How to Write a Cover Letter in 2024 + Examples
After weeks of heavy job search, you’re almost there!
You’ve perfected your resume.
You’ve short-listed the coolest jobs you want to apply for.
You’ve even had a friend train you for every single interview question out there.
But then, before you can send your application and call it a day, you remember that the job ad requires a cover letter.
Now you’re stuck wondering how to write a cover letter ...
Don’t panic! We’ve got you covered. Writing a cover letter is a lot simpler than you might think.
In this guide, we’re going to teach you how to write a cover letter that gets you the job you deserve.
- What’s a cover letter & why it’s important for your job search
- How to write a convincing cover letter that gets you the job (step-by-step!)
- How to perfect your cover letter with the Novoresume free checklist
- What excellent cover letter examples look like
New to cover letter writing? Give our resumes 101 video a watch before diving into the article!
So, let’s get started with the basics!
What is a Cover Letter? (and Why It’s Important)
A cover letter is a one-page document that you submit as part of your job application (alongside your CV or Resume).
Its purpose is to introduce you and briefly summarize your professional background. On average, your cover letter should be from 250 to 400 words long .
A good cover letter can spark the HR manager’s interest and get them to read your resume.
A bad cover letter, on the other hand, might mean that your application is going directly to the paper shredder. So, to make sure this doesn’t happen, it’s essential to know how to write a convincing cover letter.
How does a good cover letter look, you might ask. Well, here’s an example:
Keep in mind, though, that a cover letter is a supplement to your resume, not a replacement. Meaning, you don’t just repeat whatever is mentioned in your resume.
If you’re writing a cover letter for the first time, writing all this might seem pretty tough. After all, you’re probably not a professional writer.
The thing is, though, you don’t need to be creative, or even any good at writing. All you have to do is follow a tried-and-tested format:
- Header - Input contact information
- Greeting the hiring manager
- Opening paragraph - Grab the reader’s attention with 2-3 of your top achievements
- Second paragraph - Explain why you’re the perfect candidate for the job
- Third paragraph - Explain why you’re a good match for the company
- Formal closing
Or, here’s what this looks like in practice:
How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter (And Get Hired!)
Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, we’re going to guide you through the process of writing a cover letter step by step.
Step #1 - Pick the Right Cover Letter Template
A good cover letter is all about leaving the right first impression.
So, what’s a better way to leave a good impression than a well-formatted, visual template?
You can simply pick one of our hand-picked cover letter templates , and you’ll be all set in a jiffy!
As a bonus, our AI will even give you suggestions on how to improve your cover letter on the go.
Step #2 - Start the Cover Letter with a Header
As with a resume, it’s important to start your cover letter with a Contact Information section:
Here, you want to include all essential information, including:
- Phone Number
- Name of the hiring manager / their professional title
- Name of the company you’re applying to
In certain cases, you might also consider adding:
- Social Media Profiles - Any type of profile that’s relevant to your field. Social Profiles on websites like LinkedIn, GitHub (for developers), Medium (for writers), etc.
- Personal Website - If you have a personal website that somehow adds value to your application, you can mention it. Let’s say you’re a professional writer. In that case, you’d want to link to your blog.
And here’s what you shouldn’t mention in your header:
- Your Full Address
- Unprofessional Email - Make sure your email is presentable. It’s pretty hard for a hiring manager to take you seriously if your email address is “[email protected].” Whenever applying for jobs, stick to the “[first name] + [last name] @ email provider.com” format.
Step #3 - Greet the Hiring Manager
Once you’ve properly listed your contact information, you need to start writing the cover letter contents.
The first thing to do here is to address the cover letter to the hiring manager .
That’s right, the hiring manager! Not the overly popular “Dear Sir or Madam.” You want to show your future boss that you did your research and are really passionate about working with their team.
No one wants to hire a job seeker who just spams 20+ companies and hopes to get hired in any of them.
So, how do you find out who’s the hiring manager? There are several ways to do this.
The simplest option is to look up the head of the relevant department on LinkedIn. Let’s say you’re applying for the position of a Communication Specialist at Novoresume. The hiring manager is probably Head of Communications or Chief Communications Office.
So, you do a quick lookup on LinkedIn:
And voila! You have your hiring manager.
Or let’s say you’re applying for the position of a server. In that case, you’d be looking for the “restaurant manager.”
If this doesn’t work, you can also check out the “Team” page on the company website; there’s a good chance you’ll at least find the right person there.
Here are several other greetings you could use:
- Dear [Department] Hiring Manager
- Dear Hiring Manager
- To whom it may concern
- Dear [Department] Team
Step #4 - Write an Attention-Grabbing Introduction
First impressions matter, especially when it comes to your job search.
