How to Write a Professional Cover Letter for a Job in 6 Simple Steps
What are the 3 main parts of a cover letter? - A cover letter should be 3 paragraphs – Introduction, Sales Pitch and Conclusion.
Are you unsure of what or how to write a cover letter that pairs well with your resume? Don’t panic! We’ve got you covered. Writing a cover letter is a lot simpler than you might think. Our cover letter writing guide explains these details in-depth and shows you how to write a cover letter for a job application that lands you an interview.
While cover letters are not always required when applying to a job, many companies still use them to evaluate an applicant’s skills, experience, and background for the position. When optional, submitting a cover letter is also a great way to go above and beyond to show the employer you are genuinely interested in the job.
To maximize your chances of getting an interview, you need a well-written cover letter that makes a strong positive first impression on employers. The key to writing effective cover letters is to succinctly communicate how your professional experience fits the needs of the role and culture of the company.
Moreover, to some hiring managers, cover letters are an essential part of your job application. And yes, while it would be easier to let your resume speak for itself if that was the case you’d completely miss the opportunity to tell prospective employers who you are, showcase why they should hire you, and stand out above all the other candidates. However, prior to you writing your cover letter in the first place, you need to know the aim and purpose of a cover letter in the first place.
What is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter, also known as an application letter, is a three- to a four-paragraph memo to employers that explains your interest in the job and company as well as your fitness for the role. The letter of application is intended to provide detailed information on why you are a qualified candidate for the job.
It is typically submitted along with your resume in a job application. This letter should highlight your skills, experience, and achievements in relation to the position you’re applying for. Unlike your resume, cover letters allow you to go into more detail about your professional career and explain why you’re a good fit for the role and company.
Its purpose is to introduce you and briefly summarize your professional background. On average, your cover letter should be from 250 to 400 words long. A cover letter is necessary as it gives you the chance to explain to an employer why you're the best candidate for the job. You do this by highlighting relevant skills and experience; therefore you should always write your cover letter with the position you're applying for in mind.
Moreover, a good cover letter can spark the HR manager’s interest and get them to read your resume. While, a bad cover letter, on the other hand, might mean that your application is going directly to the paper shredder. So, to make sure this doesn’t happen, it’s essential to know how to write a convincing cover letter.
While your resume focuses on your qualifications and achievements, your cover letter expands on those achievements, showcases your personality, and explains why you’d be a good fit for the company. Your resume is intended to lay out the facts, but your cover letter is meant to convey more personality. The cover letter is your first introduction to the person who may hire you, and its goal should be to make you as memorable as possible, in a good way.
What to Include in a Cover Letter
Experts recommend that it's important that you do your research before writing your cover letter. While reading the job description thoroughly is essential, it's often not enough. To help you craft a successful cover letter discover more about the following:
- who will be reading your cover letter
- the organization and its culture
- the industry it operates in and any relevant news
- company competitors and market position.
- the organizations' goals over the next five years.
Keep in mind, though, that a cover letter is a supplement to your resume, not a replacement. Meaning, you don’t just repeat whatever is mentioned in your resume. If you’re writing a cover letter for the first time, writing all this might seem pretty tough. After all, you’re probably not a professional writer. The thing is, though, you don’t need to be creative, or even any good at writing. All you have to do is follow a tried-and-tested format.
A cover letter should be formatted like a business letter and include the following sections:
- Header with the date and contact information - which includes your name and contact information.
- Salutation or greeting - addressed to a specific person, if possible.
- Opening paragraph - the introduction, which should include why the applicant is in writing.
- Middle paragraph(s) - the body, which discusses your relevant qualifications.
- Closing paragraph - which the reader thanks and provides contact information and follow-up details.
- Letter ending and signature - your signature to end the letter.
Your cover letter should be one page in length and use a simple, professional font, such as Arial or Helvetica, 10 to 12 points in size. Your letter should be left-aligned with single spacing one-inch margins.
