How to Write a Cover Letter: The Ultimate Guide and Examples
When it comes to landing a job interview, a good resume is a surefire way to pique the interest of the hiring employer or manager during the recruitment process. But for that resume to be noticed, you need a cover letter.
Many would argue that the cover letter is not that important when submitting a resume as long as you have outlined your skills and passion for working at the position you are applying for.
However, for hiring managers and your future employers, seeing a resume that comes with a cover letter that not only complements it but accentuates its value will take every applicant a long way.
But the question begs, how to write a cover letter that will get you that first-round interview in style? Don’t worry; we elaborate on all of the types of cover letters and how you can navigate this intricate process, equipping you with the knowledge and answering the burning question of how to write a cover letter with no experience.
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Why Are Cover Letters So Important?
Cover letters serve as your first impression to a potential employer, offering a glimpse into your personality, skills, and motivations that a resume alone cannot capture. It provides context to your resume, allowing you to explain why you’re not just a good fit for the job but the best fit.
Compelling cover letters can set you apart from a sea of candidates who may have similar qualifications. It gives you the opportunity to directly address the hiring manager and make a persuasive case for why you should be considered for an interview. In essence, cover letters are your chance to tell your story, and to connect the dots between your previous experiences and the future contributions you plan to make to the company. It allows you to showcase your communication skills, your attention to detail, and your ability to prioritize what matters most to the employer.
Moreover, cover letters demonstrate your research and understanding of the company and its culture, showing that you’re not just interested in any job but specifically in this job at this company. It’s an opportunity to explain any gaps in your employment history or to highlight career achievements that may not be immediately obvious from your resume.
In short, a cover letter complements your resume by providing a narrative structure that places your qualifications and experiences in a framework that makes sense to the hiring manager, thereby increasing the likeability of being noticed and, ultimately, hired.
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Types of Cover Letters
There are three main types of cover letters: Application, prospecting, and networking cover letter.
They all differentiate from one another, but there are also some similarities. Below, we’ll explain each one of them in detail so that next time you’re job hunting, you know exactly how to write a cover letter.
Application Cover Letters
As the name suggests, application cover letters are crafted when you’re applying for a job opening.
This is the most commonly used type of cover letter. But, before we go into the specifics, you need to understand that application cover letters are a great addition to your resume, not a replacement for one. You need to create a unique and informative one, different from the resume itself. Now that we have taken that out of the way, let’s go further into the specifics.
Application cover letters should always be in line with the job position you’re applying for. Always make sure to read up on the business you’re applying for, its values, and ethics. This way, you’ll know which information to include in your letter and the things you may want to leave out as unnecessary.
Taking this personalized approach to each application cover letter you’re sending showcases your determination and genuine interest in the role, increasing the likelihood of being hired as a valuable employee.
One extra tip: Always address the cover letter to the hiring manager if possible. This will showcase that you’ve done your research regarding the job description and the company itself and put in the time to create the cover letter with the company and the people within it in mind.
Prospecting Cover Letters
When you’re interested in a company, but they aren’t hiring at the moment, you do the next best thing to an application cover letter, and that is to send out a prospecting cover letter. In it, you’ll list your key skills and qualifications for the potential company to have in mind when they do, in fact, have open spots.
Just like an application cover letter, the prospecting cover letter should be written in a respectful and professional manner. You’re letting the company know your value without becoming too overbearing. Since there is no actual job opening at the moment, you can take a more general approach and focus on the skills you can bring to the company and make their operations even better despite them not hiring. This can be extremely effective if you get it right, as no company wants to let a talent that can help them reach new milestones slip through the cracks.
In addition, it’s important to let the company know why you’re interested in working with them, so doing prior research is just as important as if you’re actually applying for a real job position. This will show genuine interest, and it might be one of the main reasons why you got hired despite there being no job opening at the moment.
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Networking Cover Letter
The third main type of cover letter is usually sent out to contacts within your network for job opportunities. The contacts in question can be friends, family members, previous colleagues, or even LinkedIn connections.
When crafting a networking cover letter, keep the person you’re sending the letter to in mind. Include information on how you know them and why you’re reaching out, and remember to be respectful, polite, and at least semi-professional. This will set the tone for further discussion as it will paint a picture that you are open to conversation and potential business collaborations.
Networking cover letters can help you get better insight into hidden market opportunities and job offers before they are even advertised. So, if you’re in doubt, send that letter; you never know what might come out of it.
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Formatting Cover Letters
Formatting is just as important as the message that’s within the cover letter. A properly formatted cover letter gives out a professional and serious appearance, something that you’ve put time and effort into. Let’s discuss how to format a cover letter to ensure professionalism.
First, let’s talk about how long a cover letter should be as well as the margins you will have to leverage.
