Smart tips to help you format and write a cover letter
Struggling to write a cover letter that will catch an employer's attention? We've got tips to help you show your best self—and a sample you can use to get started.
There's nothing scary about writing a cover letter.
You've found the perfect job, hit the "apply" button, and started the process with your engines revved and ready. But wait! Slam the brakes! They want a cover letter. Oh no.
Don't let this request derail you. Here's everything you need to know to write a letter that truly sells your skills. Plus, scroll down to see a sample cover letter you can use to craft your own.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a one-page document that, along with your resume, is sent with your job application. A cover letter is your chance to tell a potential employer why you’re the perfect person for the position and how your skills and expertise can add value to the company. The letter should be professional but personable, and serve as a sort of introduction.
Do I need to send a cover letter?
A lot of job seekers today wonder if a cover letter is still appropriate to send with your resume—and the answer is yes! Even if an employer doesn’t ask for a cover letter, it couldn’t hurt to send one. In fact, it’s can help you get someone's attention in a different way, and it can be a great way to display your enthusiasm for the job and company.
What are the basic elements of a cover letter?
- Greeting: Address your cover letter to the proper person.
- Opening: Write a personable, inviting opening paragraph that notes how your skills are a perfect fit to the job and displays your enthusiasm.
- Hook: Highlight your past achievements as they relate to the job you're applying for.
- Skills: Emphasize additional relevant skills, such as computer languages or certifications.
- Close: Briefly recap your strengths as a candidate, and include your contact information.
Cover letter tips
1. Parrot the keywords: Just like with your resume, your cover letters should be customized for each job you apply to. Start by reviewing the job description. In it, you will find important keywords that let you know what kind of employee the company is hoping to find. Use these same keywords throughout your cover letter.
2. Adapt for the company: Each version of your cover letter should talk about how your skills will benefit the particular company that you want to work for. You want to target the company’s needs—not your own. Demonstrate how you could help them achieve their goals. Remember: You're selling yourself in a resume and a cover letter, but the employer has to want to buy.
3. Show you "get" them: Your cover letter should demonstrate that you have done some research into what the organization's pain points are. Presenting yourself as a solution to a hiring manager’s problem can help your cover letter take the right tone. If you’re applying to an administrative position, be sure to mention your time-management skills; if you’re an IT professional, include your expertise in improving efficiency. Always ask yourself: How can I help this company?
4. Proofread. Don’t assume spell check will catch every mistake (it won’t). Slowly review your cover letter to make sure everything reads properly. Have someone else read your cover letter for backup.
Need even more confidence before you start your cover letter? Below are some additional cover letter tips you could reference—or keep scrolling for a cover letter sample:
Cover letter mistakes you should avoid: From overusing “I” to being too vague, there are a bunch of pitfalls that can trip you up. Don’t let them!
Cover letter format and advice tips: Learn how to set up your cover letter and what each section should include.
Cover letter tips for new grads: You might lack real-world work experience, but your cover letter can be chock-full of activities that demonstrate your potential to succeed.
Cover letter tips for technology professionals: The ease of applying to online jobs has led many IT professionals to skip sending a cover letter, but that’s a mistake.
Cover letter tips for finance professionals: If you’re searching for a finance job or want to be prepared just in case, you will need a dynamic cover letter to grab the hiring managers’ attention.
Tips for better email cover letters: If you're emailing a resume, your cover letter will deliver the first impression. These eight tips will help you craft a better email cover letter.
Cover letter sample
Check out the sample cover letter below (or download the template as a Word doc) to get some inspiration to craft your own. And we've also got you covered if you're looking for a cover letter in a specific industry.
Once you've finished your cover letter, consider joining Monster—you can upload and store up to five cover letters and resumes, so that you can apply for jobs on our site in a snap!
Ms. Rhonda West
Customer Service Manager
123 Corporate Blvd.
Sometown, CO 50802
Re: Customer Service Representative Opening (Ref. ID: CS300-Denver)
Dear Ms. West:
I was excited to see your opening for a customer service rep, and I hope to be invited for an interview.
