Your Complete Guide to Writing a Cover Letter (Plus Bonus Tips and Examples)

Hot jobs on the muse.

person sitting at a kitchen table, typing on a laptop, with a Golden Retriever standing next to them, putting its nose against their face

Ah yes, the familiar cycle: You sit down to write a cover letter, open a blank document, check your email, browse cover letter examples , do some chores, watch that cursor blink a few more times, and finally Google something like “how to write a cover letter”—which hopefully brought you here. But you still might be thinking something to the effect of: Does anyone really read cover letters? Why do they even exist?

First off: Yes, we can assure you that cover letters do, in fact, get read . To some hiring managers, they’re the most important part of your job application . And regardless, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to tell prospective employers who you are, showcase why they should hire you, and stand out above all the other candidates.

To ensure your letter is in amazing shape (and crafting it is as painless as possible), we’ve got easy-to-follow steps plus examples, a few bonus tips, and answers to frequently asked questions

What is a cover letter and why is it important?

How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love, what do examples of cover letters look like, bonus cover letter tips to give you an edge over the competition, cover letter faqs (a.k.a., everything else you need to know about cover letters).

A cover letter is a brief (one page or less) note that you write to a hiring manager or recruiter to go along with your resume and other application materials. Done well , a cover letter gives you the chance to speak directly to how your skills and experience line up with the specific job you’re pursuing. It also affords you an opportunity to hint to the reviewer that you’re likable, original, and likely to be a great addition to the team.

Instead of using cover letters to their strategic advantage, most job applicants blabber on and on about what they want, toss out bland, cliché-filled paragraphs that essentially just regurgitate their resume, or go off on some strange tangent in an effort to be unique.

Given this reality, imagine the leg up you’ll have if you learn how to do cover letters right.

OK, you’re sold on how important cover letters are. Here are eight steps to writing one that screams, “I’m a great hire!”

Step 1: Write a fresh cover letter for each job (but yes, you can use a template).

Yes, it’s way faster and easier to take the cover letter you wrote for your last application, change the name of the company, and send it off. But most employers want to see that you’re truly excited about the specific position and organization—which means creating a custom letter for each position.

While it’s OK to recycle a few strong sentences and phrases from one cover letter to the next, don’t even think about sending out a 100% generic letter. “Dear Hiring Manager, I am excited to apply to the open position at your company ” is an immediate signal to recruiters and hiring managers that you’re mass-applying to every job listing that pops up on LinkedIn.

At the same time, there’s nothing that says you can’t get a little help: Try out one of our free cover letter templates to make the process a bit easier.

Step 2: Add your contact info.

At the top of your cover letter, you should list out your basic info. You can even copy the same heading from your resume if you’d like. Some contact info you might include (and the order you might include it in) is:

Note that only name and email are mandatory, and you don’t need to put a full address on a cover letter or resume anymore. A city and state (or metro area) are more than enough.

So your header might look like this:

Inigo Montoya he/him Florin Metropolitan Area [email protected] 555-999-2222

If the job posting tells you to submit your cover letter in the body of an email, you can add your contact info at the end, after your name (and if you’d like to forgo the email address here, you can—they have it already).

So your sign off could look like this:

Violet Baudelaire she/her [email protected] 123-123-1234

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”). But to avoid accidentally using the wrong title, or worse, inadvertently misgendering someone—first and last name also work just fine. And if “Dear” feels a bit too stiff, try “Hello.” But never use generic salutations like “ To Whom it May Concern ” or “Dear Sir or Madam.”

For more help, read these rules for addressing your cover letter and a few tips for how to find the hiring manager .

Step 4: Craft an opening paragraph that’ll hook your reader.

Your opening sets the stage for the whole cover letter. So you want it to be memorable, friendly, conversational, and hyper-relevant to the job you’re pursuing.

No need to lead with your name—the hiring manager can see it already. But it’s good to mention the job you’re applying for (the hiring manager may be combing through candidates for half a dozen different jobs), and yes, you could go with something simple like, “I am excited to apply for [job] with [Company].” But consider introducing yourself with a snappy first paragraph that highlights your excitement about the company you’re applying to, your passion for the work you do, and/or your past accomplishments.

This is a prime spot to include the “why” for your application. Make it very clear why you want this job at this company . Are you a longtime user of their products? Do you have experience solving a problem they’re working on? Do you love their brand voice or approach to product development? Do your research on the company (and check out their Muse profile if they have one) to find out.

For instance, say you’re applying for a marketing job with a company known for its incredible pies and baked goods. You might want to use your opening to mention how you love pie so much that when you were in the 4th grade, you took the blue ribbon in the National Cherry Festival pie-eating contest. Or take a look at this cover letter hook by a client of career coach and Muse writer Jenny Foss , who was working to land a leadership role at a nonprofit specializing in fire prevention:

“I have a personal interest in fire prevention that dates back to my youth. As the daughter of a nurse who worked in a hospital burns unit for many years, I grew up with significant exposure to those impacted by fire. I’d spend hours thinking about my mom’s patients, wishing there were some way to better protect people from fire.”

Read More: 30 Genius Cover Letter Openers Recruiters Will LOVE

Step 5: Convey why you’d be a great hire for this job.

A common cover letter mistake is only talking about how great the position would be for you . Frankly, hiring managers are aware of that—what they really want to know is what you’re going to bring to the position and company.

So once you’ve got the opening under wraps, you should pull out a few key ideas that will make up the backbone of your cover letter. They should show that you understand what the organization is looking for and spell out how your background lines up with the position. Study the job description for hints . What problems is the company looking to solve with this hire? What skills or experiences are mentioned high up, or more than once? These will likely be the most important qualifications.

Select the three to five important qualifications that you feel you exemplify best. For instance, maybe you’re looking for an account executive role and come across a posting that excites you. You might pull out these details that match you well:

If you tend to have a hard time singing your own praises and can’t nail down your strengths, here’s a quick trick : What would your favorite boss, your best friend, or your mentor say about you? How would they sing your praises? Use the answers to inform how you write about yourself. You can even weave in feedback you’ve received to strengthen your case (occasionally, don’t overuse this!). For example:

“When I oversaw our last office move, my color-coded spreadsheets covering every minute detail of the logistics were legendary; my manager said I was so organized, she’d trust me to plan an expedition to Mars.”

Step 6: Back up your qualifications with examples and numbers.

Look at your list of qualifications from the previous step, and think of examples from your past that prove you have them. And go beyond your resume . Don’t just regurgitate what the hiring manager can read elsewhere. Simply put, you want to paint a fuller picture of what experiences and accomplishments make you a great hire and show off what you can sashay through their doors with and deliver once you land the job.

For example, what tells a hiring manager more about your ability to win back former clients? This: “I was in charge of identifying and re-engaging former clients.” Or this: “By analyzing past client surveys, NPS scores, and KPIs, as well as simply picking up the phone, I was able to bring both a data-driven approach and a human touch to the task of re-engaging former clients.”

Having trouble figuring out how to do this? Try asking yourself these questions and finding answers that line up with the qualifications you’ve chosen to focus on:

Come up with your examples, then throw in a few numbers. Hiring managers love to see stats—they show you’ve had a measurable impact on an organization you’ve worked for. Did you bring in more clients than any of your peers? Put together an impressive number of events? Make a process at work 30% more efficient? Work it into your cover letter!

Going back to the example from the last step. How could you prove that you’ll meet and exceed sales quotas if they hire you? Try something like:

“ I’ve always been very goal-oriented—whether that goal was hitting a new personal best on the swim team in college or smashing my quotas as a sales development rep for ZZZ Inc. As an SDR, I break my quarterly sales goals down month-by-month and then week-by-week—so that I always know whether I’m ahead, behind, or on-track. I also take an hour every Friday to reflect on what I could’ve done better in the previous week—so that I’m always improving. With these strategies, I’ve met my goals for meetings set 10 out of the last 10 quarters and actually averaged 114% to goal for finding leads that eventually turned into sales over every quarter last year. As an account executive for your company, I’d bring that same drive and systematic approach for meeting longer-term targets to my sales quotas. ”

Do this for each of the qualifications you want to focus on, and feel free to connect your accomplishments directly to the company. Pro tip: Use your space wisely. For more important qualifications, you might dedicate an entire paragraph, while others may only need a sentence or two.