Recruiters get hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of applications. Chances are, they’re not going to be reading every single cover letter end-to-end.
So, it’s essential to catch their attention from the very first paragraph .
The #1 problem we see with most cover letter opening paragraphs is that they’re usually extremely generic. Most of them look something like this..
- Hey, my name is Jonathan and I’d like to work as a Sales Manager at XYZ Inc. I’ve worked as a sales manager at MadeUpCompany Inc. for 5+ years, so I believe that I’d be a good fit for the position.
See the issue here? This opening paragraph doesn’t say pretty much anything except the fact that you’ve worked the job before.
Do you know who else has similar work experience? All the other applicants you’re competing with.
Instead, you want to start off with 2-3 of your top achievements to really grab the reader’s attention. Preferably, the achievements should be as relevant as possible to the position.
So now, let’s make our previous example shine:
My name’s Michael and I’d like to help XYZ Inc. hit and exceed their sales goals as a Sales Manager. I’ve worked with Company X, a fin-tech company, for 3+ years. As a Sales Representative, I generated an average of $30,000+ in sales per month (beating the KPIs by around 40%). I believe that my previous industry experience, as well as excellence in sales, makes me the right candidate for the job.
See the difference between the two examples? If you were the hiring manager, which sales manager would you hire, Jonathan or Michael?
Now that we’ve covered the introduction, let’s talk about the body of your cover letter. This part is split into two paragraphs: the first is for explaining why you’re the perfect person for the job, and the latter is for proving that you’re a good fit for the company.
So, let’s get started...
Step #5 - Explain why you’re the perfect person for the job
This is where you show off your professional skills and convince the HR manager that you’re a better fit for the job than all the other applicants.
But first things first - before you even write anything, you need to learn what the most important requirements for the role are. So, open up the job ad and identify which of the responsibilities are the most critical.
For the sake of the example, let’s say you’re applying for the position of a Facebook Advertiser. You scan the job ad and see that the top requirements are:
- Experience managing a Facebook ad budget of $10,000+ / month
- Some skills in advertising on other platforms (Google Search + Twitter)
- Excellent copywriting skills
Now, in this section, you need to discuss how you fulfill these requirements. So, here’s how that would look for our example:
In my previous role as a Facebook Marketing Expert at XYZ Inc. I handled customer acquisition through ads, managing a monthly Facebook ad budget of $20,000+ . As the sole digital marketer at the company, I managed the ad creation & management process end-to-end. Meaning, I created the ad copy , images, picked the targeting, ran optimization trials, and so on.
Other than Facebook advertising, I’ve also delved into other online PPC channels, including:
- Google Search
Are you a student applying for your first internship? You probably don’t have a lot of work experience to show off in this section. Learn how to write an internship cover letter here.
Step #6 - Explain why you’re a good fit for the company
Once you’ve written the last paragraph, you might be thinking - I’m a shoo-in for the job! What else do I need to write? I’ll just wrap up the cover letter and hit that sweet SEND button.
Well, no. You’re not quite there yet.
The HR manager doesn’t only look at whether you’ll be good at the job or not. They’re looking for someone that’s also a good fit for the company culture.
After all, employees that don’t fit in are bound to quit, sooner or later. This ends up costing the company a ton of money, up to 50% of the employee’s annual salary .
Meaning, you also need to convince the HR manager that you’re really passionate about working with them.
How do you do this? Well, as a start, you want to do some research about the company. You want to know things like:
- What’s the company’s business model?
- What’s the company product or service? Have you used it?
- What’s the culture like? Will someone micro-manage your work, or will you have autonomy on how you get things done?
So, get to Googling. Chances are, you’ll find all the information you need either on the company website or somewhere around the web.
Then, you need to figure out what you like about the company and turn that into text.
Let’s say, for example, you’re passionate about their product and you like the culture of innovation / independent work in the organization.
You’d write something like:
I’ve personally used the XYZ Smartphone, and I believe that it’s the most innovative tech I’ve used in years. The features such as Made-Up-Feature #1 and Made-Up-Feature #2 were real game changers for the device.
I really admire how Company XYZ thrives for excellence for all its product lines, creating market-leading tech. As someone that thrives in a self-driven environment, I truly believe that I and Company XYZ will be a great match.
What you don’t want to do here is be super generic for the sake of having something to write. Most job seekers tend to mess this one up. Let’s take a look at a very common example we tend to see (way too often):
I’d love to work for Company XYZ because of its culture of innovation. I believe that since I’m super creative, I’d be a good fit for the company. The company values of integrity and transparency really vibe with me.
See what’s wrong here? The example doesn’t really say anything about the company. “Culture of Innovation” is something most companies claim to have.
The same goes for “values of integrity and transparency” - the writer just googled what the values for the organization are, and said that they like them.