My background includes serving as a customer service associate within both call-center and retail environments. Most recently, I worked on the customer service desk for Discount-Mart, where my responsibilities included handling customer merchandise returns, issuing refunds/store credits, flagging damaged merchandise for shipment back to vendors and providing back-up cashiering during busy periods.
Previously, I worked within two high-volume customer-support call centers for a major telecommunications carrier and a satellite television services provider. In these positions, I demonstrated the ability to resolve a variety of issues and complaints (such as billing disputes, service interruptions or cutoffs, repair technician delays/no-shows and equipment malfunctions). I consistently met my call-volume goals, handling an average of 56 to 60 calls per day.
In addition to this experience, I gained considerable customer service skills during my part-time employment as a waitress and restaurant hostess while in high school.
I also bring to the table strong computer proficiencies in MS Word, MS Excel and CRM database applications and a year of college (business major). Please see the accompanying resume for details of my experience and education.
I am confident that I can offer you the customer service, communication and problem-solving skills you are seeking. Feel free to call me at 555-555-5555 (home) or 555-555-5500 (cell) to arrange an interview. Thank you for your time—I look forward to learning more about this opportunity!
Posted on: July 18, 2017
A well-written cover letter can make a difference between your CV being read and it being thrown into the bin.
When applying for jobs, some applicants tend to throw their CVs in the general direction of a recruiter, and hope for the best. They haven’t included a cover letter with the application, and that could be costing them opportunities.
What’s a cover letter and why’s it so important?
A well-written cover letter can be the difference between getting an interview and being filtered out at the start. It’s your opportunity to take all the skills and accomplishments you’d find in a good CV, summarise it, and send a direct message to the recruiter about why you deserve the job ahead of the candidates that make up the rest of the pack. In essence, it’s a focused sales pitch.
Do the research
Before sitting down to write a cover letter, do some research on the company and the role you’re applying for. This is good preparation for a possible interview, but it’s also valuable for you to understand whether this role is a good fit.
Doing this research will help you personalise your cover letter and allow you to write something unique and powerful. It’ll allow you avoid something too generic and templated, again with the aim of creating a letter which hits home, using the style and terminology that will be suitable for the recruiter you’re applying for. You also need to write content which can grab the attention of a recruiter in a few seconds.
Researching the company will also help you with writing a cover letter. For instance, if you’re applying for a job opening, the cover letter you write will be tailored for the role you’re going for. If you’re prospecting a company with inquiries about possible positions, the nature of what you write will obviously be different.
Image: Adpbe Stock
How to start a cover letter?
If you want to personalise your cover letter, it will help to address it to the right person. Sometimes that’s easy, as some job advertisements will have a contact name on the advert. Other times that won’t be the case. If it’s the latter, it won’t hurt addressing the cover letter to the manager of the specific department you’re applying for. You might get extra brownie points for tracking down the name of relevant person in the company.
What to include in a cover letter
- The first paragraph – Make an impact
This is extremely key, as in a cover letter you need to make an impact and give the recruiter a reason to read on. If you’re applying to an advertised listing, it would be good to mention the job advert. If you’re fortunate to have a referral for this job from a contact, make sure you include it, as that could make a big difference.
Here are some examples of good opening paragraphs.
I was pleased to hear from Jeremy Green that you will soon have a vacancy for a Marketing Assistant. I am very interested in this position, and with my skills I could be an asset to your company.
Having recently read in The Times of your company’s plans for expansion, I am writing to establish whether this will involve an increase in personnel. As a final year business student at Durham University, I am seeking a position in January that will develop my marketing and finance skills.
I am writing to apply for the Photographic Assistant position advertised in the November 1 listing of Car Magazine.
- The second paragraph – Why should they choose you?
This is where you should write a strong statement about why the employer should choose you, describing the most relevant skills and experiences related to the job you’re applying for. Your research will help determine what you include, as you match the skills you put down in the job description. If you’re prospecting rather than going for an individual job, think about the skills you believe will be most important to the company.
