Your cover letter is often the first thing employers see when reviewing your job application. To get an employer’s attention and convince them to consider seriously consider you seriously for an interview, a cover letter needs to include several key elements within a clear format. Because hiring managers review dozens of job applications every day, they look for specific content in cover letters that tell them the most about the candidate and meet their professional expectations.
In this article, we’ll talk about the key elements of a great cover letter and provide a formula for writing your own.
What is the purpose of a cover letter?
A cover letter introduces you to an employer through a personalized explanation of your qualifications and interest in a position. While a resume shares the technical details of your skills and work experience, a cover letter gives insight into your soft skills, attitude and motivations.
Jessica Hinkle has more than 20 years of experience working in government positions related to human welfare. She has worked as a hiring manager in this field for more than a decade. Here’s what she said about cover letters:
A cover letter helps me decide if I’m interested in reviewing the applicant’s resume and going further in the interviewing process. A cover letter is the first impression I get of an applicant and it’s important to make a good first impression.
Employers use cover letters to get a sense of how well each candidate would fit in with their company culture and use their experience to accomplish the requirements of a position. Strong cover letters provide a clear connection between your goals and a company’s values.
What are the parts of a cover letter?
While cover letters can vary when it comes to content, all cover letters need a few key elements to serve their purpose effectively and showcase the top reasons to hire you. They should also follow a consistent format to make your information well-organized and accessible to employers. A great cover letter uses a logical progression of ideas to advertise your skills.
There are seven sections that every cover letter should include to fit employer expectations and highlight your best qualities:
All cover letters start with a header that includes your contact information. People often use the same header for their cover letter as they use for their resume to create consistency across their entire application. Regardless of the exact format you use, a header should start with your name and include your email, phone number and address on separate lines. Some people include links to their portfolio or social media if that information is relevant to the position.
If you have room on the page, you can also include the name and contact information of the hiring manager or company. People usually include employer contact information on their cover letter if they are submitting a hard copy, but this part of the header is considered optional.
The salutation or greeting of your cover letter is your first chance to differentiate yourself from other applicants by addressing the correct person. Research the name of the hiring manager for each position to show that you have put thought and effort into your application. You can often find this information within the job listing, on the company website, or by calling their office and asking.
If you can’t find a specific name to address your letter to, you can personalize the greeting by referencing the specific department you would be working with. “Dear Hiring Manager” is a standard greeting that is acceptable when their name is not available. Keep your greeting short and professional, using the appropriate honorifics or titles when applicable.
The first paragraph of your cover letter should provide the basic details about who you are and why you want the job. Include the title of the job you are applying for, provide a general overview of why you would excel at the position, and the reasons you are excited about the job. You can mention how you heard about the position and why you decided to apply, which is an especially good strategy if another employee referred you to the position. Review the job posting for the core strengths required for the job and use your introductory paragraph to explain how you exhibit those qualities.
After the introduction, focus on your history and qualifications. This allows you to attract the employer’s attention by immediately sharing how you can benefit their team. Provide more details about the information you include on your resume, and focus on how your experiences specifically apply to the job. Include stories about relevant projects or situations that give insight into how you solve problems and do your work well. Explain how you contributed to the success of past projects and draw attention to the impact of your actions.
5. Values and goals
The next paragraph should demonstrate that you understand the company’s mission and have done research on the position. Focus on how your goals align with theirs and connect to the elements you like about the company culture.
It is so refreshing when you get a cover letter that demonstrates the applicant will be an asset to your team, fit in well with other employees and share the company’s values. I am always anxious to schedule an interview and learn more about them.
Explain how the work you do can mutually benefit your future and the needs of your prospective employer. This section of your cover letter allows you to show that you can not only do the job well but can fit in with a team and bring a positive attitude to the workplace.
6. Call to action
The final paragraph should summarize your interest and suggest the next steps for proceeding with the application. Thank the hiring manager for taking the time to review your application, and express interest in discussing the position or scheduling an interview. Your cover letter should cater to how you can benefit the company, so focus on the skills and talent you hope to bring to their team.
Sign off with a professional closing phrase and your signature or typed name. If you’re emailing your cover letter, be sure that you do not include an unnecessary email signature. Some appropriate closing phrases are:
Cover letter template
Use this template to create a cover letter that includes all of the key elements:
[Your City, State, and Zip Code]
[Your Phone Number]
Dear [Hiring Manager Name or Title],
I am writing in response to your advertisement for the [job title] position at [company name]. I am experienced in [skill set] and am interested in using my knowledge to accomplish [company goals]. I am passionate about [career interest] and motivated by [company mission] and am looking forward to the opportunity to use my unique experience to support your [department name] team.
My recent experience as a [previous job title] has prepared me for this position through extensive training on [technical skills]. I applied those skills during [projects you worked on] and helped my team reach our goal by [positive results of your work]. While at my previous job, I improved operations by [list how you used your soft skills].
I respect [company]’s mission and look forward to participating in a workplace culture that promotes [describe the company’s core values]. I plan to build upon my background as a [field of interest] professional and contribute to [company]’s high standard of service and uphold its reputation within our community. As I grow professionally, I hope to apply [new skills] to [describe work environment] and become a valuable resource for [company].
Thank you for considering me as a candidate for [position]. I appreciate the opportunity to share how I can help support your company’s mission. I look forward to hearing back from you and discussing my application in more detail.
Download the Cover Letter Template
To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.
Cover letter example
Here is an example of a standard cover letter that you can use as a guide when applying for jobs:
July 6, 2020
Dear Ms. Beasley,
I am writing to apply for the hotel manager position at Palladium Suites in Austin, Texas. I have several years of experience in the hospitality and service industry, including managerial training. I hope to use my excellent communication skills and intimate knowledge of day-to-day hotel operations to improve the customer experience and create a culture of excellence at Palladium Suites. I am passionate about providing efficient, quality service to clients and look forward to using my team-building skills as a hotel manager.
As the longtime assistant manager at Serenity Inn, I had the opportunity to act as interim manager while my boss was on leave. This valuable on-the-job training in the duties of a manager at a mid-size hotel has prepared me to take on a full-time managerial role and developed my organizational skills, problem-solving abilities and knowledge of operations. I trained a new assistant manager, managed all employee schedules and coordinated meetings with vendors while improving customer satisfaction ratings by 11%. While working as a concierge, I learned how to anticipate the needs of guests, a skill that helped me create effective protocols for common challenges.
At Palladium Suites, I look forward to sharing a luxury experience with guests and creating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere for visitors and employees alike. My organization and planning skills are well-suited to uphold and improve upon a high standard of customer service. My attention to detail and adaptability make me an ideal candidate for building business relationships and managing hotel staff.
Thank you for considering me as a candidate for the hotel manager position. I appreciate the opportunity to share how I can help support your company’s mission. I look forward to hearing back from you and discussing my application in more detail.
I hope you find this article helpful.