How to Write a Cover Letter – Writing Guide + Examples & Downloadable Templates

The ultimate guide to writing an attention-grabbing cover letter.

How to Write a Cover Letter – Writing Guide + Examples & Downloadable Templates

The world has seen one of the worst job crises in almost a century due to COVID.

Many businesses had to downsize their workforces to lower their costs and stay alive. Other organizations could no longer survive and went bankrupt.

As a result:

The job market was flooded with millions of unemployed individuals who are desperate to find a job. To make things worse, fewer and fewer companies were willing to take the risk and hire new employees.

So in some sense...

It's not your fault if you've been struggling to land the job you've always wanted. But if you're serious about making your dream come true, you need to grab onto anything that can save you.

That's when a cover letter comes to your rescue!

Many hiring companies today will ask for a cover letter before they can hire you. So despite what some job search gurus might tell you, not having one could cost you many job opportunities down the line.

Now, you may have a lot of questions on your mind:

  • What is a cover letter for a job?
  • What is the main purpose of a cover letter?
  • And how to write a cover letter that gets you hired?

We'll answer these questions as we move forward with this guide. But before we do that, let's talk about what the biggest problem for jobseekers really is:

Writer's block…

We've seen applicants spend days staring at a blank screen and hoping that ideas will flow. But to their despair, they can only get so far by using the generic templates they find online.

So no worries — we've got you covered on that part!

Not only will this guide teach you how to write a cover letter for a job, but it will also give you unique, ready-made templates you can personalize for any job within minutes.

All you're going to need is your name, basic contact details, and your some qualifications to fill the blanks.

Ready?

Let's get started.

What Is a Cover Letter for a Job?

A cover letter is a one-page document that you attach to your resume to introduce yourself to a hiring company. It's also referred to in online job postings as a covering letter, motivational letter, or letter of motivation.

Creating a cover letter enables you to detail your work history, talents, and professional achievements. You'll do that by building a header and then writing a few paragraphs between 250 and 400 words in total.

We'll get into how to write each cover letter section in a moment. But before we jump into that, you must understand why you need a letter of motivation in the first place.

What Is the Purpose of a Cover Letter?

It's important to note that there are various types of cover letters. And they all differ based on their use cases and the recruiters' expectations.

But despite the dissimilarities, here's the main purpose of a cover letter:  

Your cover letter capitalizes on what you've shown in your resume to awe recruiters. It offers you a chance to anticipate any unanswered questions, show why you're interested in the position, and explain why the company should hire you.

Motivational letters are also an excellent way to showcase your personality through the ideas you cover and the tone of voice you use. Recruiters consider covering letters essential for assessing a candidate's fitness to the company's culture and values.

Now, here's a truth that many job seekers seem to ignore:

For a covering letter to be interesting, it has to bring something new to the table. Or else, it will be a huge waste of time for the recruiter.

How do you make your cover letter intriguing?

Some of the most brilliant cover letters we've seen throughout the years don't actually emphasize accomplishments. After all, you've dedicated your whole resume to highlighting your career wins.

Instead, a job-winning cover letter focuses on future objectives and how you will help the company succeed after landing the job.

How to Structure a Cover Letter

Before we dive deeper into more practical details, you must first understand how to format a cover letter. We’ll also show you a cover letter format example to give you a better picture of what you should aim for.

Every professional cover letter must be one page long and contain the following sections:

  • Header
  • Greeting
  • Letter opening (first sentence)
  • Body (skills and qualifications with examples)
  • Call to action
  • Closing

Your cover letter page formatting also ensures a great reading experience. So here are a few expert tips for perfecting your cover letter:

  • Use a professional, HR-approved font such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Lato
  • Add a proper margin of 1 inch all around the page
  • Leave a lot of white space around different elements to make your cover letter more attractive
  • Save your final version in PDF format
  • Include your full name in your document filename to make it memorable (i.e. John-Smith-Cover-Letter.pdf)

Want to learn more? Check out our comprehensive guide on cover letter formats.

