Picture this: you’ve already made a resume that highlights your experience and you’re about to submit a job application. But before you can continue you see the phrase that every job seeker dreads: “cover letter required.”
Not sure what the big cover letter do’s and don’ts are? We’re here to help. In this article, you’ll find:
- An explanation of what a cover letter is (with a sample)
- A simple 8-step guide for creating a cover letter
- A walk-through of how to easily make a cover letter online
- Some frequently asked questions about writing a cover letter
Are you ready to learn our best cover letter tips and tricks? Let’s get started.
Our free-to-use cover letter builder can make you a cover letter in as little as 5 minutes. Just pick the template you want, and our software will format everything for you.
What is a cover letter for a job?
Not quite clear on what a cover letter is exactly? Here’s a quick definition:
A cover letter is an application document you pair with your resume that explains why you want a particular job, and why you think you’re the right person for that job.
But what does a cover letter look like?
Here’s an example of a cover letter to show you what a good cover letter looks like in 2023:
December 3, 2022
Mrs. Connie Finnegan
24 Federal Ave.
Atlanta, GA, 30308
Dear Mrs. Finnegan,
I’m writing to apply for the Restaurant Manager opening at Cool Bistro. I have more than three years of experience managing successful restaurants and bars, delivering excellent customer service, and creating unique dining experiences. I’m confident my professional expertise would make me a great addition to the team at Cool Bistro.
In my role as Restaurant Manager for Bar Louie, I proved to be an efficient, enthusiastic, and strong leader. My value quickly became apparent to Bar Louie’s owners after I trained and prepared the entire waitstaff for opening night. Not only did our team meet sales goals each month for the first year, but we received glowing reviews in the local papers as well.
I’m confident Cool Bistro would benefit from my skills in the following areas:
- Eye for excellence and high level of standards
- Strong work ethic and leadership skills
- Positive attitude even under pressure
I believe Cool Bistro will be a great success for many years to come, and my extensive expertise will help ensure your establishment succeeds well into the future. My time spent in this industry has prepared me for such an opportunity, and I sincerely hope I can contribute soon as a member of your team.
I’d appreciate the opportunity to discuss the Restaurant Manager position in more detail soon. I’m happy to come by whenever is most convenient for you. Thank you for your time, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
To maximize your chances of getting an interview, you need to write an attention-grabbing cover letter that makes a strong positive first impression on employers. And if you don’t have time to write one, no worries — you can also make a cover letter quickly using online tools or a cover letter template.
If you lack job experience to include in your letter, don’t worry – it’s not necessarily a cover letter red flag.
In fact, writing a standout cover letter can actually help persuade employers to give you a chance. According to a recent Resume Genius survey, 82% of hiring managers say a strong cover letter can convince them to invite an otherwise weak candidate for an interview.
Watch the video below to learn how to write a cover letter with no experience. Or keep scrolling to learn everything you need to know about how to write a good cover letter that gets you hired regardless of your background.
How to write a cover letter for a job application
Not sure what to write in a cover letter? Follow the seven simple steps below to make a cover letter that leaves a lasting impression on employers:
1. List your contact details
Underneath your name in your cover letter header, list the following contact information:
- Email address
- Phone number
- Mailing address (optional)
- Linkedin profile link (optional)
- Portfolio or website (optional)
- Pronouns (optional)
2. Address the hiring manager by name
Here’s how the top half of your cover letter should look.
After your header, include the date and the company contact information in this format:
Name or job title of the person or team you’re writing to
Company’s street address
Company’s phone number
Hiring manager’s email address
Next, address your cover letter to the hiring manager — by name if possible.
A standard cover letter salutation includes the hiring manager’s last name, and begins with “Mr.”, “Ms.”, or another relevant professional title.
If you don’t see the hiring manager’s name listed in the job ad, don’t worry. You can easily find out who to address your cover letter to:
- Search the company on LinkedIn and click on “People”
- Explore the company’s website (specifically their “About Us” or “Team” page)
- As a last resort, contact their human resources department and ask
However, if you still can’t find it, you can address your cover letter without a name by using their job title or something like Dear [Department Name] Director.
Here are some example cover letter greetings:
- Dear Jane Smith
- Dear Ms. Smith
- Dear Accounting Department
- Dear [Company Name] Recruiter
3. Write an attention-grabbing opening paragraph
Start your cover letter with an informative, direct introduction.
In the first one or two sentences, mention the position and organization you’re applying for, where you found the position, and why you’re excited about the opportunity. Check out this example of an effective cover letter introduction:
Example of a good cover letter introduction
Your opening paragraph should encourage the employer to read the rest of your cover letter.
