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

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

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What is a cover letter and why is it important?

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.

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

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 

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

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. 

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

Step 2: Add your contact info. At the top of your cover letter, you should list out your basic info.Some contact info you might include is: – Your name – Your pronouns (optional) – Your location (optional) – Your email address – Your phone number (optional) – Your Linkedin, portfolio, or personal website URL 

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

So your header might look like this: Inigo Montoya he/him Florin Metropolitan Area inigo@mynameisinigomontoya.com 555-999-2222

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

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.” But to avoid accidentally using the wrong title, or worse, inadvertently misgendering someone—first and last name also work just fine.

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

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.

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

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].”

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

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 your research on the company (and check out their Muse profile if they have one) to find out.

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

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

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

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:

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

– The job description mentions meeting and exceeding quotas several times. – The company has a very collaborative, cross-departmental approach to solving problems. – The sales department requires a fast learner so the account executive can get up to speed quickly on leads and tailor pitches to their needs.

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

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.

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

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: – What approach did you take to tackling one of the responsibilities you’ve mentioned on your resume?

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

– What details would you include if you were telling someone a (very short!) story about how you accomplished one of your resume bullet points? – What about your personality, passion, or work ethic made you especially good at getting the job done?

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

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.

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

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.

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

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.

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How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love

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.

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Bonus cover letter tips to give you an edge over the competition

-Keep it short and sweet: There are always exceptions to the rule, but in general, for resumes and cover letters alike, don’t go over a page. -Never apologize for your missing experience: When you don’t meet all of the job requirements.

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Bonus cover letter tips to give you an edge over the competition

-Consider writing in the company’s “voice”: Cover letters are a great way to show that you understand the environment and culture of the company and industry. -Go easy on the enthusiasm: We can’t tell you how many cover letters we’ve seen from people who are “absolutely thrilled for the opportunity” or “very excitedly applying!”

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Bonus cover letter tips to give you an edge over the competition

-Strike the right tone: You want to find a balance between being excessively formal in your writing and being too conversational. 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.”

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