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The little-known truth about cover letters is: You do NOT always need to include a cover letter when applying for jobs, and you may be wasting hours sending cover letters that employers won’t read.

So if you’re wondering whether you should always submit a cover letter with your job application and resume, then keep reading.

After working for years as a recruiter , I’m going to share the exact situations where you should provide a cover letter and the situations where it’s not needed.

Should You Always Submit a Cover Letter?

Many people on LinkedIn and other sites will tell you that you should include a cover letter every time because it “can’t hurt,” but that’s not true…

Here’s how it CAN hurt you…

Writing a great cover letter takes a LOT of time and mental energy. So if it’s not making a difference, or not even getting read, then it  is hurting you in terms of wasted time and energy (I’d argue that writing a cover letter is the toughest and most time-consuming part of the process for many job seekers).

How important is a cover letter

Writing a resume is tough, sure. But once you get it, you’re done. You spend 5-15 minutes tailoring it for each specific job you apply for, but that’s it.

Cover letters take a lot of time EVERY time (at least when done right).

That’s why it’s important to look at how important a cover letter is, and which situations it’s necessary and truly beneficial in.

3 Situations Where You Need to Send a Cover Letter:

There are a couple of specific scenarios where cover letters are necessary, and you should send one. This article by Harvard Business Review says it best:

three situations where cover letters are important and necessary

In those cases, according to Harvard Business Review, you can boost your chances of getting the interview by writing a short letter to point out similarities between your resume and the job requirements (e.g. why you’d do well in their job )… rather than leaving the analysis entirely up to the hiring manager.

But this is only worth doing if you meet one or more of the criteria above, or a few other situations I’ll explain below…

Two more cases where you may want to include a cover letter:

First, you should send a cover letter if an employer specifically says it’s required on their website or job application form (however, having an optional field to include it is not the same as asking for it or saying it’s required).

And second, you should send a letter if you have a large gap in employment or something unusual in your background that you feel the need to explain, and you don’t feel your resume explains it well enough on its own.

(Although I do like addressing gaps in employment directly on your resume employment history section when possible. For example, if you took a year off to raise a kid, you could say: “2018-2019: One-year break from work to raise first child.” So do try to explain this type of thing on your resume if you can!)

When You Don’t Need a Cover Letter:

If you don’t fall into any of the situations we looked at above, then a cover letter is not needed.

For example, if you’re just applying for jobs online via job boards , via LinkedIn, on company websites via their “careers” page, etc., then I’d skip it! Send your resume and let it speak for itself. (And if you don’t have a great resume yet, you can get help  here. )

In my opinion, the extra time and effort just isn’t worth it when you’re applying online with no prior relationship, no referral, and no special knowledge of the hiring manager or job requirements that you can use to make your case for why they should interview you.

This is one reason I love LinkedIn EasyApply as a part of an online job search – because a cover letter is not required or even expected.

Of course, the final judgment call is yours!

If you’re applying to your dream employer and you don’t mind spending an hour writing up a great cover letter, then go ahead! It can’t hurt in a one-off scenario like this.

But the main point I’m trying to make here is:

You should be selective about when to send a cover letter, rather than feeling obligated to send it by default.

Recap: How Important is a Cover Letter?

The answer to how important a cover letter is depends on the hiring process and situation. If you read the information above, you now know when a cover letter is necessary/recommended, and when you probably shouldn’t bother.

And you’ve seen that cover letters do matter in some cases, but that doesn’t mean that you always need to send a cover letter.

And as mentioned earlier, the main benefit of this approach is time savings…

When you look at how much time and effort goes into writing each of these letters, it can add up to hours or days of wasted time if you’re sending cover letters without analyzing whether it’s necessary for the situation.

Tips for Writing a Good Cover Letter:

Now that we’ve answered whether a cover letter is necessary, and when it’s important, here are some tips and resources to help you in situations where you decide a cover letter is needed:

First, I’d always recommend keeping it brief, easy to read (no huge paragraphs or blocks of text without spacing), and personal.

It should feel like you’re talking directly to them! That means start with “Dear Bethany”, (for example), not with, “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Recruiter”.

(Recruiters almost never care about a cover letter anyway. It should be for the hiring manager).

Also, make sure you’re saying the word “you” at least as often as you say the word “I”. Talk about their needs and their company, not just about yourself .

The purpose of your cover letter is to point out similarities between your background and the employer’s job requirements. You want to demonstrate why you’re likely to succeed in their specific role, to sell them on interviewing you! And you cannot do this without researching their job and understanding/discussing their job. So this letter isn’t just about you , it’s about them just as much.

To help you further, we’ve published two articles here on Career Sidekick with great cover letter info:

  • 3 steps to writing a cover letter that stands out
  • How to write a cover letter with no experience

If you follow the steps above, you’ll save time in your job search and maximize the number of interviews you get for the effort you put into your job applications!

Biron Clark

About the Author

Read more articles by Biron Clark

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How to Write a Graphic Designer Cover Letter (3 Examples)

How to write a paralegal cover letter (2 examples), how to write a medical assistant cover letter (3 examples), how to write a research assistant cover letter (3 examples), how to write a software engineer cover letter (3 examples), how to write a hr cover letter (4 examples), how to write a data analyst cover letter (3 examples), how to write a bartender cover letter (3 examples), 5 thoughts on “should you always include a cover letter”.

Good stuff Biron! This is why Career Sidekick is my go-to career blog, I really admire how you take a contrarian approach to conventional job search/career wisdom!

Seems like almost every other career blog advises you to always submit a cover letter. Too bad these folks don’t consider the most important asset we all have: time!

Would being graduated out of college for 1.5 years and haven’t “launched” your career yet – getting a job in the field you got a degree in – count as something “unusual on your background” that you would need a cover letter for?

Thanks for the kind words. I don’t think you’d need a cover letter for this. Just make sure to “tailor” your resume to show the most relevant pieces of the work you have done, and to show your relevant educational background/degree. But if you’re not getting results with your resume, then it’s worth testing/trying a cover letter. My guess is that it’s not needed, and perfecting your resume will get more interviews.

Thanks for the advice Biron!

If I understand you correctly, is this an instance where you would recommend NOT using a chronological work history on a resume then?

And instead break up work experience history into a “relevant” and “other work experience” sections, since we’re trying to show specific relevant pieces of experience and educational background/degree?

I’d still keep it chronological. Just show the most relevant pieces of each past role, for the job you want now.

How about in my situation? I am looking for a job in marketing, but it has been five years and a few jobs since marketing has been the primary function of my job. My last few jobs have had a very little marketing focus and have been training, technical or sales in focus. Should I always write a cover letter to explain this when I am applying for marketing jobs?

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  • Career Planning
  • Finding a Job
  • Cover Letters

Do You Need a Cover Letter When It's Not Required?

When you do (and don't) need a cover letter to apply for a job

do you need a cover letter if you have a resume

Why Write a Cover Letter?

Reasons to include a cover letter, reasons not to include a cover letter.

  • Tips for Writing a Cover Letter

Do you really need a cover letter if a company doesn't ask for one? Writing a lot of cover letters during a job search is often both challenging and time-consuming. Because of this, it's not surprising that applicants often hesitate to include a cover letter when it is not explicitly required by an employer.

If you're wondering if you should include a cover letter, the short answer is yes. That said, there are a few exceptions.

You should  almost always submit a cover letter , even if the company doesn't ask for one. 

Here's what you need to know about the value of cover letters, along with the situations where you can skip a cover letter. 

If you're serious about landing the job, a well-written  cover letter  gives you a chance to sell yourself to the employer in a narrative format, and explain why you are an ideal candidate. Taking the time to  match your qualifications to the job  can help you get selected for an interview.

All of your efforts in the cover letter will help hiring managers do their job of screening applicants, and may get your resume a closer look.

A cover letter also affords you the opportunity to highlight your strongest qualifications.

An effective, well-written, and  customized cover letter  also makes it clear that you are highly interested in the job. That's because it shows the hiring manager that you want the job enough to go the extra distance.

To Share Extra Information

A cover letter gives you an opportunity to include details that your resume does not contain. For example, if you are applying from a distance, your cover letter will enable you to present a rationale for relocation and to mention that you will be in the area shortly for a possible interview. 

To Explain a Gap

Gaps in employment  with reasonable explanations can also be addressed in your letter. A cover letter is also an ideal place to provide specific examples that prove you have the skills and experience listed on your resume.

The Employer May Expect One

Additionally, some employers expect to receive cover letters even though they did not stipulate that a cover letter was required in their job advertisements.

Candidates who don't take the time to compose a letter are often viewed as less motivated for the job.

In many cases, employers won't even look at a job application that doesn't contain a cover letter or letter of interest.

For some jobs, you won't need a cover letter to apply. Some employers don't accept cover letters as part of the application process. For other positions, there may be no way to submit one. If a cover letter is optional, it's better to skip it if you don't have the time to compose a well-written one.

