7 Key Elements of a Successful Cover Letter
Your cover letter is often the first thing employers see when reviewing your job application. To get an employer’s attention and convince them to consider seriously consider you for an interview, a cover letter needs to include several key elements within a clear format. Because hiring managers review dozens of job applications every day, they look for specific content in cover letters that tell them the most about the candidate and meet their professional expectations. In this article, we’ll talk about the key elements of a great cover letter and provide a formula for writing your own.
What is the purpose of a cover letter?
A cover letter introduces you to an employer through a personalized explanation of your qualifications and interest in a position. While a resume shares the technical details of your skills and work experience, a cover letter gives insight into your soft skills, attitude and motivations. Employers use cover letters to get a sense of how well each candidate would fit in with their company culture and use their experience to accomplish the requirements of a position. Strong cover letters provide a clear connection between your goals and a company’s values.
What are the parts of a cover letter?
While cover letters can vary when it comes to content, all cover letters need a few key elements to serve their purpose effectively and showcase the top reasons to hire you. They should also follow a consistent format to make your information well-organized and accessible to employers. A great cover letter uses a logical progression of ideas to advertise your skills.
There are seven sections that every cover letter should include to fit employer expectations and highlight your best qualities:
Values and goals
All cover letters start with a header that includes your contact information. People often use the same header for their cover letter as they use for their resume to create consistency across their entire application. Regardless of the exact format you use, a header should start with your name and include your email, phone number and address on separate lines. Some people include links to their portfolio or social media if that information is relevant to the position.
If you have room on the page, you can also include the name and contact information of the hiring manager or company. People usually include employer contact information on their cover letter if they are submitting a hard copy, but this part of the header is considered optional.
The salutation or greeting of your cover letter is your first chance to differentiate yourself from other applicants by addressing the correct person. Research the name of the hiring manager for each position to show that you have put thought and effort into your application. You can often find this information within the job listing, on the company website or by calling their office and asking.
If you can’t find a specific name to address your letter to, you can personalize the greeting by referencing the specific department you would be working with. “Dear Hiring Manager” is a standard greeting that is acceptable when their name is not available. Keep your greeting short and professional, using the appropriate honorifics or titles when applicable.
The first paragraph of your cover letter should provide the basic details about who you are and why you want the job. Include the title of the job you are applying for, provide a general overview of why you would excel at the position and the reasons you are excited about the job. You can mention how you heard about the position and why you decided to apply, which is an especially good strategy if another employee referred you to the position. Review the job posting for the core strengths required for the job and use your introductory paragraph to explain how you exhibit those qualities.
After the introduction, focus on your history and qualifications. This allows you to attract the employer’s attention by immediately sharing how you can benefit their team. Provide more details about the information you include on your resume, and focus on how your experiences specifically apply to the job. Include stories about relevant projects or situations that give insight into how you solve problems and do your work well. Explain how you contributed to the success of past projects and draw attention to the impact of your actions.
5. Values and goals
The next paragraph should demonstrate that you understand the company’s mission and have done research on the position. Focus on how your goals align with theirs and connect to the elements you like about the company culture. Explain how the work you do can mutually benefit your future and the needs of your prospective employer. This section of your cover letter allows you to show that you can not only do the job well but can fit in with a team and bring a positive attitude to the workplace.
6. Call to action
The final paragraph should summarize your interest and suggest the next steps for proceeding with the application. Thank the hiring manager for taking the time to review your application, and express interest in speaking more about the position or scheduling an interview. Your cover letter should cater to how you can benefit the company, so focus on the skills and talent you hope to bring to their team.
Sign off with a professional closing phrase and your signature or typed name. If you’re emailing your cover letter, be sure that you do not include an unnecessary email signature. Some appropriate closing phrases are:
Cover letter template
Use this template to create a cover letter that includes all of the key elements:
[Your City, State and Zip Code]
[Your Phone Number]
Dear [Hiring Manager Name or Title],
I am writing in response to your advertisement for the [job title] position at [company name]. I am experienced in [skill set] and am interested in using my knowledge to accomplish [company goals]. I am passionate about [career interest] and motivated by [company mission] and am looking forward to the opportunity to use my unique experience to support your [department name] team.