Step 7: Finish with a strong conclusion.

It’s tempting to treat the final lines of your cover letter as a throwaway: “I look forward to hearing from you.” But your closing paragraph is your last chance to emphasize your enthusiasm for the company or how you’d be a great fit for the position. You can also use the end of your letter to add important details—like, say, the fact that you’re willing to relocate for the job.

Some advice might tell you to go with a hard close: Boldly insist that you’re the one, and that you’re going to call them within a week to set up a meeting. But with over 10 years of experience as a recruiter, Foss finds this annoying. It’s one thing to be proactive and confident but, to her, this approach feels like a cheesy tactic stripped out of an old school “How to sell yourself” textbook.

Instead, try something like this:

“I believe my energy, desire to innovate, and experience as a sales leader will serve OrangePurple Co. very well. I would love to meet to discuss the value I could add as your next West Coast Sales Director. I appreciate your consideration and hope to meet with you soon.”

Then be sure to sign off professionally , with an appropriate closing and your first and last name.

Read More: 3 Cover Letter Closing Lines That Make Hiring Managers Grimace (Plus: Better Options )

Step 8: Reread and revise.

We shouldn’t have to tell you to run your cover letter through spell-check, but remember that having your computer scan for typos isn’t the same as editing . Set your letter aside for a day or even just a few hours, and then read through it again with fresh eyes—you’ll probably notice some changes you want to make.

You might even want to ask a friend or family member to give it a look. In addition to asking them if they spot any errors, you should ask them two questions:

If the answer to either is “no,” or even slight hesitation, go back for another pass.

person kneeling on floor in front of orange pillows, writing in a notebook while looking at open laptop

Here’s an example cover letter that follows this advice:

Alia Farhat San Francisco Bay Area [email protected] 444-000-1111

Hello Danny Tanaka,

If I’m being honest, I still haven’t fully gotten over the death of my first Tamagotchi pet when I was six years old. (His name was Tommy, and I’ve gotten far more creative since then, I promise.) When I was older, I discovered NeoPets and I was hooked for years—not just on the site, but on the community that surrounded it. So when I heard about FantasyPets last year, I immediately started following news about your development process, and that’s how I saw your post looking for a marketing strategist. Not only do I have eight years of experience in digital marketing, but as a lifelong gamer with a passion for pet-focused titles who’s spent years in online communities with like-minded people, I also know exactly what kind of messaging resonates with your target audience.

You’re looking for someone to help you craft a social media marketing campaign to go along with your game launch, and I’ve been a part of three launch-day marketing campaigns for mobile and web-based games. In my current role as social media manager at Phun Inc., I proposed a campaign across Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok based on competitor research and analysis of our social campaigns for similar games to go along with the launch of the mobile game FarmWorld. Using my strategy of featuring both kids and adults in ads, we ended up driving over one million impressions and 80k downloads in the first three months.

I’ve always believed that the best way to find the right messaging for a game is to understand the audience and immerse myself in it as much as possible. I spend some of my research time on gaming forums and watching Twitch streams and Let’s Plays to see what really matters to the audience and how they talk about it. Of course, I always back my strategies up with data—I’m even responsible for training new members of the marketing team at Phun Inc. in Google AdWords and data visualization.

I believe that my passion for games exactly like yours, my digital marketing and market research experience, and my flair for turning data into actionable insights will help put FantasyPets on the map. I see so much promise in this game, and as a future player, I want to see its user base grow as much as you do. I appreciate your consideration for the marketing strategist role and hope to speak with you soon.

Alia Farhat

Looking for more cover letter examples? Check out these from across our site:

As you write your cover letter, here are a few more tips to consider to help you stand out from the stack of applicants:

The bottom line with cover letters is this: They matter, much more than the naysayers will have you believe. If you nail yours, you could easily go from the “maybe” pile straight to “Oh, hell yes.”

Regina Borsellino  and Jenny Foss  contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.

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Cover Letters 101: How to write cover letters that land interviews

February 24, 2023


By Juliana de Souza at the Centre for Student Involvement and Careers

Effective cover letters show off your personality and draw connections between your experience and the qualifications employers are looking for in a job description. Learn how to frame your academic experience to potential employers and turn your cover letter into an unstoppable tool for landing job interviews.

Mind the details

Proofread carefully for many employers, a typo will land your cover letter in the reject pile., customize each cover letter.

Unless the job posting explicitly tells you not to, always submit a cover letter with your resume and customize it for each position you apply for. In addition to showing off your personality, cover letters are an important way to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role and your knowledge of the employer you are applying to. Generic cover letters rarely land interviews.

Focus on the first paragraph

Employers are busy, and initially, may only read your first paragraph. Think of the first paragraph as the “hook” to convince them to continue reading the rest of your letter.

To make it easy for them, follow the inverted pyramid metaphor used by journalists. In a news article, who, what when, where, why, and how, are answered in the first paragraph. By following this method, employers will quickly see who you are and what you can offer.

cover letters 101

Provide examples

Examples are a powerful way to convince employers you have the skills they need. Look at the skills listed in the job description, and think about one or two examples of how your experience reflects those skills. If you say you have excellent communication skills, share a story that provides evidence of this skill. Aim to include these examples in your second and/or third paragraphs to illustrate the main skills you want to highlight.

Re-work accomplishment statements from your resume into complete sentences for your cover letter.

Lead with your strengths.

Emphasize your relevant experiences, whether they come from work, volunteering, or academics:

“I have 2 years of customer service experience working in the entertainment and retail industries. While my History degree is equipping me with critical thinking and writing skills, my previous jobs taught me how to work in fast-paced environments where decisions need to be made quickly considering the customers’ needs and the company’s policies. As a Communications Assistant with your company, I’ll combine my ability to analyze information, learned through my years as a university student, with my proven skills to act quickly when assisting with your internal and external communication.”

If you haven’t worked before, you can write about volunteer experiences or extra-curricular activities:

“As a third-year English student at the University of British Columbia, I am an executive member of the English Student Association (ESA). Recently, the ESA organized a virtual panel of English alumni to talk with current students about their experiences going to university. My role at this event was to promote the panel to UBC students. I used social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, to reach out to students and used analytics to guide my marketing strategies. As a result, there was a 50% increase in the students’ participation compared to similar events offered in the past.”

Classroom projects are also valid when showcasing your skills to employers:

“As a fourth-year psychology student at the University of British Columbia, I found that I am at my best when working on group projects. For instance, when my group was assigned to write a research paper on the use of technology by toddlers, I took the lead to keep my group organized. I developed Excel spreadsheets that listed each member’s responsibilities, milestones, and deadlines. Additionally, I scheduled weekly Zoom check-in meetings to share ideas and adjust our project’s schedule. My team members appreciated my organizational and leadership skills that kept us on track and helped us to achieve an A grade for the project.”

Remember that employers hire for skills and, as long as you can make connections between your previous experiences and the employer’s needs, you will have a robust cover letter that can land you a job interview.

Research employers

Research each employer before writing your cover letter, and use this information to tell them what makes you a good candidate for the role. Don’t just present things you’ve read about the employer, though – tell the story of why you are particularly interested in their organization to demonstrate that you are not applying at random! Tell the story of how your experience (of any kind – paid, unpaid, life role, etc.) can be an asset to them. For example:

“Your company’s commitment to unparalleled customer service really resonates with me. In my previous job as a barista, my mission was to provide the best customer experience possible. I made each customer feel welcome as they entered the coffee shop. For repeat customers, I developed a system to help learn their names and memorize their favourite drinks. I would bring this passion and commitment to customer service to a role in your organization.”

Cover letters in 7 quick steps

Building your career can happen throughout the academic year. Employers and alumni events are happening across campus and provide incredible avenues to network and discover new opportunities.

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How To Write A Cover Letter (Definitive Guide + Template)

Mike Simpson 0 Comments

cover letters 101

By Mike Simpson

cover letters 101

So you want to learn how to write a cover letter…

But let me ask you this:

Have you ever been on a blind date?

It can be overwhelmingly nerve wracking.

There you are, all dressed up in your finest, ready to sit down across the table from someone you know absolutely nothing about, and hopefully survive the meeting without too much trouble.

At the absolute best, you two hit it off.

Things are great and you discover through your first awkward meeting that you’re perfect for each other and destined for years of happy togetherness.