When the Employer Doesn't Want One

If the job application instructs that you should not include a cover letter, then it's definitely best to follow directions so as not to annoy your potential employer.

When You Don't Have Time

No letter is much better than a poorly written one. A well-composed cover letter serves as a sample of your writing ability, but the opposite is also true. If you don't have time to write a well-crafted cover letter that pitches your skills and positions you for the job, forego the effort.

When There's No Way to Submit One

Also, if the company asks you to submit your application through an online platform, and there is no place for you to submit a cover letter, don't worry about it. 

Tips for Writing a Cover Letter That Will Impress

When you do include a cover letter with your resume, it's important to make it a good one. Here are tips for writing a cover letter that will make the best impression and add value to your application.

Kelly Miller. / The Balance

  • Make it targeted.  Be sure to compose a  targeted letter  that is written with the job listing in mind. Focus on the skills and abilities you possess that make you a strong fit for the specific job.
  • Keep it short.  Make sure that your  letters are concise  (no more than one page topping out at five paragraphs) and that every statement you make conveys something significant about your qualifications for the candidacy.
  • Go beyond your resume.  Avoid simply repeating your resume. Provide examples not listed in your resume, and expand upon things mentioned only briefly in your resume. Your cover letter should have a distinct purpose regarding your application.
  • Edit, edit, edit.  Errors in your cover letter  can hurt your chances of getting an interview. Errors make you look sloppy, or worse, not educated. Be sure to thoroughly read your letter before submitting it. Consider asking a friend or colleague to read it as well to check for typos, grammatical errors, and confusing language.

Key Takeaways

  • Writing a cover letter makes the hiring manager's job easier, by highlighting exactly why you're the right match for the role. That gives your application an edge. 
  • Even if the company doesn't specifically request a cover letter, it's a good idea to write one if you're interested in the role at hand. 
  • Skip a cover letter if the employer says not to write one, or if there isn't a place to include one in an online application form. 

How to Write a Cover Letter [Full Guide & Examples for 2024]

Background Image

After weeks of heavy job searching, you’re almost there!

You’ve perfected your resume.

You’ve short-listed the coolest jobs you want to apply for.

You’ve even had a friend train you for every single interview question out there.

But then, before you can send in your application and call it a day, you remember that you need to write a cover letter too.

So now, you’re stuck staring at a blank page, wondering where to start...

Don’t panic! We’ve got you covered. Writing a cover letter is a lot simpler than you might think. 

In this guide, we’re going to teach you how to write a cover letter that gets you the job you deserve.

We're going to cover:

What Is a Cover Letter?

  • How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter, Step by Step
  • 15+ Job-Winning Cover Letter Examples

Let’s get started.

A cover letter is a document that you submit as part of your job application, alongside your resume or CV.

The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce you and briefly summarize your professional background. On average, it should be around 250 to 400 words long .

A good cover letter is supposed to impress the hiring manager and convince them you’re worth interviewing as a candidate.

So, how can your cover letter achieve this?

First of all, it should complement your resume, not copy it. Your cover letter is your chance to elaborate on important achievements, skills, or anything else that your resume doesn’t give you the space to cover. 

For example, if you have an employment gap on your resume, the cover letter is a great place to explain why it happened and how it helped you grow as a person. 

If this is your first time writing a cover letter, writing about yourself might seem complicated. But don’t worry—you don’t need to be super creative or even a good writer .

All you have to do is follow this tried and tested cover letter structure:

structure of a cover letter

  • Header. Add all the necessary contact information at the top of your cover letter.
  • Formal greeting. Choose an appropriate way to greet your target audience.
  • Introduction. Introduce yourself in the opening paragraph and explain your interest in the role.
  • Body. Elaborate on why you’re the best candidate for the job and a good match for the company. Focus on “selling” your skills, achievements, and relevant professional experiences.
  • Conclusion. Summarize your key points and wrap it up professionally.

Now, let’s take a look at an example of a cover letter that follows our structure perfectly:

How to Write a Cover Letter

New to cover letter writing? Give our cover letter video a watch before diving into the article!

When Should You Write a Cover Letter?

You should always include a cover letter in your job application, even if the hiring manager never reads it. Submitting a cover letter is as important as submitting a resume if you want to look like a serious candidate.

If the employer requests a cover letter as part of the screening process, not sending one is a huge red flag and will probably get your application tossed into the “no” pile immediately.

On the other hand, if the job advertisement doesn’t require a cover letter from the candidates, adding one shows you went the extra mile.

Putting in the effort to write a cover letter can set you apart from other candidates with similar professional experience and skills, and it could even sway the hiring manager to call you for an interview if you do it right.

Need to write a letter to help get you into a good school or volunteer program? Check out our guide to learn how to write a motivation letter !

How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter

Now that you know what a cover letter is, it’s time to learn how to write one!

We’ll go through the process in detail, step by step.

#1. Choose the Right Cover Letter Template

A good cover letter is all about leaving the right first impression.

So, what’s a better way to leave a good impression than a well-formatted, stylish template?

cover letter templates for 2024

Just choose one of our hand-picked cover letter templates , and you’ll be all set in no time!

As a bonus, our intuitive AI will even give you suggestions on how to improve your cover letter as you write it. You’ll have the perfect cover letter done in minutes!

cover letter templates

#2. Put Contact Information in the Header

As with a resume, it’s important to 

start your cover letter

 with your contact details at the top. These should be in your cover letter’s header, separated neatly from the bulk of your text.

Contact Information on Cover Letter

Here, you want to include all the essential contact information , including:

  • Full Name. Your first and last name should stand out at the top.
  • Job Title. Match the professional title underneath your name to the exact job title of the position you’re applying for. Hiring managers often hire for several roles at once, so giving them this cue about what role you’re after helps things go smoother.
  • Email Address. Always use a professional and easy-to-spell email address. Ideally, it should combine your first and last names.
  • Phone Number. Add a number where the hiring manager can easily reach you.
  • Location. Add your city and state/country, no need for more details.
  • Relevant Links (optional). You can add links to websites or social media profiles that are relevant to your field. Examples include a LinkedIn profile , Github, or an online portfolio.

Then it’s time to add the recipient’s contact details, such as:

  • Hiring Manager's Name. If you can find the name of the hiring manager, add it.
  • Hiring Manager's Title. While there’s no harm in writing “hiring manager,” if they’re the head of the department, we recommend you use that title accordingly.
  • Company Name. Make sure to write the name of the company you're applying to.
  • Location. The city and state/country are usually enough information here, too.
  • Date of Writing (Optional). You can include the date you wrote your cover letter for an extra professional touch.

matching resume and cover letter

#3. Address the Hiring Manager

Once you’ve properly listed all the contact information, it’s time to start writing the content of the cover letter.

The first thing you need to do here is to address your cover letter directly to the hiring manager.

In fact, you want to address the hiring manager personally .

Forget the old “Dear Sir or Madam” or the impersonal “To Whom It May Concern.” You want to give your future boss a good impression and show them that you did your research before sending in your application.

No one wants to hire a job seeker who just spams 20+ companies and hopes something sticks with their generic approach

So, how do you find out who’s the hiring manager?

First, check the job ad. The hiring manager’s name might be listed somewhere in it.

If that doesn’t work, check the company’s LinkedIn page. You just need to look up the head of the relevant department you’re applying to, and you’re all set.

For example, if you’re applying for the position of Communication Specialist at Novorésumé. The hiring manager is probably the Head of Communications or the Chief Communications Officer.

Here’s what you should look for on LinkedIn:

linkedin search cco

And there you go! You have your hiring manager.

But let’s say you’re applying for a position as a server . In that case, you’d be looking for the “restaurant manager” or “food and beverage manager.”

If the results don’t come up with anything, try checking out the “Team” page on the company website; there’s a good chance you’ll at least find the right person there.

Make sure to address them as Mr. or Ms., followed by their last name. If you’re not sure about their gender or marital status, you can just stick to their full name, like so:

  • Dear Mr. Kurtuy,
  • Dear Andrei Kurtuy,

But what if you still can’t find the hiring manager’s name, no matter where you look?

No worries. You can direct your cover letter to the company, department, or team as a whole, or just skip the hiring manager’s name.

  • Dear [Department] Hiring Manager
  • Dear Hiring Manager
  • Dear [Department] Team
  • Dear [Company Name]

Are you applying for a research position? Learn how to write an academic personal statement .

#4. Write an Eye-Catching Introduction

First impressions matter, especially when it comes to your job search.

Hiring managers get hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of applications. Chances are, they’re not going to be reading every single cover letter end-to-end.

So, it’s essential to catch their attention from the very first paragraph.

The biggest problem with most opening paragraphs is that they’re usually extremely generic. Here’s an example:

  • My name is Jonathan, and I’d like to work as a Sales Manager at XYZ Inc. I’ve worked as a Sales Manager at MadeUpCompany Inc. for 5+ years, so I believe that I’d be a good fit for the position.

