What is a letter of application?
A letter of application (also known as a cover letter, job letter, or job application letter) is a one-page letter you use to apply for jobs. A letter of application’s purpose is to boost your resume and provide more details about yourself.
A letter of application should speak directly to the hiring manager by describing how you’re qualified for the position and why they should consider you for an interview.
An effective letter of application:
- expands on the skills, achievements, and professional experiences you want to highlight
- explains your personal interest in applying to the position
- describes what you can offer the company
A well-written letter of application enhances your job application and increases your chances of getting an interview. Because employers have numerous applications to sift through, it’s essential to write a letter of application that not only matches their requirements but positively sets you apart from other applicants.
Here’s how to write an effective letter of application and an example for you to follow.
What to include in a letter of application
A letter of application should present your work history in an organized and logical way. Before you apply for a position, you should include all the necessary sections. A typical letter of application comprises the following:
Letter of application header
Your letter of application’s header should match your resume header and use a readable font. Provide your basic information: name, email address, and phone number. Depending on the job, you can also include other professional online profiles such as your LinkedIn profile or portfolio.
Writing the date is optional. In the past, people wrote the date, but in 2021 applications are sent electronically and employers can easily track the dates. If you do decide to include the date, format it as [Month] [Day], [Year]. For instance, July 1, 2021.
Write the hiring manager’s contact information at the top-left of your letter of application, which includes their name, company address, phone number, and email address. Google this information, or call the company to ask for the hiring manager’s name.
An application letter salutation is a professional greeting addressing the hiring manager by name to show that you’ve taken time to tailor your letter to the company. Use the format: Dear Mr./Ms./Mx. [Last Name]. If you can’t find the name, use a generic salutation like “Dear [Job Title]” or “To Whom It May Concern”.
First, introduce yourself in your letter of application and explain why you’re applying with an attention-grabbing opening paragraph. Mention how you heard about the position and the reason you’re applying to the position. This section is especially important because it draws the employer in and sets the tone for the rest of the letter.
Next, add 2–4 body paragraphs containing information about your relevant skills and experience, achievements, education, and professional background. Include specific examples from your work background here. The best letters of application directly mention how your qualifications and experiences can benefit the company.
Then, invite your hiring manager to contact you for an interview by writing a letter of application ending containing a call to action (CTA). Include your phone number and email address in your call to action so the hiring manager can call you straight away.
Finally, include an appropriate letter of application sign-off such as “Sincerely” or “Best Regards”. Include your name to close your letter of application. An electronic or real signature is optional.
How to format your letter of application
Unsure how to format your letter of application? Have a look at our tips on best formatting practices:
1. Keep your letter of application at one page
Make your letter of application brief. The length of a letter of application should be 250 to 400 words or 3 to 4 paragraphs. A letter of application should never go over one page as employers don’t have the time to read multi-page letters.
2. Choose an appropriate font and font size
An appropriate application letter font size is between 10.5 to 12 points. Using a suitable font size ensures readability and that there’s enough white space throughout your letter, making it look professional.
Pick a professional letter of application font like Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, or Georgia. Professional fonts are easily scanned by applicant tracking systems (ATS), which is software that filters applications for keywords. An ATS might not be able to read your letter of application if you use less common fonts.
3. Fix your margins
Properly spaced margins help create white space and make your letter of application easy to read. The standard size for application letter margins is 1″, the default on Microsoft Word. However, you can adjust your margins between ½” and 1″.
If you have a lot of experience to write about, changing your margins to ½” is fine. If you have less experience, adjust your margins to 1½”. Just keep in mind that very wide margins look unprofessional, while very narrow margins make the application letter look cluttered.
4. Save your file as a PDF
Job application letters should always be saved as a PDF file to ensure that your letter gets picked up easily by ATS software, and noticed by employers. PDFs also keep your formatting intact and don’t allow others to modify your application.
Save your work under an appropriate file name, such as “First-Name-Last-Name-Application-Letter.pdf”. Using a professional file name makes it easy for hiring managers to find your application in the future.
How to write a good application letter
Hiring managers have certain expectations when reading letters of application. Make sure you exceed their standards by writing an excellent application letter using these five tips.