At the worst, you’re forced to sit across from someone you have absolutely nothing in common with.  

You spend the entire date suffering through what can feel like absolute eternity, stumbling through awkward starts and stops in the conversation..

But what if you each had a cheat sheet?

A sort of pre-blind date rundown of who you’re going to meet?

A cheat sheet that includes all sorts of vital information like who you are and what you can bring to the relationship. It would make things so much easier, right?

Now, what if you not only had this cheat sheet, but you got to look at it and decide if you even wanted to go on that date in the first place?  Even better, right?

FREE BONUS PDF CHEAT SHEET : Get our "Perfect Cover Letter" Cheat Sheet that gives you a Step-by-Step Process that will help you produce a perfect cover letter.


In the business world, interviews are a lot like blind dates.

Employers sit down with potential employees and over the course of the meeting, both parties try to learn enough about each other to decide if working together is   good idea or a bad idea…just without the awkward hug/kiss thing at the end…hopefully.

See…not so far off from our blind date scenario from earlier…but there is ONE big difference.  

Did you know that companies do have those little cheat sheets on potential employees and that they do ‘pre-screenings’ before the offer to interview is even considered?

That’s right! They do.

Every single piece of information you send a company you’re applying to is going to be thoroughly looked at to determine your potential for compatibility, starting with your cover letter.

“But wait,” you say, “what’s a cover letter, and more importantly, why do I need to send one along with my resume?”

Don’t worry, we’re going to explain exactly what it is…and so much more.  

In fact, over the course of this article, we’re going to discuss a number of things you’ll need to know in order to make your cover letter not only right for who you are and what you bring to the table…but tailor it so it’s absolutely perfect for your first blind date…er, we mean…the job you’re applying for.

What Is A Cover Letter Anyway?

Before you learn how to write a cover letter, you first need to understand what it is!

A professional cover letter is a short, single page letter you should include with every application and/or resume you send out.  

It’s a quick way for you to introduce yourself to an employer and gives them a taste of you …not just your skills (which they will get by looking at your resume.)  

Not only does it act as an introduction, it will also let whoever is reading it (hiring managers) know exactly why you are sending them your information as well as potentially help open the door to future meetings…and interviews!  

Remember, first impressions count…even when they’re on paper, so let’s make sure yours is as perfect as possible. 

Why Do I Need One?

Okay, so I get what a cover letter is, but why do I have to write one?   Shouldn’t my resume be strong enough on its own?    

Ideally, yes, you want to make sure the resume you are submitting is as strong as possible and perfectly tailored to the job you’re applying for (more on tailoring in a bit) but simply sending it in without including a cover letter can work against you. 

As we outlined in our article “ How to Make a Resume 101 ,” a resume is a document that summarizes your skills, abilities and accomplishments.   A well made one should clearly spell out what you can do …but does little to explain who you are.  

That’s where a cover letter comes in. 

A good cover letter serves a multitude of purposes beyond simply letting the hiring manager know the proper way to spell your name.    

It gives potential employers information about you that they wouldn’t get just from looking at your resume alone. 

cover letters 101

To bring it back to our dating analogy from earlier…a well written cover letter is a little bit like a friend meeting with your date and telling them all the best things about you before you even get there.  

It’s an opportunity for you to reach out as an individual, not just as an applicant .  

It should highlight your qualifications as well as demonstrate how you stand out from the rest of the hundreds (or thousands) of other qualified job seekers .  

It should also showcase why you’re the right choice for the position…what makes you the “ Perfect Candidate ”…and all this is accomplished before you’re invited to the date, er…I mean interview…

But what if I’m applying for a job that just asks me to send in my resume…do I still need to send in a cover letter? 


Sending in a resume without a cover letter is a missed opportunity you can’t afford to take in this competitive job market.  

Not only does a good cover introduce you and all your best qualities, it’s also an opportunity to help explain away any concerns a prospective employer might have about your ability to do the job they’re hiring for .  

The last thing you want to do is turn in a resume or application for a job you’re perfect for and have it get tossed before you even make it to the interview stage because there was something that made an employer question your abilities. 

Have a gap in employment on your resume?   – Use your cover letter as an opportunity to explain it:  

In the middle of switching careers and finding that your skills , while applicable to the job you’re applying for aren’t traditionally considered to be a match? Use your cover letter to detail why you should be considered anyway.  

These days submitting a cover letter is just good form!  

Many times employers expect cover letters even if they don’t explicitly ask for one.  

A job seeker who sends in a resume without a cover letter is essentially letting an employer know they’re happy doing just the bare minimum…and that’s just not the way we like to do things!

By writing a solid cover letter, even when not asked for one, you’re taking that extra step as a job seeker and reinforcing that you’re not only enthusiastic about the opportunity but that you’re also motivated to do what it takes to get in the door for that face to face meeting.

**A WORD OF WARNING …if a company specifically asks you NOT to send a cover letter…then don’t.   Always follow the instructions as outlined by a potential employer.

How To Format Your Cover Letter

“So I need to write a cover letter for a job application…what makes a good one?”

Because your cover letter is your first opportunity to demonstrate your communication skills to your potential employer, it’s critical that you make sure you’re doing everything you can to make your cover letter layout as flawless and business-appropriate as possible.

(This is why we spent a little extra time expanding on Cover Letter Format in our companion guide, “Best Cover Letter Format Guide.” Click the link to check it out now!)

The next question you might be asking yourself is, “How long should a cover letter be?”

Ideally you want to keep your letter between 3-5 paragraphs in length and definitely no longer than one page.

The eternal struggle regarding what to include in a cover letter continues to rage on.  In our opinion the best cover letter is informative without being overly long or rambling .  

Each paragraph should serve a purpose and shouldn’t be excessively lengthy or confusing.  

Remember, the hiring manager is going to be faced with potentially thousands of cover letters so your goal is to make sure yours is brief enough to still be read but detailed and interesting enough to make them want to learn more about you .

Speaking of standing out, this isn’t the time to get creative with fonts, designs, colored paper, or showcase your artistic talents with doodles on the margins.  

A cover letter, like every other piece of paperwork you submit to a potential employer, is a professional document and should look like one.  

Use fonts that are simple and professional like Arial , Times New Roman , or Verdana and be sure to set your font size between 10 and 12 points .

Let’s take a look at standard cover letter formatting:

If you are mailing a hard copy of your letter, make sure when you get to the bottom and your salutation to double space .   It will give you room to sign your letter.   If you are emailing your letter, or submitting it electronically and can’t sign it with your autograph, it’s still important to leave that double space.

Here’s A Good Format Template

Your Address

City, State, Zip

Your Best Contact Phone Number

Your Professional Email

Your Personal Branding Website  

Employer Name

City, State, Zip Code

Dear Mr./Mrs. Last Name:*

PARAGRAPH 1:   Because this is your opening paragraph, you want to make sure it’s strong and draws the reader in.   Explain why you are writing.   Describe the job you are applying for, including the position and job title. 

PARAGRAPH 2:   Now we move into the actual text of the letter.   This is where you get to introduce yourself and tell your potential employer why you are qualified to do the job you are applying for.   This is your chance to let them know what you have to offer and why your skills and knowledge are perfect for the position.   Don’t forget to tailor based off your research! 

PARAGRAPH 3-4:   If needed, these are the paragraphs where you can explain away any concerns an employer might have about your ability to do the job. It’s also where you can share accomplishments , success stories, and any other bits of information that will help convince the hiring manager that they have to bring you in for an interview.

FINAL PARAGRAPH:   This is where you wrap up your letter.   Make sure to thank them for considering you for the job and let them know they should feel comfortable reaching out to you with any questions or concerns not addressed in your letter/resume.   This is also the paragraph where you let them know how you plan on following up with them.  

Finally, be sure to direct the hiring manager to your   Your Personal Branding Website so that they are able to get a feel for who you are as a person.  This simple step can land you way more interviews!

Sincerely (or any other closing comment),

Signature/Typed Signature Your Personal Branding Website

* You want to always try to address your cover letter to someone specific.   Unfortunately that information is not always available.   If you find yourself writing a letter and unsure of who to address it to, use “Dear Hiring Manager,” or “Dear Recruiter.”  

* Don’t use “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam” as those are considered outdated and you run the risk of offending someone.   You can also call the company directly to ask to whom you should address your letter.