Any hiring manager that reads this will see through the fluff.
So, make sure to do a lot of research and come up with good reasons why you're applying.
Step #7 - Wrap up with a call to action
Finally, it’s time to finish up your cover letter and write the conclusion.
In the final paragraph, you want to:
- Wrap up any points you couldn't in the previous paragraphs. Do you have anything left to say? Any other information that could help the hiring manager make their decision? Mention it here.
- Thank the hiring manager for their time. It never hurts to be courteous, as long as you don’t come off as too needy.
- Finish the cover letter with a call to action. The very last sentence in your cover letter should be a call to action. You should ask the hiring manager to take some sort of action.
And now, let’s turn this into a practical example:
So to wrap it all up, thanks for looking into my application. I hope I can help Company X make the most out of their Facebook marketing initiatives. I'd love to further discuss how my previous success at XYZ Inc. can help you achieve your facebook marketing goals.
Step #8 - Use the right formal closing
Once you’re done with the final paragraph, all you have to do is write down a formal “goodbye” and you’re good to go.
Feel free to use one of the most popular conclusions to a cover letter:
- Best Regards,
- Kind Regards,
And we’re finally done! Before sending off the cover letter, make sure to proofread it with software like Grammarly, or maybe even get a friend to review it for you.
Does your cover letter heading include all essential information?
- Professional email
- Relevant Social Media Profiles
Do you address the right person? I.e. hiring manager in the company / your future direct supervisor
Does your introductory paragraph grab the reader's attention?
- Did you mention 2-3 of your top achievements?
- Did you use numbers and facts to back up your experience?
Do you successfully convey that you’re the right pro for the job?
- Did you identify the core requirements?
- Did you successfully convey how your experiences help you fit the requirements perfectly?
Do you convince the hiring manager that you’re passionate about the company you’re applying to?
- Did you identify the top 3 things that you like about the company?
- Did you avoid generic reasons for explaining your interest in the company?
Did you finalize the conclusion with a call to action?
Did you use the right formal closure for the cover letter?
5+ Cover Letter Examples
Need some inspiration? Read on to learn about some of the best cover letter examples we’ve seen (for different fields).
College Student Cover Letter Example
Middle Management Cover Letter Example
Career Change Cover Letter Example
Management Cover Letter Example
Senior Executive Cover Letter Example
Want to discover more examples AND learn what makes them stand out? Check out our guide to cover letter examples .
Next Steps in Your Job Search - Creating a Killer Resume
Your cover letter is only as good as your resume. If either one is weak, your entire application is for naught.
After all, a cover letter is just an introduction. Imagine going through all this effort to leave an amazing first impression, but flopping at the end because of a mediocre resume.
...But don’t you worry, we’ve got you covered on that end, too.
If you want to learn more about Resumes & CVs, we have a dedicated FREE guide for that. Check out our complete guide on how to make a resume , as well as how to write a CV - our experts will teach you everything you need to know in order to land your dream job.
Or, if you’re already an expert, just pick one of our resume templates and get started.
Now that we’ve walked you through all the steps of writing a cover letter, let’s summarize everything we’ve learned:
- A cover letter is a 250 - 400 word document that convinces the hiring manager of your competence
- A cover letter goes in your job application alongside your resume
- Your introduction to the cover letter should grab the hiring manager’s attention and keep it all the way until the conclusion
- There are 2 main topics you need to include in your cover letter: why you’re the perfect candidate for the job & why you’re passionate about working in the company you’re applying to
- Most of the content of your cover letter should be factual , without any fluff or generalizations
At Novorésumé, we’re committed to helping you get the job you deserve, every step of the way! Follow our blog to stay up to date with the industry-leading advice. Or, check out some of our top guides…
- How to Write a Motivational Letter
- How to Write a Resume with No Work Experience
- Most Common Interview Questions and Answers
Should You Always Include a Cover Letter?
By Biron Clark
Published: November 10, 2023
Writer & Career Coach
The little-known truth about cover letters is: You do NOT always need to include a cover letter when applying for jobs, and you may be wasting hours sending cover letters that employers won’t read.
So if you’re wondering whether you should always submit a cover letter with your job application and resume, then keep reading.
After working for years as a recruiter, I’m going to share the exact situations where you should provide a cover letter and the situations where it’s not needed.
Should You Always Submit a Cover Letter?
Many people on LinkedIn and other sites will tell you that you should include a cover letter every time because it “can’t hurt,” but that’s not true…
Here’s how it CAN hurt you…
Writing a great cover letter takes a LOT of time and mental energy. So if it’s not making a difference, or not even getting read, then it is hurting you in terms of wasted time and energy (I’d argue that writing a cover letter is the toughest and most time-consuming part of the process for many job seekers).
