How to Write a Cover Letter

Tips and Advice for Writing a Cover Letter for a Job

woman with laptop
Copyright Emmanuel Faure/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Do you need to write a cover letter to apply for a job? Here's all the information you need to write an effective cover letter that will get your application noticed.  If you take it one step at a time, you'll soon be an expert at writing cover letters to send with your resume.

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a document sent with your resume to provide additional information on your skills and experience.

The letter typically provides detailed information on why you are qualified for the job you are applying for. A cover letter typically accompanies each resume you send out.

Employers use cover letters as a way to screen applicants for available jobs and to determine which candidates they would like to interview. If an employer requires a cover letter, it will be listed in the job posting.

Different Types of Cover Letters

There are three general types of cover letters. Choose a type of letter that matches your reason for writing.

How to Write a Cover Letter

Your cover letter may make the difference between obtaining a job interview or having your resume ignored, so it makes good sense to devote the necessary time and effort to writing effective cover letters.

Review these tips for what to include in a cover letter, how to format it, and examples of many different professionally written cover letters.

What to Include in Your Cover Letter

A cover letter should complement, not duplicate, your resume. Its purpose is to interpret the data-oriented, factual resume and add a personal touch.

A cover letter is often your earliest written contact with a potential employer, creating a critical first impression. Find out more of the differences between a resume and a cover letter.

Effective cover letters explain the reasons for your interest in the specific organization and identify your most relevant skills or experiences. Determine relevance by carefully reading the job description, evaluating the skills required, and matching them to your own skills. Think of instances where you applied those skills, and how you would be effective in the position available.

Each cover letter you write should be customized to include:

  • Which job you're applying for
  • How you learned about the job (and a referral if you have one)
  • Why you are qualified for the job (be specific)
  • What you have to offer the employer (match your skills to the job description)
  • Thank you for being considered for the job

Cover Letter Writing Guidelines

Here's an outline of the items that should be included in every cover letter.

Header
A cover letter should begin with both you and the employer's contact information (name, address, phone number, email) followed by the date. If this is an email rather than an actual letter, include your contact information at the end of the letter, after your signature.

Salutation
Begin your cover letter salutation with "Dr./Mr./Ms. Last Name." If you are unsure if your contact is male or female, you can write out their full name. If you do not know the employer's last name, simply write, "Dear Hiring Manager."

Introduction
Begin your introduction by stating what job you are applying for.

Explain where you heard about the job, particularly if you heard about it from a contact associated with the company. Briefly mention how your skills and experience match the company and/or position; this will give the employer a preview of the rest of your letter. Your goal in the introduction is to get the reader's attention. See examples of engaging opening sentences for cover letters.

Body
In a paragraph or two, explain why you are interested in the job and why you make an excellent candidate for the position. Mention specific qualifications listed in the job posting, and explain how you meet those qualifications. Do not simply restate your resume, but provide specific examples that demonstrate your abilities.

Closing
In the closing section of your cover letter, restate how your skills make you a strong fit for the company and/or position. State that you would like the opportunity to interview or discuss employment opportunities. Explain what you will do to follow up, and when you will do it. Thank the employer for his/her consideration.

Signature
Use a complimentary close, and then end your cover letter with your signature, handwritten, followed by your typed name.

If this is an email, simply include your typed name, followed by your contact information, after the complimentary close.

Edit Your Cover Letter

Remember to edit and proof your cover letter before sending it. It may sound silly, but make sure you include the correct employer and company names - when you write multiple cover letters at once, it is easy to make a mistake. Reading the letter aloud is a good way to catch small typos, such as missing words. Always double-check the spelling of your contact's name, as well as the company name.

Here are more tips for proofreading a cover letter.

Keep it Short

Keep in mind that your cover letter doesn't need to be long - one page is plenty. Here's information on how long a cover letter should be.

Write a Cover Letter in 5 Easy Steps

A well-written cover letter will help get your application noticed and help you secure an interview. Take the time to personalize it so it shows the employer why you're a solid candidate for the job. Here's how to write a cover letter in five easy steps.

Review Cover Letter Samples
Here are cover letter examples, both written and email, that are designed for a variety of different types of job applications and employment inquiries.

Best Cover Letter Format
This cover letter format lists the information you need to include in the cover letter you submit with your resume.

More Types of Cover Letters
There are other types of cover letters you may need to use, depending on the jobs for which you are applying. Here are examples of referral letters, prospecting letters, letters asking for job search help and more.

What else you should know: How to Match Your Qualifications to a Job

Continue Reading...