My recent experience as a [previous job title] has prepared me for this position through extensive training on [technical skills]. I applied those skills during [projects you worked on] and helped my team reach our goal by [positive results of your work]. While at my previous job, I improved operations by [list how you used your soft skills].
I respect [company]’s mission and look forward to participating in a workplace culture that promotes [describe the company’s core values]. I plan to build upon my background as a [field of interest] professional and contribute to [company]’s high standard of service and uphold their reputation within our community. As I grow professionally, I hope to apply [new skills] to [describe work environment] and become a valuable resource for [company].
Thank you for considering me as a candidate for [position]. I appreciate the opportunity to share how I can help support your company’s mission. I look forward to hearing back from you and discussing my application in more detail.
To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.
Cover letter example
Here is an example of a standard cover letter that you can use as a guide when applying for jobs:
Dear Ms. Beasley,
I am writing to apply for the hotel manager position at Palladium Suites in Austin, Texas. I have several years of experience in the hospitality and service industry, including managerial training. I hope to use my excellent communication skills and intimate knowledge of day-to-day hotel operations to improve the customer experience and create a culture of excellence at Palladium Suites. I am passionate about providing efficient, quality service to clients and look forward to using my team-building skills as a hotel manager.
As the longtime assistant manager at Serenity Inn, I had the opportunity to act as interim manager while my boss was on leave. This valuable on-the-job training in the duties of a manager at a mid-size hotel has prepared me to take on a full-time managerial role and developed my organizational skills, problem-solving abilities and knowledge of operations. I trained a new assistant manager, managed all employee schedules and coordinated meetings with vendors while improving customer satisfaction ratings by 11%. While working as a concierge, I learned how to anticipate the needs of guests, a skill that helps me create effective protocols for common challenges.
At Palladium Suites, I look forward to sharing a luxury experience with guests and creating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere for visitors and employees alike. My organization and planning skills are well-suited to uphold and improve upon a high standard of customer service. My attention to detail and adaptability make me an ideal candidate for building business relationships and managing hotel staff.
Thank you for considering me as a candidate for the hotel manager position. I appreciate the opportunity to share how I can help support your company’s mission. I look forward to hearing back from you and discussing my application in more detail.
How To Write a Cover Letter (Plus Tips and Examples)
While cover letters are not always required, many hiring managers still rely on them to gauge an applicant’s skills, experience and background in relation to 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.
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. Below, we’ll break down how to write a cover letter that makes a great first impression with employers.
To see example cover letters for your job and industry, browse our free Resume Samples
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter, also known as an application letter
, is a three- to four-paragraph memo to employers that explains your interest in the job and company as well as your fitness for the role. 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.
A well-written cover letter has the potential to impress employers and set you apart from other applicants. To avoid a generic cover letter, you should conduct in-depth research on the company
and role for which you’re applying to in-depth before writing your cover letter.
Cover letter format
and include the following sections:
Header with date and contact information
Salutation or greeting
Letter ending and signature
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.
Cover Letter Format
Date and contact information
Salutation or greeting
Letter ending and signature
How to write a cover letter in 6 steps
Here are six simple steps to write 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. Start with your header
, you should include a few pieces of personal and role specific information at the top of your cover letter. This section should include your contact information, date of application and recipient’s contact information. If you’d like, you can also center your name and address at the top of the page, mirroring the way it looks on your resume.
Cover letter header template:
Your city and ZIP code
Your phone number
Your email address
Name of recipient
Title of recipient
Example cover letter header:
555 Orchard Lane
Las Vegas, NV
123 Vineyard Drive
Las Vegas, NV
Including a professional and detailed heading will make it easier for the hiring manager or recruiter to follow up with you regarding the position.