Writing a resume is tough, sure. But once you get it, you’re done. You spend 5-15 minutes tailoring it for each specific job you apply for, but that’s it.
Cover letters take a lot of time EVERY time (at least when done right).
That’s why it’s important to look at how important a cover letter is, and which situations it’s necessary and truly beneficial in.
3 Situations Where You Need to Send a Cover Letter:
There are a couple of specific scenarios where cover letters are necessary, and you should send one. This article by Harvard Business Review says it best:
In those cases, according to Harvard Business Review, you can boost your chances of getting the interview by writing a short letter to point out similarities between your resume and the job requirements (e.g. why you’d do well in their job )… rather than leaving the analysis entirely up to the hiring manager.
But this is only worth doing if you meet one or more of the criteria above, or a few other situations I’ll explain below…
Two more cases where you may want to include a cover letter:
First, you should send a cover letter if an employer specifically says it’s required on their website or job application form (however, having an optional field to include it is not the same as asking for it or saying it’s required).
And second, you should send a letter if you have a large gap in employment or something unusual in your background that you feel the need to explain, and you don’t feel your resume explains it well enough on its own.
(Although I do like addressing gaps in employment directly on your resume employment history section when possible. For example, if you took a year off to raise a kid, you could say: “2018-2019: One-year break from work to raise first child.” So do try to explain this type of thing on your resume if you can!)
When You Don’t Need a Cover Letter:
If you don’t fall into any of the situations we looked at above, then a cover letter is not needed.
For example, if you’re just applying for jobs online via job boards , via LinkedIn, on company websites via their “careers” page, etc., then I’d skip it! Send your resume and let it speak for itself. (And if you don’t have a great resume yet, you can get help here. )
In my opinion, the extra time and effort just isn’t worth it when you’re applying online with no prior relationship, no referral, and no special knowledge of the hiring manager or job requirements that you can use to make your case for why they should interview you.
This is one reason I love LinkedIn EasyApply as a part of an online job search – because a cover letter is not required or even expected.
Of course, the final judgment call is yours!
If you’re applying to your dream employer and you don’t mind spending an hour writing up a great cover letter, then go ahead! It can’t hurt in a one-off scenario like this.
But the main point I’m trying to make here is:
You should be selective about when to send a cover letter, rather than feeling obligated to send it by default.
Recap: How Important is a Cover Letter?
The answer to how important a cover letter is depends on the hiring process and situation. If you read the information above, you now know when a cover letter is necessary/recommended, and when you probably shouldn’t bother.
And you’ve seen that cover letters do matter in some cases, but that doesn’t mean that you always need to send a cover letter.
And as mentioned earlier, the main benefit of this approach is time savings…
When you look at how much time and effort goes into writing each of these letters, it can add up to hours or days of wasted time if you’re sending cover letters without analyzing whether it’s necessary for the situation.
Tips for Writing a Good Cover Letter:
Now that we’ve answered whether a cover letter is necessary, and when it’s important, here are some tips and resources to help you in situations where you decide a cover letter is needed:
First, I’d always recommend keeping it brief, easy to read (no huge paragraphs or blocks of text without spacing), and personal.
It should feel like you’re talking directly to them! That means start with “Dear Bethany”, (for example), not with, “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Recruiter”.
(Recruiters almost never care about a cover letter anyway. It should be for the hiring manager).
Also, make sure you’re saying the word “you” at least as often as you say the word “I”. Talk about their needs and their company, not just about yourself .
The purpose of your cover letter is to point out similarities between your background and the employer’s job requirements. You want to demonstrate why you’re likely to succeed in their specific role, to sell them on interviewing you! And you cannot do this without researching their job and understanding/discussing their job. So this letter isn’t just about you , it’s about them just as much.
To help you further, we’ve published two articles here on Career Sidekick with great cover letter info:
- 3 steps to writing a cover letter that stands out
- How to write a cover letter with no experience
If you follow the steps above, you’ll save time in your job search and maximize the number of interviews you get for the effort you put into your job applications!
About the Author
Read more articles by Biron Clark
How to Write a Graphic Designer Cover Letter (3 Examples)
How to write a paralegal cover letter (2 examples), how to write a medical assistant cover letter (3 examples), how to write a research assistant cover letter (3 examples), how to write a software engineer cover letter (3 examples), how to write a hr cover letter (4 examples), how to write a data analyst cover letter (3 examples), how to write a bartender cover letter (3 examples), 5 thoughts on “should you always include a cover letter”.
Good stuff Biron! This is why Career Sidekick is my go-to career blog, I really admire how you take a contrarian approach to conventional job search/career wisdom!
Seems like almost every other career blog advises you to always submit a cover letter. Too bad these folks don’t consider the most important asset we all have: time!