Cover Letter Header

The cover letter header is the first section you should add to the page. It's located at the top to grab attention and make it easy for the recruiter to get in touch with you once they decide to hire you.

So what should a cover letter header include? And what’s the best cover letter header format to use in your application?

It's mostly similar to your resume header, so it should feature the following contact information:

Full name

Your full name will get more attention if you write it in a slightly larger font or make it bolded. Also, feel free to capitalize your name or write it in all caps to make it more visible.

Job title

The job title comes right below your full name, and it must be highly relevant to the position you're applying for. You can use a different color to establish a better hierarchy.

Email address

Always stick to professional email address formats and email providers such as Gmail and Outlook. This will make your application stand out in the recruiter's inbox and help them remember you more easily.

Here are a few examples of professional email addresses:

  • firstlast@gmail.com
  • lastfirst@gmail.com
  • first.last@gmail.com
  • last.first@outlook.com
  • f.last@outlook.com
  • l.first@outlook.com

Phone number

The headhunter may decide to call you for an interview at any moment. So be sure to add a home or cell phone number that you can easily reach during work hours.

Additional details to include in your cover letter

On top of the information you've already provided, here are a few personal details you can add to make your cover letter more interesting:

Location

You don't need to include your full address or specific location because that's no longer required by hiring companies. Instead, you can include your physical address in the "City, State" format.

Social Media Profiles (Especially LinkedIn)

This will allow hiring managers to learn more about who you are and what you're capable of. More importantly, adding a social media profile is the perfect way to show your personality and share your passions with the recruiter.

Before you add your LinkedIn link, make sure to update your profile with the right details and add a professional image to be more appealing.

Personal website or portfolio

Do you have a work portfolio or personal website that you'd like to share with the hiring manager? Add it to your cover letter header!

You can use this as an opportunity to highlight your technical skills and provide tangible proof of your accomplishments.

Let’s look at some examples to give you a better idea about cover letter headers:

This first example follows the standard cover letter header template to the core. It features the contact detail in a clear hierarchy that’s easy to read for the recruiter.

But in addition to that, it also sticks to the essentials when providing contact details:

A professional email address and a phone number.

This one is good, awesome!

It includes all the essential contact details covered in the previous example. But it also takes things to another level by providing a direct link to the candidate’s LinkedIn profile.

The third example is perfect for any job field where providing a portfolio link is crucial. On top of the job title reflecting seniority and expertise, the portfolio will help the applicant leave an impression.

Cover Letter Greeting

The cover letter greeting is just a simple word in my cover letter. So it would probably not matter how you write it — right?

Wrong!

Despite it being the smallest part on the page, getting your cover letter greeting wrong can hurt your chances of getting shortlisted. In fact, there are clear do’s and don’ts when addressing a cover letter.

For instance:

Using a generic cover letter greeting makes you look uninterested, which leaves a negative impression on the recruiter. That also suggests that you're applying to dozens of jobs simultaneously.

Instead, you must do some basic research about the recruiter to find their name and use it in the greeting.

"How do I find the headhunter's name?" you may wonder.

There are three easy ways you can do that:

  • Look them up on LinkedIn or Google
  • Check the hiring company's website
  • Reach out to the company directly to ask them about the recruitment manager

Still unable to find their name?

There's always the option of referring to the headhunter by their job title or addressing the department directly.

Best cover letter opening salutations by name:

  • Dear Mr. Andrew,
  • Dear Mrs. Jenny,
  • Dear Ms. Kathryn,
  • Dear Susan Kinman,
  • Dear Dr. Mark Murillo,
  • Dear Professor Erdman,

What if you're not sure about the gender of the hiring manager if they have a unisex name?

You can always address them with gender-neutral greetings by job title/department:

  • Dear Hiring Manager,
  • Dear HR Director,
  • Dear Recruitment Team,
  • Dear Human Resources Department,

Cover letters you should always avoid:

  • To Whom It May Concern
  • Dear Recruiter,
  • Hello,
  • Dear Sir/Madam,

Attention-Grabbing Sentence

Imagine this:

Andrew is a hiring manager that works at your dream company... He gets paid to find and hire the best candidate for each job.