* In some instances you can completely forgo the opening salutation and just start with a subject line, but we suggest at least making an effort to find out who to address it to.   It makes the letter much more personal and shows your dedication to the position.

NOTE: For more information please read our “how to address a cover letter” article .

“Tailoring” Your Cover Letter

Now that we’ve covered the general format of a cover letter, it’s time to dive into the content!

Let’s pretend for a moment you’re the hiring manager and you’ve just gotten this letter:


To Whom It May Concern,

I recently came across your job post looking for a Production Office Coordinator for the educational television series, “Wonder Kids.”   I think my skills and experience would be a good match for the position and I am submitting my resume to you in the hopes of obtaining an interview.

For the past eight years I have worked as a Production Office Coordinator on a variety of other shows, providing crucial administrative support as well as maintaining and managing the day to day operations of a busy production office.   I am familiar with all aspects of production including contracts, budgets, proper paperwork distribution, and travel coordination.   I pride myself on my organizational skills as well as my ability to run an efficient staff of over 10 employees.    

I am attaching my resume which outlines all my past work experiences as well as a detailed listing of my qualifications and skills.   I look forward to the possibility of speaking with you about this position.

Blanche D. Oatmeal


Zzzzzz. Oh, sorry. Was I napping? Ugh what a snoozer!

Although professional, this is a generic cover letter and if you ask me, pretty bland.

It reveals little about Blanche beyond the fact that she thinks she’s qualified for the job and that she’s been in the industry for over 8 years. A letter like this is the bare minimum when applying for a job… and you’re not the bare minimum .

Don’t forget, you’re the perfect candidate , and a good cover letter is a great first way to let potential employers know that!

Rather than submitting a snooze-worthy letter that will blend into every other letter the hiring manager is going to read, you’re going to tailor your letter and help make sure it really stands out.

If you’ve spent any amount of time reading our other blog posts or watching our videos, you’re probably familiar with our world-famous “ Tailoring Method “.

cover letters 101

Now what you might not know, is that the Tailoring Method can actually apply to other parts of your interview as well, including how to write a great cover letter.

You see, there’s a tremendous amount of power in identifying what the company’s desired strengths and characteristics are for the employee they want to hire .

Because demonstrating that you have these Qualities is going to put you in the drivers seat in terms of getting an offer from your interview.

So you need to identify what those “ Qualities ” are, and infuse them into your cover letter and support them with a real example from your past (and where necessary, a success story ).

This is done by taking the time to do careful research of the company and the position .

Here, let’s spice up Blanche’s letter a bit…starting with paragraph one.

First thing you want to keep in mind is, those poor hiring managers are reading tens of hundreds of cover letters and after a while, they’re all going to start blending together…make your stand out…in a good way!

Dear Mr. Sorensen:

When I saw the job posting looking for a Production Office Coordinator for the educational television series, “Wonder Kids,” I knew I had to submit my resume. I am a hard-working and enthusiastic Production Office Coordinator with over eight years of practical hands on experience and am ready for my next adventure! I am currently looking for an opportunity to continue working within the industry and know my skills and experiences would be a good fit for the position and the “Wonder Kids” team overall.

Much better, right?

This is how you want to start a cover letter!  

Not only is it a break from the cookie cutter style cover letters that regularly flood a hiring manager’s desk, it shows that the applicant is excited to be applying for the job .  

It also lets the hiring manager know the applicant isn’t just looking for a job, but that they’re looking to be a part of a team.

The letter is also properly addressed to who is actually reading it.   Remember, “To Whom It May Concern,” and “Dear Sir or Madam” are too generic and can come across as lazy.  

While we’ve already said it is okay to use “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Recruiter,” going that extra mile can make all the difference with a weary reader.   Don’t forget, you want to stand out!

Let’s keep reading…

As a Production Office Coordinator, my skills include scheduling, contracts, paperwork distribution, and budgeting.   I’m also comfortable dealing with vendors, hiring and managing staff, and ensuring the smooth day to day operations of a busy office.   My experience has included both small and large budget companies, and as a result, I am familiar with the need to be adaptable and find myself excited by the prospect of a challenge.

Again, personal , engaging , and dynamic . This letter helps the hiring manager know that the applicant is ready for any challenge and that they’re adaptable.

Now we get into the meat of the letter and where you can brag a bit about what you bring to the table.  Let’s say that through her research, Blanche discovered that the company she’s interviewing with really values someone who excels in (has the “ Quality “) “attention to detail.”

Well, she better darn make sure she highlights that Quality and supports it with an example or examples from her past .

I am proud of my attention to detail and as a result of my experiences with companies of different sizes and budgets, have been able to develop skills not normally associated with the more traditional Production Office Coordinator role, including graphic design, managing social media and web development.   I enjoy working with a wide variety of people and am a multitasker, diligent self-starter and eager team player. 

Nicely done, Blanche!  

A little bit of subtle bragging while showcasing something the applicant is proud of accomplishing for the company overall without coming across as arrogant or too boastful.

The next paragraph is where you can engage the company on a one on one level and show how much research you’ve done on them and their current projects .

I also wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that my interest in working for you extends beyond my desire to simply be a Production Office Coordinator.   I grew up on the show “Wonder Kids” and consider them to be a huge part of my early education.   I am a strong believer in quality children’s programming and have always felt that “Wonder Kids” provided not only entertainment, but educational value as well.   If hired, I would be proud to be a part of the “Wonder Kid” family and help continue that legacy for future generations.

The applicant is letting the hiring manager know that they’re not just blindly applying to the company but that they genuinely know a bit about them and that they have a passion for what the company does .

Okay, Blanche, time to bring it home.

Thank you for taking the time to review my resume and consider me for this position.   You can contact me with any questions by emailing me at [email protected] or by calling me at 555-555-5555.   I would also love if you could take a look at my website,  

I look forward to the possibility of discussing this exciting opportunity with you.

When an applicant wraps up their letter this way, they’re outlining the next steps they hope the company will take (contacting them for an interview) and ensuring that the information they need to do that is right there in front of them.

By making it easy for them and including phone numbers and other contact information, a perfect candidate is empowering the employer to take the action the candidate wants.  

By including their personal branded website , the applicant is also inviting the hiring manager to get to know even more about them and what they bring to the table.

When wrapping up your letter with follow up information, tread lightly but confidently.   Whatever you do, don’t push too hard in this paragraph. You don’t want to appear manipulative or controlling.

Remember, you want a job interview…not a restraining order 😉

Warmest regards,

Now that is a great example of a cover letter that will get a hiring managers attention!

By keeping it short and sweet, you’re not overwhelming them with a ton to read…but at the same time by making it engaging, tailored , and personal, you’re ensuring that it stands out and highlights you in a positive way.

In our opinion this a wonderful example of how to end a cover letter that you should take into consideration when working on yours.

A good cover letter closing will leave a great taste in the hiring manager’s mouth and will go a long way to securing an interview.

If after sending your cover letter and your resume you don’t hear from the company in a couple of days, a quick “wanted to be sure you had received my application” email is an entirely appropriate follow-up, even without telling them that you will be following up first.

If you do end up needing to write a follow-up note, you absolutely should slip in a line like “I really think my (skills and talents that are relevant to the job) would be great for (the company), and want to make sure my application didn’t get lost or submitted incorrectly.”

You can also throw in something again about why you want to work at that company – mention some company values or exciting projects to show that you’ve done your research and are really interested in them specifically.

Sample Cover Letter Used Above

Cover Letter  Template Word

Here is the complete cover letter as written above if you would like to download it...

Top 10 Cover Letter Tips & Hacks

Common Mistakes

We’ve covered what what should be in a cover letter, but what should you NOT put in your cover letter?

The Different Types of Cover Letters

As a job seeker, you need to be aware that there are different types of cover letters that align to the different ways jobs are posted and how you’re involved in the application process .  

In most cases, the basic cover letter layout we went over earlier in this article can be used as a solid foundation for whatever you write…but we’re here to help you rise above the competition which means making that extra effort. 

You’re the Perfect Candidate and that means ensuring that your cover letter is exactly right for whatever type of posting you come across.

So let’s take a look at what you might come across in your job-seeking travels.

Job Posting

A job posting is when an employer advertises an opening within their organization that they would like to fill.  

This can be anything from a notice in a newspaper , to a posting on the company website . 

