The job application process is rarely fun. For many people, one of the more challenging steps in the process is creating a good cover letter.
Why are cover letters challenging to write? Well, mostly because they are much more free-form than a resume or application form. This can be good and bad. The good part is that it gives you a chance to better express yourself and make your application stand out from the crowd. On the downside, writing an effective cover letter does require some excellent writing skills.
The primary goal of the cover letter is to get the attention of the HR person or hiring manager, and it is a great opportunity to make a good impression on them. In a competitive job market, setting yourself apart is crucial. Anyone who’s ever written a cover letter understands how difficult it can be to write a good one. We’ll give you some guidance on how to write a great cover letter and provide a solid example for you to use.
This article is broken down into the following topics:
What is a cover letter?
Should you email your cover letter?
What to put in a cover letter?
How to create a great cover letter.
Cover letter example.
What is a cover letter
A cover letter is a business letter that is submitted when applying for a job. It is usually accompanied by your resume and other required background information. A typical cover letter is one-page and is used to persuade an employer that you are an outstanding candidate for the position.
As a standard type of business letter, a cover letter uses professional language and is fairly formal. However, it is okay to include some personal information because it is about you and how your personal traits will be beneficial to the position.
When to send a cover letter via email
In today’s working world, email is a way of life. Sending a cover letter is going to be via email, or directly through a website or app. That’s why it’s really important that you have a good email version of your cover letter. It is also possible that you will need to include your cover letter as a file attachment. Having your cover letter in an MS Word or PDF format works best for this because they are industry standard file formats.
Most email programs will allow you to format your message similar to documents (like MS Word or Google Docs). We suggest that you use the same format with your resume and cover letter. This will give your documents consistency and will impress the hiring manager or recruiter. Just keep in mind that your formatting needs to be clean and simple. This is for visual effect as well as compatibility with email formatting functions.
Standards contents for a cover letter
Your cover letter needs to follow the format for a standard business letter and, as such, will have a basic layout as follows:
Your contact details - full name (use a large font size and bold text), phone number, email address (use a professional email address), online profile (work-relevant profiles, such as your personal website or LinkedIn).
The hiring manager’s name
Salutation (addressed to the hiring manager)
The main body of your cover letter will consist of some short paragraphs. Don’t make any of them too long, just a few sentences works best. The paragraphs you have should cover:
Introduction - the first paragraph should get their attention and introduce yourself. List the position you’re applying for and describe where you found the job posting. Express your excitement for the position. If you’ve been referred to the role, include this in your cover letter opening paragraph.
The next paragraph or two should highlight your experience and accomplishments to further impress the hiring manager. Leverage the skills and qualifications listed in the job description for ideas on what to include in your cover letter to show how you’re a good match for the role.
Choose some career highlights to include. You can format them as a short bulleted list between your body paragraphs. This will make them pop and draw attention to them. We recommend using achievements that you can quantify by including hard numbers, which will make them more memorable and impressive.
Finish up your cover letter with a final paragraph that thanks the hiring manager for their time and consideration and reiterates your interest in the position. Close with a compelling call-to-action that prompts the hiring manager to invite you in for an interview.
And, last, but not least, put a signature at the end of your email.
Writing a winning cover letter
Here are some tips on how to craft the best cover letter possible:
Follow instructions - If the job listing has specific instructions regarding how they would like your application materials attached, then make sure you follow them to the letter. Double-check everything.
Keep it easy to read - A recruiter or hiring manager spends (on average) just seconds looking at an email. Your cover letter has to convey most of its information at a glance. Use bullet points for your achievements, and keep all of your sentences and paragraphs short. Paragraphs should be no more than three sentences. This is especially important because many people use mobile devices.
Get to the point - Stick to your main objectives and don’t add extra wording. Introduce yourself, be brief about your experience, qualifications, and skills. Just enough to convince the hiring manager to consider your resume. The same goes for your accomplishments. Keep them very short and specific.
Informative subject line - Have an eye-catching email subject line. This will make them want to open your email. Also make sure you include the necessary details like your name and the position you’re applying to. If they have any specific rules regarding the email subject line, then follow them.
Tailor your email to the reader - Most people like to see their name on a message. Make sure you directly address the hiring manager in your email cover letter. If you don’t know the hiring manager’s name, find it by searching on LinkedIn, checking the company’s website, or calling the office or receptionist and asking for their name. If you must use a generic salutation, then starting your email with “Dear Hiring Manager,” is okay.
Highlight your value - A hiring manager is looking for someone that can help their team be successful. Use information you find in the job listing to choose things from your skill set that fit the role perfectly. Use achievements and experiences that demonstrate how you used those skills to benefit the organization.
Show enthusiasm - Make it clear why you want the position, and express excitement about it. You shouldn’t bother applying if you’re not jazzed about it. Have the right tone, don’t be too flattering or overly excited. Be honest. Authenticity is key. Proofread your letter from the perspective of a hiring manager that does not know you. How does it come across? If it sounds bad to you, then it will probably sound bad to someone else. Fix it. You want to make a great first impression.
Have a convincing closing paragraph - The objective of your cover letter is to land an interview. Your closing should begin the next step of the process by encouraging the hiring manager to reach out to you. Reiterate your interest in the position and provide your availability for an interview. Be confident, but not arrogant or pushy. Finally, end with a professional and courteous signature such as “Sincerely,” “Regards,” or “Best regards.”
- Create a well-organized and attractive cover letter to make yourself stand out from other candidates.
- Have a strong opening statement that clearly examples why you want the job and what you will bring to it.
- Be concise. The hiring manager should be able to read your letter at a glance.
- Share achievements that show your ability to deal with challenges.
- Come up with your own formatting. There are too many great templates out there, use them.
- Be funny. Humor is a very personal thing, and often it falls flat.
- Use a generic cover letter. Tailor each for the specific job.
- Use flattery or flowery language. Keep it professional and mature.
Example of a cover letter
email@example.com • (647) 543-9630
LinkedIn • Toronto, Ontario, CA
May 19, 2023
Mr. Henry Jobson
Senior Executive Manager
6789 Main Street
Toronto, Ontario, CA
Dear Mr. Jobson:
As an established and dedicated mechanical engineering professional with a passion for designing and building innovative products, I am an ideal candidate for your Mechanical Engineer III opening. Having accumulated over 13 years of professional growth across diverse roles, I am genuinely enthusiastic about leveraging my skill set to generate prompt and significant outcomes as a valuable member of the engineering team at Widgets Inc.
Throughout my professional journey, I have consistently prioritized the utilization of contemporary best practices and innovative techniques to facilitate the development of elegant and creative solutions for a diverse range of projects. With the ability to thrive in both collaborative and independent environments, I bring forth a unique blend of creative analytical skills and critical thinking prowess. Furthermore, I possess the agility to adapt and refine my strategies in response to evolving priorities, fluctuating requirements, and unforeseen challenges.
Furthermore, I would bring the following strengths to your team:
Highly experienced project manager with a history of leading over fifty successful projects from concept to implementation, maintaining budgets and keeping all tasks on plan (5% under budget and 100% on schedule).
With a continuous focus on improvement, I increased overall production output 15% via a cost-effective design modification.
A collaborative leader, I spearheaded the successful design and launch of a new product, resulting in a 30% increase in market share within the first year of its introduction
I look forward to discussing my background and your needs in detail, as I am confident that my solid experience will be of tremendous use in achieving your immediate and future objectives. Please contact me at your earliest convenience to schedule an interview; until then, thank you for your consideration.
Use a nice, clean format. Find a great template.
Do your homework on the position and use that information.
Be authentic and enthusiastic.
Land that interview!