How to Write an Excellent Cover Letter

“Go out of your way to make an outstanding first impression.” 

~ Robert Cheeke, Motivational Speaker

Who are you? That’s what employers want you to answer. That’s why people build resumes to earn themselves an interview. But isn’t there a problem with that? A resume can only tell a person what you’ve done. Don’t you wish there was a way for you to introduce yourself and give your accomplishments more context?

Well, that’s what a cover letter is for. It’s a written first impression designed to capture the recruiter’s attention. A good cover letter may even get you the job even if your resume is weaker than other applicants. An excellent cover letter has four main goals:


Demonstrate Motivation: A cover letter demonstrates that you’re enthusiastic about the position you went the extra mile. You’ve proven that you’re serious and the company won’t need to motivate you.

Save Time: The more information you include in your cover letter is the less information they’ll ask you in the interview. The recruiter will respect the fact you’ve saved them a lot of time asking routine questions.

Display Character: A cover letter gives your employer a sense of your personality and writing style. It also gives them a chance to consider how you plan on providing value to the organization.

Persuade Employers: The most important goal of a cover letter is to establish that you are a better candidate that the other applicants. Make it easy for them. Why should they choose you over everyone else?

As long as you have those 4 elements, you can decide whatever job you want to work at. In the following sections you will learn how to structure a cover letter, and how to write content for a cover letter.

How to Format a Cover Letter: Structure Guidelines & Principles

Before we get into content writing, you should know how to generally format a cover letter. It should be similar to a standard business letter which contains your contact information, a formal greeting, and the standard introduction, body, and conclusion.

Step 1: Build a Contact Header

Your cover letter should always start with your contact information. Your full name should be clearly visible, along with your email address and phone number. Optional pieces of information should include:

Mailing AddressLinkedIn Profile
Website PortfolioPronouns

Step 2: Give a Formal Greeting

You should formally greet the hiring manager or company by name. Try to put some effort into finding out the hiring manager’s name if it’s not in the job description, it will increase your chances. If you cannot determine the name through online research, call the company, and explain that you would like the name to whom to address your cover letter. 

If you don’t know the hiring manager’s name and do not want to go through the effort of research, then you can put “Dear Hiring Manager”. Do not put, “To whom it may concern” because it gives the impression you didn’t even attempt to find out who the hiring manager is. The greeting should include their name, title, company and address at the top below the date.

You can use LinkedIn to try and find out the hiring manager’s name, or even google “company name, hiring manager”.

Step 3: Understand the Basic Outline of a Cover Letter

Introduction: This is where you establish the present. Your focus will be on grabbing their attention. You should use the space to clearly state who you are, why you were interested in the company, and your professional personality. Be sure to write in a professional tone that conveys enthusiasm and curiosity.

How to Start a Cover Letter

Avoid “I’m applying for X job that I saw in Y place.” It’s boring and generic. Grab their attention with a creative hook. What is important to your employer? If the business cares about reputation, open up with good things you’ve heard about their reputation. If they care more about profit, open up with opportunities that you believe can increase profit. Then establish how you fit in. Common ways to get the attention of the hiring manager include:

  • Listing an accomplishment that the company has recently made.
    • “I was impressed by your company’s recent earnings release where you increased profit by X%”
    • “Your company’s recent social media campaign on Y inspired and filled me with (emotion)”
  • Talking about an insight from the company’s blog or social media
    • I agree with your blog post about the impact of electric cars and found it quite informative”
    • “Your recent social media about fitness and work-life balance motivated me to make a change.”
  • Start with a current event related to the company’s industry
    • “A radical shift in fashion is about to unfold with the release of Famous P.’s new design.”
  • Start with a statement about shared values (you can inspect the company’s about page)
    • “I’ve been looking for a company that shares my value of integrity and was thrilled to discover your about page.”

What to Include in a Cover Letter

Body: This is where you establish past. Talk about your background and the type of work you involve yourself in. Give context to the accomplishments found in your resume. Explore more about your professional journey and the scope of the work you do.

You can also choose to talk about why the job interests you, even if it’s just for a paycheck. There has to be some quality of the company that caught your eye and why you decided to apply. Some employers also love hearing if you have some special abilities or knowledge that sets you apart from other applicants. Or maybe you’ve worked for a prestigious individual that everyone knows in the industry.

Just don’t repeat the information found in your resume. The entire purpose of a cover letter is to get them interested in reading your resume. You want to spend as much time as possible on your own work.

How to End a Cover Letter

Conclusion: This is where you establish the future. Talk about opportunities. The opportunities you feel you can help the company take advantage of. The targets and outcomes you envision. Then end with a strong call-to-action. A call-to-action should motivate the reader while matching the tone of the rest of the letter.

Call-To-Action Examples

“I would appreciate the opportunity of an interview.” – Demonstrates humility

“I’m excited to learn more about your company, and would love to discuss further.” – Demonstrates curiosity

Writing a Cover Letter: The Step by Step Process

To write an effective cover letter you need a strategy based on your needs. If you want to apply to many jobs and have a competitive edge, you should write a general cover letter. It will emphasize your strengths you will appear as a well-rounded individual. If you want to land your dream job or a specialized job position, you should write a specialized cover letter. It should make you seem like an expert in your field.