Make sure you read the posting carefully and pay close attention to the description of the job.  

This is when you will begin to start tailoring your cover letter!

Try to figure out exactly what Qualities (skills and abilities) the company values and make sure you highlight these in your cover letter.

As you go through the post, identify the key words and phrases that are used .  

When you write your cover letter, make sure you use these keywords and phrases (but don’t just copy and paste the ad word for word). 

As always, do your research beforehand and use that information to help tailor your letter and showcase how you would be a welcome addition to their team.

Application Cover Letter

For many entry level positions, the application process is fairly simple and straight forward.  

You’ll go into wherever it is you want to work and ask for an application.  

They’ll hand you a pre-printed form and you’ll sit down and fill it out before turning it back in.  

Many job seekers who are applying for these types of positions will simply turn in their application after filling them out. 

Submitting a well written cover letter along with your application will make you stand out to a prospective employer.  

You’re showing them that you are willing to do the work to get the job and that can go a long way towards getting hired.  

It’s also a great idea for individuals who are new to the job market and might not have prior employment history . 

You always want to start out your letter with a personal salutation, so if possible, when picking up an application, ask for a few days to fill it out before returning it as well as the name of the individual who will be reviewing it.  

While most employers are happy to let you take an application and bring it back later, there is always the possibility you will be asked to fill it out on the spot.   For situations like this, always make sure you bring a copy (or two) of a pre-prepared cover letter and resume with you so you can hand them in all together . 

Before heading out to pick up applications, make sure you have a few letters already typed up and pre-tailored to the locations you plan on applying to.  

Yes, it means taking a bit more time at the beginning of your application process, but it will be well worth it and again demonstrates to the employer that you are invested in the position.

Online Application Cover Letter

Many companies these days utilize online job posting websites like Brass Ring and Monster to advertise available positions.  

While this might seem like a convenience for you (hey, you can apply for jobs in your living room while wearing your pajamas all day!) it actually means your odds of getting an invitation to interview is going to be tougher than it would be if you were mailing in your information.

Why?   Three little letters…ATS.

What’s ATS?

ATS , or Applicant Tracking System , is a computer based screening program used to filter applicants.  

The program scans thousands of applications and quickly discards those that don’t fit the specific algorithm it’s been programmed with.  

While that might sound like a great way to streamline the hiring process, it also means that whatever you submit has to be carefully crafted to ensure that it makes it through this robotic filter.  

If not done properly, your submission could be discarded before ever being seen by a living human being…and we definitely don’t want that!

The first thing you want to do is wrap your head around the idea that you are going to first be facing a robot and that it’s been programmed to get rid of you.   Okay, maybe not you specifically (we’ll save the Terminator analogies for another post) but certainly your application.

So how do you beat the bot?   By thinking like one.

Start by reading the job description carefully.  

Because the computer is going to be programmed to select only the candidates that perfectly match what the company is looking for, you need to make sure you are the right fit.  

Re-read the posting until you clearly understand exactly what the company is looking for and that you are absolutely able to fill that spot with the skills , qualities , experience and education you have. 

Tailoring your letter is something you should do for every position you apply for, but when it comes to online applications that are likely to be run through ATS, it’s absolutely vital.  

You want to make sure that your cover letter is specific to the job you are applying for.

Clearly state the title you are applying for and verify that it matches the title in the posting .  

Pay extra attention to the details of the position and the description of the job.   Many of the key words the bot is programmed to respond to will be in there.  

Use those same descriptions and key words in your cover letter and resume, but do it judiciously.  

Try not to repeat them more than two times.   Stuffing your letter with keywords might seem like an easy way to guarantee success, but it’s more likely to result in your application being flagged by the program and rejected . 

Make sure to carefully check your letter for spelling and grammar errors.  

This is a basic rule you should follow no matter what, but in this case, it’s even more crucial that your submission material is flaw free.  

While a human can read a letter and usually figure out what you mean regardless of tiny problems or a misspelled word here or there, a bot is looking for exact matches…not “close enough.”  

Keep this in mind when using acronyms as well.   To avoid the risk of an acronym being rejected by the bot, use both the acronym as well as the spelled out words. 

Ultimately you want your application to make it through ATS and into the hands of an actual human.  

It’s a delicate balancing act between being specific enough to pass ATS and still engaging enough to catch the attention of the hiring manager.   It’s tough, but it can be done!

Cold Call Cover Letter

A cold call cover letter is a letter you send out along with your resume to a company you want to work for that has NOT advertised any openings .  

Generally this is something you do when you find a company that you really want to work for but they don’t have any openings that fit your skills or they’re not soliciting for applicants. 

Applying for a job that doesn’t exist can be a risky venture, but it can also be a smart one.  

If you’re the Perfect Candidate (and you are!) you could potentially gain early consideration for an opening that comes up down the road.   Best case scenario, they think you’re so absolutely amazing that they find a job for you! 

Keep in mind, you’re not the only person on this planet who has submitted a cold call cover letter and resume, and you’re asking a company for a job that doesn’t exist…which means you have to make sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that whatever you send in is absolutely perfect.

Remember, the company is NOT asking for people to submit to them , so you need to figure out what it is that you offer that makes you worth considering.   What can you bring to the table that they don’t already have and why should they take the time to look at your materials?

The first step for cold contacting a company is doing your research.  

Of course, as a student of The Interview Guys , you’re already well versed in the art of researching, but when it comes to a cold contact like this, you have to go above and beyond in your digging.  

You want your cover letter to contain knowledge of specific current situations within the company and how you can help .  

Just writing to a company and telling them how much you love them and want to work for them very rarely results in a job offer.  

You’re more likely to get a thank you note and a package of free corporate bumper stickers than an offer of employment. 

Open your letter with a solid salutation addressed to a specific individual.  

Because this is a cold contact, it’s absolutely imperative that you address your letter to exactly the right person.   You want to make sure that your information ends up with whoever is most likely to hire you.  

Open your letter with a generic salutation and you run the risk of it being either immediately tossed or passed onto someone who can’t do anything with it except send you that package of corporate bumper stickers.  

Make sure during your research that you determine exactly who should receive your information and address it to them.

The body of your letter is going to be critical to your success in this adventure.   You want to make sure that you open with a paragraph so strong, so focused, so dynamic, that whoever is reading it can’t help but keep reading.   You want the first paragraph your intended audience reads to hook their attention and draw them in, and this will come from your research. 

Have you found something in your digging that indicates that the company has a need you can fill?  

Are they preparing for an expansion and you know they’re going to need someone with your skills in the very near future?  

Is there an aspect of their business that is lagging and you know you can help strengthen it? 

** SIDE NOTE :   Make sure you are careful when addressing a failure within a company, even if you are offering them a solution.   You want them to see you as a viable answer to their problem, not an annoying upstart pointing out their flaws.  

It’s a delicate balance, but we have faith in you!

Follow up your opening paragraph by expanding on your key strengths and skills and how you plan on using them to benefit your target company .  

Try to include achievements and examples of how you’ve succeeded in the past and be prepared to back it up with proof should they reach out to you . 

Another great way to help strengthen your chances of securing an interview (and possibly a job) is to mention any connections you have to the company.  

Be sure you let whoever you are name dropping know that you’re doing this…you want to make sure if they get asked about you they have nothing but good things to say about you!   It’s a good idea to put this information early in your letter.   People are much more likely to read your letter if they see that you have a personal connection.

Close your letter out with options on how to move forward to the next step.  

While your ultimate goal with your letter and resume is a job interview, you might not feel comfortable straight out asking for one in a cold call situation.   Of course, if you are…more power to you…but if you feel that a softer approach is called for, try asking instead for information about their hiring practices, job fairs, a tour of the company or even for an informational interview .

What’s an informational interview?

An informational interview is one where you sit down with someone who works in a career or job you want to learn more about.   You’ll learn about what they do, what skills they need to have in order to succeed in their position and what it’s like to work where they work.  

It is NOT an interview for a job…but it could potentially lead to one down the road as whoever you are doing the interview with is now personally acquainted with you.

Remember, the key to success with a cold call cover letter depends on a number of factors including timing and how well you understand the company you are submitting to as well as how thorough your research is. 

Recruiter’s Ad Cover Letter

Many companies these days have turned their entire employee hiring process over to executive search firms staffed by highly trained recruiters.  

