How To Write a Cover Letter For a Job

·10 min read
Rangely García; Getty Images
Rangely García; Getty Images

Knowing how to write a cover letter for a job can help take your job application to the top of the pile. Although it might seem like an extra step in the application process, it’s really a chance to make yourself stand out in a competitive job market.

The great news is that you don’t have to spend a whole lot of time creating the best cover letter ever. If you take some time to include relevant information, customized and crafted specifically for the position and employer, it could increase your chance of advancing to the next step in the application process.

Here are some cover letter tips that show you exactly how to write one that helps you land the interview you’ve been waiting for.

Table of contents:

  • Follow the standard format of a cover letter

  • Share your contact details in the header

  • Address the letter to the hiring manager

  • Tailor the introduction to the job

  • Explain why you’re the best candidate for the job

  • Conclude with a call to action

  • Sample cover letter

  • Additional considerations

Follow the standard format of a cover letter

Your cover letter should follow a standard letter format. Essentially, pretend like you are writing a letter and use all of the formatting conventions associated with that structure. However, you’ll make some slight changes so that it’s better for business use. A good tip is to look at both cover letter examples or cover letter templates on the web.

Even if you miss these small details regarding spacing, formatting and adapting your letter for business use, the most important thing is that you express yourself in a succinct yet effective manner.

Although we’ll include many tips here for you to follow, we want you to take the process of crafting your cover letter and make it your own. A standardized format really just helps the person reviewing the job applications scan for relevant information and clues indicating which job seekers should go to the next step.

Here’s a quick rundown of all the elements to include in your cover letter:

  • Your contact information

  • Date

  • Address and name of the hiring manager or human resources department

  • Greeting

  • Body

  • Closing

Now, we’ll go over what to include in these sections so you can create a cover letter that is “easy on the eyes.” This just means that the person reviewing resumes and cover letters can quickly glance at your letter and glean key information. The idea is that they’ll be able to read your cover letter and make a quick decision on whether or not you’ll move to the next phase in the interview process.

Share your contact details in the header

Similar to the header of your resume, you should place your contact information, centered, in the header of the document. At a minimum, include your full name, city, state, phone number and email. Some people also add their full address and a link to their LinkedIn profile, or perhaps a relevant portfolio of projects, depending on the job opportunity. Here’s an example:

John Doe

123 Main St.

Hometown. MO 6577

johndoe@hotmail.com

512-966-2923

Also, feel free to exclude information you are not comfortable sharing, such as your full address and phone number. As long as there’s enough information for a potential employer to contact you, you shouldn’t have a problem keeping some information private.

On the left-hand side of your letter, you can also include the date, full name, title and address to the person or department you are addressing in your letter. This format is a bit formal and, honestly, old-fashioned, but is still acceptable if you have the time to include it.

Depending on the position and the company culture (i.e., old school vs. new), it might pay to show that you pay attention to details and can follow traditional protocols. However, for most modern, fast-paced environments, it’s not absolutely necessary.

Address the letter to the hiring manager

Addressing your letter to the hiring manager is a default greeting when you don’t know the person’s name screening the resumes and cover letters. If you do have that information, place their name in the greeting of your letter.

Your greeting, or salutation, can include one of these variations with a colon or comma after the name or title:

  • Dear Hiring Manager,

  • Dear Sir or Madam,

  • To Whom It May Concern,

  • Dear Mrs. Smith:

  • Dear Acme Co. Recruiting Team:

Tailor the introduction to the job

Your opening paragraph should be short and to the point. It should contain key information such as:

  • Who you are

  • The position you are interested in

  • A quick summary of your work experience and why you would be a good candidate for the position

For the last point, you’ll go into more detail in the following paragraph, but for now, you’ll provide a quick blurb about yourself in the first sentence or so. This short preview should be enough to engage the reader and make them want to learn more about you. As the old adage goes, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.”

Your introduction paragraph is the first impression that will give the hiring manager a sense of whether or not they will pursue the next step with you. Basically, you’ll want to use that introduction wisely.

Explain why you’re the best candidate for the job

Now we’re into the nitty-gritty or the body of your cover letter. Ideally, this information will be in the second paragraph. Remember, the whole point of your cover letter is to demonstrate an interest in a position as well as why your skillset and experience make you the right person for the job.

In your second paragraph, talk about the skills you have and how you acquired them — whether through a degree program, certificate, or previous positions. This paragraph should be no more than 3-4 sentences.

