Having a great cover letter to complement your resume is a critical part of applying for jobs. If written correctly, it has the power to entice the hiring manager and position you as the best person for the job. Cover letters are also a great way to highlight important career information. This is the place to provide a brief explanation of your 2-year gap to finish school or care for a sick loved one. It’s also a great tool to tailor and highlight your value and relevant skills for a particular job description.
Since writing a cover letter can be the most painful part of the application process, I created this blog post to provide guidance in the form of a cover letter sample. You’ll also want to check out this post for the full scoop on today’s trends for effective cover letter writing. If you’re more interested in a cover letter template, you can take the easy route here with Noelle’s Easy Cover Letter Guide & Template. If you’re more adventurous and want to learn the method to the madness, here is the step by step breakdown of how a cover letter should be structured, including writing samples:
1. Start with a Header
This this the easy part, if you already have a resume created then simply use the header that you used for the resume. If you aren’t feeling super confident about your resume you can revisit our super helpful resume “how to” guide. The header from your resume should consist of your name, title (if applicable) and address. Cover letter best practices include consistent branding so it’s important to translate the same look and feel throughout your entire career portfolio. It shows a hiring manager that you care about the finer details of things. It also gives you a brand image, which is critical in marketing… especially when it comes to marketing yourself.
2. Add the Date, Address, and Greeting
As a rule, formal letter-writing best practices apply. Even though this practice may feel outdated, you’re always going to safe sticking to best practices. The top of the letter should include the date and address of the company where you are applying. Of course, if you don’t have this information then the title and company name should be sufficient. For the greeting, it’s best if you can specifically address the hiring manager by name. If you are unable to find the hiring manager’s name, it’s okay to say “Dear Hiring Manager.” Here’s an example of what it will look like:
<First Name> <Last Name>
<City, State Zip>
Dear <Courtesy> <Last Name>:
3. Create The Cover Letter Body
You’ll want to keep the body of the cover letter structured and concise so as not to go over 1-page. As a rule, do not exceed 4 pages.
4. The Opening Paragraph
The first paragraph is an important part of the cover letter. It helps the hiring manager identify the position for which you are applying. It also helps the hiring manager know whether or not the candidate has come to the right place. If you include a general introduction without restating the exact role and company, there’s a chance the reader will feel like the victim of a resume blast (in which case they will send your letter to the trash). Here’s an example of a technology executive applying for a positon with a recruiter:
Recently, I have learned from John Doe at your firm, that you are seeking a Chief Technology Officer for your client at XYZ Company. After discussing this position with John, I have learned that I am a perfect fit for this position.
5. The Second Paragraph
The second paragraph should state why you are a great candidate for the position using a blend of your experience, skills and big picture results. Don’t be afraid to include a concise and strong example to back up your experience. Here is an example of what this will look like:
With 20+ years of experience in leading diverse teams in numerous high-profile projects and technical solutions initiatives, for global industry leaders, I am now offering my deep knowledge and expertise in facilitating team-based environments that streamline operations, maximize productivity, and increase efficiency across organizations. During my most recent position at 123 Partners, I supported 150 global offices, managed 27 staff members, and provided oversight of all technical platforms.
6. The Third Paragraph
The third paragraph should highlight your accomplishments that set you apart from the crowd. For an easier eye-scan, I recommend using bullets. Again, really hone in on your strongest, most relevant results to the job at hand.
Additional examples of my recent achievements include:
- Saved company $4M annually by renegotiating communication contracts.
- Built and managed global telecom, engineering, and operations team with up to 3 global staff members.
- Relocated corporate headquarters with 600 brokers and 200 back office staff to temporary location after natural disaster.
Once you’ve crafted the perfect body, you’re ready for the easy part. Thank the employer for reading your cover letter, encourage them to continue by reading your resume, and ask them for the interview. As a candidate, you are in sales and sales people know to always be closing the deal. The same thing goes here. Always be closing. Ask the hiring manager for the interview. Assume that they WANT to meet you! Here’s an example of what this might look like:
For your review, I have enclosed my résumé which includes a much more thorough description of my contributions and many other achievements. Let’s talk. I am eager to learn more about your needs and to discuss how my experience will help you to achieve your goals. I would be more than happy to come in for a meeting at your convenience.
Thank you! I look forward to hearing from you.
Now that your cover letter is complete and ready to go, the only thing left to consider is how to send it in a way that is conducive to the hiring manager’s preference. While it may seem like a small detail, you’ll want to take a moment to learn the best way to send a cover letter. In the application process where you’ll experience heavy competition for the job, every little detail counts!