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Top 10 Cover Letter Writing Tips

Advice for Writing a Top Notch Cover Letter for a Job

cover letter effective tips

Maddy Price / The Balance

Are you working on a cover letter to send with your resume? It's important that your cover letter makes the best impression, because it's what can help you secure a job interview.

When you need to write a cover letter to apply for a job, it's sometimes the small things that can make a big difference. The closer to perfect your letter is, the better your chances are of impressing the hiring manager.

Follow these tips and techniques for sending a top-notch cover letter, and you will increase your chances of getting an interview.

Select the Right Type of Cover Letter

 Fizkes /  iStock / Getty Images Plus

There are  several types of cover letters  that can be sent to employers and contacts. For example, there are traditional cover letters (also known as application letters ), which are written to apply for specific job openings. If you know some who can refer you for a job, you'll want to write a referral cover letter .

There are also letters of interest (also known as prospecting letters), in which you ask about possible job openings at a company. Cold contact cover letters are written to companies that haven't advertised job openings.

Be sure to choose a type of cover letter that reflects what you are applying for, why you are writing, and what you are requesting.

Go Beyond Your Resume

Chris Ryan / OJO Images / Getty Images

Your cover letter should not be just another version of your resume. Instead, this letter should provide specific evidence of what you will bring to the company .

For your letter, pick two to three skills or abilities you want to highlight. Then offer examples of times you demonstrated those traits.

For example, if you want to highlight your experience and skill tutoring children, provide an example of how you successfully tutored a student. You can include a particular teaching moment when you were particularly successful.

These examples are what will make your cover letter different from your resume.

Whenever possible, include numbers to show how you have added value to previous companies you worked for. In the example mentioned above, you might provide data on how your previous students’ grades improved while working with you.

If you are a recent graduate or otherwise do not have a lot of work experience, you can highlight some of your transferable skills in your resume. Provide evidence from projects, classes, volunteer work, etc. that demonstrates that you have these skills.

Write a Custom Cover Letter for Every Job

A hiring manager can quickly tell if you have written a generic cover letter that you use for every job. That is a quick way to get your application thrown out. Instead, take the time to customize your cover letter so it reflects your interest in the specific position and company you're applying to.

Target each letter to fit the specific job. The best way to do this is to  match your qualifications to the job :

  • First, look carefully at the job listing.
  • Second, select two or three skills, abilities, or experiences that the job requires that you know you have.
  • In your letter, provide examples of times that you demonstrated each of those skills.

Include  keywords  from the job listing in your cover letter as well. For example, if the listing says the ideal candidate has experience with “data-driven decision making,” you might include an example of a time you used data to make a decision or solve a problem.

Take the time to showcase your personality  and explain how you'd be a terrific fit for the position and the company.

It can be ​time-consuming to write a custom cover letter for each job you apply for, but it's important to take the time and effort. A custom letter will help the reader to see, at a glance, that you are a good match for the job.

Don't Point Out What You're Missing

Generally, don’t apologize for anything in your cover letter. There are some things you don't need to include in a cover letter . If you lack a required skill or degree, don’t mention it. That will only highlight what you don’t have. Instead, focus on highlighting the skills and experiences you do have, and explain how they make you a great fit for the job.

However, when you have recent gaps in your work history (within the past year or so), whether from being laid-off and out of work, taking time out from the workplace to spend with your family, traveling, going back to school, or for any reason, your cover letter gives you an opportunity to  explain an employment gap .

If you decide to mention this employment gap in your cover letter, do so very briefly, then quickly return to highlighting your skills and abilities.

Try to Find a Contact Person

It's not always easy to find a contact person to address your cover letter to, but it's worth spending some time trying. When it comes to cover letters, taking the time to get personal is really important. Find out as much as you can about the company and the  hiring manager .

Be sure to address your cover letter to the specific hiring manager who will be reading your letter. If you don’t know who that person is, check out the company website, or even call the company and ask.

If you can’t figure out who will be reading the letter, address your letter with the greeting, “Dear Hiring Manager.”

If you have any contacts at the company who referred you to the job or are willing to put in a good word for you, mention their names in the first paragraph of your letter. This is a great way to gain an employer’s interest. However, make sure you have checked with your contacts in advance and asked if they are willing to give you a referral .