But Andrew has a problem!

He received over 250 resumes in his inbox for the job posting you're applying for, each with a cover letter attached. And since he's only a human with limited concentration, he has to find a quick way to eliminate candidates from the go.

What does he do?

He reads the first sentence of each cover letter to determine whether an applicant is worth his time.

And based on that...

Andrew will start by shortlisting candidates with outstanding first sentences that highlight value and achievements. On the contrary, any cover letters with repetitive first sentences that aren't personalized for the job get thrown in the trash.

The purpose of a cover letter opening sentence is to capture the recruiter's full attention. It's an excellent way to get them excited about reading your cover letter until the last sentence.

Here are the best tips for writing an attention-grabbing cover letter's first sentence:

  • Keep your cover letter opening to one or two sentences
  • Showcase your most outstanding career achievements
  • Include your best skills, talents, and personality traits
  • Quantify your accomplishments with precise numbers
  • Add ATS keywords to make your cover letter robot-friendly

Ready to look at some examples?

Here’s what your cover letter opening shouldn’t look like:

  • I am writing you to express my interest in an available job position in your company
  • I wish to land a job at your company so I can advance my career and explore new horizons

Instead, here’s what can get you noticed and eventually hired:

  • As a senior sales executive at ABC Company, I was able to manage over 120 accounts and lead my team to maintain a 20% year-over-year increase in closed sales…
  • I’ve recently had the opportunity to work with Jill Ellis, who recommended that I should join your finance department…

Skills and Qualifications

In the eyes of headhunters, the body is the most crucial part of your cover letter. Simply because it highlights your true impact and summarizes the value you can offer after you're hired.

A good cover letter body goes beyond what's already covered in the resume. It expands on the most essential ideas in a few paragraphs to form an appealing story that makes you stand out from the pack.

More importantly:

It shows confidence, trustworthiness, and your ability to fit the company's culture.

The cover letter body also showcases your relevant experiences and career skills. It demonstrates your fitness for the job by detailing your professional history. And it informs the headhunter on how you intend to help their company thrive.

What are the best skills to put on a cover letter?

It depends on the job position and the company's expectations. But overall, here are some of the most sought-after skills to put on a cover letter:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Customer service
  • Problem-solving
  • Adaptability

To be honest:

What really matters here is how you showcase these skills within a context. You should remember that your cover letter serves a different purpose from your resume. Thus, listing skills as words without a compelling story won't do you any good.

So how do you actually list skills on a cover letter?

By letting your personality traits and impact shine using an engaging writing tone.

Cover letter skills and experience examples:

Instead of saying, "I'm a natural problem-solver," you show how you are that:

  • "Developed and implemented a new financial reporting process that allowed upper management to reduce budget spend by $100K."  

Instead of claiming to have "Customer service skills," you can say:

  • "Maintained a customer retention rate of 88% over the past five years after building a strong customer relationships program."

Wrap Up

Closing your cover letter generically is one of the biggest mistakes you can make during your job hunt.

Listen:

The recruiter has enjoyed every second they spent reviewing your cover letter, so you've done great so far! In fact, they're convinced of your qualifications and would surely like to have you as a new employee.

So, you must capitalize on that success in the last part of your cover letter...

Add a closing paragraph that helps you show gratitude and excitement about landing the job. Thank the hiring manager for their time and remind them briefly of the value you can bring to their company.

You may also include a call to action to suggest what the next step should be. For instance, you can express your interest in having an interview to answer any further questions or explain how you wish to help the hiring company.

Finally, it's time to add a formal closing salutation to your cover letter to keep it professional.

The best cover letter closings are:

  • Thank you,
  • Sincerely,
  • Best,
  • Respectfully,
  • Most sincerely,
  • With thanks,
  • Yours truly,
  • Best regards,

Avoid using unprofessional or overused words in your closing. For example, ending your cover letter with "Take care" or "Have a nice day" will do more harm than good.

