Table of Contents
- Before You Write a Cover Letter: 5 Facts You Need to Know
- Do’s & Don’ts for Formatting a Cover Letter
- 3 Tried-and-True Templates to Consider When Writing a Cover Letter
- Write a Cover Letter in Four Simple Steps
- Crafting a Perfect Cover Letter: A Side by Side Comparison
- Let’s Review: 10 Tips for Writing the Perfect Cover Letter
Automated job applications often indicate that a cover letter is optional. It isn’t. Recruiters spend an average of six seconds scanning a resume before deciding on a candidate. So, learning how to write a cover letter that is compelling will increase your chances of getting hiring managers to take a second look at your resume, or call you in for an interview.
Taking the time to learn how to write a cover letter and then including one with your application makes you look professional and competent. Better yet, it could increase the chances that your application will clear the first hurdle toward landing an interview. According to a 2016 survey of 2,153 hiring and human resource managers, 40% of recruiters said they were more likely to pay attention to applications that include cover letters.
Think of it this way: your resume is designed to prove that you are qualified for the job in question, but your cover letter makes the case that you are uniquely qualified. It’s where you can make the case that your skills and experience make you the best fit for the job.
By learning how to write a cover letter you are availing yourself of the opportunity to explain gaps in employment, to expand upon and emphasize information in your resume, or to give details about why you want to make a career change. So get informed and start writing your best cover letter yet!
Before You Write a Cover Letter:
5 Facts You Need to Know
Recruiters spend an estimated 20 seconds looking at each cover letter. As you can see, you have a limited amount of time to get your reader’s attention and compel them to keep reading.
Whenever possible, address your letter to the hiring manager by name. It may take a little extra research on the company web site and LinkedIn, but it can make a big difference. Some recruiters will not read letters that are not addressed to them personally. If you can’t find the name of the hiring manager, then address your cover letter to the company’s name.
Mastering how to write a cover letter that you customize for each job can also increase your chances of getting past an applicant tracking system (ATS). Why? You increase your chances because most ATS search your letter for keywords just as they would a resume.
According to a 2016 survey of 1,600 recruiters and human resource professionals, 78% of job recruiters said that a candidate’s enthusiasm affects hiring decisions. A cover letter is a perfect place to communicate your enthusiasm, possibly the only place before an interview.
Referred candidates are 10 times more likely to get hired than those who are not referred by someone within the company. If you know someone at the organization, make sure you mention it within the first few sentences of your cover letter.
Do’s & Don’ts for Formatting
a Cover Letter
Learning how to write a cover letter includes mastering the art of utilizing an appropriate and professional-looking format. A badly formatted cover letter can be as costly as a poorly written one.
In addition to appearance, you must consider format. If an employer asks you to send a cover letter as an attachment, you need to use a formal business letter format. Consider using a PDF. Attaching the document as a PDF will preserve your layout.
Sample cover letter
Keep your letter to less than one page, short enough to read at a glance. Some experts suggest no more than 200 words total.
Use a simple font that is designed to look good on screen such as Georgia or Calibri.
Include your contact information as the heading. If you are emailing your cover letter, make sure that your contact information is easy to see within the text.
Never include a photo or image on your cover letter.
Don’t waste your first sentence with a tedious restatement of the job at hand. Instead, show enthusiasm for the position and immediately start arguing that you’re the best person for the role.
Don’t allow your paragraphs to run too long. Break up the type and create white space by drawing attention to skills and accomplishments in bullet lists.
3 Tried-and-True Templates to Consider
When Writing a Cover Letter:
Let’s take a look at some cover letters. These three cover letter templates are industry-specific. However, you can adapt their best lessons about how to write a cover letter to nearly any field. See the lessons that you can learn from each template.
General Cover Letter
For example, in this general cover letter template the candidate does a superb job of arguing her fitness for the role. She states her point in the second sentence, then spends the remainder of her letter detailing her attributes. Though we can’t see the job description, it’s clear that she is responding to its main points.
Administrative Assistant Cover Letter
The candidate in this cover letter template keeps her paragraphs concise and lists her strengths in a bullet list that employs strong action verbs and specific tasks and areas of strength. She then lists several technical applications she has experience with, each of which may earn her ranking points from an ATS, improving her chances of landing an interview.
Teacher Cover Letter
The candidate in this cover letter template added numbers throughout his cover letter, referring to how many years he has held his current position and how many students he has managed in the classroom. He also mentions specific issues that are likely to be of interest to employers in his field. He also does a great job of noting next steps.
Write a Cover Letter in Four Simple Steps
A cover letter should begin with your contact information, usually centered at the top of the page. However, this is one area of your letter where you can show some creativity. If you applied stylistic touches to your resume, then you should consider adding them to your cover letter to create a sense of personal branding.
In all other aspects, a cover letter should follow the format of a formal business letter. It should include a date as well as contact information for the hiring manager and company at the top left, before your salutation.
Sticking with a traditional business format for your cover letter conveys your seriousness and professionalism. Since hiring managers spend so little time with each letter they receive, using the proper formatting will help them save time and ensure that they don’t miss important details, like how to get in touch with you to set up an interview.
As you consider how to write a cover letter, note that there are four basic components: salutation, opening, body copy, and closing. If you craft your letter correctly, each part can help you clear the filtering process and get you closer to an offer.
For serious jobseekers, addressing a cover letter “To Whom It May Concern” won’t cut it. Jobseekers who want to show that they’ve done their homework conduct research to find the name of the hiring manager and address a cover letter personally to that person.
LinkedIn or the company’s website should make this research easy. If it doesn’t, then address your cover letter to the company itself (Example: “Dear Masterson & Muckridge”).