See the issue here? This opening paragraph doesn’t say anything except the fact that you’ve worked the job before.

And do you know who else has similar work experience? All the other applicants you’re competing with.

Instead, you want to start with some of your top achievements to grab the reader’s attention. And to get the point across, the achievements should be as relevant as possible to the position.

Your opening paragraph should also show the hiring manager a bit about why you want this specific job. For example, mention how the job relates to your plans for the future or how it can help you grow professionally. This will show the hiring manager that you’re not just applying left and right—you’re actually enthusiastic about getting this particular role.

Now, let’s make our previous example shine:

Dear Mr. Smith,

My name’s Michael, and I’d like to help XYZ Inc. hit and exceed its sales goals as a Sales Manager. I’ve worked as a Sales Representative with Company X, another fin-tech company , for 3+ years, where I generated an average of $30,000+ in sales per month and beat the KPIs by around 40%. I believe that my previous industry experience, passion for finance , and excellence in sales make me the right candidate for the job.

The second candidate starts with what they can do for the company in the future and immediately lists an impressive and relevant achievement. Since they’re experienced in the same industry and interested in finance, the hiring manager can see they’re not just a random applicant.

From this introduction, it’s safe to say that the hiring manager would read the rest of this candidate’s cover letter.

#5. Use the Cover Letter Body for Details

The next part of your cover letter is where you can go into detail about what sets you apart as a qualified candidate for the job.

The main thing you need to remember here is that you shouldn’t make it all about yourself . Your cover letter is supposed to show the hiring manager how you relate to the job and the company you’re applying to.

No matter how cool you make yourself sound in your cover letter, if you don’t tailor it to match what the hiring manager is looking for, you’re not getting an interview.

To get this right, use the job ad as a reference when writing your cover letter. Make sure to highlight skills and achievements that match the job requirements, and you’re good to go.

Since this part of your cover letter is by far the longest, you should split it into at least two paragraphs.

Here’s what each paragraph should cover:

Explain Why You’re the Perfect Candidate for the Role

Before you can show the hiring manager that you’re exactly what they’ve been looking for, you need to know what it is they’re looking for.

Start by doing a bit of research. Learn what the most important skills and responsibilities of the role are according to the job ad, and focus on any relevant experience you have that matches them.

For example, if you’re applying for the position of a Facebook Advertiser. The top requirements on the job ad are:

  • Experience managing a Facebook ad budget of $10,000+ / month
  • Some skills in advertising on other platforms (Google Search + Twitter)
  • Excellent copywriting skills

So, in the body of your cover letter, you need to show how you meet these requirements. Here’s an example of what that can look like:

In my previous role as a Facebook Marketing Expert at XYZ Inc. I handled customer acquisition through ads, managing a monthly Facebook ad budget of $40,000+ . As the sole digital marketer at the company, I managed the ad creation and management process end-to-end. I created the ad copy and images, picked the targeting, ran optimization trials, and so on.

Other than Facebook advertising, I’ve also delved into other online PPC channels, including:

  • Google Search

Our example addresses all the necessary requirements and shows off the candidate’s relevant skills.

Are you a student applying for your first internship? Learn how to write an internship cover letter with our dedicated guide.

Explain Why You’re a Good Fit for the Company

As skilled and experienced as you may be, that’s not all the hiring manager is looking for.

They also want someone who’s a good fit for their company and who actually wants to work there.

Employees who don’t fit in with the company culture are likely to quit sooner or later. This ends up costing the company a ton of money, up to 50% of the employee’s annual salary , so hiring managers vet candidates very carefully to avoid this scenario.

So, you have to convince the hiring manager that you’re passionate about working with them.

Start by doing some research about the company. You want to know things like:

  • What’s the company’s business model?
  • What’s the company’s product or service? Have you used it?
  • What’s the company’s culture like?

Chances are, you’ll find all the information you need either on the company website or on job-search websites like Jobscan or Glassdoor.

Then, pick your favorite thing about the company and talk about it in your cover letter.

But don’t just describe the company in its own words just to flatter them. Be super specific—the hiring manager can see through any fluff.

For example, if you’re passionate about their product and you like the company’s culture of innovation and independent work model, you can write something like:

I’ve personally used the XYZ Smartphone, and I believe that it’s the most innovative tech I’ve used in years. The features, such as Made-Up-Feature #1 and Made-Up-Feature #2, were real game changers for the device.

I really admire how Company XYZ strives for excellence in all its product lines, creating market-leading tech. As someone who thrives in a self-driven environment, I truly believe that I’ll be a great match for your Product Design team.

So, make sure to do your fair share of research and come up with good reasons why you're applying to that specific company.

Is the company you want to work for not hiring at the moment? Check out our guide to writing a letter of interest .

#6. Wrap It Up and Sign It

Finally, it’s time to conclude your cover letter.

In the final paragraph, you want to:

  • Wrap up any points you couldn't make in the previous paragraphs. Do you have anything left to say? If there’s any other information that could help the hiring manager make their decision, mention it here. If not, just recap your key selling points so far, such as key skills and expertise.
  • Express gratitude. Politely thanking the hiring manager for their time is always a good idea.
  • Finish the cover letter with a call to action. The very last sentence in your cover letter should be a call to action. This means you should ask the hiring manager to do something, like call you and discuss your application or arrange an interview.
  • Remember to sign your cover letter. Just add a formal closing line and sign your name at the bottom.

Here’s an example of how to end your cover letter :

I hope to help Company X make the most of their Facebook marketing initiatives. I'd love to further discuss how my previous success at XYZ Inc. can help you achieve your Facebook marketing goals. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at the provided email address or phone number so that we may arrange an interview.

Thank you for your consideration,

Alice Richards

Feel free to use one of these other popular closing lines for your cover letter:

  • Best Regards,
  • Kind Regards,

Cover Letter Writing Checklist

Once you’re done with your cover letter, it’s time to check if it meets all industry requirements. 

Give our handy cover letter writing checklist a look to make sure:

Does your cover letter heading include all essential information?

  • Professional Email
  • Phone Number
  • Relevant Links

Do you address the right person? 

  • The hiring manager in the company
  • Your future direct supervisor
  • The company/department in general

Does your introductory paragraph grab the reader's attention?

  • Did you mention some of your top achievements?
  • Did you use numbers and facts to back up your experience?
  • Did you convey enthusiasm for the specific role?

Do you show that you’re the right candidate for the job?

  • Did you identify the core requirements for the role?
  • Did you show how your experiences helped you fit the requirements perfectly?

Do you convince the hiring manager that you’re passionate about the company you’re applying to?

  • Did you identify the top 3 things that you like about the company?
  • Did you avoid generic reasons for explaining your interest in the company?

Did you conclude your cover letter properly?

  • Did you recap your key selling points in the conclusion?
  • Did you end your cover letter with a call to action?
  • Did you use the right formal closing line and sign your name?

15 Cover Letter Tips

Now you’re all set to write your cover letter! 

Before you start typing, here are some cover letter tips to help take your cover letter to the next level:

  • Customize Your Cover Letter for Each Job. Make sure your cover letter is tailored to the job you're applying for. This shows you're not just sending generic applications left and right, and it tells the hiring manager you’re the right person for the job.
  • Showcase Your Skills. Talk about how your skills meet the company’s needs. And while your hard skills should be front and center, you shouldn’t underestimate your soft skills in your cover letter either.
  • Avoid Fluff. Don’t make any generic statements you can’t back up. The hiring manager can tell when you’re just throwing words around, and it doesn’t make your cover letter look good.
  • Use Specific Examples. Instead of saying you're great at something, give an actual example to back up your claim. Any data you can provide makes you sound more credible, so quantify your achievements. For example, give numbers such as percentages related to your performance and the timeframe it took to accomplish certain achievements.
  • Research the Company. Always take time to learn about the company you're applying to. Make sure to mention something about them in your cover letter to show the hiring manager that you're interested.
  • Follow the Application Instructions. If the job posting asks for something specific in your cover letter or requires a certain format, make sure you include it. Not following instructions can come off as unattentive or signal to the hiring manager that you’re not taking the job seriously.
  • Use the Right Template and Format. Choose the right cover letter format and adapt your cover letter’s look to the industry you’re applying for. For example, if you’re aiming for a job in Law or Finance, you should go for a cleaner, more professional look. But if you’re applying for a field that values innovation, like IT or Design, you have more room for creativity.
  • Express Your Enthusiasm. Let the hiring manager know why you're excited about the job. Your passion for the specific role or the field in general can be a big selling point, and show them that you’re genuinely interested, not just applying left and right.
  • Address Any Gaps. If there are any employment gaps in your resume , your cover letter is a great place to mention why. Your resume doesn’t give you enough space to elaborate on an employment gap, so addressing it here can set hiring managers at ease—life happens, and employers understand.
  • Avoid Quirky Emails. Your email address should be presentable. It’s hard for a hiring manager to take you seriously if your email address is “[email protected].” Just use a [email protected] format.
  • Check Your Contact Information. Typos in your email address or phone number can mean a missed opportunity. Double-check these before sending your application.
  • Mention if You Want to Relocate. If you’re looking for a job that lets you move somewhere else, specify this in your cover letter.
  • Keep It Brief. You want to keep your cover letter short and sweet. Hiring managers don’t have time to read a novel, so if you go over one page, they simply won’t read it at all.
  • Use a Professional Tone. Even though a conversational tone isn’t a bad thing, remember that it's still a formal document. Show professionalism in your cover letter by keeping slang, jargon, and emojis out of it.
  • Proofread Carefully. Typos and grammar mistakes are a huge deal-breaker. Use a tool like Grammarly or QuillBot to double-check your spelling and grammar, or even get a friend to check it for you.