These recruiters might work with a number of companies (their clients) and are usually focused on a very specific category of job placement (e.g., engineers, paralegals, etc.).  

The recruiters will often place ads which allows them to pull together large numbers of qualified job candidates.  

Then they’ll go through those candidates and present the best of the best to their clients in the hopes that one of them (or more) will be hired.

To put it bluntly (and in keeping with our blind date analogy) recruiters are the matchmakers of the job world.   The companies tell the recruiters who they are looking for and the recruiters go through the piles of candidates they have on hand and try to find the best fit. 

When you respond to an ad placed by a recruiter and submit your cover letter and resume, you’re not usually submitting it for a specific job…rather you’re providing them with your information and skill set in the hopes that it matches up with a job assignment or opening they get from their corporate clients…and that means you have to take a totally different approach to how you write your cover letter.

Because a recruiter is looking for a specific set of skills to fill open positions , they will almost always start by first looking at your resume before ever looking at your cover letter.

Hang on, if they’re looking at my resume and ignoring my cover letter, then why even include one?

Don’t worry…your cover letter will get looked at…just not right away…which is why the information contained within it needs to be a little different than the information you would normally put into a cover letter.

If after reading your resume a recruiter decides you are a good fit for the position, they’ll turn to your cover letter for more information about you…and what they’re looking for is fairly specific .

A cover letter to a recruiter needs to quickly answer questions they might have about your eligibility and willingness to do the job they are pitching you for .  

You want to use your cover letter to explain what you can do, what you are qualified to do, and what you require in order to accept the job if it’s offered to you.

Start your letter out with a personal salutation.   You are essentially going to be represented by your recruiter so it’s a good idea to know who is passing your information around.

Your first paragraph should be a quick introduction into what you are and what you do.   They need to know what you are currently doing and where you are doing it.   You should also include in this section why you are looking for a new job and what you hope to get out of establishing a relationship with your recruiter.

The second paragraph should outline your skills and accomplishments as well as your background.   This is the paragraph where you lay out exactly why you believe you would be an asset to the recruiter’s clients. 

The third paragraph should cover the jobs and industries you are looking for employment in.   It’s also the paragraph where you discuss your salary history as well as your current salary range requirements. 

** SALARY SIDE NOTE :   Normally with cover letters you do NOT want to include salary information.   We’ll discuss this more in depth later on in this article, but for now, be aware, this is one of the few times when it’s not only acceptable, it’s necessary.

Make sure you also include whether or not you’d be willing to travel or relocate.  

Finally, make sure you include your availability and when you would be able to start a new job if offered.

Recruiter Cold Call Cover Letter

Submitting a cold call cover letter and resume to a recruiter is a lot like submitting a cold call cover letter to a company; you’re reaching out to someone who is not soliciting for applicants in the hopes of being considered for a position that may or may not exist .

When we went over Recruiter Ad cover letters, we told you that the recruiters would look at your resume first and your cover letter second…which in that scenario is true.  

In this scenario, where you are reaching out to them rather than responding to an ad or solicitation they’ve generated, they are absolutely going to look at your cover letter first…if for no reason other than to figure out who you are and why you’re contacting them. 

The best way to ensure that your letter and information gets a serious look is by doing your research on the recruiter you are contacting ahead of time.  

Recruiters are usually very specific about who they’re looking for and what they’re recruiting for, so it’s important that you contact someone who represents the field you are qualified to work in.

The first paragraph is where you introduce yourself.   Let the recruiter know who you are and what you are/what you do.   You also want to let them know what you would like to do and what sort of job you are looking for and why you are looking for a new job.   Make sure you are specific and provide any details you think might help them in matching you with the right company should an opportunity arise.

The second paragraph should outline your skills and accomplishments as well as your background.   This is the paragraph where you lay out exactly why you believe you would be an asset to the recruiter’s clients and should be included in their pile of potential pitches.   It’s also the paragraph where you let the recruiter know clearly what type of work you are interested in, be it full time, part time, permanent or freelance.   Make sure you decide ahead of time and stick with it.   A recruiter needs to know your level of commitment to the jobs they are submitting you for.

The third paragraph is where you discuss your salary history as well as your current salary range requirements. 

** SALARY SIDE NOTE PART DEUX :   As we said above with Recruiter Ad Cover Letters, discussing your salary in a cover letter is normally not done.   We’ll discuss this more in depth later on in this article, but for now, be aware, this is one of the few times when again it’s not only acceptable, it’s necessary.

Finally, make sure you include your availability and when you would be able to start a new job if offered. 

With a recruiter cold call letter, you don’t normally include how you plan to follow up with them.  

Recruiters are incredibly busy and are highly trained in what they do.   Although you might be tempted to reach out to them, hold off.   Bothering them isn’t going to get you anywhere.  

If they see something in you that warrants their attention, they will reach out to you.

Direct Mail Campaign Cover Letter

A Direct Mail Campaign is where a job seeker sends out hundreds of letters and resumes to potential employers in the hopes of securing an interview or position.  

Although similar to the Cold Call Cover Letter in that you are submitting to companies that aren’t currently advertising positions, it’s a much less focused process and involves you sending the same cover letter and resume out to everyone in the hopes that someone responds back.

When you do a Direct Mail Campaign Cover Letter, you want to avoid anything that would specifically apply to one company over another.  

Because you’re sending this same letter out to multiple companies, you want to be general enough for it to apply broadly, but not so general that it works against you.

Your cover letter should start out by introducing the reader to who you are and what you do as well as what job you are seeking. 

The next paragraphs should detail your skills and experience with the job you are seeking and why you are qualified to do it.

Finally, be sure to wrap your letter up with information on how the company can contact you if interested. 

**A WORD OF CAUTION WITH DIRECT MAIL CAMPAIGNS:   While it might seem like this method is more efficient than targeting and tailoring your information for specific companies and jobs, it can also work against you.   Most hiring managers can quickly recognize a direct mail letter and will discard it as ‘spam.’

Referral Cover Letter

A Referral Cover Letter is one you send after someone who works with the company or has contacts within the industry refers you .  

It is similar to any other company cover letter with the exception of the opening paragraph.

Make sure to introduce yourself and also mention the individual who referred you to the company or position.  

If possible, include anything specific your contact has told you about the position or the person you are reaching out to .

Once you have finished your introductory paragraph, use the rest of your letter to discuss your skills , education , background , training … anything that will help to show that you are a good fit for the position .

Finally make sure you close your letter with your plans for following up with them and how they might contact you with any questions.

Blind Posting Cover Letter

A blind job posting is one in which a company posts a job opening but decides to remain anonymous.  

A company might decide to blind post for a high profile position they don’t want to call attention to so as not to appear lacking in leadership.  

Other times it’s meant to build excitement and mystery to help increase the number of applicants. 

Submitting to a blind listing means tailoring your letter to the company is going to be difficult…but it doesn’t have to be impossible…and that extra bit of sleuthing can help really elevate your application above the rest of the entries. 

A good place to start is by taking a closer look at the posting.   Is there a fax number or email included?   Sometimes you can get lucky, and with a bit of internet digging, trace those backwards to find out what company those are attached to .   The same goes for a physical address or P.O. Box.

Look for key phrases as well.  

Is the company referencing anything specific like “we have been ranked number one in employee retention and satisfaction for the past five years.”?  

Type that phrase into your favorite search engine and see what pops up. 

Of course, the goal of figuring out who the company is isn’t so you can reveal how smart you are in your letter…rather, it’s to help with your tailoring process.  

Proving you’re a master detective could potentially backfire…especially if you’re wrong.   Instead of bragging about your digging skills, use what you learn to help show why you’re a perfect fit for the job.

How do you address a cover letter for a blind posting?  

Ideally you want to make sure your letter is personal and that means addressing it to a specific individual, but in a situation like this, you have to consider other options.  

In the event you figure out exactly what company is hiring for…and there is absolutely NO DOUBT about their identity, then you could potentially go online, look at their website and see who is overseeing hiring…but we’re going to strongly caution you against this.   Again…you could be wrong…or worse…look creepy and stalkerish.  

This is one instance when using “Dear Hiring Manager” is perfectly acceptable.

Once you get this all done, it’s time to tackle the content of your letter.   Again, because this is a blind posting, it’s going to be tough tailoring your information.  

