A cover letter (covering letter) is a document attached to your job application that introduces you in a more personal way and compliments the info on your resume or CV, expanding on the skills and achievements, and highlighting a selection of your greatest career successes.
Unlike a CV ( curriculum vitae ), a cover letter lets you can introduce yourself to the hiring manager, provide context for your achievements and qualifications, and explain your motivation for joining the company.
This guide will show you:
- How to write a cover letter better than 9 out of 10 others.
- A sample cover letter that will get you more interviews (and why).
- Cover letter writing tips and hacks to boost your chances of landing a job.
- Actionable ideas on how to start and end a cover letter, plus how to address it.
Step 1: Use a Professional Cover Letter Header
The letter header of every professional cover letter for a job application should include the following:
- Your name
- Your phone number
- Your email address
- The date
- The name of the hiring manager and their professional title
- The name and address of the company to which you’re applying
Optionally, you can add:
- Your professional title
- Your home address
- Links to your professional websites
- Your social media accounts (applicable only for LinkedIn and Twitter)
- Your city of residence (it’s not mandatory but adds a professional touch—include it if your cover letter is highly official)
Just remember to keep it professional:
- Use an email address from a respected provider—that means either Gmail or your personal domain (if you have one.)
- Your email address should only include your first and last name—firstname.lastname@example.org will be deal-breakers.
- Don’t use your current work address to send your email cover letter. It’s impolite to both your current and potential future employer.
- Make sure your contact information is consistent across your resume, cover letter, and social media profiles.
Step 2: Open Your Cover Letter with a Proper Greeting
Who do you address a cover letter to?
Directly to the hiring manager who’ll read it.
The greeting of your cover letter (i.e., the salutation) might be the very first thing the hiring manager sees. That makes it one of the most important parts of a cover letter. There’s one great, foolproof strategy to make your greeting catch his attention:
That’s right. His name.
If we hear or see our name, we react. Focus on what comes next. There’s a lot of science behind this:
Once the hiring manager sees his name in the greeting of your cover letter, he’s going to feel like he’s found something tailored specifically for him. It will feel personal, he’ll know whatever comes next might just be the exact information he’s been looking for.
All of the following are good examples of professional cover letter greetings.
Sample cover letter greetings:
- Dear Katlego,
- Dear Mr Matlho,
- Dear Ms. Smith,
- Dear Mrs. Benz,
- Dear Mr. Maseng,
- Dear Humphrey
How do you find out the hiring manager’s name?
Do some research!
There are multiple ways to find out who your hiring manager is.
If you’re unable to find the name by any means possible, opt for Dear Hiring Manager. Avoid starting your cover letter “to whom it may concern”.
Who to address a cover letter to if there’s no name of the hiring manager provided?
Have a look at those sample cover letter to whom it may concern greetings:
- Dear Sales Team Hiring Manager,
- Dear Hiring Manager,
- Dear [XYZ Company] Team,
- To Whom It May Concern
Done with the header and greeting? Now it’s time for the meat and potatoes. The central paragraphs of your cover letter.
How to get them right?
Go for the three paragraph cover letter format:
- The first paragraph to grab the hiring manager’s attention
- The second to show what you’ve got to offer
- The third to prove that you’ll fit in
Step 3: Write a Catchy Opening Paragraph
These few sentences at the beginning of your cover letter will determine whether the hiring manager will read on.
You need to make your cover letter introduction attract and hold the hiring manager’s interest.
Have a look at these two sample cover letter opening paragraphs:
|In response to your posting for the Digital Marketing Manager, I would like to express my interest in taking part in the recruitment process. As a digital marketing manager with 8+ years of experience, I am positive that I would be successful at this role.|
Why is it so bad?
Because it provides no value and no details. The bottom line is basically “I’ve already done this job so I think I’d fit in.” That’s not what the hiring manager is looking for.
Now, see a properly written cover letter opening example:
|As a lifelong enthusiast of XYZ’s marketing initiatives, I was thrilled to see your posting for the position of Digital Marketing Manager. I am positive I can help with XYZ’s upcoming challenges. I have experience with leading successful national online campaigns with budgets over $300,000. What is more, I have succeeded at expanding ABC’s client base by 19% since 2011.|
“Wow, I’d have to be a lunatic not to hire her!”
That’s the response this cover letter first paragraph will bring.
There are a few different, effective strategies for your cover letter opening. You can highlight your achievements, show how well you know your prospective employer’s needs, or base the intro on your enthusiasm.
Step 4: Explain Why You’re The Perfect Candidate
You see a job posting from your dream employer. The name of the job is the same as your current position. You’ve been a very successful professional so far.
This means, to get that job you just have to show off your best assets in your cover letter, right?
Your cover letter is not a trophy case.