15+ Cover Letter Examples

Need some inspiration? Check out some perfect cover letter examples for different experience levels and various professions.

5+ Cover Letter Examples by Experience

#1. college student cover letter example.

college or student cover letter example

Check out our full guide to writing a college student cover letter here.

#2. Middle Management Cover Letter Example

Middle Management Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a project manager cover letter here.

#3. Team Leader Cover Letter Example

Team Leader Cover Letter Example

Check out our full guide to writing a team leader cover letter here.

#4. Career Change Cover Letter Example

Career Change Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to a career change resume and cover letter here.

#5. Management Cover Letter Example

Management Cover Letter Example

Check out our full guide to writing a management cover letter here.

#6. Senior Executive Cover Letter Example

Senior Executive Cover Letter Example

Check out our full guide to writing an executive resume here.

9+ Cover Letter Examples by Profession

#1. it cover letter example.

IT Cover Letter Example

Check out our full guide to writing an IT cover letter here.

#2. Consultant Cover Letter Example

Consultant Cover Letter Example

Check out our full guide to writing a consultant cover letter here.

#3. Human Resources Cover Letter

Human Resources Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a human resources cover letter here.

#4. Business Cover Letter Example

Business Cover Letter Example

Check out our full guide to writing a business cover letter here.

#5. Sales Cover Letter Example

Sales Cover Letter Example

Check out our full guide to writing a sales cover letter here.

#6. Social Worker Cover Letter

Social Worker Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a social worker cover letter here.

#7. Lawyer Cover Letter

Lawyer Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a lawyer cover letter here.

#8. Administrative Assistant Cover Letter

Administrative Assistant Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing an administrative assistant cover letter here.

#9. Engineering Cover Letter Example

Engineering Cover Letter Example

Check out our full guide to writing an engineer cover letter here.

#10. Receptionist Cover Letter Example

Receptionist Cover Letter Example

Check out our full guide to writing a receptionist cover letter here.

Need more inspiration? Check out these cover letter examples to learn what makes them stand out.

Plug & Play Cover Letter Template

Not sure how to start your cover letter? Don’t worry!

Just copy and paste our free cover letter template into the cover letter builder, and swap out the blanks for your details.

[Your Full Name]

[Your Profession]

[Your Phone Number]

[Your Email Address]

[Your Location]

[Your LinkedIn Profile URL (optional)]

[Your Personal Website URL (optional)]

[Recipient's Name, e.g., Jane Doe],

[Recipient's Position, e.g., Hiring Manager]

[Company Name, e.g., ABC Corporation]

[Company Address]

[City, State/Country]

Dear [Recipient's Name],

As a seasoned [Your Profession] with [Number of Years of Experience] years of industry experience, I am eager to express my interest in the [Job Title] position at [Company Name]. With my experience in [Your Industry/Sector] and the successes I've achieved throughout my education and career, I believe I can bring unique value and creativity to your team.

In my current role as [Your Current Job Title], I've taken the lead on more than [Number of Projects/Assignments] projects, some valued up to $[Highest Project Value]. I pride myself on consistently exceeding client expectations and have successfully [Mention a Key Achievement] in just a [Amount of Time] through [Skill] and [Skill].

I've collaborated with various professionals, such as [List Roles], ensuring that all [projects/tasks] meet [relevant standards or objectives]. This hands-on experience, coupled with my dedication to understanding each [client's/customer's] vision, has equipped me to navigate and deliver on complex projects.

My key strengths include:

  • Improving [Achievement] by [%] over [Amount of Time] which resulted in [Quantified Result].
  • Optimizing [Work Process/Responsibility] which saved [Previous Employer] [Amount of Time/Budget/Other Metric] over [Weeks/Months/Years]
  • Spearheading team of [Number of People] to [Task] and achieving [Quantified Result].

Alongside this letter, I've attached my resume. My educational background, a [Your Degree] with a concentration in [Your Specialization], complements the practical skills that I'm particularly eager to share with [Company Name].

I'm excited about the possibility of contributing to [Something Notable About the Company or Its Mission]. I'd be grateful for the chance to delve deeper into how my expertise aligns with your needs.

Thank you for considering my application, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

The Heart of Your Job Search - Creating a Killer Resume

Your cover letter is only as good as your resume. If either one is weak, your entire application falls through.

After all, your cover letter is meant to complement your resume. Imagine going through all this effort to leave an amazing first impression in your cover letter, only for the hiring manager to never read it because your resume was mediocre.

But don’t worry; we’ve got you covered here, too.

Check out our dedicated guide on how to make a resume and learn everything you need to know to land your dream job!

Just pick one of our resume templates and start writing your own job-winning resume.

resume examples for cover letters

Key Takeaways

Now that we’ve walked you through all the steps of writing a cover letter, let’s summarize everything we’ve learned:

  • A cover letter is a 250 - 400 word document that’s meant to convince the hiring manager that you’re the best candidate for the job.
  • Your job application should always include a cover letter alongside your resume.
  • To grab the hiring manager’s attention, write a strong opening paragraph. Mention who you are, why you’re applying, and a standout achievement to pique their interest.
  • Your cover letter should focus on why you’re the perfect candidate for the job and why you’re passionate about working in this specific company.
  • Use the body of your cover letter to provide details on your skills, achievements, and qualifications, as well as make sure to convey your enthusiasm throughout your whole cover letter.
  • Recap your key selling points towards the end of your cover letter, and end it with a formal closing line and your full name signed underneath.

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Follow our career blog for more valuable advice, or check out some of our top guides, such as:

  • How to Make a Resume in 2024 | Beginner's Guide
  • How to Write a CV (Curriculum Vitae) in 2024 [31+ Examples]
  • 35+ Job Interview Questions and Answers [Full List]

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Dive Into Expert Guides to Enhance your Resume

The Ultimate Cover Letter Writing Guide

The complete guide to writing an effective cover letter.

Greg Faherty

Certified Professional Resume Writer

CV template Classic

Any of these sound familiar? The simple answer is yes, having an effective cover letter is completely necessary and highly recommended and we’ll tell you  why you need a cover letter as well as a resume!

When you’re applying for a job, whether it be for an  entry-level  position after graduating or for a high-level executive vacancy with a  professional resume , a  cover letter is essential to make your application stand out .

Without this extra introductory letter, a resume alone could easily be discarded by a hiring manager. CareerBuilder  estimates you’re  10% more likely to miss out on an opening  if you don’t include a cover letter.

Writing a good cover letter  it’s not a skill many many people master, but that doesn’t mean it’s an impossible feat!

With our complete  cover letter guide , you’ll learn  how to write a cover letter  that will attract the hiring manager and convince them to read your winning resume.

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is an extension to your job application.  It is not obligatory but including a well-written cover letter is  strongly advised by all human resource experts . By definition, a cover letter is an accompanying, explanatory letter.

All  jobseekers need a sales pitch  of sorts, they need to hook the reader and demonstrate to the hiring manager why they are the right person for the vacancy on offer. This style of  self-marketing for a job application  must come in the form of a  winning resume and cover letter combination  that complement one another.

A simple cover letter is an introduction to the candidate  behind the qualifications and experience. The aim is to show a prospective employer how you can take on the role and  what you can offer the company  in question.

Cover letters generally  follow a basic structure  and can be in either hard or digital format, that is to say, either printed and sent via regular mail or as a document scanned and attached to send digitally, or written directly in an  email cover letter .

Why include a cover letter on a job application?

If you want to stand any chance at all of  catching the eye of a potential employer , it is  imperative to include a cover letter  with your job application.

Simple – even if you  create an effective, outstanding resume , using all the right keywords and qualifications etc. it’s possible there are candidates more qualified than you or with more experience so it’s necessary to  add a cover letter to back up your resume  and allow the hiring manager to see more of your personal side that is relevant to the vacancy.

  • The cover letter demonstrates your communication skills.
  • The cover letter serves as an introduction to the resume.
  • The cover letter can be used to emphasize certain skills, or mention skills that you couldn’t fit on the resume (it serves as an addendum).
  • The cover letter is what you customize for each position, to show why you are the right person for “That” role, as opposed to the resume which stays pretty much the same for all applications.