Would being graduated out of college for 1.5 years and haven’t “launched” your career yet – getting a job in the field you got a degree in – count as something “unusual on your background” that you would need a cover letter for?
Thanks for the kind words. I don’t think you’d need a cover letter for this. Just make sure to “tailor” your resume to show the most relevant pieces of the work you have done, and to show your relevant educational background/degree. But if you’re not getting results with your resume, then it’s worth testing/trying a cover letter. My guess is that it’s not needed, and perfecting your resume will get more interviews.
Thanks for the advice Biron!
If I understand you correctly, is this an instance where you would recommend NOT using a chronological work history on a resume then?
And instead break up work experience history into a “relevant” and “other work experience” sections, since we’re trying to show specific relevant pieces of experience and educational background/degree?
I’d still keep it chronological. Just show the most relevant pieces of each past role, for the job you want now.
How about in my situation? I am looking for a job in marketing, but it has been five years and a few jobs since marketing has been the primary function of my job. My last few jobs have had a very little marketing focus and have been training, technical or sales in focus. Should I always write a cover letter to explain this when I am applying for marketing jobs?
Comments are closed.
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Are Cover Letters Necessary?
Do cover letters matter these days? It depends on who you ask.
Some recruiters love learning more about each job applicant, while others find the practice antiquated. So should you write one if it might not even be read at all?
Keep reading for advice from career coaching experts, plus:
- When you should (and shouldn't) write a cover letter
- What to do when a cover letter is "optional"
- Tips for writing an effective cover letter
- What an effective cover letter template looks like
Do I Need a Cover Letter ?
In most cases, yes—you should submit a cover letter with your resume.
While the cover letter has increasingly become a divisive topic among recruiters and job seekers , it's still often listed as a requirement on job applications .
But regardless, many recruiters still think cover letters are important.
According to a 2023 study by recruitment website Zippia , more than a fourth (26 percent) of recruiters "always read cover letters " and think they're an important component of the hiring decision. And almost half (45 percent) said that not including a cover letter could get your application rejected.
So in most cases, it's best to be cautious and include one.
In short, including a cover letter will almost never hurt your job search —but it can help.
- It can help you stand out from the crowd . Recruiters read through countless resumes for just one role. If you have similar qualifications as other candidates, a cover letter allows you to showcase your personality and unique skills.
- It shows you're willing to go the extra mile . Searching for a new job is already a lot of effort, so it may be difficult to rationalize writing a customized cover letter for each role. But the Zippia study found that 61 percent of hiring managers consider a customized resume (with a cover letter, portfolio link, etc.) the "number one tactic for applicants to boost their chances of getting a job."
- You can address potential biases . In a perfect world, recruiters wouldn't count you out based on things like employment gaps or " job hopping ." Career coach Marlo Lyons recommends using your cover letter to "fill in any gaps" and provide context about these types of situations so recruiters don't get the wrong impression.
When You Should Include a Cover Letter
It's ultimately up to you whether you include a cover letter.
Octavia Goredema, career coach and author of Prep, Push, Pivot , says that the decision to submit a cover letter hinges on "where you are in your career journey and your personal career goals."
In addition to when it's a required part of the job posting, here are scenarios where it's in your best interest to submit one:
- If someone referred you to the job : According to Goredema, "If you were referred to an opportunity by someone at the company or have a personal history that correlates with the role, a cover letter enables you to share that."
- If you want to add additional information : Say the job you're applying to requires candidates to live on a specific coast. If you don't currently live in the area but are willing to relocate, mention that in your cover letter so you aren't automatically rejected based on your current location.
- If you're changing careers : Goredema recommends writing one "if you're in the early stages of your career or making a professional pivot. A cover letter provides the opportunity to add additional context to the information included in your resume."
- If you don't have any previous work experience : If you're new to the workforce, you may not have any applicable previous positions to include on your resume. Use your cover letter to highlight transferrable skills and explain why you think you'd still be a good fit.
Lastly, Goredema suggests that "if this is your dream job, a cover letter provides the space for you to explain with impact and highlight what you do best."
Debra Boggs, founder and CEO of D&S Executive Career Management, adds: "As long as a cover letter is well-written and error-free, it will never hurt your chances of winning an interview."
So the more important the role is to you, the more effort you should put in.
When You Shouldn't Include a Cover Letter
There are certainly times when you should send a cover letter with your resume—but are there times when you shouldn't send one in? Here are a few instances:
- If the application platform doesn't have a space to upload one : If there isn't a space for you to attach your cover letter or other supporting documents, don't sweat it. This means that other applicants won't be able to send one either.
- If the job posting doesn't require one : If the post specifically states that you shouldn't include a cover letter, it's not a trick. The recruiter likely doesn't plan to read it, so it's best to reserve your time for other job search activities .