2. Include a greeting
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’re unable to confirm the gender pronouns (he/him, she/her, them/they) of the person reviewing your application, it is best to use a gender-neutral greeting such as “Dear [first and last name]” or “Dear [position title].”
Dear Hiring Manager,
Dear Tyler Wallace,
3. Write an opening paragraph
In the first paragraph of your letter, mention the 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 are genuinely interested. Briefly state the main experience or qualification you have that makes you a good fit. 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.
Example: “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
Your second paragraph should be a brief overview of your background as is relevant to 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.
and include those that you identify with in the body of your cover letter. You should only include information about your most recent one or two professional experiences.
Example: “As the Director of Human Resources at Wes Morgan Philips, I was a key senior leader in the organization and was responsible for improving the efficiency and performance of the company’s 540 employees. Before that, I worked in human resources, equal employment opportunity and diversity for Jenkins Technology Solutions, Inc. At Jenkins Technology Solutions Inc., I developed an employee retention plan that involved the creation of a wellness program, an internal training program and a promotions selection process, which led to a 50% reduction in the overall employee turnover rate.”
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.
If you’re changing careers, this is a good opportunity to talk about transferable skills
or relatable experiences from your career.
Example: “Achieving ambitious marketing goals is always a top priority, and I am always looking out for the best interests of the company. I enjoy delivering marketing presentations to potential clients and focusing on the strengths of an organization. My marketing skills at River Tech enabled the company to experience new levels of success and a 45% increase in customer engagement. I am never satisfied with the status quo, and I believe that a company should continually look for ways to improve and reach new clients through innovative campaigns.”
6. End with a professional signoff
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.
Example: ”Thank you for your time and consideration. I’m looking forward to learning more details about the Sales position and about TradeLot. Growth is essential to my continued success, and I’m excited for the chance to be a part of TradeLot’s industry-leading team. My proven track record and TradeLot’s quality products are a winning combination for increasing the company’s market share.
Cover letter examples
Here are two examples of cover letters, a traditional version and a less traditional version. First, read the job description, then read the cover letter. In the first example, you’ll see how the writer uses specific phrases from the job description and includes them in the letter.
The second example takes a more creative approach. The author tells a personal story and appeals more abstractly to the attributes called for in the job posting. Both are less than 300 words long.
Example 1: Administrative Assistant
In this role, you will be supporting managers and other senior-level personnel by managing their calendars, arranging travel, filing expense reports, and performing other administrative tasks.
Strong interpersonal skills, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills will be critical to success.
5+ years of experience providing high-level admin support to diverse teams in a fast-paced environment
High school diploma or equivalent work experience
Excellent Microsoft Office Skills with an emphasis on Outlook and Excel
Self-motivated and highly organized
Team players who work well with minimal supervision
Dear Hiring Manager,
I am writing to express my interest in the opening for an administrative assistant at [name of company].
I am drawn to this opportunity for several reasons. First, I have a proven track record of success in administrative roles, most recently in my current job as an administrative coordinator. A highlight from my time here was when I proactively stepped in to coordinate a summit for our senior leaders last year. I arranged travel and accommodation for a group of 15 executives from across the company, organized meals and activities, collaborated with our internal events team, and ensured that everything ran according to schedule over the two-day summit. Due to the positive feedback I received afterward, I have been given the responsibility of doubling the number of attendees for the event this year and leading an internal team to get the job done.
I am also attracted to this role because of the growth opportunities that [name of company] provides. The research that I’ve done on your company culture has shown me that there are ample opportunities for self-motivated individuals like me. A high level of organization and attention to detail are second nature to me, and I’m eager to apply these skills in new and challenging environments.
I look forward to sharing more details of my experience and motivations with you. Thank you for your consideration.
Example 2: Brand Copywriter
We are looking for an experienced copywriter to join our team. If you have a great eye for balance, a quick wit, and can adapt a brand voice for any medium, then this role is right for you.