A cover letter is the added value  that you need in a job application to ensure the call-back you’ve been waiting for.

To  create a unique, tailor-made job application , each candidate should use a cover letter to highlight their strengths and  elaborate on relevant achievements  that demonstrate their ability to take on the new responsibilities.

Is it practically always sensible and  appropriate to write a cover letter to accompany a resume for a job application  that should be customized for the role you’re applying to including any explanations of information that might be missing from the resume, such as employment gaps, traveling, periods of study etc.

The only time it is acceptable to not include a cover letter in your job application is if the job listing specifically requests that you do not.

Advantages of Writing a Cover Letter

A cover letter directly adds to the likelihood that you are called in for an interview and  gives you a better chance of being hired .

If you’re successful in  writing an effective cover letter , it will offer you the following advantages:

  • Hiring managers will see your added effort
  • Demonstrates you put in the time to learn about the company
  • It will add a personal touch to your application
  • It shows your enthusiasm for the opening
  • Hiring managers will become acquainted with your best qualities

Knowing exactly what is in a cover letter will ensure that it gives you a  major advantage  over the other applicants.

What are the 3 Types of Cover Letters?

Adding a cover letter is almost always essential, but  choosing the appropriate letter  will also be key. Depending on the job post you are applying for, you will need to select the best type of letter to send along with your resume.

There are  3 types of cover letters  that you can send to a hiring manager. The 3 types are:

  • Application cover letters
  • Letters of Interest
  • Email Cover letters

The letter you write is influenced by  whether you are going to apply for a job directly , citing a referral, or asking about vacancies that are not advertised.

Whatever the case may be, ensure that the cover letter is  specific to the job vacancy . It’s always important to avoid making a generic cover letter for every single job you apply for.

So, what are the 3 types of cover letters you should consider sending to a job recruiter?

Application Cover Letter

This is your  classic cover letter  that you send to a hiring manager when you spot a company advertising a job opening. When you want to directly apply for a position, it is mandatory to send this, unless you are specifically asked not to.

Using this letter, you can mention why you want to work for a specific company and why you are the perfect candidate for the position.

Letter of Interest

Say you notice a company that you would really like to work for. It fits your sector, and you know it offers great benefits and good pay. However, you  can’t find any openings  that match your skill set.

If that’s the case, you don’t need to sit around and wait for the company to have a job vacancy. You can take action with a letter of interest. This type of cover letter  states your interest in being employed  by a company that isn’t currently advertising any vacancies.

This type of letter goes by a couple of other names, such as:

  • Letter of intent
  • Statement of interest

Of course, since there is no vacancy there is no role you can specifically mention, which is the major difference between a letter of intent and a traditional cover letter. Your objective will be to  advertise yourself well enough  that an employer will just have to interview you.

Email Cover Letters

Over the years, the job application process has shifted to a nearly  100% online hiring process . Due to this, it may be necessary to send your cover letter  in an email  as part of your job application.

While applying, there may not be an option to upload your cover letter. Or maybe you would just like to send it in the  body of your email along with your resume . You can send it in one of two ways, in the body of your email or as an attachment (in PDF).

How to write a cover letter

A cover letter, although  short in length  generally, can take time to elaborate as it is important to get it right. Sometimes, due to the scarce space for writing, candidates find it difficult to know  what to include in a cover letter  and  what to leave out .

However, knowing  how to do a cover letter  can make all the difference to your job application and be the just the thing to capture the attention of a hiring manager.

A  professional cover letter  should be well-formatted, following a structure with a header, an opening paragraph, a second main paragraph, a final closing paragraph and a closing with signature/electronic signature.

To  begin writing a cover letter for a job application , candidates should analyze their skills, qualifications, accomplishments and experience to  decide which are the most fundamental aspects to include  in their personalized cover letter.

Next, each jobseeker will have to  select the most job-relevant  of these elements to include by  comparing them with the required or desired qualifications and experience  in the job description.

Finally, the applicant should choose some  memorable examples which demonstrate evidence  of each element included in their cover letter, aiming to  tell a story  which shows their aptitude concerning each skill or qualification.

Jobseekers should also ensure to explore  how to make a cover letter  for their specific role or industry because, similarly to resumes, each cover letter should be  tailored for the vacancy  and company to which it will be sent.

It is vital for candidates to  consider several factors when it comes to writing their professional cover letter . A jobseeker must review their  resume work history section  as well as any skills and honors included to find the  most pertinent experiences  that can be explored further. Detailing examples of when a candidate demonstrated certain abilities or expertise is how a candidate can convince a hiring.

One way to create a winning cover letter is to use an  online cover letter creator  or take advantage of cover letter templates as a stepping stone as well as checking out cover letter examples that can serve as a great source of inspiration for you to make your own  unique cover letter .

Our  cover letter builder  forms part of our resume builder and allows jobseekers to create a more complete job application. Users can write their cover letter with pro tips and design help thanks to our pre-designed templates. Read our  cover letter writing guide  to get to grips with  cover letter writing techniques  and tips before using our online cover letter builder!

How to Structure a Cover Letter

The  structure and layout of a cover letter  is essential to make sure the letter displays each point that you wish to get across  clearly and concisely . This means it’s necessary, in general, to follow a commonly-accepted format for an effective cover letter.

Similarly to a  resume format , designing and  writing a cover letter has certain rules  which should be adhered to in order to convey the necessary information in a brief and to the point introductory letter.

Check out some of the  cover letter best practices  as advised by human resources experts below:

  • It’s imperative to  begin a cover letter with a header , including the candidate’s name and contact information as well as the date. This  primary cover letter section  can also include the job title, website and other relevant personal information.

Following this, the  letter should include the details of the company  and person to whom you are writing, with the full name, job title or team, company name and address.

  • The main body of a cover letter should be divided into  three sections : an introduction, a bullet list of accomplishments followed by a paragraph highlighting skills, and a closing paragraph inviting the hiring manager to contact you. By using bullet points when detailing your achievements and capabilities, you can make sure that recruiters will be able to quickly pick out key information. This is especially important as studies have found that recruiters spend very little time reading each individual application.
  • Finally, the letter should be electronically or physically signed with your full name in a formal manner.

The universally-accepted  cover letter length  is no longer than one letter page, which in total has about  250-300 words  for the main body of text.

Don’t  repeat information  or be too detailed because hiring managers simply do not have the time to read it all and will simply skip to the next one.  Resumes that run over 600 words  get rejected 43% faster and cover letters can easily fall into this trap too.

Keep your cover letter short and sweet and to the point!

Get more  cover letter formatting advice  in our guide on  how to format a cover letter  with tips and information about all aspects of a good cover letter structure.

Cover letter advice

The  importance of including a cover letter  with your job application is often overlooked by jobseekers of all categories, however this can seriously reduce your possibilities of getting an interview with a prospective employer.

Therefore you need not ask yourself  when to write a cover letter  because the answer is just that simple – it is  always appropriate to include a cover letter in your job application , unless the listing explicitly requests that you do not.

Check out the following  expert cover letter tips  to create a winning cover letter that will convince the hiring manager to give you a call:

  • We may be quite repetitive with this one but the sheer quantity of resumes and cover letters that are disregarded simply for forgetting this  vital and basic rule  is incredible:  USE A PROFESSIONAL EMAIL ADDRESS  for your contact details and that does not include your current work email but a personal, suitable email address.
  • It is essential to remember to  maintain your focus on the needs of the company  you’re applying to and the requirements and desired abilities of the ideal candidate for the role.  Do not focus on how you can benefit  by becoming a member of their team, but on how the team can make the most of your experience and knowledge.
  • Remember to  highlight your transferable skills , especially in cases where you may not meet all the required qualities in the job description such as in student resumes and cover letters.
  • Each  cover letter for a job application, cover letters for internships , for further study or even volunteer experience should be  tailored to their specific organization  and position with the pertinent keywords.
  • Use specific examples to demonstrate the candidate’s individual capacity to take on the role and  tell a story with your cover letter  to convey more of your personality and passion towards the sector or profession.
  • Towards the  end of a cover letter , each candidate should write a convincing finish to entice the hiring manager and in sales terminology “ seal the deal ”.
  • Finally when you have completed your polished cover letter, potentially  one of the most important steps  in the process is to  PROOFREAD . Candidates should request that a friend, mentor, teacher or peer takes a look at their cover letter for not only  grammatical and spelling errors  but also any  unwanted repetition or unrelated information .

Some jobseekers doubt  whether a cover letter is necessary or not , but as most human resource professionals agree without a well-written cover letter, candidates lose the  possibility to demonstrate different aspects of their profile  from those included in their resumes which could easily be the deciding factor in your application!

An easy and fast way to write an effective cover letter for a job application is to employ an  online cover letter creator  that will offer advice on  how to complete a cover letter with examples  and HR-approved templates.