All cover letters should be well within the 250-400 word range, which comes down to half a page. This is the perfect amount of text to do the greetings, introduce yourself, precisely list your relevant experiences, challenges you’ve faced, previous relevant accomplishments, and skills, and avoid fluff and repetitions altogether. Providing just enough details in the cover letter will keep potential employers interested and never bored.
Margins are the second most important thing that adds to the final outlook of the cover letter. Here, you can go with one-inch margins, or a bit less, 0.75 margins. The important thing is to have them all equal, giving that polished and well-put-together appearance.
What’s most important about the font is to be readable. Word and Google documents are most commonly used for creating cover letters, and inexperienced, young, job-seeking individuals like to decorate their cover letters with different fonts in order to add to the final look. This will make the letter seem unprofessional and highly unserious, decreasing your chances of landing the opportunity. Keep it simple and opt for fonts such as Arial.
Lastly, you might think that spacing is the simplest thing of the four mentioned, but you need to be well aware of this, too. Start by using single-line spacing throughout the whole document. While you’re at it, line up all your text to the left. Next, proceed with leaving spaces in the following parts:
- Between addresses and dates;
- Between separate paragraphs;
- Between the greetings and the first paragraph,
- At least three empty lines in between “Thanks for your consideration” and “Sincerely, Your Name”;
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Cover Letter Structure
When writing a cover letter, the best thing is that you don’t even have to be a professional writer. Just follow the structure that is considered standard.
This is the part where your contact details, i.e. your name, address, contact info, and zip code should be outlined. Following this, write the date and then the employer’s name, title, company, and address.
Here’s all of the info your header should contain:
Your Name and Address
City, and State Zip Code
City, and State Zip Code
Every successful cover letter begins with a sincere salutation. If you know the name of the hiring manager, then that’s a big plus, as you can address them, making the cover letter more personalized. If you do not know the name of the hiring manager, that’s not a big problem.
Simply start your salutation as so:
Dear Hiring Manager,
After that, you can continue with your cover letter with an engaging and captivating introduction.
This is the part where you make the intentions clear and inform the hiring manager of the reason for your letter. It is advisable to mention the job position you are interested in and how you came across the company in question.
By providing pertinent information, the hiring manager will notice that you took the time to thoroughly research the opening as well as the company offering it, giving you an instant edge.
The body needs to be divided into one or two paragraphs. Here, you can expand on your experience skills and why you’re the right fit for the job. Remember to provide examples and focus on what you can bring to the company.
Here’s a tried and true formula for perfecting this section:
In my current role as [Your Current Job] at [Your Current or Previous Company], I have [skill or accomplishments – backed up with a statistic, if possible]. This experience taught me the importance of [what you learned], making me a strong fit for this role.
Wrap up your cover letter by reiterating your interest in the job and thanking the employer for considering you. You may also mention your enthusiasm about the possibility of an interview.
I am excited about the opportunity to bring my unique blend of skills and experience to your company. Thank you for considering my application. I would love the chance to further discuss my qualifications with you in an interview.
And, of course, the closing paragraph needs to end with a signature. Close with a polite and professional sign-off, followed by your name, and you have a formal cover letter closing, speaking volumes of you as a professional.
Expert Guidelines for Writing a Cover Letter
Now that you have the cover letter template, it’ll be a lot easier to write it. However, there are always ways to make it more appealing and better-looking. Check out these tips that might come in handy next time you’re sending out a cover letter to an employer or a network connection.
The first crucial rule of crafting a cover letter is to address it to the right person, not to “To Whom It May Concern”. As we’ve mentioned above, this will show that you’ve done your research and you’re genuinely interested in the offer, making you the ideal candidate.
After that, just follow the generally accepted outline we’ve created above.
Include relevant keywords in the cover letter. Not many people know this, but many companies, especially big ones, that constantly have job openings and are constantly hiring new people cannot keep track of all the resumes and cover letters they get on a daily level. Because of this, they have a working system where they filter cover letters that are too broad, without specific keywords in them.
The keywords in question are always related to the job offer, so you don’t need to do any in-depth research. At best, you can easily find them in the job offer, listed as requirements and skills. Try this next time you’re applying and note the difference.
Lastly, be concise. Only list relevant skills and avoid mentioning job experiences that aren’t somehow related to the job offering in question. This will only add up to the fluff without giving much information. So, greet them, introduce yourself and your skills, convince them you’re the right asset for the company, and sign off.
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Common Mistakes to Avoid
We’ve scattered some mistakes to avoid throughout the whole article, but we’ve kept the main mistakes that potential employees make for a separate part of the article, as it will be easier to make a list of them.