- If you aren't a strong writer : Lyons recommends forgoing a cover letter if you aren't a good writer and don't have anyone to help you. "The cover letter could be your first impression, and a badly written one—especially with grammatical errors—could make recruiters not want to screen you for the job."
- If you don't have time : Strapped for time? Goredema suggests "[focusing] on your resume and the application requirements versus haphazardly throwing together a few sentences just to meet an application deadline."
What To Do When a Cover Letter is 'Optional'
"Optional" cover letters can feel like a trick. You want to show the recruiter you're interested in the role, but you don't want to waste your time if it isn't necessary.
Lyons recommends skipping the optional cover letter "if your resume and LinkedIn profile are complete and no further explanation is needed."
However, it can be helpful to write one if "your resume doesn't tell the whole story about you." (Think resume gaps or career changes.)
Goredema believes it can be helpful to include a cover letter, regardless of whether it's a requirement. "Why not take the opportunity? It may help you to stand out. Going the extra mile by sending a well-written, personalized cover letter can only work to your advantage versus working against you."
So it can be helpful to put in extra effort if you have more to add to your application. But you shouldn't include a subpar cover letter just for the sake of it.
7 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter
Regardless of your feelings toward the now-controversial cover letter, you'll likely find yourself writing one for at least some of the jobs you apply to.
Here's how to draft one that actually grabs a recruiter's attention:
1. Keep Things Short
Lyons suggests writing "three to four paragraphs at most, with two to three sentences in each paragraph."
Goredema adds: "Avoid long rambling sentences and keep your letter concise to make it easy to read."
Even if a particular recruiter loves cover letters, they might sift through hundreds of applications to find the right candidates. So it's best to be brief.
2. Follow the Rules
Some recruiters will ask you to include a portfolio link, send the cover letter via email, ask you to answer specific questions, etc. Be sure to fully read the job post's requirements—you don't want to be counted out for failing to follow directions.
3. Don't Repeat Your Resume
Lyons cautions repeating information the recruiter already has access to. Instead, "Tell the story of you—something important that you did not cover on your resume and how that story connects to the current position."
Think of it as connecting the dots between your experience, skills and capabilities. Explain why you'd be a good fit for the role rather than repeating the skills section of your resume .
4. Use Active Voice and Action Verbs
With active voice, the subject of a sentence performs the action. Passive voice puts more emphasis on the object of the sentence.
Using active voice is more direct and straightforward. Plus, it helps keep things brief.
Aim to use active voice throughout your resume and cover letter. This will help you sound clear and confident.
Here's an example of passive voice, plus how to fix it to use active voice:
- Passive voice : The treats were eaten by the dogs.
- Active voice : The dogs ate the treats.
If you struggle with writing in active voice consistently, think about the action verbs you'd use to describe your skills and experiences.
For example, instead of "I was tasked with x," you could say, "I managed x."
5. Be Specific
Include specific examples (i.e., instead of "I'm a team player," allude to a situation where you were a team player). If you've ever taken a writing course, you've probably heard the advice "show don't tell." The same advice applies to your resume and cover letter.
You could say "I have marketing experience," but what does that communicate to the reader? Not much.
Be specific about your experience and accomplishments. Instead, say "I led a marketing campaign that increased quarterly newsletter sign-ups by 40%."
Check your cover letter for grammar and spelling mistakes before submitting it to avoid a professional faux pas.
Use spellcheck or an external app like Grammarly, which is also compatible with web browsers.
7. Customize It
At best, a generic cover letter is boring or a little awkward. At worst, it can be unprofessional if what you wrote about has nothing to do with the job you're applying for.
Think about it this way: your cover letter might be the deciding factor between you and another candidate with the same skills and experience. So you want to grab the recruiter's attention.
You don't need to spend tons of time rewriting your cover letter for every job application, though. Here are a few things you can do to stand out:
- Address the hiring manager or recruiter by name (you can sometimes find this information on the LinkedIn job post)
- Include the company name and job title
- Mention what you like about the specific company and its culture
- Detail skills and experience specifically mentioned on the job post
Boggs advises to "create a template that you can easily customize to include the relevant skills and experience for each job and employer."
Read on for inspiration for your own template.
Cover Letter Template
It can be time-consuming to write a new cover letter for every job application. Here's a template you can customize for different positions:
Dear [name of recruiter, "hiring manager"] , I saw the job posting for [exact title of role] and am excited about the opportunity. [1-2 sentences detailing why you're interested in the role/company.] In my previous role, [brief description of your accomplishments beyond what your resume states.] I also have [1-2 sentences detailing relevant experience, including specific skills and level of proficiency.] [If applicable: include a short paragraph with a link to your portfolio or any other relevant links.] Thank you for your time—if you'd like to schedule an interview, please feel free to contact me [brief description of the best time and method for contact.] Sincerely, [Your Name] [Phone Number] [Email]
Cover Letter FAQs
Still wondering if you need a cover letter for your specific situation? Or if recruiters actually read every cover letter? Read on for answers.