What to write in a cover letter’s second paragraph?
You need to get the hiring manager exactly what she’s looking for. You have to show that you’re going to satisfy the company’s specific needs.
Remember Jane, our digital marketing manager candidate? The XYZ company to which she’s applying needs:
- First of all, a savvy digital marketing manager (1).
- And, on top of that, someone who will supervise the development of their new online portal (2).
Let’s have a look at how Jane managed to show that she’s both (1) and (2).
Sample cover letter for a job application in digital marketing:
In my current position at ABC, I have supervised all phases of our online marketing initiatives, both technical and creative (1). Last year, my key challenge was to design and optimize nine product websites for ABC’s most strategic products and improve our SEO results as well as enhance the UX (2). Here we are a year later:
- Eight of the nine websites I optimized have achieved and secured their spot in the top 3 results on Google (2). These are organic, non-paid results for 10+ key search terms;
- The incoming search engine traffic to all nine websites comprises 47% of the total organic traffic (2) for key terms and phrases.
See how it’s done?
In the first sentence, show that you’re an expert in your field. But don’t keep on bragging. The remaining part of your cover letter’s second paragraph should be all about how your previous experiences will help your future employer press ahead with their plans.
Step 5: Tell Them Why You’re Eager to Join
Your future employers have needs. If they’re willing to hire you, it’s because they think you’ll satisfy those needs.
But what they also want is for you to actually enjoy working with them. They want your future job to feel rewarding to you—that way, they know you’re more likely to stay with them for a longer period of time.
The key to writing a perfect cover letter third paragraph is showing the hiring manager why you want this job, not just any job. This is particularly important when writing an entry level cover letter. Enthusiasm and passion helps to prove you’ll hit the ground running.
Above all, you want to avoid writing too much of a general cover letter. Generic doesn’t win jobs, tailored and targeted does.
Here’s the easiest way to do it:
- Start with a company fact – for instance, an upcoming project (1)
- Say why you find it interesting (2)
- Reiterate that your experience and knowledge will let you succeed with the project (3)
Have a look at this cover letter example:
I know that XYZ’s current plans involve developing a comprehensive online portal focused on healthcare-related issues (1). This project is a perfect match for my personal and professional interests and an exciting opportunity to create a unique online base of knowledge for patients and healthcare professionals (2). I would love to leverage my knowledge of SEO marketing and online growth marketing to achieve groundbreaking results with this initiative (3).
Step 6: Make Your Offer in the Closing Paragraph
So far so good:
Your cover letter shows that you have relevant skills. You’ve explained your motivation. What could possibly go wrong?
Actually, a lot.
You still have a cover letter ending to write. And it’s the decisive part.
It has to amplify the general impression you’ve made with the previous paragraphs. It has to make the hiring manager excited as she starts reading your resume.
How to make the best cover letter ending?
Long story short: by providing value.
Tell the hiring manager that you’re looking forward to meeting in person and discussing how your experience and knowledge can help your future employer in fulfilling their goals.
Like in this cover letter example:
I would welcome the chance to discuss your digital marketing objectives and show you how my success at ABC can translate into digital and online marketing growth for XYZ.
Two worst cover letter mistakes you can make in the final paragraph are:
- Coming off needy – focusing on how much you want the job, not on what you have to offer.
- Repeating the cliched phrase “Thank you for your consideration and your time.”
Step 7: Use the Right Formal Closing
Once you’ve written the body of your cover letter, you just need to put a formal closing at the very end.
Write “sincerely” and follow it with your full name. Adding your handwritten signature is optional, but it’s recommended for more formal cover letters.
If you’re not a fan of the well-worn, “sincerely,” feel free to use any of the following synonyms:
Sample cover letter sign-offs:
- Thank you,
- Best regards,
- Kind regards,
- With best regards.
The ones listed above are going to be your safest bets. Still not what you’re looking for?
- Thank you for your consideration,
- Sincerely yours,
- Yours truly,
- Respectfully yours.
Step 8: Add the Postscript with an interesting fact or detail about you
All of the above sections are must-haves in a good cover letter format.
But there’s one special trick you can use:
Why is the “P.S.” so important?
Because it’s like a magnet for the hiring manager’s eyes. It screams: “you cannot miss this information.”
Use the postscript to tell the hiring manager about something impressive about your career (1), even if it’s not strictly related to the job opening.
And say that you’d be happy to provide them with more details (2) if they find it interesting.
Like in our cover letter example:
P.S. — I would also value the opportunity to show you (2) how my e-detailing solutions grew the combined sales of three ABC flagship products by a record-breaking 13% in one year (1).
And remember, always send a job application follow up email.
Don’t just send a Word cover letter template. It’ll immediately work magic on the recruiter.