Highlight your passion
You can make your introduction even more engaging by adding some personality, or by including a career highlight. Here’s a sample cover letter for a job application highlighting the jobseeker’s passion for the role.
As a teenager, I would cut my friends’ hair because of my passion for haircare. Eventually, many of my friends and family would come exclusively to me when they needed their hair cut. Today, if anything, I’m even more passionate about hair care, which is why I’m applying for the open Stylist role at Grateful Dreads.
Showing personality in your cover letter helps employers understand what motivates you.
Just be sure to strike the right tone for your industry or field. For instance, if you’re applying for a job in law or finance, keep your writing formal.
Mention any referrals or contacts you have at the job
If you received a referral to the job by a current employee, your introduction is the place to mention it. Include a referral in your cover letter by quickly stating their name and your connection to them. This is a great way to quickly win over a hiring manager.
Your Personal Trainer, Augusta Maine, informed me about your open Executive Diary Secretary role and encouraged me to apply.
4. Explain why you’re qualified for the job
Your second and third paragraphs should convince employers that you’re the right person for the job. Use these paragraphs to best market yourself by discussing your relevant work experience, skills, and achievements.
Some things to include in your cover letter that highlight your value to employers include achievements, awards, and expertise. Here’s how you can add these elements:
If you’ve received compliments from management or colleagues for your work, you can add them to your cover letter:
The managing partner of the law firm, Olympia Washington — one of my references — informed me that without my research skills, we wouldn’t have been able to guarantee such a good result for our clients in a class-action suit against an eldercare facility that had been overcharging its residents.
5. Relate your experience to the company’s needs
Close your cover letter by restating your interest in the job and explaining how your experience fits into the needs of the company.
For example, if you’re applying to work at a company that’s seeking to break into a new market that you have experience in, you should highlight this experience in your writing.
I noticed in The San Antonio Express-News that you’re expanding Los Pollos Sobrinos into neighboring New Mexico. As a supervisor at Big Kahuna Burger, I’ve onboarded 20+ new employees, and I’m sure I could help you rapidly grow and train your team.
If you’re not sure what the goals or needs of the company are, find out by doing some research online. Take note of the products or services they offer, what their work culture is like, and if they have any future goals.
The job ad is also an excellent place to learn more about what the company is seeking and find relevant cover letter keywords to include.
6. Finish with a concise closing paragraph and sign-off
When writing a cover letter closing, be polite and confident, and continue to market yourself as the best candidate for the job.
First, restate your excitement about the job opportunity. Then, encourage the hiring manager to interview you (remember to mention when you’re available), and thank them for their time:
Finally, wrap up your cover letter with a professional closing salutation. The standard closing is “Sincerely” but here are some more options:
- Best wishes,
- Kind regards,
- Best regards,
- Yours truly,
Then, make two spaces below the salutation, and type your full name.
7. Check your cover letter’s content and formatting
After creating your cover letter, you need to review it before you send it off. Here are a few things to consider when reviewing your cover letter:
Double-check your cover letter formatting
Proper cover letter spacing and other formatting details ensure your application looks professional. A well-written cover letter is normally:
- 200–350 words (short cover letters are easier to skim)
- US Letter (USA) or A4 (elsewhere) page size
- Left-aligned (except for your contact details, which can be centered)
Take a look at the checklist below before you submit your application to make sure your cover letter is formatted correctly.
If you’re writing an email cover letter you don’t have to worry as much about formatting, but you should still make sure to be consistent with your use of font sizes and include your contact information at the end.
Simplify your writing
The trick to writing a good cover letter that gives employers an easy overview of your qualifications is to use direct language.
Ideally, a cover letter for a resume should be easy to read, confident, and friendly.
To instantly improve your writing tone:
- Use contractions like “don’t” instead of “do not”
- Avoid overused buzzwords and phrases like “dynamic,” “think outside the box,” and “go-getter”
- Choose simple words like “helpful” instead of “advantageous”
Here’s a comparison between a friendly writing style and an overly formal one:
I’m thrilled to apply for the customer service position at [Company Name]. Having been a customer service representative for 5+ years at Walmart, I’m confident I can quickly apply my experience using Zendesk and Salesforce to make a positive impact on [Company Name]’s bottom line.
It is with great interest that I apply for the open customer service position posted by your company on Indeed. I possess the requisite skill set to ably perform the customer service duties described in the job requirements.
Typos and grammatical errors in your cover letter will leave a negative impression on employers.
Here are two quick tricks professional editors use to catch mistakes:
- Read your writing out loud: Reading your letter aloud forces you to consider every word, sentence, paragraph, and punctuation mark. Plus, you’ll more easily notice hard-to-read sentences, and can then simplify them.
- Change the font: A new font forces your brain to process something that seems new. Switching your cover letter to a different cover letter font and font size can help you notice mistakes you’d otherwise miss.