Cover Letter FAQs

What do employers look for in a cover letter, can a cover letter be two pages, what is the difference between a cover letter and a resume, should you put a photo on a cover letter.

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Composing a cover letter on the laptop

The earliest record of the cover letter for employment dates back to the 1950s according to The Atlantic, and has been used ever since as an addition to resumes, for candidates to prove to potential employers their desire and eligibility for posted roles. In recent years, however, especially since the post-pandemic unemployment upheaval, the choice of whether or not to include cover letters as part of the job application process has been a topic of contentious debate, and has left most candidates confused as to whether or not to include them, especially if the employer has not specifically requested them.

In a recent LinkedIn poll I conducted, more than 70% of respondents (a mix of recruiters, hiring managers, and candidates) voted that cover letters are no longer necessary as part of the shortlisting process. However, across the Internet, there were others who advocated its use, provided the right conditions were met.

The question remains, Should we write cover letters for jobs, even if they're not mandated in the application process?

When cover letters are needed

Emily Meekins , CEO and Founder of talent consultancy Workstrat, points out that she rarely reviews cover letters. "85% of the time, I can learn enough from your resume and LinkedIn profile. The application/interview process is time-consuming enough without a cover letter. I'd prefer candidates save their time and reapply it to other areas of their search." However, Meekins adds that she would look at a cover letter if she is on the fence and needs more information to help make an informed decision, or to check for quality of writing and communication skills.

I spoke with Yulia Saf , Founder and CEO of MissTourist.com, who has hired and led a team of up to 12 employees remotely, and asked her to share her experiences and insights on this topic. Saf revealed that cover letters have significantly impacted her decision to hire candidates on several occasions, noting that "candidates who include a persuasive cover letter often stand out during the shortlisting phase, as it provides insight into their passion and determination for the role."

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Writing with laptop

Maurizio Petrone , founder of the remote-first digital media start-up MustReadQuotes.com, has been hiring talent for over 15 years, and highlights that from his experience, "cover letters have played an essential element in hiring decisions, even when we didn't specifically request them. Out of the hundreds of candidates we shortlisted over the past five years, about 70% included cover letters in their applications. These letters helped shed light on their motivations and gave a better insight into their soft skills - things often not immediately evident in resumes."

Cover letters are a fantastic way to explore beyond the confines of one's resume and tell a compelling narrative about your career journey, motivations and aspirations for the job, and even transferable skills, especially for those facing perceived barriers in the workplace. This makes it an excellent choice for those making a career pivot or transition.

As Thomas Codevilla , business attorney, Co-Founder and hiring manager at SK&S Law Group points out, "A well-written cover letter allows candidates to tell a compelling narrative about their experiences and how they can uniquely contribute to our organization. On the hiring side, I know that ATS often play a role in screening applications. What many candidates might not realize is that incorporating relevant keywords from the job posting into their cover letters can significantly improve their chances of getting past this initial screening stage.

"As a recruiter, I appreciate it when candidates address their cover letters to a specific individual or mention a mutual connection within the company. It not only shows that they've done their research but also increases the likelihood that their application will catch my attention.

"A cover letter gives candidates the opportunity to address any potential red flags in their resume, such as employment gaps or career changes. When a candidate proactively explains these issues, it shows their transparency and willingness to provide context, which can positively influence my perception of their application."

Best practice when crafting your cover letter

While cover letters are a great way to demonstrate your value to a potential employer, you should always ensure that it actually delivers real value and is not a mere repetition of your resume, HR generalist Mary Pizana of personal injury law firm Herrman and Herrman cautions.

Man applying for a job on the internet

Kirsty Barden , Head of Business Development at MDS, a talent acquisition company with 37 years in the business, highlights some best practices to remember when writing up a cover letter:

Customise each cover letter

"Tailor your cover letter for each specific application and company. Address the hiring manager or recruiter by name if possible and demonstrate your knowledge of the company and the role you're applying for."

Highlight relevant experiences and skills

"Emphasise the experiences and skills from your CV that directly relate to the job description and requirements. Use specific examples to demonstrate your capabilities."

Showcase your passion

"Express genuine enthusiasm for the company and the opportunity. Explain why you are interested in the role and how it aligns with your career goals."

Keep it concise and focused

"A cover letter should be concise, typically one page. Avoid unnecessary details and maintain a clear focus on the key points you want to convey."

Be professional and error-free

"Pay close attention to grammar, spelling, and formatting. A well-written and error-free cover letter demonstrates attention to detail and professionalism."

Demonstrate cultural fit

"Highlight your alignment with the company's values and culture. Show that you are a team player and can thrive within the organization's environment."

End with a call to action

"Conclude the cover letter by expressing your interest in further discussing your qualifications and expressing gratitude for the opportunity to apply."

SKILL CONCEPT

Executive Cleaning Services Vice President Thomas Giarraputo recommends candidates use Venn diagrams when beginning to craft their cover letter. "Telling stories from your career is an excellent way to demonstrate your skills and give hiring managers a glimpse of your demeanor and work style.

"Always refer to the position's requirements in the job description when searching for appropriate anecdotes to share. It is also beneficial to conduct additional online investigation on the company to gain a sense of its culture. Before writing your cover letter, compare your talents to the position's requirements.

"Utilizing Venn diagrams can be useful for generating ideas and determining which competencies and experiences to highlight. After creating this diagram and identifying what belongs in both circles, overlapping topics will guide and inspire the content of your cover letter."

When cover letters should not be used

On the flip side, Sam Greinetz , Recruiting Partner at Signed Talent, points out that the recruitment industry has witnessed a significant shift over the past decade, with hundreds of candidates applying for one position where there were only 10-15 a few years ago, and certain industries which rely more on hard skills, such as the tech industry, do not have the capacity for hiring managers and recruiters to read every cover letter sent through.

Recruiter screening interview

Greinetz recommends trying a different approach to sending in your cover letter. "Rather than a cover letter, if someone is especially interested in a role, they are better off reaching out to the recruiter or hiring manager directly either via email or on Linkedin to reiterate their excitement. That message can be similar to what a cover letter would include and will allow them to stick out in a crowded applicant pool. Show that you've done some homework, personalize it, talk about the team, product, etc. and don't be afraid to follow-up after a few days if you haven't heard anything."

Anthony Allen , VP of Recruiting at Supply Chain Talent Advisors, states that while he agrees that most recruiters don't have the time to read cover letters, if one is to be written, "the candidate must personalize and tailor the cover letter. A generic, one-size-fits-all cover letter is easy to spot and often disregarded. To stand out, research the company and the role, and tailor your cover letter accordingly. Mention how your skills and experiences align with the job requirements and the company's goals. By doing this, you show the hiring manager that you understand their needs and can bring specific value to the position. This level of personalization is what can make a cover letter impactful, even in situations where its importance might be diminishing."

So what does all of this mean for job seekers?

In a nutshell:

  • When applying for a job directly to an employer, use a cover letter that is well-personalized, tells impactful career stories, conveys your motivations for the role, and speaks to why you want to work for that particular employer. Demonstrate that you understand their pain-points, clients, and values, and that their mission and values align with yours.
  • Think creatively of other ways to include a cover letter approach, such as sending an email or LinkedIn InMail to the hiring manager directly.
  • Ensure your cover letter is not a repetition of your resume.
  • Cover letters are best used when facing barriers such as career gaps, career transitions, lack of experience, or to increase competitive edge, especially for senior level roles.
  • If applying for technical roles or applying directly through recruitment agencies, consider leaving the cover letter out altogether so as not to waste your time. Also take time to research if the industry you are entering or applying for roles in, typically reviews cover letters. After all, you don't want to waste your time or that of the recruiter/hiring manager.

Rachel Wells

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do you need a cover letter if you have a resume

How to Write a Cover Letter That Will Get You a Job

I ’ve read thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of cover letters in my career. If you’re thinking that sounds like really boring reading, you’re right. What I can tell you from enduring that experience is that most cover letters are terrible — and not only that, but squandered opportunities. When a cover letter is done well, it can significantly increase your chances of getting an interview, but the vast majority fail that test.

So let’s talk about how to do cover letters right.

First, understand the point of a cover letter.

The whole idea of a cover letter is that it can help the employer see you as more than just your résumé. Managers generally aren’t hiring based solely on your work history; your experience is crucial, yes, but they’re also looking for someone who will be easy to work with, shows good judgment, communicates well, possesses strong critical thinking skills and a drive to get things done, complements their current team, and all the other things you yourself probably want from your co-workers. It’s tough to learn much about those things from job history alone, and that’s where your cover letter comes in.

Because of that …

Whatever you do, don’t just summarize your résumé.