Here are examples of good second paragraphs
I could be a great fit for your business. I recently finished a Marketing degree at the University of London, which means I have a great grounding in the skills needed for this role, as well as relevant work experience at numerous companies.
Through my degree, I have built up a good knowledge of skills needed to thrive in a company such as yours – for example, business law, digital business, corporate finance and employment law. I’ve also had work experience at high-profile financial institutions.
I recently finished a Photography degree at South Bank University, where I developed business skills and increased my technical knowledge. I have also had work experience at numerous photography publications.
- The third paragraph – How can it work for both of you?
Your research is important here. If you’ve analysed the job description properly, you should be able to write a section where you can emphasise what you can do for the company, rather than vice versa. It might help to outline a relevant career goal and to incorporate your research. You can also expand on the most relevant parts of your CV.
I’ve spoken to Jeremy, and I understand that you’re looking for a graduate with high technical skill and strong potential to grow as a digital marketer. I fit that profile, and have the confidence to grow and contribute to your business.
Your company has recently called for graduates to apply who have similar skillsets to mine, but with the hunger to achieve their short and long-term goals at a fast-growing company. I can make a positive impact at your business, and be part of the great culture you’ve developed.
At South Bank, I developed all the technical and business skills required for the position. Your company offers the potential for me to develop a long-term career in automotive photography, and I’m confident that I can contribute to the continued success of your publication.
Image: Adobe Stock
What not to include in your cover letter
Be careful to keep the cover letter concise and snappy. The purpose isn’t to tell your life story or repeat what you’re going to say at interview. Keep your letter focused and just a few paragraphs in length – it’s there to convey enough information to get that job interview. Also, if you go into too much detail, there’s a risk of the recruiter getting bored or worst still, not even bothering to start reading.
Watch the language! Avoid cliché and catchphrases, and make sure the you don’t use the word ‘I’ too much – you need to write for the reader, and they’ll want to know that you’ve thought about them in depth. Don’t use abbreviations, unless you clearly explain what they mean. And incorporate industry terms relevant to the company you’re applying for, but only if you genuinely understand what they mean.
How to end a cover letter
Concluding the letter, you might decide to make a final statement that you’re available to meet with the employer at their convenience, or better still, say you’ll follow up on a specific day. If the job description specifically asks you to include salary details, put those in, but if not leave them out – that should be up for discussion at a later stage, such as the interview. You should put contact details in, and consider adding links to work social profiles or personal websites you’re happy to share.
Thank you for considering my application. I will contact you next week to follow up on my application and arrange for an interview – in the meantime, call me on my phone number at xxxxxxxxxxx or email me at xxxx@xxxx. You can also see examples of my work at xxxx.com.
In terms of salary, I’m looking at a figure between £xxxxx and £xxxxx.
Edit and proofread your cover letter
From a recruiter’s viewpoint, typos and mistakes in a cover letter can be a sign that the candidate doesn’t take due care with what they create – so don’t do it! Make sure you edit and proofread your cover letter thoroughly. If necessary, get someone else to do it. The editor of your cover letter can imagine themselves as a recruiter, providing insight you won’t necessarily get reading it by yourself.
Important points to note
- Avoid sounding pompous or using clichés and catch phrases, there are some statements that are used all the time such as ‘I have excellent interpersonal skills’, you want your letter to be unique.
- Try to avoid using ‘I’ too much. A page of I did this and I did that is not appealing – it says to the employer that you haven’t thought about them.
- Do not use abbreviations.
- Do not exceed four paragraphs of content.
- To satisfy the skim reader, incorporate some industry sound bites and buzzwords.
- Subtly flatter the company, for example ‘you are the industry leader’
- Check and then recheck your spelling, grammar and punctuation. Get someone else to read it through also.
- If you are making a speculative application you should follow up the letter with a phone call, e-mail or office visit.
- Paper clip your covering letter to your CV, one should never be sent out without the other.
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by mdinnen in Cover Letter Templates, CVs, Applications & Cover Letters