Do I Need a Cover Letter for a Part-Time Job?
The same advice applies to part-time jobs—cover letters aren't always necessary, but they can help you stand out. If you're especially interested in a part-time role, it's a good idea to submit a cover letter.
Do I Need a Cover Letter for an Internship?
Many people who apply for internships don't have significant prior work experience, so a cover letter is especially helpful here.
Instead of previous jobs, you can talk about:
- Your education
- Extra-curricular activities
- Transferrable skills
- Volunteer experience
You can include similar points if you're looking for an entry-level job and don't have prior work experience.
Can I Use AI To Write a Cover Letter?
Proceed with caution when using ChatGPT or a similar tool to write content for you. Employers may be using AI content detectors to identify which candidates used a shortcut.
AI programs like ChatGPT create content based on their existing libraries, so content is never really "new." Meaning it's impossible to tell if you're accidentally plagiarizing someone unless you heavily edit the chatbot's answers.
Goredema points out a potential pitfall in relying too heavily on AI: "If your goal is to get an interview, you don't want there to be a huge gap between how you communicate on paper versus how you communicate in person ."
Here are a few ways you can use AI to add to the writing process :
- Checking for active voice
- Adding action verbs
- Creating a rough draft
- Checking your writing tone
Do Recruiters Actually Read Your Cover Letter?
The big question—is the effort behind your cover letter worth it? Again, there's no perfect answer.
The most important thing is to ensure hiring managers have all the information they need to fairly consider you for a position.
Boggs cautions: "Remember, not all recruiters and hiring managers read cover letters, so
make sure to include all your relevant qualifications and accomplishments
in your resume as well, so these details don't get missed."
But there are other creative ways to stand out apart from a cover letter.
According to Goredema, "The general feedback I hear from the recruiters I work with is that a resume accompanied by their LinkedIn profile supersedes a cover letter because they will tell a recruiter at first glance what they need to know about a candidate."
So, are cover letters really necessary these days?
Lyons says that recruiters primarily care about two things:
- "Does an applicant have the skills and capabilities to do the job?"
- "Will the applicant fit the culture of the team and the company?"
Cover letters can help you stand out among a sea of applicants or explain difficult job situations—so in most cases, it's helpful to include one with your resume.
But whether you decide to send a cover letter with your resume or not, be sure the recruiter has all the information they need to be confident about you and your experience.
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- Cover Letter Tips
Should You Combine Your Cover Letter and Resume into One Document?
The internet has impacted virtually every area of life, including the job search process. Gone are the days when a job seeker would simply hand an employer a cover letter and resume in paper form. Today, more companies than ever accept digital copies of those job search documents.
In fact, many companies and employers now only accept emailed digital cover letters and resumes so they can make use of applicant tracking systems (ATS). Unfortunately, there’s been little effort to standardize submission processes, and that can make it a little confusing for the average job seeker.
For example, how should you submit your emailed resume and cover letter? Should you send them separately or combine them into one document? In this post, we’ll examine both options and offer the advice you need to make the best decision.
What’s the difference between a cover letter and resume?
Before you decide whether to combine your cover letter and resume into one document, it is helpful to make sure that you fully understand each of these important tools. The fact is that each of these documents has its own role to play in the job search process, and they have some major differences:
Each of these documents serves a distinct purpose in the job search process. Resumes are designed to provide an employer with an easy way to quickly assess your qualifications. The main purpose of a cover letter is to help the employer understand your motivations, goals, and personality. Both are important documents, but they are not interchangeable.
Your cover letter should be a targeted document that focuses on your qualifications for a specific job role. It should contain information about why you are the best candidate for the position and what you hope to achieve for the employer if you are hired. Your resume is more of a marketing tool that highlights your skills, relevant work experience , and educational qualifications in an easily digested summarized format.
Structure and format
These two documents also have dramatically different structures and formats . Your resume will be divided into specific sections for easier consumption and will include bullet point lists of relevant skills and achievements. Cover letters look more like any other written communication, conveying your message in full sentences and paragraphs.
Cover letter and resume: to combine or not to combine?
Let’s get right to the main question here: should you combine your cover letter and resume into one document? As a general rule, you should try to avoid it wherever possible. Since resumes and cover letters serve two very different roles in the job search process, they should be treated as separate documents. The only time you should even consider combining these two documents is when the company has instructed you to do so.