The No. 1 mistake people make with cover letters is that they simply use them to summarize their résumé. This makes no sense — hiring managers don’t need a summary of your résumé! It’s on the very next page! They’re about to see it as soon as they scroll down. And if you think about it, your entire application is only a few pages (in most cases, a one- or two-page résumé and a one-page cover letter) — why would you squander one of those pages by repeating the content of the others? And yet, probably 95 percent of the cover letters I see don’t add anything new beyond the résumé itself (and that’s a conservative estimate).

Instead, your cover letter should go beyond your work history to talk about things that make you especially well-suited for the job. For example, if you’re applying for an assistant job that requires being highly organized and you neurotically track your household finances in a detailed, color-coded spreadsheet, most hiring managers would love to know that because it says something about the kind of attention to detail you’d bring to the job. That’s not something you could put on your résumé, but it can go in your cover letter.

Or maybe your last boss told you that you were the most accurate data processor she’d ever seen, or came to rely on you as her go-to person whenever a lightning-fast rewrite was needed. Maybe your co-workers called you “the client whisperer” because of your skill in calming upset clients. Maybe you’re regularly sought out by more senior staff to help problem-solve, or you find immense satisfaction in bringing order to chaos. Those sorts of details illustrate what you bring to the job in a different way than your résumé does, and they belong in your cover letter.

If you’re still stumped, pretend you’re writing an email to a friend about why you’d be great at the job. You probably wouldn’t do that by stiffly reciting your work history, right? You’d talk about what you’re good at and how you’d approach the work. That’s what you want here.

You don’t need a creative opening line.

If you think you need to open the letter with something creative or catchy, I am here to tell you that you don’t. Just be simple and straightforward:

• “I’m writing to apply for your X position.”

• “I’d love to be considered for your X position.”

• “I’m interested in your X position because …”

• “I’m excited to apply for your X position.”

That’s it! Straightforward is fine — better, even, if the alternative is sounding like an aggressive salesperson.

Show, don’t tell.

A lot of cover letters assert that the person who wrote it would excel at the job or announce that the applicant is a skillful engineer or a great communicator or all sorts of other subjective superlatives. That’s wasted space — the hiring manager has no reason to believe it, and so many candidates claim those things about themselves that most managers ignore that sort of self-assessment entirely. So instead of simply declaring that you’re great at X (whatever X is), your letter should demonstrate that. And the way you do that is by describing accomplishments and experiences that illustrate it.

Here’s a concrete example taken from one extraordinarily effective cover-letter makeover that I saw. The candidate had originally written, “I offer exceptional attention to detail, highly developed communication skills, and a talent for managing complex projects with a demonstrated ability to prioritize and multitask.” That’s pretty boring and not especially convincing, right? (This is also exactly how most people’s cover letters read.)

In her revised version, she wrote this instead:

“In addition to being flexible and responsive, I’m also a fanatic for details — particularly when it comes to presentation. One of my recent projects involved coordinating a 200-page grant proposal: I proofed and edited the narratives provided by the division head, formatted spreadsheets, and generally made sure that every line was letter-perfect and that the entire finished product conformed to the specific guidelines of the RFP. (The result? A five-year, $1.5 million grant award.) I believe in applying this same level of attention to detail to tasks as visible as prepping the materials for a top-level meeting and as mundane as making sure the copier never runs out of paper.”

That second version is so much more compelling and interesting — and makes me believe that she really is great with details.

If there’s anything unusual or confusing about your candidacy, address it in the letter.

Your cover letter is your chance to provide context for things that otherwise might seem confusing or less than ideal to a hiring manager. For example, if you’re overqualified for the position but are excited about it anyway, or if you’re a bit underqualified but have reason to think you could excel at the job, address that up front. Or if your background is in a different field but you’re actively working to move into this one, say so, talk about why, and explain how your experience will translate. Or if you’re applying for a job across the country from where you live because you’re hoping to relocate to be closer to your family, let them know that.

If you don’t provide that kind of context, it’s too easy for a hiring manager to decide you’re the wrong fit or applying to everything you see or don’t understand the job description and put you in the “no” pile. A cover letter gives you a chance to say, “No, wait — here’s why this could be a good match.”

Keep the tone warm and conversational.

While there are some industries that prize formal-sounding cover letters — like law — in most fields, yours will stand out if it’s warm and conversational. Aim for the tone you’d use if you were writing to a co-worker whom you liked a lot but didn’t know especially well. It’s okay to show some personality or even use humor; as long as you don’t go overboard, your letter will be stronger for it.

Don’t use a form letter.

You don’t need to write every cover letter completely from scratch, but if you’re not customizing it to each job, you’re doing it wrong. Form letters tend to read like form letters, and they waste the chance to speak to the specifics of what this employer is looking for and what it will take to thrive in this particular job.

If you’re applying for a lot of similar jobs, of course you’ll end up reusing language from one letter to the next. But you shouldn’t have a single cover letter that you wrote once and then use every time you apply; whatever you send should sound like you wrote it with the nuances of this one job in mind.

A good litmus test is this: Could you imagine other applicants for this job sending in the same letter? If so, that’s a sign that you haven’t made it individualized enough to you and are probably leaning too heavily on reciting your work history.

No, you don’t need to hunt down the hiring manager’s name.

If you read much job-search advice, at some point you’ll come across the idea that you need to do Woodward and Bernstein–level research to hunt down the hiring manager’s name in order to open your letter with “Dear Matilda Jones.” You don’t need to do this; no reasonable hiring manager will care. If the name is easily available, by all means, feel free to use it, but otherwise “Dear Hiring Manager” is absolutely fine. Take the hour you just freed up and do something more enjoyable with it.

Keep it under one page.

If your cover letters are longer than a page, you’re writing too much, and you risk annoying hiring managers who are likely sifting through hundreds of applications and don’t have time to read lengthy tomes. On the other hand, if you only write one paragraph, it’s unlikely that you’re making a compelling case for yourself as a candidate — not impossible, but unlikely. For most people, something close to a page is about right.

Don’t agonize over the small details.

What matters most about your cover letter is its content. You should of course ensure that it’s well-written and thoroughly proofread, but many job seekers agonize over elements of the letter that really don’t matter. I get tons of  questions from job seekers  about whether they should attach their cover letter or put it in the body of the email (answer: No one cares, but attaching it makes it easier to share and will preserve your formatting), or what to name the file (again, no one really cares as long as it’s reasonably professional, but when people are dealing with hundreds of files named “resume,” it’s courteous to name it with your full name).

Approaching your cover letter like this can make a huge difference in your job search. It can be the thing that moves your application from the “maybe” pile (or even the “no” pile) to the “yes” pile. Of course, writing cover letters like this will take more time than sending out the same templated letter summarizing your résumé — but 10 personalized, compelling cover letters are likely to get you more  interview invitations  than 50 generic ones will.

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by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

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An example of a cover letter

On the long list of hard things we all have to do, writing a cover letter falls somewhere between paying rent and scheduling doctor appointments . But cover letters are a necessary part of the job search , especially since writing one is a great way to show you’re serious about the role you’re going for. A cover letter can also help boost your resume to the top of the candidate list, which improves your odds of landing an interview . And while what you put on your resume is important, it’s limited — and a cover letter can cover for that.  

What’s a cover letter?

It’s your shot to expand on your resume (usually via an attachment sent along with your application or resume). A good cover letter also explains why you’re the best fit for the role. Even if a cover letter is listed ‘optional’ during the application process, just making the effort to write one could be enough to make you stand out from the crowd. 

What should a cover letter include?

Start with an introduction to the hiring manager before you move on to your skills and experience. Then, touch on what makes you different from other applicants. Here’s what your cover letter should look like by the time you hit ‘send’:

An example of the structure of a cover letter

Header: Include your contact details here, like your name, phone number, and email address.

Greeting: This is where you’ll address the cover letter. If you can find the hiring manager’s name (which you can typically do through some friendly LinkedIn sleuthing), address them directly. You can also use “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Hiring Manager” if you don’t know their name. 

Opening paragraph: This is where you introduce yourself, and show your enthusiasm for the role you’re applying for. All in a non-boring, non-generic way (see below for examples). 

Body: This includes one or two paragraphs detailing your most relevant previous experience and skills. Basically, why you’re a good match for the company. 

Conclusion: In one last paragraph, end your cover letter with a summary of why you are the best person for the job. As well as a call to action to set up an interview or phone call. 

Here are a few more ways to make your cover letter stand out from the job applicant crowd:

Make sure you tailor each cover letter to the specific job you’re applying for — this isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation.

Don’t repeat everything you include in your resume.

Don’t be too modest. Yes, you are good at what you do. So let them know.

Remember to reread your cover letter before submitting it. Just like you don’t want mistakes on your resume , you definitely don’t want the wrong “your” in your cover letter or to include a misspelled word. Pro tip: Read your cover letter out loud to yourself before submitting the application.

How long should a cover letter be? 

Keep your cover letter to no more than one page, between 250-400 words. Just stick to the information that is most relevant for this role.

Can you give me a cover letter example?