Best Additional Cover Letter Sections

By now:

You have a basic cover letter that answers most of the questions inside the recruiter's mind. Yet, there are secondary sections you can add to give the hiring company more reasons to pick you.

Here are some of the most effective additional cover letter sections:

How to Explain a Gap in Employment

Leaving an employment gap unaddressed is one of the surest ways to sabotage your job search. That's because having a few unexplained years in your work history will open many doors for imagination. And that can hurt your chances of standing out even when you're better than most other candidates.

For instance:

You're going to leave the headhunter wondering why you left your last job out of the blue... Was it because you were fired? Or perhaps you suddenly decided to quit your job and leave the company hanging?

The good news is...

Recruiters are usually understanding of unemployment gaps and would have no issue hiring you if you have one. However, you must first explain why you were jobless and show that unemployment hasn't affected your work performance.

Most acceptable reasons for a cover letter explaining a gap in employment:

  • Health issues (illness, mental health, burnout, etc.)
  • Higher education, licenses, and professional training
  • Family matters (i.e. supporting and caring for your parents, children, or significant other)
  • Personal time (self-discovery, travel, hobbies, and passions)
  • Relocation
  • Downsizing or failed business

The way to explain an unemployment gap is simple:

Add a brief paragraph to the page describing what happened and reassuring the recruiter that it won't happen again. Also, you should never lie about your unemployment duration or the real reason behind it.

How to Add a Postscript to Your Cover Letter

The postscript is a short sentence you add at the bottom of the page to grab attention. So that makes it the best way to leave one last comment or highlight your unique value proposition.

When writing your postscript, make sure it’s tailored to the job offer so that it doesn’t make you look generic. Also, only add a P.S. to your cover letter if it's actually valuable, informative, and non-repetitive.

Here’s an example of a good cover letter postscript:

P.S. I would appreciate the opportunity to show you how I was able to increase sales by 32% at Rantex and explain how I can help you achieve the same at CGD Group.

How to Mention You’re Willing to Relocate

Location is a huge determining factor when it comes to hiring new candidates. Headhunters have always preferred local applicants to lower their hiring costs and guarantee the best performance with minimal missed days at work.

Therefore...

It's essential for you to mention that you're willing to relocate in the cover letter. Here's how to do that in a few simple steps:

  • Start by showing interest in the company and proving your fitness for the job
  • Reassure the recruiter that the relocation is permanent and explain why you're doing it
  • Give the employer a precise date range for your relocation
  • Indicate your readiness to conduct the job interview whenever they're ready

For example:

“I am permanently moving to Boston within the next three months to be closer to my family and provide my mother-in-law with the care she needs. I will be happy to have an interview with you — either in person or virtually — as of October 2nd, 2022”

Cover Letter Writing Tips

A cover letter offers you a great chance to stick out and bring attention to your most significant career achievements. But in order for it to work, it must first answer to the needs and expectations of the hiring company.

The #1 rule to bear in mind before writing a cover letter is this:

You should always personalize your cover letter.

You have to do in-depth research on the hiring company to identify their needs and pain points. Understand first why they're hiring and what they expect from you. After you do that, the rest of the puzzle will follow afterward.

Here are some brilliant tips for writing a cover letter  to get you on the right path:

Create a Template and Customize It for Every Job You Apply To

Before the headhunter picks up your cover letter, they'll have already been through dozens of applications within a short time. Yet, they're still on the look for a candidate that gets them excited.

Care to guess why?

Because all the applicants they've reviewed so far sound the same. They use the same template, feature duplicate skills, and add a few copy-pasted achievements they found online.

Using the first cover letter template you find on Google is no way of standing out in a large pool of pretenders.

What you should do instead is this:

Create a professional cover letter sample of your own with a unique salutation, opening line, body, and closer. Then, personalize your template by featuring different skills and accomplishments based on the job offer.

Not only will this save you time and effort, but it's also one of the best ways to land more interviews and increase the job success rate.

Want to take this to the next level?

You can use our user-friendly Enhancv tool to build, edit, and duplicate your cover letter template. You'll get assistance from a cover letter expert, who will guide you step-by-step through the process and give you access to our most successful cover letter samples.