Conclude with a call to action

Once you’ve made your case, you should use your closing paragraph as a call to action. Reiterate your interest and why you think you should, at minimum, get a shot at the next step in the interview process. Your final paragraph might mention that you look forward to some follow-up activities and sign off talking more about the potential of moving forward in the application process.

Sample cover letter

Below is an example of a good cover letter that contains only three paragraphs. Each paragraph is short, with no more than three sentences each, starting with a first paragraph that introduces you and ending with a call to action. Below we chose to close with sincerely, but you could also use best regards.

This sample cover letter demonstrates enthusiasm, relevant experience and an authoritative demeanor, which, hopefully, will instill confidence in the person making decisions about those who are granted an interview.

John Doe

123 Main St.

Hometown. MO 6577

johndoe@hotmail.com

512-966-2923

January 3, 2022

Mark Smith

Call Center Director

Acme Co.

567 Acme Lane

Springfield, MO 60098

Dear Mark Smith:

My name is John Doe, and I am interested in the Call Center Manager position at Acme Co. My experience includes configuring and deploying cloud-based CRMs specifically for call center applications. Also, I have seven years of experience running outbound and inbound telemarketing campaigns for the same type of customer base Acme serves. Working for an award-winning call center like Acme Co would be a great honor.

I believe I am the ideal candidate because I am well versed in all the moving parts of an effective, cost-efficient call center. I know about the technology, data, key metrics, reporting and personnel management it takes to run a high-performing call center. As a supervisor promoted to management at the Del-Tech call center for health insurance enrollment, I was responsible for decreasing call times by 25% while steadily increasing campaign profits.

If you are looking for a call center manager who can handle full profit and loss responsibilities, I could be the person you are looking for. I’d like the opportunity to discuss my experience and how I could help your call center become more efficient and more profitable, just as I have done in the past. Please contact me so we can discuss how we might work together.

Sincerely,

John Doe

Additional considerations

Research the company and its culture

An effective cover letter should contain information specific to the company you are applying for. Even the best job search sites may not have this information on the company, so take time to do your own research.

Make a quick visit to the company website or social media sites, and incorporate it into your cover letter. By doing so, you show initiative and enthusiasm. This is exactly what prospective employers are looking for — someone who knows what they want in a job position and why they want it.

Keep it short and easy to read

While it might be tempting to pull out the flowery prose to impress the reader, ignore that urge! Make your cover letter short and sweet. Think about your audience: a busy recruiter or hiring manager could be scanning hundreds of resumes a day. Use short phrases that don’t take a lot of brainpower to process convey the right message — hire me!

Balance the tone of your writing

As much as possible, try to convey your personality and subject matter expertise in your cover letter in a balanced way. You don’t want to sound too smug, know-it-all or overly focused on yourself. Also, avoid bringing up sensitive topics like salary, benefits or work arrangements.

Yes, your cover letter should contain information about you, your experience and professional preferences, but keep it more focused on how you’d be an asset to the organization if hired.

Get feedback and edit your letter

Before sending your cover letter and resume, take steps to get feedback while thoroughly proofreading and editing your text so it doesn’t go out with typos. Use spell-check or a tool like Grammarly as necessary. If possible, work with a professional career coach who can look over your letter and provide feedback regarding the tone, length, format, etc.

How to Write a Cover Letter FAQ

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter accompanies your resume and gives a brief explanation regarding why you are an ideal candidate for the job. Ideally, a cover letter should be specific to the position and company you are applying for.

How long should a cover letter be?

A cover letter should be brief. A good length to shoot for is no more than two to four short paragraphs. These paragraphs should also be short with two to three sentences each.

How do I format a cover letter?

You should format a cover letter like a standard letter. Include the date, your contact information, the hiring manager's name and address, a greeting, body and a closing.

Should you write a generic cover letter?

The best practice is to write a cover letter specific to each company and job position you are applying for. Taking time to write a custom cover letter shows your potential employer that you are serious about the position, which could indicate how you'll perform if you were actually hired.

Summary of Money’s Guide on How to Write a Cover Letter

  • Follow the standard format of a cover letter

  • Share your contact details in the header

  • Address the letter to the hiring manager

  • Tailor the introduction to the job

  • Explain why you’re the best candidate for the job

  • Conclude with a call to action

  • Sample cover letter

  • Additional considerations

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