Write for branded communications including ads, emails, events, landing pages, video, product marketing, and more
Maintain and develop the voice of our brand in collaboration with others
Develop copy for internal communications that generate excitement about our company culture
Work independently and manage your time well
Strong copy-editing skills: for your own work and others
A portfolio of your work
Minimum 5 years of copywriting, ideally within an agency
Strong attention to detail
There are at least two less-than-obvious ways to improve your vocabulary (and by extension, your copywriting skills): studying for the GRE and becoming a crossword puzzle enthusiast. I’ve done both, but for this job application, I’d like to focus on the latter.
My grandmother was the best writer I’ve ever known. She wasn’t a professional writer, but her gift and love of writing was something we shared. It wasn’t until last year that I also took up her love of crossword puzzles and immediately saw how the two went hand in hand. Before long, I was solving Monday through Wednesday puzzles in the New York Times, needing to look up words less and less frequently as time passed. Soon, I was able to complete Thursday to Saturday, too. Throughout this process, I could feel my stock of quips, rejoinders and turns of phrase steadily growing. Eventually, I worked up the courage to attempt the Sunday puzzles.
It was this courage that was the real turning point for me. In my current agency, I was already known as a hard worker and creative spirit; my peer and manager evaluations had made this clear. But while I felt confident in my abilities, I had never seen myself as particularly daring. Considering new challenges and mastering each one along the way had given me a renewed sense of myself and clarity about my chosen profession.
I began a career as a copywriter because I was skilled at finding combinations of words to fit a thought or feeling. I’m continuing down that path because I’ve realized how I can shape and hone that skill to reach new heights. I’d like copywriting at [name of company] to be the next step in my journey.
Final cover letter tips
Here are five guidelines to keep in mind when writing a cover letter:
1. Customize your header based on your application format
If you’re writing your cover letter directly within an online job application, there’s no need to include your address or other contact information, as you’ve probably already typed that into other areas of the application form. If you’re including your cover letter as an attachment, you can use the same heading as your resume.
2. Avoid generic references to your abilities
Whenever possible, tell meaningful anecdotes that tie your skills to concrete problem-solving activities or tangible business results you’ve worked on in your career. Any candidate can say they possess a desirable skill. To make an impact, you need to show hiring managers examples of your skills in action. For example:
Too vague: “My skills would be a great fit for your organization.”
More specific: “In my role as a sales associate, I am frequently required to provide exceptional customer service on short notice. Exceeding customers’ expectations is a point of personal and professional pride for me, and this is a skill I’m eager to continue developing.”
Too vague: “I’m a proactive team player.”
More specific: “In my current job, I proactively jumped in to help launch an internal recycling and waste reduction initiative. Together, our team contributed to a 25% reduction in solid waste production within the company.”
4. Keep it short and to the point
Unless specified in the job description, there is no required length for a cover letter. When determining how long a cover letter should be
, focus on the details that are most important for the job. Read the job description closely to identify the best opportunities to illustrate your qualifications.
What professional achievements are you the proudest of? Choose one or two and map them directly to the desired experience or qualifications the hiring manager is looking for, using just a few detailed but concise sentences. What attributes is the job description calling for in a candidate? Consider using the cover letter itself as a way of demonstrating those traits.
Don’t reiterate everything that’s on your resume. You want to focus on one or two anecdotes, expanding on how you achieved something specific.
5. Proofread before you submit
Reread your cover letter several times before submitting it and keep an eye out for errors of spelling, grammar or punctuation. Reading the letter aloud can help you pick out awkward phrasing or too-long sentences. There are certain common errors that we all tend to gloss over, so make sure to do a slow, deliberate reading that examines each word. If your salutation includes the hiring manager’s name, triple-check the spelling.
For jobs that require submitting a cover letter, remember that you’re getting a valuable chance to illustrate your capabilities and share a glimpse of your authentic personality. Take advantage of the opportunity to let your greatest strengths shine, while also showing that you respect the hiring manager’s time and attention. For inspiration, you can browse cover letter samples
by job title on Indeed.
Easily apply to jobs and be contacted by employers about new jobs with an Indeed Resume