want to hire you with the right cover letter tips
A cover letter is a hiring manager’s introduction to you. As such, you’ll want to share pertinent information about your passion and prior work experience in the industry in a way that convinces them you’re a good fit for the role. Hook them with a compelling opening and remain enthusiastic throughout the letter.
Remember to use a standard cover letter structure to showcase your professionalism. If you’re using cover letter or resume examples, customize them by addressing them directly to the hiring manager and discussing concrete details about your background.
By following these best practices and expert tips, you can write a cover letter that garners serious consideration for your desired role.