How to Write a Cover Letter: Step-by-Step

What makes a good cover letter? As you will soon discover, the answer varies from one situation to the next. In the guide that follows, you’ll gain important insight regarding how to write a cover letter, a good cover letter – the kind that gives you the best chance of landing what might just be the interview of a lifetime. Let’s get started:

Dos and Don’ts of Cover Letters

When learning how to write a cover letter, it’s a good idea to have some idea of the do’s and don’ts. Keep these important rules in mind as you formulate your own cover letter. With some care and attention on your part, your own cover letter will be sure to impress.

  • Never send out a resume without a cover letter
  • Write a first paragraph designed to grab the reader’s attention
  • Don’t forget to write your cover letter to a named individual
  • Send an original cover letter to every potential employer
  • Tailor different cover letters to different employers
  • Take your time when writing cover letters
  • Don’t use clichés, like “please find my resume enclosed”
  • Read cover letter examples before writing your cover letter
  • Send a spotless cover letter complete with perfect grammar. Ensure there are no smudges, stains, etc. on the cover letter or resume you enclose with it
  • Don’t simply restate the information that’s included in your resume
  • Use action verbs whenever possible
  • Sign the letter with your signature, using blue ink so the employer knows the signature is real
  • If you email a cover letter, shorten it somewhat
  • Never write a cover letter more than a single page long
  • Be sure to keep things positive, mentioning how you will contribute to the company and answering the all-important question, “Why should I hire this applicant?”
  • Use simple, realistic language and make every word count

Last but not least never rely on the addressee to take action. Instead, request that they take action by scheduling an interview with you, and mention that you will follow up. Then, call to arrange for your own interview. Following up is the number one way to impress an employer, as it shows initiative.

What to Include in a Cover Letter

When writing a cover letter, what should you include? First, it’s important to remember that the purpose of a cover letter is to complement rather than duplicate your resume. It is a way for you to add an important personal touch, and it is usually your first written contact with an employer, making it a crucial part of the hiring process, whether you are sending in an application, inquiring about open positions in a company, or responding to a call for talent. Your cover letter gives you the chance to create a highly favorable first impression, so ensure that you are careful to include the things that you feel are most important to your job search. While you do not want to create a form letter that’s sure to end up in the recycling bin, do take care to include some basics in each cover letter you write. Use the following checklist to ensure you’ve covered all of your bases.

  • Company name and contact
  • Name of individual letter is addressed to
  • Position you desire, and where you saw it listed
  • Targeted details that show you’re the best candidate for the job
  • Your personal details (name, address, email, telephone number(s))
  • Your signature

Once you’ve finished your cover letter, it’s a very good idea to have someone proofread it if possible. Check to be sure that all the details you’ve included are accurate, and make certain you have loaded your printer with quality paper that matches your resume paper before you print the letter. Mail your resume and cover letter in a large flat envelope and keep a copy of each cover letter you write for your records.

Cover Letter Structure

Writing a good letter might seem like a tough task, but if you take it one step at a time, you’ll soon discover that you’ve done a solid job of understanding how to write a cover letter, by preparing one that’s certain to impress. Here, we take a look at the following:

  • How to start a cover letter
  • What to include in the cover letter’s body
  • How to end your cover letter appropriately

Remember, good cover letters are tailored specifically to the situation. Take clues from our samples while making your own cover letter unique.

Cover letters are made up of several parts including contact information, a greeting or salutation, the letter’s main body, and the closing, along with a signature.

Begin your cover letter with your contact information. This should include:

  • Your name
  • Your mailing address
  • Your home number and cell number
  • Your email address

Next, add the employer’s contact information if you have it.

Follow up with an appropriate greeting or salutation. This signals the beginning of the actual message. If you are addressing your cover letter to a specific person, be sure to name him or her specifically. Examples of appropriate salutations include the following:

  • Dear Mr. Smith
  • Dear Ms. Smith
  • Dear Dr. Smith

Follow the greeting with a comma or colon, a space, and then the beginning paragraph of your cover letter. For example:

Dear Dr. Smith,

Letter’s first paragraph begins here.

What if you don’t know the name of the contact person at the company you are addressing your cover letter to? Instead of omitting a salutation, use a general greeting such as the following:

  • To Whom It May Concern
  • Dear Hiring Manager
  • Dear Human Resources Manager
  • Dear (Company Name) Recruiter
  • Dear Sir or Madam

Never use a sexist greeting like “Dear Sirs or Dear Gentlemen” when writing a cover letter. If the hiring manager happens to be female, your letter and resume will find their way into the bin, no matter how well you present yourself otherwise.

Carefully create the cover letter’s body. It should let the employer know which position you are applying for, tell them shy they ought to select you for an interview, and state how you will be following up. In this section of the cover letter, include the following:

  • The opening paragraph, which states why you are writing.
  • A middle paragraph or two which tells the employer specifically what you have to offer without rehashing your resume.
  • A final paragraph which states how you will follow up.

Be direct but polite as you write these paragraphs, but avoid making specific statements such as, “I am the best person for the job…” or “you should hire me because…” as these show a lack of creativity. Let your personality shine through without being overbearing.

Close the cover letter in a professional way. Appropriate cover letter closures are often the same as those which ought to be used in employment-related correspondence of other kinds. Examples of how to end a cover letter include:

  • Sincerely
  • Sincerely yours
  • Best regards
  • Regards
  • Kind regards
  • Most sincerely
  • Yours truly
  • Respectfully yours
  • Respectfully
  • Thank you for your consideration
  • Thank you

The closing should be followed with a comma, followed by a space, and then your complete name, along with your signature, which should be written in blue ink if possible. For example:

Thank you for your consideration,

Your Name

Congratulations! You now know how to write a cover letter! Be sure to take a look at our cover letter examples before setting out to write your own one. And, remember to take your time! A well-written, carefully considered cover letter increases your chance of connecting with a future employer, making an outstanding first impression, and landing an interview.