That means you have to pay extra close attention to exactly what the posting says.  

Go over it carefully and pay attention to exactly what the company is looking for.  

Make sure you highlight exactly how you fit what they’re looking for and include examples demonstrating your skills, knowledge and experience .  

If the posting contains specific instructions, be sure to follow them to the absolute letter.   This is a good thing to do no matter what, but in a blind posting, it can be the make or break.

In a normal job posting where you know who you are applying to, your closing paragraph should always include how you plan on following up with the company.  

Unfortunately with blind job postings, that’s not possible.   Regardless, you want to make sure your final paragraph is strong and lets the hiring manager (whoever they are) know that you are looking forward to the possibility of discussing the position in greater detail at an in person interview.

Internship Cover Letter

An internship is a great way to get your foot in the door and learn more about a company/career you are thinking of pursuing.  

Just because it’s an internship and not an actual job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat it just as seriously.

Make sure when you’re addressing your letter that you’re sending it to the right individual.   Many times with internships they’re facilitated by the educational institution you’re attending and will provide you with specific contact information.  

If you are securing your own internship and not receiving university assistance with the process, make sure you do your research ahead of time and find out who will be reading your letter. 

Start out your letter by clearly stating your intent to secure an internship so there is no confusion and your letter ends up in the wrong pile…or worse, the trash.

Always include your educational background information ; what you’re studying and where .

As you continue into the body of your letter, don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by your lack of “work” experience.   When applying for an internship, it’s okay to have less experience than someone who is employed in the field you are entering.   In fact, it’s expected!  

An internship is an opportunity to learn.   Including a paragraph about what you hope to take away from this internship and how it will help you achieve your long term goals is a great way to show enthusiasm and set you apart from the crowd .

No Prior Work Experience Cover Letter

If you’re just entering the job market or a recent graduate, it can be intimidating writing cover letters without any experience.  

Not to worry!

It’s still absolutely essential to send out a cover letter…we just have to tailor it a bit differently. 

Writing a cover letter for an entry level position, or to a job you have no experience in is very similar to the letter you would write as an intern.   It’s perfectly fine to highlight your non-employment related experiences… if they are relevant to the job.

For recent graduates, make sure to include where you went to school and how what you’ve studied relates directly to the job you are applying for .

Volunteer experiences ,  internships ,  related classes , projects ,  leadership experiences ,  extracurricular activities  and your skills that pertain to the position you’re applying for all can and should be mentioned in your cover letter .

A lack of experience doesn’t mean you’re allowed to have a lack of knowledge about what you’re applying for and the company you’re applying to.  

That means you still have to do your research!  

Make sure you know everything you can about the company . Visit their website . Read their blog . Get inside their corporate heads and figure out how you and what you bring are the perfect fit !

If the job posting has buzzwords, be sure to include those in your letter and make sure they relate to the skills you’ve got.

Finally, as with any and all cover letters, be honest, be succinct, be professional.

Check out our new blog post that covers 12 great cover letter examples!

 Let’s Talk About Salary, Baby

As promised, we’re going to quickly discuss if and when you should bring up salary requirements in your cover letters.

Generally you DO NOT and SHOULD NOT include this information in your cover letters (with the exception of the two Recruiter specific letters we discussed above).  

If an employer does not require you to include any salary information (including history, requirement or range) then don’t put it in there.  

There is a time and a place for the salary discussion and we cover that in our article “ How To Negotiate Salary During The Interview Process. ” 

If an employer asks you for your salary information but doesn’t require it, hold off on passing that information on until it becomes an actual requirement.

But what do you do if an employer says you must include this information in order to apply?  

One way to tackle this tricky subject is to give a salary range.   Make sure you do your research ahead of time to determine what your job is worth and be sure to make your range realistic.   Also make sure that you are able to be flexible within that range should your employer decide to negotiate. 

Another way to answer this question is to state that your requirements are negotiable and that you are willing to factor in things like benefits and the actual position itself.

No matter what you put down, be sure to state clearly that your salary requirements are flexible and open to discussion. The last thing you want to do is lock yourself into a rate that is so high you lose the job or so low you find yourself being offered far less than what you’re worth .

Keep in mind that although most employers have a salary range for a position already figured out before you even walk through the door, it’s not set in stone.   If you are the Perfect Candidate (and you are!) a good employer will figure out how to pay more for you if they feel that will get you to accept the job…  

This won’t happen, however, if you lock yourself into a number too early in the game.    

So why is it okay to tell a recruiter my salary history and range but not a potential employer?

When you give an employer salary information, you are limiting your ability to negotiate.   Without the ability to negotiate, you run the risk of being offered or accepting a job for less than you deserve.

A recruiter, however, needs to know your salary information so they can use that information when pitching you for jobs to their clients.  

A recruiter is paid only after they fill a position for a client, and that fee is covered by the client themselves.  

Usually that fee amounts to a percentage of whatever the first year’s compensation for the new employee ends up being which means it’s in the recruiter’s best interest to try to get you as high a rate as possible. 

Recruiters also need to know this information so they can avoid pitching you for jobs that are lower than your range .  

It doesn’t do them any good to have an employer offer to hire you and have you turn it down because you aren’t happy with the salary. 

However, to prevent yourself from being locked into a situation where you are again faced with being offered too little or asking for too much, keep your answers in range form and base those numbers off of real world examples and your research.

Cover Letter Samples

Ok, so we’ve basically covered everything you could ever need to know about cover letters.   But I know what you might be thinking…

“Can I get a cover letter sample or two please Mike?   I’m basically an expert now but it would be much easier if I could just start with a cover letter template.”

Look, we covered a ton of stuff in this article so I don’t blame you.   So what we decided to do is enlist the help of our friends over at who have a treasure trove full of great cover letter samples that you can use as a guideline for your own letter.

But here’s the deal.   Hiring managers are smart AND have access to these websites as well, so you don’t want to simply choose a sample cover letter and then just completely rip it off.   Take the time to make it your own, because it will pay off in the long run.

Copying a cover letter example word for word will only make you sound like someone other than yourself, and that is not what we are trying to do here!

Ok so Vault separates their cover letter templates into four distinct categories, so go ahead and click the link below that applies to your situation the most:

Cold Call Cover Letters

Direct mail cover letters, response to ad cover letters, referral letters.

Those four categories above should give you enough examples of cover letters to get you prepared for writing your own!

If after sending your cover letter and your resume you don’t hear from the company within a couple of days, a quick “wanted to be sure you had received my application” email is an entirely appropriate follow-up, even without telling them that you will be following up first.

If you do end up needing to write a thank you note , you absolutely should slip in a line like “ I really think my (skills and talents that are relevant to the job) would be great for (the company), and want to make sure my application didn’t get lost or submitted incorrectly. ”

You can also throw in something again about why you want to work at that company – mention some company values or exciting projects to show that you’ve done your research and are really interested in them specifically.

And don’t forget to study as many cover letter examples as you can!  Especially the cover letter example that we laid out for you in detail in this article.

So there you have it!   How To Write a Cover Letter 101 .  

By following what we’ve laid out here for you, your cover letter is going to be a single paged professional introduction aimed at getting you in the door and on your way to an interview .  

By using our tailoring method and infusing the body of your letter with keywords and the qualities the employer is looking for, you’ll be positioning yourself for a spot at the top of their list of potential candidates.

Just remember, dating analogies aside, it’s probably a good idea to leave the flowers and chocolates at home.

FREE : "Perfect Cover Letter" PDF CHEAT SHEET

Get our handy "Perfect Cover Letter" cheat sheet.

In it you'll get a step-by-step process that will let you craft the perfect cover letter.


cover letters 101

Co-Founder and CEO of Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at

His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes , Entrepreneur , CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan , Penn State , Northeastern and others.

Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page .

About The Author

Mike simpson.

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Co-Founder and CEO of Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes , Entrepreneur , CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan , Penn State , Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page .

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cover letters 101

cover letters 101

How to write an effective cover letter (with samples)

You will have to prepare a number of materials for employers while looking for a job. One type of document is the cover letter, which is included with your resume when requesting a job interview. An effective cover letter is directed towards a specific position or company, and describes examples from your experience that highlight your skills related to the role.