Here’s one: 

Dear [HIRING MANAGER NAME],

With [EDUCATION] and [YEARS] of experience in [INDUSTRY], I’m excited to apply for the [ROLE] position at [COMPANY]. 

As a [POSITION] in my current role, my primary focus has been [TOP THREE MAJOR COMPONENTS OF YOUR JOB]. My work requires [TOP THREE QUALITIES THAT MAKE YOU GOOD AT YOUR JOB]. It’s given me a deep understanding of [SOMETHING IMPORTANT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO EXCEL IN YOUR INDUSTRY]. 

Outside of that, I have also been responsible for [AN ADDITIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OR TWO YOU HAVEN’T MENTIONED] which has been incredibly rewarding while helping me grow as a [YOUR CURRENT ROLE]. Prior to this role, I [BASIC INFO ABOUT YOUR PAST JOB OR TWO]. 

My experience in both [TOP TWO SKILLS YOU WANT THEM TO REMEMBER ABOUT YOU] has given me the skills and experience to excel on your team. I’m a [TWO QUALITIES YOU HAVEN’T MENTIONED YET THAT ARE RELEVANT TO THE ROLE YOU’RE APPLYING FOR], and I believe my skills will be valuable at [COMPANY]. I would love the opportunity to speak further about this role, and you can contact me anytime at [PHONE NUMBER] or [EMAIL ADDRESS]. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. 

[YOUR NAME]

…And if you prefer to keep yours even shorter, try this cover letter example:

As a [YOUR CURRENT ROLE] with experience [TOP THREE MAJOR COMPONENTS OF YOUR JOB], I was excited to see your open posting for [POSITION] at [COMPANY]. My [TOP THREE QUALITIES THAT MAKE YOU GOOD AT YOUR JOB] have served me well in this and previous roles and make me uniquely qualified for this particular position.

Your job listing mentions a need for a candidate with specific experience in [SOMETHING THEY’RE LOOKING FOR]. I have worked in [THAT THING] on many occasions in my current and previous roles. One of my strongest skills is [A SKILL THAT RELATES TO WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR]. Past projects have also utilized my skills in [AN ADDITIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OR TWO YOU HAVEN’T MENTIONED YET], which would be valuable in this role. 

I am excited to bring my experience in [TOP TWO SKILLS YOU WANT THEM TO REMEMBER ABOUT YOU] to your team. I look forward to discussing the role in detail and finding the ways I can contribute to achieving your goals. Thank you for considering my application.

Writing a cover letter is a tedious but crucial part of applying for jobs. The good news? Recruiters actually read and use them. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to stand out against other candidates.

Updated on Feb. 16 to reflect new information.

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  1. Is a Cover Letter Necessary? (With Other FAQs About Cover Letters)

    A cover letter is an introductory document many employers ask you to submit along with your resume when applying for a job. Depending on the company, you might need to email your cover letter and resume or there may be an online application process where you can upload it. Many job listings specify if they require a cover letter, but some don't ...

  2. Should You Always Include a Cover Letter?

    The little-known truth about cover letters is: You do NOT always need to include a cover letter when applying for jobs, and you may be wasting hours sending cover letters that employers won't read. So if you're wondering whether you should always submit a cover letter with your job application and resume, then keep reading.

  3. Do You Need a Cover Letter When It's Not Required?

    Reasons Not to Include a Cover Letter . For some jobs, you won't need a cover letter to apply. Some employers don't accept cover letters as part of the application process. For other positions, there may be no way to submit one. If a cover letter is optional, it's better to skip it if you don't have the time to compose a well-written one.

  4. Do I Need a Cover Letter in 2024? Are Cover Letters Mandatory?

    Do I Need a Cover Letter For My Resume. Short answer: yes, you should submit a cover letter alongside your resume. Here's why: Most job openings require you to submit a cover letter. Recruiters might not have the time to read ALL the cover letters they receive, but they will definitely read cover letters if they're on the fence for a candidate.

  5. Do I Need a Cover Letter in 2024? [New Research]

    Yes, you do need a cover letter in these common situations: The job description requests or requires a cover letter. You have a referral for your cover letter. The job requires strong writing and communication skills. Even if the job description says "cover letter optional", it's still important to write a great cover letter and attach it ...

  6. Are Cover Letters Necessary? 2023 Guide

    Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on Nov 29, 2023. Cover letters take time to do well. Learn more about when you should include one. Cover letters aren't always necessary, but including one with your job application can be beneficial. Considering the average job receives over 100 applications, a cover letter can be an excellent way to stand ...

  7. Do I Need a Cover Letter? Answers From Hiring Professionals

    The cover letter is a contender for job seekers' most hated part of the job search. Personally, when browsing job boards, I've always gravitated toward the postings that said "cover letter optional" or didn't mention one at all—and I'm a writer.When you're deep in a job hunt—particularly one where you feel like you're throwing applications into a black hole—cover letters ...

  8. How to Write a Cover Letter [Full Guide & Examples for 2024]

    start your cover letter. with your contact details at the top. These should be in your cover letter's header, separated neatly from the bulk of your text. Here, you want to include all the essential contact information, including: Full Name. Your first and last name should stand out at the top. Job Title.

  9. Everything You Need To Know About A Cover Letter And Why It's ...

    Short answer: Yes. Even in situations where the cover letter is optional, a recent poll found that 72% of hiring managers expect a cover letter, and 77% will move your resume up a notch if you ...

  10. How to Write a Standout Cover Letter in 2022

    Step 3: Address your cover letter to the hiring manager—preferably by name. The most traditional way to address a cover letter is to use the person's first and last name, including "Mr." or "Ms." (for example, "Dear Ms. Jane Smith" or just "Dear Ms. Smith").

  11. How to Write a Cover Letter (Expert Tips & Examples)

    Place your name, city, state, ZIP code, phone number and email address in your cover letter heading. Your email address should be professional like "[email protected]," and not personal like "[email protected]." Include links to your LinkedIn profile or professional online portfolio if you have one.

  12. Are Cover Letters Necessary in 2024? Do You Need One?

    A cover letter is important and required if the job offer requires a cover letter, the employer, hiring manager, or recruiter requests one, you're applying directly to a person and know their name, or someone has referred you for the position. So if you're wondering whether you should include a cover letter, the answer is yes in most cases.

  13. How to Write a Cover Letter for a Job in 2024

    Respectfully, Kind regards, Best regards, Yours truly, Then, make two spaces below the salutation, and type your full name. For some professional (but optional) flair, sign your cover letter either with a scan of your signature or by using software like DocuSign. 8. Check your cover letter's content and formatting.

  14. The Ultimate Cover Letter Writing Guide

    There are 3 types of cover letters that you can send to a hiring manager. The 3 types are: Application cover letters. Letters of Interest. Email Cover letters. The letter you write is influenced by whether you are going to apply for a job directly, citing a referral, or asking about vacancies that are not advertised.

  15. Do We Really Need To Write Cover Letters In 2023?

    Ensure your cover letter is not a repetition of your resume. Cover letters are best used when facing barriers such as career gaps, career transitions, lack of experience, or to increase ...

  16. Is a Cover Letter Necessary in 2024? Do I Need a Cover Letter?

    Yes, they almost always are. 83% of recruiters agree that knowing how to write a cover letter and sending one is crucial. It gives you the opportunity to demonstrate that you are a great fit for the company you are applying for. A cover letter is important as it boosts your chances for a job. There are many contrasting opinions on that matter ...

  17. What to Include in a Cover Letter (& What to Leave Out)

    A great cover letter consists of the following components: 1. Your name and contact information in a header. The hiring manager needs to have your contact information. Without these details, they have no way of inviting you for an interview. The most eye-catching way of adding your contact information to your cover letter is by creating a large ...

  18. How necessary are cover letters? : r/GetEmployed

    If your resume is short, a cover letter can help supplement it. A good cover letter also tells me you have basic competence at communication and writing skills. u/thirtyandtrying has a great explanation of what should be in the cover letter. Always better to include one, as long as it isnt generic.

  19. How to Write a Cover Letter That Will Get You a Job

    If you think you need to open the letter with something creative or catchy, I am here to tell you that you don't. Just be simple and straightforward: , • "I'm writing to apply for your X ...

  20. How Long Should a Cover Letter Be? A Guide To Writing One

    On the long list of hard things we all have to do, writing a cover letter falls somewhere between paying rent and scheduling doctor appointments.But cover letters are a necessary part of the job search, especially since writing one is a great way to show you're serious about the role you're going for.A cover letter can also help boost your resume to the top of the candidate list, which ...

  21. Welcome to the Purdue Online Writing Lab

    Mission. The Purdue On-Campus Writing Lab and Purdue Online Writing Lab assist clients in their development as writers—no matter what their skill level—with on-campus consultations, online participation, and community engagement. The Purdue Writing Lab serves the Purdue, West Lafayette, campus and coordinates with local literacy initiatives.

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