Format Your Cover Letter Properly

It's essential for your first impression to be a good one, because that's a step towards getting an interview. You will want your cover letter to not only to include the proper information, but also to look polished and professional. Therefore, be sure to format your cover letter properly. If you are sending a physical letter, use business letter format. Include your contact information, the date, and the contact information of the employer at the top of the letter.

If you are sending your cover letter as an email , your format will be a bit different. You will also need to include a subject line that mentions your name and the job title.

A  cover letter should not be longer than a page (three to four paragraphs at most).

If your cover letter is a bit too long, you can adjust the margins to give yourself more space.

However, you want to have plenty of white space in your cover letter, so don’t make the margins too small.

Also include a space between your greeting, between each paragraph, and after your closing. This will add white space as well. No matter how you send your cover letter, be sure to pick a simple, readable font . 

Be Yourself and Show Your Personality

You want your cover letter to be professional, but you also should be clear about what you have to offer the employer—and that's you and your credentials. Professional doesn't mean that you have to use awkwardly formal language. Avoid phrases that don’t feel natural, like “Dear Sir or Madam,” or “I wish to convey my sincere interest in a position at your exquisite institution.” Instead, use clear, straightforward language.

Also avoid clichéd, overused phrases that hiring managers are sick of reading (“go-getter,” “team player,” etc.). Replace those phrases with power words like “initiated” and “collaborated.”

You want to come across as polite and professional, but not fake. Don’t use language that feels uncomfortable or corny. Read more about how to show your personality in a cover letter .

Use Cover Letter Examples and Templates

Take the time to review cover letter examples before you start writing your own letter to apply for a job. Examples can give you an idea of how to structure your letter, and what information to include.

Also check out some cover letter templates , which can help you format your letter. A template also gives you the framework you can personalize for your own letters.

While it is useful to look at templates and examples, be sure to change any letter sample to fit your own skills and abilities, and the position you are applying for.

Proofread and Edit Your Letter

Because hiring managers look at hundreds of applicants, a small typo can make or break your chances of getting an interview. Therefore, be sure to thoroughly proofread your cover letter(and all of your application materials, for that matter).

Read through your letter, looking for any spelling or grammar errors. Make sure you have the correct company name, hiring manager’s name, date, etc. in your heading.

Reading your letter out loud is a useful way to check for mistakes.

Consider asking a friend or family member to read your letter as well. Ask them to check for errors, but you can also ask for more general feedback. Ask whether or not your friend is convinced that you are a great fit for the job after reading your letter.

Follow the Instructions in the Job Posting

The most important part of sending a cover letter is to follow the employer's instructions. If the job posting says to include your cover letter and resume as an email attachment , attach Microsoft Word or PDF files to your email message. If the hiring manager says they want you to submit your materials using an online application system , don’t email or mail a physical application.

If you need to email your cover letter , be sure to include your name and the job title of the position in your message.

It's important to send your cover letter and resume attachments correctly, to include all the information requested so your message is read, and to let the receiver know how they can contact you to schedule an interview.

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Cover Letter Writing Guide 2023: Examples and Tips

Learn about the importance of a cover letter, discover three CV cover letter examples for jobs including management and middle management, as well as for students, graduates, and beginners.

[Featured Image] A hiring manager reviews a CV and cover letter during a video interview.

A well-structured cover letter, when combined with your CV, is key to finding the position you desire. A cover letter illustrates your expertise and qualifications for the job you seek. A cover letter offers the chance to describe specific situations, highlight important talents, and share professional goals that may not be addressed on your CV. 

Before you start drafting your CV cover letter, review some sample cover letters to discover effective techniques and important tips for creating a personal statement for your job application. This article explores three cover letter examples organised by genre and industry sectors to inspire you. 

Management cover letter example

[Receiver’s Address]

[Salutation],

I am a seasoned corporate executive with a strong reputation for accelerating corporate growth and reorganising global businesses. In the role of senior manager, I shall contribute my drive and will to succeed to your company. I have primary areas of experience that I will contribute to your company, which are as follows:

I have a deep dedication to [the respective industry/sector] , having served in many roles and competencies.