You want to convince the reader that your interest in the job and company are genuine and specific. You also want to demonstrate ways that your experience has prepared you for the role by sharing a few brief stories that highlight your qualifications. This takes time and research; use the job description and the company’s web site or LinkedIn page to identify traits and skills the company values.

Cover letter structure and format

A cover letter should be no longer than one page with a font size between 10-12 points. Be sure to include your contact information and address it directly to the hiring manager, using their name. If you are not sure who to address the letter to, write “Dear Hiring Manager.” If the role you are applying for has a reference number or code, be sure to include it in your letter so that human resources is able to accurately track your application. The reference code is usually included

Cover letters typically take the following structure:

Introduction (1st paragraph)

Example : I am a second year master’s student in MIT’s Technology and Policy Program (TPP) writing to apply for a consulting position in Navigant’s Emerging Technology & Business Strategy group. After speaking with John Smith at the MIT career fair, I realized that Navigant’s values of excellence, continuous development, entrepreneurial spirit, and integrity align with the principles that guide me every day and that have driven me throughout my career. Moreover, I believe that my knowledge of the energy sector, passion for data analysis, polished communication skills, and four years of consulting experience will enable me to deliver superior value for Navigant’s clients.

Body (2-3 paragraphs)

Example : As a graduate student in MIT’s Technology and Policy Program, I spend every day at the cutting edge of the energy sector. In my capacity as an MIT Energy Initiative research assistant, I use statistical analysis to investigate trends in public acceptance and regulation related to emerging energy technologies. Graduate classes in data science, energy economics, energy ventures and strategy, and technology policy have prepared me to help Navigant offer the expert services that set it apart from competitors. Furthermore, I will bring Navigant the same leadership skills that I used as the student leader for the MIT Energy Conference’s Technology Commercialization round-table, and as the mentorship manager for the MIT Clean Energy Prize.

Even before MIT, my four years of work experience in consulting—first at LMN Research Group and then at XYZ Consulting—allowed me to develop the skillset that Navigant looks for in candidates. As a science writer and policy analyst at LMN Research Group, I developed superb technical writing and visual communication skills, as well as an ability to communicate and collaborate with clients at federal agencies such as EPA and DOE. As a research analyst at XYZ Consulting, I developed an in-depth understanding of data analysis, program evaluation, and policy design.

Closing (last paragraph)

Example : I take pride in my skills and experience in several domains: critical thinking and analysis, communication, and leadership. I note that Navigant values these same ideals, and I very much hope to use my abilities in service of the firm and its clients. Thank you for your time and consideration, I look forward to speaking with you further about my qualifications.

Additional cover letter tips

Related Resources

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Career readiness

Cover letters

Whenever you send a résumé to a potential employer, be sure to include a carefully crafted cover letter.

Why a cover letter?

Why is a cover letter important? Like a résumé, the goal of a cover letter is to get you an interview.

But an effective cover letter communicates things your résumé can’t, including:

While résumés are meant to inform and stick to the facts of your career history, cover letters can tell interesting stories, persuade, and showcase personality.

Your cover letter will often serve as your potential employer’s first impression of you. A well-written cover letter adds professionalism, a personal touch, and a competitive edge to your job search .

Cover letter overview

How to write a cover letter

This video walks through all the necessary steps to create a successful cover letter..

Watch on Youtube

The cover letter is your personal introduction to a prospective employer that outlines your interest in the position and the organization and expresses why you are qualified.

Watch on YouTube

Basic cover letter structure

[Use the same header from your résumé here. They’re a set!]

Dear [Hiring Manager Name]/Hiring Manager:

Introduction (1 paragraph)

Body (1-2 paragraphs)

Indicate what you can do for the employer and how you’ll make a unique contribution to the organization.

Conclusion (1 paragraph)

[Your Handwritten Signature]

[Type Your Name]

Cover letter examples

Formatting basics.

Deeper dive: How to build an excellent cover letter

Learn basics about creating a cover letter that gets you an interview.

How to tailor your cover letter to a specific job.

Highlight key words in the job description, paying particular attention to the Requirements/Qualifications section. (You don’t have to guess—this section is where they tell you exactly what they’re looking for!) See example in sample job posting below.

Make a list of the qualifications they want that you have—either all or in part. If they’re asking for 3 years of experience in an area, and you have 1, that’s still valuable! Or if they’re asking for a certain type of software expertise, and you know something similar, count that! List any experience you have that’s relevant to the job, and don’t limit yourself to only applying to jobs where you meet all the qualifications.

See example in sample cover letter below—end of the first paragraph .

Use the Problem-Action-Result structure discussed in the Basic cover letter structure above. See example in sample cover letter below .

Example: job description with tailored cover letter and résumé

Associate Editor, Washington

Cities Media - Seattle, WA 98109 (Queen Anne area) is currently looking for a motivated and passionate Associate Editor Start by highlighting key words in the job posting. Learn the language the employer speaks so you can use some in your materials! ℹ to join our rapidly expanding editorial team. The editor will play a major role in our growth in the Western United States with a focus on Seattle and Washington.

We are seeking a storyteller who loves Washington State and wants to express it through the creation of engaging, relatable, inspiring content .

Cities Media Editors are ambitious and independent thinkers who know what millennials care about . Our editors want Cities to be the best source of information for their communities, whether it’s breaking down new legislation , spotlighting extraordinary local figures and good deeds, or spreading the word about hidden waterfalls that everyone should visit once in their life.

Before applying, please visit our site to get a feel for what we’re looking for.


This is an entry-level contracted position (full-time) . The position is based in Seattle, but the Associate Editor must be able to work closely with writers and editors across the country. Compensation will be commensurate with experience.




206-888-6653. [email protected] | Seattle, WA.


Bachelor of Arts in Communication

Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA.

Study Abroad

February - May 20XX

School for International Training, Dakar, Senegal.


Seattle Weekly, Seattle, WA.

Dec 20XX-present

Digital Intern

The Falcon: Seattle Pacific University’s Independent Student Newspaper, Seattle, WA.


September 20XX-present

News Editor

September 20XX-June 20XX


M.E.Ch.A at Seattle Pacific University, Vice President, Seattle, WA.

Rainier Youth Camp, Teen Boys Counselor, Seattle, WA.

Summers 20XX, 20XX

14 September 20XX

Marilyn Smith All Cities Editor Cities Media 555 Blumark Ave, Unit 101 NewYork, NY 10001

Dear Marilyn Smith:

I’m excited to apply for the Associate Editor, Washington position for Cities Media posted on My passion is sharing engaging Seattle -area news with millennials in a clear, relatable way. I think I’m an excellent fit for this role because of my 2 years of team management experience as a digital editor , and my extensive background using research and analytics to grow publication readership .

To start, my depth of team management experience would enable me to be effective in this role. As one example, as editor-in-chief of The Falcon university newspaper for the last year, I’ve been responsible for leading the staff of 18 to produce quality content weekly for our diverse student body of 4,000. With our staff’s wealth of different backgrounds and perspectives, I knew that we could offer SPU students much more value if we planned content together than if I did it alone . Therefore, at the beginning of last year, I met with each writer individually to learn more about their writing interests, and engaged them in weekly team brainstorming meetings where we assigned articles together . In June, the staff told me they felt valued by the team and empowered to grow and express themselves fully at The Falcon . In addition, our readership that year increased 15%. 

Paragraphs 2–3: In each of your 2 middle paragraphs, tell a story to showcase a skill mentioned in paragraph 1. Use the Problem , Action , Result structure . Don't just repeat your resume; give more details to bring the reader "in the rooom" of the experience with you.

Furthermore, my background using data and analytics to expand publication readership would help me excel as your Associate Editor for Washington. For example, as a digital intern at Seattle Weekly , I got the opportunity to edit the site independently for a week this summer while the digital editor was away. I was responsible for editing and uploading articles by 6 writers each day, as well as managing Twitter and Instagram accounts . When I noticed that several articles posted in the morning were not receiving as many views as I’d expected, I changed the headlines midday to align more closely with SEO standards , and saw increased traffic in the afternoon. I also modified my social media posting times to promote more engagement , which increased 30% by the end of the week .

Thank you very much for your time and consideration. Please let me know if you have any questions, and I will email you next week to see if we can schedule an interview.


José García

Common cover letter mistakes

Tip:  Read your cover letter out loud. This can help you catch awkward phrasing.

3307 3rd Ave West, Seattle WA 98119-1997


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