After you’ve read your cover letter out loud, have someone else read it over. They can provide helpful feedback like whether your letter is clear and well-argued, or vague and filled with cliches. They’ll also (hopefully) notice any small grammar and spelling errors you missed.
How to make a cover letter using online software
If you’re short on time, try using a web application to quickly make a convincing letter that follows the right cover letter format.
There are several powerful cover letter builders online that you can try out. We’ll walk you through our own cover letter generator, so you can create your own letter in a few quick steps.
Step 1: Fill in your personal information
When you launch the builder, you’ll immediately be prompted to fill in your personal information.
This information is what the software uses to generate your cover letter, and includes your:
- Work experience
- Educational background
- Skills and personal qualities
Start by specifying your current or previous job title, along with the name of the company.
Additionally, you’ll need to list the job title and company that you’re applying for so that the builder knows how to address your cover letter.
Next, you’ll be asked about your educational background. Quickly select whether or not you’ve graduated from college, and if you’re a current student.
Depending on your educational status and how much relevant work experience you have, the software will highlight different information to help put the focus on your strengths as a candidate.
For example, if you already have several years of relevant work experience, the builder won’t mention your college education because your degree is no longer your most relevant qualification.
Finally, you’ll be asked to specify your skills. To pick out the most suitable skills to showcase on your cover letter, select the industry you want to work in and click three relevant options from the dropdown menu.
The last question asks you to explain how your coworkers might describe you (the answer ultimately being a soft skill you’ve developed over time). The builder then uses this detail in your cover letter to help further market you as the best candidate for the job.
Step 2: Select your template
Once you’ve filled out your personal information, our builder has everything it needs to make a great cover letter.
But before you download your cover letter, make sure it looks appropriate for the job you’re applying for and matches the design of your resume.
Click on the left or right side of your cover letter to swap between the many HR-approved templates available in our builder. We offer a variety of designs for different industries and levels of formality, so you’ll soon find a resume template that works for you:
Once you’ve landed on a style and color that you’re happy with, click on the “Proceed to Download” button.
Step 3: Download your completed cover letter
With your cover letter written and neatly formatted, you’re ready to download your finished document.
Once you click “Proceed to Download”, you’ll be prompted to download your file in either PDF or .docx format.
In most situations, you should save your cover letter as a PDF because it’s easy for employers to open and ensures the reader doesn’t accidentally edit your cover letter when viewing it.
However, if a company specifically asks you to send your job application in .docx format, you should save your cover letter as a docx.
Our free-to-use cover letter builder can make you a cover letter in as little as 5 minutes. Just pick the template you want, and our software will format everything for you.
Frequently asked questions about how to write a cover letter
Still unsure about something? Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about writing a cover letter:
What makes a good cover letter?
A good cover letter expands upon the information in your resume, providing context for your skills and accomplishments. The best cover letters also give employers insight into your personality so they can determine if you’d be a good cultural fit for the company.
What should you not say in a cover letter?
What you shouldn’t say in a cover letter is anything that makes you seem negative. For example, avoid talking about why you hate your job, or complaining about your current employer.
Instead, focus on what you learned in your current position that will help you succeed in your next role.
Should you include salary requirements in a cover letter?
No, you shouldn’t include salary requirements in your cover letter unless the company requests it.
If the salary you state is too high, the employer might reject your application before you get the opportunity to explain why your skill set and experience warrant a higher salary.
How do you write a general cover letter for a resume?
You write a general cover letter for a resume by highlighting the skills that make you a competitive candidate in your target industry without including any specific details about the job you’re applying for.
However, keep in mind that tailoring your cover letter to each position you apply for will increase your chances of landing a job. We recommend against using a general cover letter unless you really need to save time.
What should be included in a cover letter?
The following elements should be included in a cover letter:
- A header that includes your name and contact information
- A professional salutation using the hiring manager’s name (if possible)
- An opening paragraph that presents your interest and key qualifications
- Body paragraphs that support your key qualifications with specific achievements
- A closing paragraph that includes a call to action
- A professional sign off
Additional cover letter FAQs:
Still have some questions that haven’t been answered? Here are some of our other cover letter FAQs:
- Does a resume need a cover letter?
- How do I include a referral in a cover letter?
- How do you write salary requirements in a cover letter?
- What is an enclosure in a cover letter?
- Should you use a template for a cover letter?
- Does a CV include a cover letter?
- Can a cover letter be two pages?
- Do cover letters need an address?
- Do I need to sign a cover letter submitted electronically?
- Should you put a photo on a cover letter?
- What does a cover letter look like?
We also have the answers to many more frequently asked questions about cover letters if you don’t see your question above.