1. Highlight your industry-specific skills
Employers want to see that you have the hard and soft skills necessary to succeed in a position, so remember to include these qualifications in your application letter.
Hard skills are technical knowledge learned from hands-on experience, training, or education. They are usually job-specific and catered to one industry.
Copywriting, data and business analysis, and user interface (UI) design are examples of hard skills.
By contrast, soft skills relate to emotional intelligence and let employers know how you interact with others at the workplace. For instance, organizational skills, teamwork, and interpersonal skills show you work well with others and on your own.
Try to focus on 1–3 skills for each body paragraph. For instance, in our letter of application sample, the applicant focuses on their time management skills and self-motivation. They expand on them in detail and end by linking them to the role.
2. Tailor your application to the job
One of our most critical letter of application tips is to target your application letter to the position you’re applying for. If your letter of application is generic and impersonal, employers will skip it.
Personalizing your letter takes more time and effort, but employers will be impressed with your understanding of the role and attention to detail.
Show employers you have a high level of knowledge and interest in the role by:
- researching the goals and values of the company
- using specific examples from your work history and how they relate back to the role
- expressing passion and excitement for the position
Here’s an extract from our letter of application sample:
3. Prove you have the right skills using hard numbers
It’s important to fill your letter of application with hard numbers. Using hard numbers in your letter of application provides employers with clear and quantifiable evidence of what you’ve accomplished.
By providing quantifiable details about your previous work experience, hard numbers turn a vague application into a strong case for hiring you.
The budgets you worked with, people you helped, and number of projects you were a part of can all be quantified using hard numbers. For instance, look at the difference between these two sentences:
“Worked in a team of 8 caregivers to provide excellent customer service for 100+ residents in recreation areas and reception”
“Worked in a team and provided customer service to elderly residents”
The first example has a greater impact because of the numbers and details that help explain the applicant’s role as a caregiver.
4. Use strong action verbs and power adjectives
Action verbs and power adjectives make a resume pop. Did you know you can also use them in your letter of application?
For instance, action buzzwords like “tasked with,” “responsible for,” and “participated in” sound generic. Instead, use verbs like “spearheaded,” “managed,” and “executed.” Here’s an excerpt from a UX designer:
As a Senior UX designer for Sparklabs from 2015–2017, I worked as the sole UX designer. Under minimal supervision, I executed over 4 major design projects for our new website in Canada including launching 10 new prototypes based on different case studies and conducting 50+ user interviews. My designs boosted our marketing campaigns by 92%, which was extremely rewarding.
Along with action verbs, descriptive adjectives command attention and emphasize key information about your job history. For instance, a hotel manager should include adjectives such as “courteous,” “decisive,” and “tactful” with examples to show that they have excellent interpersonal skills and customer service skills.
By choosing your adjectives carefully, you also reveal more of your personality traits, which helps employers see if you’re someone they’d want to work with. Here are some examples showing an experienced nurse’s skills in context:
In my role as a head nurse at Grey’s Hospital for 7+ years, I provided exceptional service with my kind bedside manner during emergency surgical procedures to 200+ patients per week. My cheerful demeanor brought patients a sense of calm in the emergency room.
In my role as a head nurse at Grey’s Hospital for 7+ years, I provided good customer service to 200+ patients every week. I helped doctors with emergency surgical procedures in the emergency room.
5. Check your details before sending an email letter of application
There are a few details to remember if you email your letter of application to an employer.
- First, write a professional subject line that shows your intent. Make sure your email subject line contains your name and the exact job title you’re applying for.
Your Name – Application for [Job Title] at [Company Name]
- Second, in an email letter of application, there’s no need to type out the hiring manager’s contact information. Skip the date and begin directly with the salutation. You can address the hiring manager using “Dear Mr./Ms./Mx. [Last Name],”.
Dear [Mr./Ms./Mx.] [Hiring Manager’s Last Name],
It’s my pleasure to apply as a [Job Title] at [Company Name].
- Finally, before emailing your letter of application, list your contact information below your email signature.
Phone: (xxx) xxx-xxxx
Here’s an email example:
Finally, when you finish writing your letter of application, proofread it. You should also ask a friend to help you read through your application to make sure there aren’t any spelling or grammar errors. Good luck with your application and the job hunt.