How to Write a Cover Letter in 6 Simple Steps
Here are six simple steps to writing a great cover letter. In the sections below, we’ll offer detailed information about what to include in each section with examples for each.
1. Begin with your heading
As with any standard business letter header, a cover letter should begin with both your and the employer's contact information (name, address, phone number, email), followed by the date. If this is an email rather than an actual letter, include your contact information at the end of the letter, after your signature.
Your contact information should include:
- First and Last Name
- Street Address (optional)
- City, State Zip (optional)
2. Include a greeting
Begin your cover letter salutation with "Dr./Mr./Ms. Last Name." In your research, try to find the name of the person who will be reviewing applications for the job. Address your letter to this person with a common business greeting, such as “Dear” or “Hello.” If you are unsure if your contact is male or female, you can write out their full name. If you do not know the employer's name, simply write, "Dear Hiring Manager." This is better than the generic and formal, "To Whom It May Concern."
- Dear Hiring Manager,
- Hello Ms. Wallace,
- Dear Tyler Wallace,
3. Write an opening paragraph (Introduction)
In the first paragraph of your letter, begin your introduction by stating what job title for which you’re applying and where you saw the position posting. Explain your specific interest in the role and company so the reader knows you’ve done your research and have a genuine interest. Explain where you heard about the job, particularly if you heard about it from a contact associated with the company.
Briefly mention how your skills and experience match the company and/or position; this will give the employer a preview of the rest of your letter. Your goal in the introduction is to get the reader's attention. To get started, see examples of engaging opening sentences for cover letters. The first section of your cover letter is also the first impression the reader will have of you, so it is important to appeal to that person quickly and succinctly.
“I'm excited to apply for the Graphic Designer position at Cloud Clearwater I found on Indeed. I understand you're currently adding several new product lines, and I believe my skills in video and animation provide a significant advantage for creating a successful launch. As a longtime fan of your products, I'm thrilled at the opportunity to bring my unique style and passion for beachwear to the company.”
4. Follow with a second paragraph (Body of the Letter)
Your second paragraph should be a brief overview of your background as is relevant to the position. Explain why you are interested in the job and why you make an excellent candidate for the position. Here, you should include key achievements, skills and specialties that make you particularly suited to perform well in the position.
Focus on one or two and provide specific details about your success including measurable impacts you made. You should only include information about your most recent one or two professional experiences. Mention specific qualifications listed in the job posting, and explain how you meet those qualifications.
Do not simply restate your resume, but provide specific examples that demonstrate your abilities. Remember, actions speak louder than words, so don't just "tell" the reader that you are, for example, a great team player with strong communication skills and excellent attention to detail. Instead, use tangible examples from your work experience to "show" these traits in action.
5. Finish with a closing paragraph
The next paragraph should focus on another key achievement or skill that is relevant to the position. Instead of repeating details from your resume, expand on specific stories or anecdotes that display your fitness for the role. Again, focus on stories that demonstrate the skills and qualifications outlined in the job description. In the closing section of your cover letter, restate how your skills make you a strong fit for the company and/or position.
If you’re changing careers, this is a good opportunity to talk about transferable skills or relatable experiences from your career. State that you would like the opportunity to interview or discuss employment opportunities. Explain what you will do to follow-up, and when you will do it. Thank the employer for his/her consideration.
6. End with a professional signoff (Signature)
You should end your cover letter with a paragraph that summarizes the reasons you are applying for the role and why you would be a great fit. Keep the cover letter conclusion brief and explain that you look forward to hearing from the employer with the next steps. End with your signature at the bottom. Use a complimentary close, and then end your cover letter with your signature, handwritten, followed by your typed name. If this is an email, simply include your typed name, followed by your contact information, after the complimentary close.
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Writing a cover letter is easier said than done. Don't hesitate to spend a lot of time writing and editing it. Or, ask a friend or family member to read it over and give you feedback. If the recruiter does end up reading it, you'll be thankful you did.