Writing a General Cover Letter

As discussed, a general cover letter is intended to be sent to multiple jobs. For it to be effective you must prove that your general qualities are strong enough to warrant an interview rather than any specific knowledge that you possesses. They require less time, but require a lot more strategical effort. Observe the following steps.

Step 1: Perform an Self Examination, Highlight Your Value

For this self-examination, focus on your key personality traits, personal value, work style, professional values, and key interests. For example, some personality traits would be: loyalty, assertiveness, patient, versatile, trustworthy. Some work styles are people who are logical, other’s are more detail oriented, some people are more supportive than original.

Frame these elements in a positive manner when describing yourself. Some industries prefer aggressive professionals rather than more passive ones. Some prefer those who work smarter than they do harder, or vice versa. It’s all about framing your absolute strengths and relative weaknesses as valuable.

Step 2: Build an Outline, Order the Information

To keep your potential employers interested, think about the information that is most valuable to them. What industry are you looking to enter? If you’re entering the healthcare field, they will care a lot more about people who describe themselves as motivated and hardworking. If you are entering the legal field, they might care more about trustworthiness and responsibility. Lead with the strongest information.

Generally for technical fields you want to lead with your personal value and accomplishments. For more creative fields lead with your personality traits or interests. Your goal is to hit them with interesting information, and then keep hitting them with it until they get to the end of your letter and they’re looking for more. That’s when they’re interested in your resume and reach out to you for an interview.

Step 3: Revision and Feedback Phase

Since this is a general cover letter you want to keep it concise with your strongest pieces of information. Don’t repeat information multiple times. Layout your key strengths and then at the end you can recap the top information. For example, “If you’re looking for a loyal detail-oriented analyst, check out my accomplishments and I would love the opportunity to contribute to your team.” Afterwards, have a third party check for spelling and grammar. It could be a writing app or a professional editor.

Real Estate Agent Cover Letter

Writing a Specialized Cover Letter

A specialized cover letter is a more in-depth and targeted version of a traditional cover letter. Instead of focusing on your general qualifications and skills, a specialized cover letter focuses on your specific knowledge and experience that would be relevant to the specific company or position you are applying for. This type of cover letter is more effective for higher-level positions, specialist roles, and dream jobs. This is because it shows the hiring manager that you have done your research and that you are genuinely interested in the company and the position.

Writing a specialized cover letter takes more time and effort than writing a traditional cover letter. However, it is worth the investment if you are serious about getting the job. To write a specialized cover letter, you will need to do some research on the company and the position you are applying for. You should also carefully read the job description and highlight the specific skills and experience that you have that are relevant to the position.

Step 1: Do Some Basic Research, then Self-Examine.

Find out more about the company that you’re applying to and the specific job you want. Usually, this begins with analyzing the job description, then reaching out to other materials produced by the company. Most companies have a blog, about page, or social media. You need information about the culture of the organization, their current projects, and the problems they’re facing. Think about how you can fit into that profile. What do you share in common with them? How can you solve some of their problems?

Once you’ve answered those questions, look at the qualities within yourself just as you did in the general cover letter. The difference here is that you are looking for qualities that cross-align with the job position. Go back to the job description, how can you prove that you’re the best candidate? Remember, that you are looking for qualities that company believe you need, not just the ones you think are relevant. You can even reach out to hiring managers or customer support to ask them questions about the jobs there.

Step 2: Build a Strategy, What is Important to Them?

The purpose of a cover letter strategy is to prove that you are the best candidate for the job. Your goal should be designing your cover letter to speak about how your experience resolves the companies needs and provides potential for growth. There is no strategy that fits every industry sector but there is a common framework you can use.

Ask three questions. Who is this employers target audience? What is preventing this employer from reaching or connecting with their target audience? How can you help this employer reach their target audience? Once you’ve figured that out, you are far more likely to connect with the employer.

Step 3: Explain Your Value, Why YOU?

Your resume will establish how you provide value, but this is your chance to explain why it will provide value. Why do you take the actions you performed to achieve the results you do? Is it your experience with the audience, do you have a secret formula that you follow? You don’t have to get detailed, that’s what the interview is for. Just explain how your competitive edge is worth more than the rest. Be proud of your background and talk about those experiences, as well as how your work style navigated them.

Step 4: Focus on Future Opportunities, Where can you help?

You’ve explored the past, now it’s time to explore the future. What do you want to do for this company? Do you want to contribute to it’s internal growth? Do you want to guide them in the right direction? Focus on the opportunities the company can take advantage of. Communities they can’t reach, government benefits they’re unaware of, discoveries they’ve overlooked. If you can show them the right direction they will be thankful for it.

Step 5: Revision and Feedback Phase.

Once you’ve completed the content, it’s time to check for errors and gather feedback. Make sure that the contact information for both you and the hiring manager are correct. Check the content for any weak or confusing information. Once that is done, have a third party check for grammar and spelling. This could be a writing app, word processor, or another human. You don’t want the same person writing to be the one to edit the material.

Reflection

Be proud. You’ve put in a lot of effort and discovered more about yourself and the company you want to work for! If you want more information, browse around the website.

Hiring a Cover Letter Writer

If this seems like too much time or effort for you, it’s probably best you just hire a cover letter writer. You can check out our cover letter writing service. All you need to submit are your current resume-related documents and fill out a short survey.

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