How to write a cover letter

Yes, cover letters seem basic, but writing them isn’t so basic at all. Here’s how to write a terrific cover letter.

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An individual types at a laptop on their coffee table at home

What’s a cover letter?

You’ll find all sorts of definitions, but here’s ours: It is a single-page letter that introduces you, highlights your relevant experiences and/or skills, clearly displays your interest in a specific job, and provides you with a chance to thank your future interviewer. It’s sent with your resume to a potential employer when applying for a job. It’s personal, which means a few things: It shows respect for the company and position, it is written in your unique voice, and may even tell a story about you. Oh, one more thing – it’s super important, if you couldn’t tell already!

Do I need a cover letter?

The answer can be a bit complicated but when in doubt, lean towards yes. Typically, the more white-collar the job (think office settings), the more often a cover letter is required; the more blue-collar the job (think manufacturing facilities), the less often a cover letter is required.

However, the main point is this: Even if an employer makes no mention of a cover letter – in other words, it’s optional – it’s in your best interest to write and send one anyway. Because while a resume showcases your chronological experience and technical skills, a cover letter better conveys your personality, excitement for the opportunity, and soft skills such as ambition, communication, and leadership. Also, it shows how seriously you take this job opportunity, which hiring managers will absolutely pick up on.

How long should my cover letter be?

People have short attention spans…like, shorter than goldfish’s believe it or not. We’re basically trained to be distracted, jumping from one task to another and one screen to another. Time is valuable and people don’t seem to have much of it – especially a hiring manager. That’s why your letter needs to be well written and easy to read. Everything that needs to be said should fit on one page. (See our sample cover letter at the end of this article.)

How personal should I get?

Kind of goes without saying, but make sure to address your letter to the right person. You don’t want it to go to Jane Smith in accounting to get your letter, when it’s meant for Joan Smith in operations.

When it comes to your own personal feelings, don’t be shy. Be transparent with your excitement and enthusiasm. If there's a story or reason why you're excited about this job, share it! Be as natural as possible without going overboard and coming off unprofessional. Hiring managers appreciate this and can better gauge whether you fit not only the position, but also the company’s culture.

Should I brag?

You should brag in a way that comes off as confident but not cocky. Don’t just say, “I’m Mike” or “I’m Jennifer;” say more about yourself. Something unique about your work experience and how it might pertain to this job. Is there a specific project you've accomplished that's relevant to the opening? Even your passion for this industry or the company’s work is a great thing to bring up here. If you do this correctly, the hiring manager is more likely to remember you and more likely to say, “Mandy might just be the best fit.”

Should I thank them?

Always! In fact, it’s not a bad idea to say "Thank you for your time" or "Thank you for this opportunity" at the beginning and end. You especially want to mention it early in case the hiring manager doesn’t read your entire letter. Yes, that’s possible, but don’t take offense; blame it on that attention span issue we mentioned. The bottom line is you need to sound genuinely appreciative. You’ve either said thank you via email already or will at an interview (hopefully), but it doesn’t hurt to say it in your cover letter.

OK, I’m officially set.

Not so fast! When you write a cover letter (or resume), you should always ask a trusted friend or colleague to read it. Ask them to check for any spelling or grammar mistakes. Then, you're ready line up some job opportunities first, then get to writing. We even included a cover letter sample to get you started. While it’s 100% OK to follow our sample layout, don’t feel compelled to copy it – your cover letter should have your own personal touch!

Already have your cover letter squared away? Check out the next article in our job search series – writing your references.

Ready to find job opportunities? You can find plenty right here. Take a look and see if any are right up your alley.

COVER LETTER SAMPLE

*Not an actual hiring manger, company, location, job candidate, etc.

June 28, 2021

Joan Smith, COO
ABCompany
100 Lake Drive, Ste. 10
Lake City, TX 10000

Dear Ms. Smith,

Thank you for your time. I'm am so excited for this opportunity to apply for ABCompany’s office manager position. Your organization is a leader in this industry, and I respect your commitment to going above and beyond to make customers happy. 

When I consider how my seven years of office management experience at PreviousOrg and my passion for creating an efficient, fulfilling, and productive workspace for my colleagues, this opportunity becomes more than appealing – it becomes a dream job.

At PreviousOrg, I accomplished many things, including cutting costs on office supplies by 20%, helping HR accelerate a new hire onboarding process by 25%, and revamping the internal communications program. I’m confident I can do the same – and much more – for your business.

I look forward to speaking with you soon. In the meantime, feel free to reach out with any questions. Thank you for your time!


Sincerely,

Mandy Jones
(555) 555-5555
mandy.jones@email.com

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