How to write a cover letter (with sample)

One of the most often overlooked aspects of the job application process is providing the prospective company with a clear, concise, thoughtful cover letter. You have been told time and time again that you should write one, but you may not know how. Here are a few tips to help show you how to write the perfect cover letter without causing you any extra stress!

1. Personalize for the job posting / company

This is the first and most important piece of advice. When writing your cover letter, you need to make sure you are capturing the attention of the recruiter or hiring manager reading it. You can expect that when your cover letter is being evaluated (along with your resume), they will be looking for specific qualities and experiences that fit their job description. If a company specifically lists strong teamwork and communication skills, you should be providing a concrete example of where you’ve demonstrated strong teamwork and communication skills.

A major red flag for employers is seeing a generic, irrelevant cover letter. Sending the same cover letter with every application not only neglects to demonstrate any specific qualities the company is looking for, but also shows them that you are either desperate for a job or not serious about working at their organization. I’m not saying that a company doesn’t need to sell themselves to you just as much as you need to sell yourself to them, but if you are reaching out to them for the job, you should be putting in the effort to be considered as a serious candidate.

2. Don’t copy your resume

One easy trap to fall in to is repeating too much of the same information from your resume. Your cover letter should provide value on its own. You don’t need to list the same skills that are on your resume since the hiring manager can simply find that information on your resume. Instead, try expanding on one of your experiences and provide more detail as to why you exemplify the position you’re applying for. Elaborate on one of your relevant experiences and match it to what the company is looking for.

This is the time to sell yourself and help set you apart from another candidates with similar skills listed on their resumes. Phrase your experience in a way that shows how you’ve grown, what you’ve learned, and how it can be applied to your new position.

3. Don’t make it too long

How long should your cover letter be? You may be tempted to write page after page of each of the skills you’ve gained, projects you’ve tackled, and lessons you’ve learned. However, remember that whoever is reading your cover letter has many other candidates to review and that they won’t always have as much time as it may take to read a cover letter with too much content.

Similar to your resume, always keep your cover letter under 1 page in length, and try to shoot for around half of a page. Generally, 2-4 paragraphs should be enough to keep the reader interested while also giving enough time to convince them that you deserve to be interviewed. A good structure to follow would be: 1 paragraph for introduction, 1-2 paragraphs explaining why you would make a great fit, and 1 closing paragraph.

Sample Cover Letter

Dear Mr. John Doe,

I am applying for the position of Software Developer that is posted on your company’s website.

I have developed strong team-work and business development skills that would make me a great fit for Company XYZ. At my current position, I introduced a new product that led to X% increase in annual revenue. I was given the responsibility of overseeing a team of associates to help facilitate bringing the product to market, and effectively scoped and delegated tasks, provided guidance, and communicated roadblocks to help ensure the timely release of the product.

At a previous position, I learned effective time management and communication skills. I worked closely with the sales department to help ensure we were meeting customer demands, and I always insisted on striving to solve any challenges a customer may have faced. For example, I initiated and saw through a project to alleviate customers’ pain in self-servicing their own campaigns by providing them with an online campaign manager.

Please see my resume for additional information on my experience. I will be glad to provide references upon request. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to speaking with you about this opportunity.

Your Name

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