Begin with a strong opening sentence that expresses why you want the job and why you are a good fit for it. Start with a short anecdote that identifies you by that title and demonstrates how you are the right candidate to solve their problem.
If you know someone at the company or were referred by an employee mention their name within the first few sentences, possibly even the first sentence of your letter.
Do not begin with a joke. Humor is subjective and especially hard to convey in writing.
3. Body copy
This part of your letter should include three to four short paragraphs that focus on skills and achievements mentioned in the job description. Write concisely and include active verbs to prove that you’re qualified for the job.
Make it clear that you’ve done your research and are interested in the company’s mission and goals. Choose a problem that the organization faces, and then tell a story about a past accomplishment that proves that you can help.
Don’t reframe all the qualifications from your resume in paragraph form. Instead, use your letter to showcase three to five key accomplishments that make you a perfect fit for the job. Tell stories and give specific examples of ways you used the skills and experiences on your resume to solve problems for past employers.
Use short paragraphs and bullet lists to make it easy for hiring managers to see your strongest qualities.
Quantify your value by using numbers wherever possible. How many employees did you hire or supervise? How much revenue did you produce? How much did you save? What was the size of the budget you oversaw?
Consider including links to work samples, such as videos, published articles, a personal web site, or digital portfolio.
Be confident. Assume there will be follow up action. Tell your reader you look forward to hearing from them, not that you hope to hear from them. Mention a next step in the process; for example, you might say that you look forward to hearing from them to discuss the role further.
Crafting a Perfect Cover Letter:
Insider Advice You Need to Know
Review the perfect cover letter below and uncover insider advice that we’ve gleaned from helping users over 10 years get the job they want with a cover letter that impresses hiring managers and recruiters. Click the show button within each section to reveal the insider information.
Notice how this cover letter is addressed to the hiring manager. Our jobseeker took the time to learn her potential boss’s name before writing the letter. This shows that she cares and pays attention to details.
I first tried Stella’s Sensational Steakhouse in 2010, when it first opened. After the first bite, I fell in love. For the past five years, I have visited Stella’s at least once a month and gotten to know your wonderful servers, like Matt and Karen. Imagine my delight to learn that you are now seeking an experienced, passionate sous chef. I am convinced that my professional background and enthusiasm for cooking makes me the ideal candidate to fill this role.
A great way to learn how to write a cover letter that hiring managers actually read is to practice creating a story. See how our cover letter starts by explaining how the jobseeker came to hear of this restaurant and why she loves it so much. This proves that she is enthusiastic and might make a great hire.
You need a sous chef who has experience managing a large kitchen. I worked as a sous chef the Las Vegas strip restaurant Onyx for four years; during that time, I filled in for the head chef while she was on maternity leave. Though it was an intimidating professional leap, the kitchen thrived under my leadership. I facilitated the creation of two new dishes, and they were so popular that their sales led to an overall restaurant revenue increase of 10%. Also, I hired three line cooks. Under my mentorship, all three stayed for at least two years and one was promoted to sauté chef.
I understand that Stella’s Sensational Steakhouse is a fast-paced environment that requires superb attention to detail. I thrive in such atmospheres. Before Onyx, I worked as a line cook at Braxton in New York City for four years. As noted in the New York Times review, Braxton is the most fast-paced high-end restaurant in the city. In the time that I was there, I trained 10 new staff members, strengthened communication between the servers and the kitchen, and helped create Braxton’s famous secret sauce.
Thank you for your consideration. I would welcome the chance to talk to you and learn more about the sous chef position.
It’s important to refer to the job description in your letter. See how our cover letter example addresses the job description then explains how her experience goes beyond the required history. This type of information makes it easy for employers to imagine working with you and determining if you are a good fit for the job.
Insert data wherever possible to demonstrate your value. Show that your efforts make a difference at work. Revenue is the best way to prove your worth, but it’s also wise to mention the number of people you trained or the number of projects you worked on in a given time frame.
5. Cultural Fit
At some point, argue that you’re a good culture fit as well. Read the company’s mission statement and values to get more insights as to what this might mean.
Let’s Review: 10 Tips for Writing the
Perfect Cover Letter
By the time recruiters filter the candidate pool for those who get interviews, there is likely to be a lot of similarity across resumes. Most of the applicants at this stage will have similar education, skills, and work experience. It’s at this point that your cover letter can set you apart from your peers.
Keep the following 10 tips on how to write a cover letter in mind:
Recruiters spend an estimated 20 seconds looking at each cover letter, so you have a limited amount of time to get your reader’s attention and compel them to keep reading.
Study the job description to determine what problem the employer is trying to solve with this hire and make sure your letter outlines how you can help them do this.
Study the company’s web site, the Twitter feeds of its leaders, and LinkedIn profiles of employees to gauge proper tone.
Customize your cover letter for each job. Most hiring managers can tell when you are using a generic cover letter.
Emphasize experience and skills that match the requirements outlined in the job ad, but don’t just restate what is in your resume.
Throughout the cover letter, echo the job ad’s keywords and phrasings.
Don’t gush. If you compliment the company, be specific and ensure that the compliment demonstrates your research, knowledge, and overall fit for the position.
Avoid clichés and platitudes; for example, everyone says that they are “hard working.”
Be enthusiastic, but don’t use exclamation points.
End your letter with an action item that mentions a follow-up step in the application process.
Our Cover Letter Builder makes it easy to create a personalized, beautiful cover letter that is sure to get noticed. It’s easy: just upload your information, and let our Cover Letter Builder guide you through writing tips and suggestions.