A carefully-crafted cover letter is one of the best ways to give yourself an advantage in the search for a new job. In the past, cover letters were often seen as optional, but today’s employers are actively looking for candidates whose personal qualities and unique spark extend beyond the rigid structure of a resume.
In fact, one study found that 80 percent of hiring managers would be willing to give an interview to a candidate with a great cover letter – even if their resume didn’t stack up. If you’re ready to write a career-advancing cover letter, this blog will offer examples and guidance including:
The sections of a great cover letter
Example of an entry-level cover letter
Tips for polishing your professional cover letter
How to write a great cover letter
Many candidates are daunted by the freeform nature of the cover letter without realizing that this flexibility is actually a strength. The cover letter gives you a chance to expand on any key skills, experiences, or goals that are hard to fit in elsewhere on your application. For industries where all candidates are required to have the same basic training, a cover letter is a way to set yourself apart. Entry-level candidates will also find the cover letter useful in proving that they have the necessary motivation, even if their work experience is lacking.
Luckily, there is still a basic structure that will help you put together your cover letter with ease. Here are the sections it should contain:
Conclusion and signature
How long should a cover letter be?
Cover letters should be contained to one page with standard one-inch margins. In general, it’s best to aim for a word count between 250-400 words. Oftentimes, a concise, targeted cover letter is better than a long rambling one listing every detail of your experience.
Cover letter header
The header of your cover letter generally occupies the prime real estate at the top of the page. This is where you’ll place your name and contact details so that the hiring manager can quickly identify who the document belongs to and how they can get in touch with you. The cover letter header is also the place to add a touch of color or attractive design element to give you a professional edge.
Cover letter greeting
The greeting of your cover letter refers to the way you address the person who will be reading it. While the greeting may only be a few words, it’s important to get this section right in order to establish a professional and friendly tone for your cover letter. Whenever possible, aim to use the hiring manager or supervisor’s name in the greeting. Double check the salutation, and when in doubt, use their full name. Here’s an example:
Dear Mrs. Jennings,
Dear Taylor Jennings,
Dear (Company Name) Hiring Manager,
Dear (Company Name) Hiring Team,
Dear (Company Name) Sales Director,
Dear (Company Name) Sales Team,
Cover letter introduction
A great cover letter introduction presents you and your best qualities with energy. Gone are the days of boring, generic opening lines. The modern cover letter is tailored to each employer and designed to encourage them to keep reading the rest of the document. There are several ways to accomplish this including starting with an anecdote, an interesting fact, or a statement of motivation. Below you’ll find an example to help you get started.
I believe customer service is not simply about solving problems, but creating positive experiences that lead to future sales. I credit this approach for my franchise’s five percent increase in CLV metrics each year since I began managing the store. I am excited about the potential to apply this same philosophy to a store manager position with PetShop.
Cover letter body
The body of your cover letter is the largest section of the document and offers the most space to expand on your biggest selling points. Offer examples of times you demonstrated the right skills or qualities needed for the position you’re applying to. Numbers and concrete details can go a long way in showing the impact you’d have in the new role. Remember, your cover letter should always fit onto a single page, so keep each example concise and choose only the information that’s most relevant to the prospective employer. You’ll find an example here:
One of my biggest takeaways from my six plus years in the restaurant industry is that consistency drives sales. Customers like knowing what to expect. I saw this firsthand when I eliminated our daily specials and added customer favorites to our permanent menu. Our reservations increased by 15 percent in the first month alone.
I believe my positive attitude, team leadership skills, and ability to see the bigger picture will allow me to easily transition from food services to retail. I’m intrigued by PetShop’s money back guarantee and believe I can advance the brand even further by creating an immersive shopping experience for customers and their pets.
Conclusion and signature
The hard work is behind you and now it’s time to wrap up your cover letter in a way that increases your chances of landing the interview. One of the best ways to do this is via a call to action. This sentence expresses your enthusiasm for the position and encourages the hiring manager to get in touch. You may even leave your contact details again here, space permitting. Then sign off respectfully using your full name. See the example below:
I would love the opportunity of an interview to further discuss my sales record and ability to lead teams to reach their goals. You can reach me at 086-000-0000 or email@example.com.
Entry-level cover letter example
Writing a cover letter with limited work experience may feel a bit daunting. A cover letter for an entry-level position will need to contain all the sections previously discussed, but will likely focus more on your personality traits and motivation than concrete achievements in previous positions. Even when you’re just starting out, it’s important to exude professionalism and confidence. Check out this general example of an entry-level cover letter:
As the daughter of a doctor, I know just how much of a difference a friendly receptionist makes. In fact, my mom always said that a practice’s reputation is 80 percent office staff. I’m ready to help patients feel at ease and keep Glendale Family Clinic running smoothly as a receptionist.
Currently a second-year student on a pre-med track, I’ve always been passionate about caring for the youngest members of our community. While I hope to one day run a pediatric practice of my own, I’m excited by the opportunity to play a vital role in an established family office. I believe my front desk work-study experience at university, my patient personality, and meticulous attention to detail will suit me well as a receptionist.
Last semester, I was responsible for alphabetizing and organizing more than 300 alumni contacts. My ability to complete the task in just a few weeks allowed the alumni network to better organize events and workshops. When it comes to scheduling appointments or calling with results, I believe my commitment to each task and positive attitude will prove vital to making patients feel at home.
I would love the opportunity of an interview to discuss my motivation and the needs of your clinic. I can be reached at 090-000-0000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips for polishing a professional cover letter
A great cover letter quickly convinces the hiring manager you’re a worthy candidate to interview. Don’t let minor details stand in the way of making the short list. Here are five tips for polishing a professional cover letter:
1. Double check spelling and grammar
Spelling and grammar mistakes quickly eat away at your professional image and make it appear as though you don’t pay much attention to the details. For entry level candidates, eliminating these errors can also place you far ahead of other applicants. Make sure to use spell check and also ask a trusted friend to proofread.
2. Get the tone right
The line between confidence and arrogance is a tight one to walk, but it’s essential if you want to come across as qualified without putting off the hiring manager. You should also adapt your tone in function of the work environment and the industry. A sales manager’s cover letter is naturally going to sound different than an audio engineer’s. Take some time to research the company before you start to write.
3. Stay concise
More is not necessarily better when it comes to cover letters – in fact, a lengthy cover letter could actually hurt your chances of landing the job. Instead of listing every accomplishment or experience you’ve ever had, be sure to pick and choose the ones that are most relevant to the position and employer you’re applying to. Aim to keep your cover letter around 300 words.
Make sure the hiring manager knows this cover letter was written with their specific job opening in mind. This means including their correct name and salutation whenever possible, and mentioning the name of the company somewhere in the introduction. If you have a connection to the employer or were recommended for the position, make sure to mention this tastefully.
5. Create attractive formatting
Appearances count during the job search and a clean and attractive cover letter quickly sends the message that you’re a professional candidate. Make sure to choose your page design in function of the company and industry you plan to work in. Sometimes a touch of color is appreciated, but when in doubt, neutrals can work well for a variety of situations.
Cover letters are no longer considered optional and writing a thoughtful, customized one can quickly help you stand out from other applicants.
Make sure to follow the standard cover letter structure to help the hiring manager find the information they are looking for.
Entry-level candidates should focus on their personal qualities and transferable skills.
Creating an attractive layout can help you present yourself as professional and organized.