My effective [the respective industry/sector] knowledge as well as the capacity to develop, comprehend, and resolve [the respective industry/sector] processes is bound to boost business market share gains, ultimately leading to financial prosperity.

I have an independent spirit, agility, and expertise that will help you build important connections to succeed in business. 

My experience of over three decades of smart, critical thinking activities has delivered productivity and profitability.

My [name of degrees] and community outreach management responsibilities with several non-profit organisations have further enhanced my abilities and flexibility to satisfy the work criteria. Since I have done this over the years, I'd like to share with you the high-quality service and value I can offer to your organisation.

 Thank you for taking the time to read this. I can be contacted on [contact details]

With warm regards,

[Closing Signature]

Middle management cover letter example

I'm writing to express my interest in the position of [position name] at [company name] . I'm certain that my level of knowledge fits well with the obligations described in your job description since I have over six years of experience operating the [specified niche] .

I've proven myself to be quite an efficient manager and a good leader in my work as [name of previous job position and the company name] . As I single-handedly taught and trained the whole [team name] staff in prep work for [name a commendable task carried out by you] , my worth became clear to the proprietors. Throughout the following years, my team regularly exceeded monthly [specified niche] targets.

Your company, I feel, would greatly benefit my expertise in the key segments:

High level of customer service criteria 

A passion for quality

A high level of dedication as well as leadership abilities

Delivering results under pressure

I believe my skills will contribute to [business name] ongoing growth. My experience in this field has equipped me for this opportunity, and I genuinely hope that I will be able to contribute to your team.

It would be an honour to speak with you about the [job position] in further depth. I'd be delighted to visit whenever it is most suited for you. 

I appreciate the time, and eagerly await your response.

CV cover letter sample for beginners, students, and graduates

I'm writing this letter to express my interest in [company name] ’s internship programme. I learnt about your organisation via my institution's student placement centre, and after browsing your website, I've become interested in your outstanding work in [ industry name] .

I'm now majoring in [subject area] and minoring in [subject area] at [institution name] , where I'll graduate [graduation date] . In addition to my  [subject area] and [subject area] experience, I specialise in [interest/subject area] . The opportunity to do my internship with [business name] will expand my knowledge and experience to progress in my profession while applying everything I've studied to support your business objectives.

I aim to work with an organisation like [business name] after college to get hands-on experience, [professional goal] , and eventually [professional goal] . With the correct opportunity and professional experience with well-known clients, I believe I can achieve my goals. I previously interned at [business name], where I worked on important projects for their major customers. I had the chance to study [name of technical skills/tools learned] during the same internship. I also learnt [example of initiative and outcome] . Given that you are seeking to expand your [team name] , I feel my understanding of [subject area] may be of value to you.

If you have any questions that you would like me to address, please contact me on [contact details].

Looking forward to hearing from you,

3 tips for writing a great cover letter

The cover letter templates above go beyond the information in a CV, assisting the recruiting supervisor and potential employers in quickly recognising the applicant’s value as an employee. Let’s explore the key ways this is achieved.

Be straightforward and succinct. They express most about what a cover letter ought to state in the first paragraphs, such as their expertise level and status, as well as how they got the position.

Be specific about experience and impact. The applicant outlines key expectations from the position description and shows their relevant skills and previous experience with similar tasks. They also share an example about just how they have driven impact in their present job. Your cover letter should include applicable situations that illustrate your potential to accomplish the responsibilities mentioned in the job description whether you are a fresh graduate asking for an apprenticeship or early in your career looking for your next role.

Include a clear call to action. In each example, the applicant signed off by reiterating their interest in the company and role, sharing their availability and willingness to connect, and providing their contact details such as a phone number or email address.

Get started writing your cover letter

Your cover letter is an opportunity to distinguish yourself. Consider a period when you delivered impact with a major project or implemented a new strategy to spur innovation. Since you will have more quantifiable achievements to rely on as you gain more expertise, your cover letter is the perfect spot to bring out these details. Make the most of this desirable opportunity to show off your skills, expertise, and abilities. 

Learn more about effective cover letters in the online course Writing Winning Resumes and Cover Letters from the University of Maryland. For more career planning assistance, consider courses like Successful Interviewing or Career Planning: A Path to Employment .

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