Focus on Concrete Examples Instead of Generic References

Here’s the truth…

Hiring managers are sick of generic references that bring no value to the cover letter. That's because these referrals rarely reflect your career expertise and abilities.

Examples tailored specifically to the job offer are your best bet to get noticed. They allow you to stand out from the pretenders and tell your story with confidence.

Now:

To make your achievements more impactful, you must concretize them using quantifiable numbers and data. Include the most successful projects you've worked on, then explain how you contributed to those results.

On top of that:

You must emphasize a combination of soft and hard skills to make your story more compelling. Spotlighting your relevant skillset throughout your cover letter is a great way to get in front of other applicants.

For example:

Are you a natural leader?

"I have good leadership skills" can only do you so much. Besides, you’ll have already mentioned that repeatedly in your resume.

Instead…

It's better to prove your leadership potential with a real example from the past. Show recruiters how you were able to supervise, manage, and motivate others to do better.

“Managed and coordinated between teams from the sales and marketing departments, leading to a 14% boost in revenue while meeting all project deadlines.”

Focus on the Future, Leave Your Resume to Tell Your Past Accomplishments

This is one of the main differences between a cover letter and a resume.

While the resume focuses on your work history and past achievements, your cover letter is all about future goals and how you wish to help your employer succeed.

Listen:

The hiring manager has taken the time to scrutinize your resume and learn what you're capable of. So, they already believe in your abilities and love your wide set of skills.

But...

They want to make sure that you understand the job requirements and know what it takes to help the company thrive. And the best way you can do that is by describing what you're going to accomplish once hired.

To prove that you're the perfect fit:

Prioritize relevance in finding the overlap between your achievements and the hiring company's needs. Then use that to construct a story around how you'll be able to help your new employer achieve their goals.

Also, be sure to show enthusiasm and excitement for the future to prove your genuine interest.

Research the Company and Focus on How You Can Fit In It

Before any hiring manager posts a new job offer, they'll already have in mind what a perfect candidate looks like. They know the level of experience they want, the skills they value, and the accomplishments that will keep them on the edge of their seats.

Therefore...

The first step to writing a job-winning cover letter is to do your research about the company. Learn as much as you can about your potential employer and the rest will easily come.

First things first:

You must identify the hiring company's challenges and how that makes you a valuable asset to them. Understand the day-to-day duties they need help with, then demonstrate how you're the best fit to deal with that.

Also:

Company culture is just as important as skills and experience. No business is going to hire an employee who contradicts its values and beliefs. So, the cultural fit should be one of the most important aspects of your research.

Showing that you understand the employer's values and matching them in your cover letter is a brilliant way to appeal to the recruiter.

Now...

Let's get to the core of the question:

How do you actually research a company?

Organizations usually show their highest values and company culture through their content. Sometimes, they may even give hints and specify what makes an ideal employee for them.

You can learn a lot about any company by visiting its website and reading through the blog or news section. Or you may also check their various social media accounts where they share their interests and discuss their favorite topics.

Pick an Appropriate Tone of Voice

The tone you use in writing your cover letter makes the first impression recruiters will have about you. It reflects your true personality and shows a lot about you as a person inside and outside the workplace.

Therefore:

You must avoid generic words and adjectives at all costs! Because the last thing you want is to make yourself look like any other candidate.

Instead...

You have to pay close attention to every phrase you add to your cover letter. Take the time to choose your words carefully and leave out any expressions that might hurt your job search.

A powerful cover letter tone shows that you're a professional candidate with a positive attitude towards the future. It uses action verbs to describe your most remarkable career accomplishments. And it highlights your wide skillset using power words that get headhunters excited about you.

Want to learn more about this? Check out our complete guide on the best words to describe yourself in a cover letter.

Now:

It's crucial to use a consistent tone throughout your resume so that you don't confuse hiring managers. And also want to make sure that your writing style matches the company's culture as well as the industry norms.

That's vital to meeting the recruiters' expectations by demonstrating culture fit.

What to Leave off a Cover Letter?

