Curious about exactly what needs to go in a cover letter? Unsure what things you should include, and what you can leave out?
No problem — we’re here to show you.
These nine components are essential to put in a cover letter:
- Your name and contact details
- The hiring manager’s name and contact information
- A formal cover letter greeting (aka a salutation)
- Achievements throughout your cover letter
- Why you’d make a good fit
- Proof you’ve done your research
- A winning cover letter ending
- Conventional sign-off and signature
- An attention-grabbing PS
What to put in a cover letter in 2021
Be sure to include these items in your cover letter:
1. Your name and contact information in a header
The hiring manager needs to have your contact information. Without these details, they have no way of inviting you for an interview.
The most eye-catching way of adding your contact information to your cover letter is by creating a large cover letter header, which includes your name in the largest cover letter font. Here’s an example of a clear, informative cover letter header:
Even if you’ve included your contact details on your resume, repeat them in your cover letter in case the hiring manager doesn’t have your resume on hand when they decide you’re the candidate they want to interview.
In 2021, adding your home address is unnecessary because recruiters contact candidates by either email or phone.
2. The hiring manager’s contact details and the date
You also should put today’s date and relevant company details on the left side of your cover letter. This is an established part of business letter etiquette, and shows you’ve got strong written communication skills.
Here’s what the hiring manager’s contact details and date should look like on a cover letter:
August 31, 2021
[Hiring Manager’s Name]
47 Street Address
City, State, ZIP
3. A formal cover letter greeting (salutation)
You should also greet the reader of your cover letter with a polite salutation. “Dear Mr./Ms./Mx. [Hiring Manager’s Surname]” does the trick:
Dear Ms. Hernandez,
Using an actual name is better than writing “Dear Hiring Manager” or “To Whom It May Concern” because it shows you’ve done some research while preparing your application.
4. Relevant achievements throughout your cover letter
Now you’ve set up your cover letter, it’s time to write the body text.
Listing your previous achievements is good, but it’s not enough for more competitive jobs in 2021. Instead, you need to provide numbers that prove you can get results for your new employer.
Finding this data doesn’t have to be difficult.
For instance, if you were previously working in a customer service position, think about how many customers you served on an average day. A bullet point built with such information might look something like this:
- Served approx. 47 customers per day, remaining professional, courteous, and patient when dealing with each individual
Or if you were in an office role, you might focus on your output over a regular period of time:
- Produced 17 sales reports per week for our product portfolio
Including this data shows the hiring manager what you can achieve on the job. These numbers give them a glimpse at how your output will improve their company’s performance, and whether you’d be a good fit on their team.
5. Reasons why you’d be a good fit at the company
To write a great cover letter, you need to put in some extra work. Start by going to the company’s website.
On the website, see if it has a corporate culture webpage or some form of “company mission” page. Take a look at this example from KPMG:
KPMG’s executives make it clear the company values teamwork and honesty. If you were applying here, you’d want to mention how you work well with a team (by providing an example) in your cover letter.
WD-40 Company, on the other hand, has a less formal corporate culture:
The company describes its workers as a tribe, emphasizing the bonds it wishes to develop between employees.
If you were applying here, you could mention what you could bring to the “tribe” and showcase your people skills.
Showing familiarity with the company in your cover letter makes you seem invested in the opportunity, and hiring managers take notice.
6. Proof you’ve researched the company
As well as researching a company’s culture, investigate its performance, history, and ambitions. If you prove you’ve researched these details in your cover letter, you’re more likely to catch the hiring manager’s attention.
A good place to start your research is on a company’s website. Use its website to find out about product lines and recent news. For example, you might discover it just launched a product similar to one you used to work on.
Then mention some of these highlights in your cover letter.
7. A cover letter ending that requests an interview
End your cover letter by asking the hiring manager to invite you in for an interview.
Here’s an example of an effective CTA from a legal assistant cover letter sample:
After reviewing my resume, I hope you’ll agree that I’m the candidate you’ve been looking for. I look forward to elaborating on how my specific skills and abilities will benefit your organization. Please contact me by phone or email to arrange a convenient time for an interview.
You should ask the hiring manager to contact you and arrange an interview — as politely as possible of course.
Recruiters are busy. They don’t have a lot of time, so be flexible. Reassure them by making it clear you’re available for an interview.
Look at this example from taken from a construction cover letter:
I’d be grateful for the opportunity to showcase my abilities further at a personal interview. Please feel free to arrange a meeting at any time.
This applicant makes sure the hiring manager knows they’re available to come in for an interview at any time.
Even if you don’t have great availability, mention how you’re able to move around your schedule if necessary.
8. Your professional sign-off and signature
Your cover letter closing is not a time to get creative. “Sincerely” is how employers expect you to wrap up your letter, so you shouldn’t put anything else.
9. An attention-grabbing P.S.
You might think that your cover letter ends with your closing, but there’s one last thing you can add: an eye-catching postscript (P.S.).
Your P.S. can be used to squeeze an extra bit of something into your cover letter, and its placement at the bottom means it will be seen by the hiring manager — even if they skip over other important details.
One way to make your P.S. catchy is to add a relevant accomplishment:
P.S.: I’m looking forward to talking to you about how I achieved a 47% increase in conversions on my current company’s ecommerce platform.
What not to include in a cover letter
Just like when you write your resume, avoid mentioning anything that could be used to discriminate against you in your cover letter. Companies don’t want to be accused of discrimination, so they’re wary of interviewing candidates who include these personal details in their application.
Such information includes your marital status, nationality, religion, political affiliation, and whether you’re pregnant or have a disability.
You should also leave off your mailing address, especially if you’re applying from another city. Hiring managers may be biased against non-local candidates.
- Whether you’re pregnant
- Political opinions
- Religious views
- Your ethnicity
- A headshot
- Lies (even exaggerations!)
- ADA-listed conditions
- Salary expectations
What should be in an email cover letter
An email cover letter contains most of the same elements as a regular cover letter, but you also need to include a subject line.
Your subject line should be something similar to this:
Application for [Position] role
When writing an email cover letter, you also don’t need to include the hiring manager’s name and address.
Here’s what an email cover letter will look like:
Don’t forget to attach your resume and full-length cover letter to your email. An email cover letter is usually just a couple of paragraphs informing the hiring manager you’re applying for the role, and telling them your full cover letter and resume are attached.