Review the instructions
Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to get the submission guidelines for the position straight from the source. That means asking the company’s hiring manager how your resume and cover letter should be sent. If there are clear instructions, it’s important to follow them to the letter to maximize your chances of receiving the right type of attention. On those rare occasions when a company wants a combined document, the job posting will usually include that instruction.
Why you should not combine these two documents
In most instances, however, you will discover that the instructions are vague. Perhaps the only instruction is that your resume must be emailed. If that’s the case, then you should always choose to leave these two documents as separate files. There are several very good reasons to do so:
If you include these two tools in one document, applicant tracking systems may reject it. That can happen if the ATS mistakes your cover letter for a resume and assesses it based on its rules for resume approval.
Hiring managers often want to go directly to your resume to review your qualifications. If your cover letter is part of that document, it could be a distraction that frustrates your reader.
Your cover letter and resume serve different purposes. Keeping them separate helps to ensure that each document receives the attention it deserves.
What if employers request that your cover letter and resume be combined?
As we noted above, there may be times when a specific employer requests that a resume and cover letter be sent as one document. Obviously, that request should be honored if you want to be considered for an interview. The important thing then is to ensure that you combine them properly. The following tips can help:
Decide which document you want the employer to see first
Since the cover letter serves as your introduction, there is a case to be made for putting it in the front of the resume. If you want to make sure that the ATS scores your resume properly, however, you may want to put the resume at the beginning of the document. That can also help hiring managers quickly access your qualifications.
Create a new document
Make sure that you create an entirely new document for your combined file. That will enable you to keep them separate for other companies and submissions. Then copy and paste your resume and cover letter into this new document. Be sure to save the file with an appropriate file name. For example: JohnSmithResumeCoverLetter.docx or JohnSmithResumeCoverLetter.pdf.
Use proper formatting
When you paste each document into your combined file, make sure that you retain the original formatting. Also, be sure to include a page break at the end of the first document so that the next document begins on a fresh page.
Submit the combined file
Once you have your new combined file, submit it to the company. If the online job posting includes submission instructions, follow them to the letter. Otherwise, simply send it to the appropriate email address.
How to email your cover letter and resume
When emailing your cover letter and resume, either include the cover letter as an attachment or copy and paste its text into the email message. Don’t do both.
It is generally recommended that you submit both the resume and cover letter as file attachments rather than having any part of them in the body of your email message. What you can include in the email text is confirmation that you have attached the resume and cover letter files.
Of course, you also need to decide whether you want to submit a Word document or a PDF file. Once again, review the job board instructions to see what the company is requesting. If there is no specific option listed, then the best thing to do is to submit each document in a Word file.
Sample cover letter and resume template
Below, you will find a resume and cover letter template that you can use to ensure that your job search documents contain the information that employers want to see. You can use these templates to guide you as you create your own cover letter and resume:
[Your first and last name]
[Your Phone number]
[Your Email address]
[No more than three sentences highlighting your qualifications, experience, and achievements.]
[Bullet point list of your relevant skills. Use multiple columns to list 12-15 top skills ]
[Company name], [city], [state] | [Employment dates]
Job responsibility and achievement
[Repeat employment history for additional jobs, in reverse chronological order]
[Name of school], [city], [state]
[Date you graduated] It should be noted that you don’t have to include education dates if you graduated more than one year ago.
[Name of certification or license, organization providing it, and relevant dates]
Awards and Achievements
[Award, honor, achievement]
Cover letter template
[Your city and state]
[Recipient's first and last name]
Dear [Recipient's name],
My name is [your name] and I am interested in discussing the open [position name] position at your company. I have [length of experience] experience as a [your profession] and am confident that I can provide a great deal of value for your company if hired.
I have recently been employed at [relevant employer name], where I was responsible for [cite job duties using keywords that match the skills needed in the open position]. Prior to that, I [provide examples of job duties that show your qualifications to fill the company’s open job]. I would love to have the opportunity to use these skills as part of your team.
I have included my resume with this letter so that you can evaluate my qualifications and experience at your leisure. I appreciate your consideration and look forward to having the opportunity to discuss the position with you in greater detail.
You should choose to send your cover letter and resume as separate documents, unless the company has instructed you to combine them into a single file. More importantly, make sure that you get those critical job search tools into the right hands so that you can increase your chances of landing an interview!
Want to know whether your resume has what it takes to capture a hiring manager’s interest? Get a free resume review from our team of experts today!
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Ken Chase, Freelance Writer
During Ken's two decades as a freelance writer, he has covered everything from banking and fintech to business management and the entertainment industry. His true passion, however, has always been focused on helping others achieve their career goals with timely job search and interview advice or the occasional resume consultation. When he's not working, Ken can usually be found adventuring with family and friends or playing fetch with his demanding German Shepherd. Read more resume advice from Ken on ZipJob’s blog .
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