Complete Guide to Cover Letters

Published: 2021-04-24

Cover Letters | Complete Guide |

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  • What is a cover letter?
  • How to write a cover letter
  • Tips for writing cover letters
  • Cover letter template

Most employers expect applicants to submit a cover letter and a resume. You can use your cover letter to further explain or highlight parts of your resume and give examples of your qualifications. This guide explores how creating an effective cover letter can help you to make a good impression and stand out from other candidates.

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a one-page personal statement you can use to introduce yourself to an employer. Because it should be only one page, your cover letter should be short and concise. You can explain your relevant work experience and support your accomplishments with details that demonstrate your skills.

Use your cover letter to introduce yourself to an employer and make a positive first impression. Hiring managers also frequently run cover letters and resumes through applicant tracking systems to scan for specific terms from the job listing. Writing a tailored cover letter can help you make it through an ATS so the hiring manager has an opportunity to read it.

How to write a cover letter

Here’s how you can write a cover letter:

1. First, write a header

The contact information is traditionally formatted as a professional header, with your name, address and contact information. You can also include a link to your professional networking profile or website. After your contact information, add the date you plan to submit your letter.

2. Second, add a salutation and greeting

The salutation contains the contact information of the employer or the person you wish to network with. Add a professional greeting after the salutation. If you can find the name of the hiring manager, use it. However, avoid overly formal greetings, like ‘Sir’ or ‘Madame’ because it can be hard to know the correct one to use. If the name of the hiring manager is unknown, addressing the letter as ‘Dear hiring manager’ is acceptable.

3. Third, write an opening paragraph

After the salutation and greeting, begin the body of your cover letter. This is an important paragraph that needs a compelling statement to catch the recipient’s attention. This is also the section to introduce yourself and connect with the reader. This section should be written specifically for each recipient by including references from the job posting or company website.

4. Next, write the middle paragraph

The middle paragraph should detail how your skills and experiences are useful. You can use the same ideas for each description, but change them so they appeal to the individual recipients. Make sure to mention the skills listed in the job posting that align with your own skills and work experience.

5. Then, write a closing paragraph

The last paragraph is to thank the reader for taking the time to read your cover letter. You can include a call to action where you remind the company why you are a good fit for the position and request an interview.

6. Last, include a closing and your signature

Your cover letter needs a formal closing and signature. Appropriate closings include ‘Sincerely,’ ‘Respectfully’ and ‘Best regards.’ If the letter is on paper, first type your full name then sign it with a pen. If you are emailing your cover letter, type your name as your signature.

Tips for writing cover letters

Here are some tips for how to write successful cover letters:

  • Use a template. Templates show you how to include all the necessary components.
  • Be specific. Use terms, keywords and phrases that are unique to each company and job listing.
  • Use the recipient’s name. If possible, find out who will be reading your letter and address it personally.
  • Start strong. Take time to write a memorable introductory sentence that expresses your personality and sums up your professional identity.
  • Expand on your resume. Use your cover letter as an opportunity to further explain everything you included in your resume instead of repeating the same information.
  • Promote yourself. Explain how you could benefit the company and why hiring you could solve one or more of the company’s problems.
  • Highlight your experience. Draw attention to the positions that gave you the most opportunities to gain practical experience, and explain what you learned from each.
  • Show your skills. Provide a comprehensive list of your professional skills, including how you gained them and how you think they would be useful in the role.
  • Skim over your education. Most employers want to know you have the right education, but there is no need to spend more than a sentence or two on your academic career unless it directly relates to the role.
  • Stay positive. If you lack experience or certain skills, emphasize the qualifications you do have and focus on how your new role would help you to fulfill your potential.
  • Use statistics. Whenever possible, use quantifiable data, like percentages and dollar totals, to back up any claims you make about your accomplishments or skills.
  • Include recommendations. In some industries, it can be helpful to include brief recommendations from mentors or established professionals.
  • Be human. Your letter should be professional, but it should also sound like a real person with an authentic voice.
  • Adapt your voice. Research the company’s website to learn more about the tone, voice and level of formality you should use.
  • Be eager but not too enthusiastic. Refrain from using exclamation points or too many overly enthusiastic phrases.
  • Describe your achievements. Use your cover letter to describe your greatest career accomplishments to impress the hiring manager.
  • Be concise. Make sure you only spend one to three sentences on each subject to keep your cover letter direct.
  • Finish well. The final sentence of your letter is just as important as the first. Restate your interest in the company and remind your reader why they should hire you.
  • Proofread carefully. Reading your letter out loud can help you notice spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. Make sure to proofread your cover letter every time you change it.
  • Follow instructions. When submitting your letter, send it to the correct address in the required format.

These tips can help you write an informative cover letter that hiring managers want to read.

Cover letter template

Here is a template you can use when writing cover letters:

[Your name]

[Your address]

[Your city, state and zip code]

[Your phone number]

[Your email]


[Recipient’s name]

[Recipient’s title]



[City, state and zip code]

Dear [Recipient’s name],

In the first paragraph of your cover letter, you introduce yourself to the hiring manager and explain why you are interested in the job.

You can use the second paragraph to give more detail about your qualifications and how your skills match the job description. A cover letter may contain a bulleted list of the following:

  • Your leadership experience
  • Your goals and how you worked toward them
  • Your most relevant skills

You can use the third paragraph to explain why you are interested in the job and offer a call to action, such as following up to schedule an interview.


[Your signature]

[Your typed full name]

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