Here's a question you should always ask yourself when writing a cover letter:

"Should this information be on my motivation letter?"

Let's face it:

Recruiters have very limited time and an even more limited attention span. Thus, your covering letter should be as concise and direct as possible to drive home the point quickly.

Listen...

It's easy to add everything about you in the cover letter, make it unnecessarily long, and wish the headhunter will read it. But the job seekers that always win are the ones who know what details matter and include them briefly.

Here's what you should never include in your cover letter:

  • Irrelevant personal details
  • Work expectations
  • Salary requirements
  • Past negative work experiences
  • Unspecific job responsibilities
  • Mistakes about the hiring company
  • Repetitive details mentioned in your resume

Cover letter templates

Congratulations!

You’ve made it to the last part of this guide and learned everything you need to know about how to write a cover letter for a job.

And now...

It’s time for us to deliver on our promise of providing you with various ready-made cover letter templates.

Here are three HR-approved templates to help you land your next dream job:

Basic Cover Letter Template

[Dear/Hello/Hi] [Recruiter's Name],
When I came across your job posting for the [job title] position at [company name], I was excited by [something that inspired you to apply for the job]. It will be a pleasure for me to bring my [experience with specific duties] and apply my [job skills] to help your business thrive.

I have [years of experience] working as a [past or current job title] for [previous employer], where I [describe significant duties and outstanding achievements]. Having such hands-on experience in [industry] allows me to [additional job expertise] and [promising achievements].

I also worked on several other projects [mention related projects or companies] where I was able to [remarkable accomplishment]. I strongly believe that this makes me a great fit to help you [challenges you can solve at the company].

Thank you for considering my application. I am excited about the opportunity of joining your company and look forward to talking to you more about my expertise and knowledge.  

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Skill-Centric Cover Letter Template

[Dear/Hello/Hi] [Recruiter's Name],
I was thrilled when I came across your job posting for the [job position] as it has always been my dream to work for [company]. My passion for [field/industry] has been a great motivator for me to develop my [relevant skills] to be able to [how those skills can help you], which makes me the perfect fit for your company.

My [years of experience] as a [job title] allowed me to develop a wide set of [job title] skills, including [list 3-5 related skills].

As a previous [job title] at [previous employer], I was able to use my [highly sought-after skill] to [outstanding achievement]. My ability to [unique skill/talent] also allowed me to contribute greatly to the success of [project name] as I [tasks/duties/quantifiable results].

I played a vital role as a member of the [department name] at [previous employer], where I was responsible for [duties or results achieved]. On top of that, I also used my [skills] to help with [job duty], which goes to prove that I am the perfect candidate for the job.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing back from you as I would love the opportunity to discuss how I would be a great addition to your [department name/team].

All the best,
[Your Name]

Entry-Level Cover Letter Template

Dear [Recruiter's name],

I am writing to apply for the [internship opportunity] at [company]. I came across the opportunity through [website/job board/university internship listings], and I was immediately drawn by [company features or benefits]. I have been seeking a similar internship for a long time, and I believe my [background/soft skills/degree] makes me the ideal fit for this role.

I am a highly passionate [field of studies] student at [university]. In my [years in college], I have had the opportunity to work on [projects/contributions] where I contributed by [results/achievements]. This experience allowed me to develop many [soft/hard/transferrable] skills, including [acquired skills and talents].

As to my volunteering experience, I have been an active volunteer at [project/organization/location] for longer than [years of volunteering]. During that time, I have taken the initiative to [volunteering duty], while also helping with [volunteering duty]. This kept me engaged in the community and allowed me to further develop my [skills].

I greatly appreciate your consideration, and I look forward to your reply! I would love to have a personal interview with you so we can discuss how I can help your company. Considering my completed coursework and previous experiences in [job field], I will surely be a great addition to your team.

Best,
[Your Name]

Downloadable Branded Word Cover Letter

Want to make your cover letter the old-fashioned way? Simply click on the button below and make a copy of our cover letter MS Word/Google Docs template.

DOWNLOAD COVER LETTER TEMPLATE