Avoid Generic Salutations
When you address a recruiter or the prospective employer, always remember to address them by name, including Sir/Madam, or Mr/Mrs in front. The only worse thing than starting off the letter with “To Whom It May Concern” is to start it by using their first name, which will come up as highly unprofessional.
Nothing about a generic cover letter will set you apart. Bear in mind that this document is basically your ticket to the first-round interview, so ensure that everything you write down is meticulously thought out and with a purpose.
Lack of Specificity
Job candidates craft out a single resume and a cover letter that goes hand in hand with it and send it out to multiple companies, sometimes even in different industries.
This adds up to the lack of specificity and it’s the main reason why your mailbox is empty. Instead of this, try creating a cover letter and a resume that you’ll send to one company, by previously doing in-depth research and determining whether your skills and knowledge are in line with their requirements.
Taking the time to go one step further will always pay off. All industries are highly competitive, and hiring managers know just how to spot a person who is dedicated and meticulous over one who is simply applying to a myriad of openings in the hopes of netting that first-round interview.
Avoid negativity of all kinds. This shows that you are focused on solutions, open to collaboration, and bring positive energy to the workplace, which is highly valued by employers.
To that end, avoid speaking negatively about previous roles and jobs, employers, or specific parts of your job role. Also, avoid a negative attitude throughout the cover letter and the resume as well. Employers are looking for positive, optimistic people to hire for their team, as optimism increases the chances of success.
Cover Letter Examples
A strong cover letter can help you land the job of your dreams. In the following, we’ll present two kinds of cover letters that you can use as a guideline when applying for a certain role.
Example for a Job Application Cover Letter
Dear [Hiring Manager Name],
I am excited to apply for the Marketing Specialist position at ABC Company. I closely followed your company’s success and innovative marketing strategies for quite some time now, and I am keen on contributing to such a dynamic team.
As a marketing professional with over 5 years of experience, I have successfully managed various traditional and digital marketing campaigns, including social media management, email marketing, and events planning. In my recent role/current position at XYZ Company, I have also been responsible for developing and implementing successful influencer partnerships that have significantly increased brand awareness and customer engagement.
Apart from my technical skills, I consider myself also highly creative and analytical – a combination that has allowed me to come up with unique campaign ideas while effectively analyzing and measuring their success. Moreover, my strong communication skills have enabled me to collaborate efficiently with cross-functional teams, resulting in successful projects and campaigns.
I am particularly drawn to ABC Company’s commitment to innovation and its focus on using data-driven insights to drive marketing strategies. I believe that my experience in utilizing various analytics tools and interpreting data will be a valuable asset in achieving the company’s goals.
I’m eager to explore the opportunity to discuss how my expertise and abilities can further enhance the ongoing achievements of ABC Company. Please find attached my resume, and do not hesitate to contact me for any additional information.
Example of an Internship Cover Letter
If you’re applying for an internship, chances are you probably don’t have a lot of experience behind you. So, in that case, you can write a cover letter along the lines of:
Dear [Hiring Manager],
I am writing to express my interest in the internship opportunity at ABC Company. I am a current student majoring in Marketing and have a strong passion for digital marketing and analytics.
Although I do not have much professional experience, I was actively involved in various marketing projects at school and through internships. These experiences have allowed me to develop skills in market research, content creation, and social media management. Additionally, I have a strong understanding of Google Analytics and other digital marketing tools.
I am eager to apply my skills and gain hands-on experience in a professional setting through the internship at ABC Company. I am confident that my enthusiasm and willingness to learn will make me an asset to your team.
Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my qualifications further.
Well-crafted cover letters can be your secret weapon for standing out in a crowded applicant pool. While a resume provides a snapshot of your skills and experience, a cover letter adds depth, personality, and context to your application. It’s your opportunity to connect the dots between your qualifications and the job requirements, to tell your story in a way that a resume alone can’t capture.
Writing a cover letter may seem like a daunting task, but it’s one that comes with a high return on investment. By dedicating the time to tailor your cover letters for each job application, you’re not just ticking a box—you’re making a strategic move to show your prospective future employer why you’re the best fit for the role. It’s an exercise in selling yourself, in being specific about your achievements, and in showing that you’ve done your homework about the organization and its culture.
Whether you’re applying for a specific job, prospecting future opportunities, or reaching out to your professional network, the types of cover letters— application, prospecting, and networking—each serve a unique purpose but share the common goal of showcasing your suitability for a position or a company.
Remember, the devil is in the details. Formatting, structure, and avoiding common mistakes are just as crucial as the content itself. Well-formatted cover letters not only look professional but also show that you pay attention to details, a quality highly valued in any role.
Now that you know how to write a professional cover letter from scratch, you are prepared to win those first-round interviews the right way.
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