It took weeks to find *this* job. It took hours to get your resume right.
Almost there. You just need a cover letter.
You only get one shot.
You can’t just write a cover letter. It has to be perfect.
But… How do you write the perfect cover letter?
You know—the kind of letter that will make the employer call you up in the middle of the night?
Give us 10 minutes and you’ll know how to write a cover letter like that.
This guide will show you:
- How to write a cover letter better than 9 out of 10 others.
- A sample cover letter that will get you more interviews (and why).
- Cover letter writing tips and hacks to boost your chances of landing a job.
- Actionable ideas on how to start and end a cover letter, plus how to address it.
Ready? Take a look at this basic cover letter sample. What do you think makes it so special?
An example of a cover letter format for every job made with our resume and cover letter builder.
Read on! We’ll break down the formula in 8 simple steps.
The Secret Behind Every Successful Cover Letter?
See, all great cover letters have something in common: they’re based on a proven, effective template. Here’s what I mean:
Meet Jane, the candidate who wrote the cover letter above. She’s applying for a digital marketing manager position with a pharmaceutical company, XYZ Corp. The company is planning to launch a new flagship website.
Jane’s experience and knowledge make her a perfect candidate for this role. The purpose of her cover letter is to prove that she’ll be able to replicate her past success in the new position.
Right, so you’ve seen a perfect example of a cover letter for a job.
Now, let me explain what makes this sample cover letter great and how you can use this cover letter outline to make the most of each section.
Use a Professional Cover Letter Header
Yup, the basics first. The header of every professional cover letter for a job application should include the following:
- Your name
- Your telephone number
- Your email address
- The date
- The name of the hiring manager and their professional title
- The name and address of the company to which you’re applying
Optionally, you can add:
- Your professional title
- Your home address
- Links to your professional websites
- Your social media accounts (applicable only for LinkedIn and Twitter)
- Your city of residence (it’s not mandatory but adds a professional touch—include it if your cover letter is highly official)
Just remember to keep it professional:
- Use an email address from a respected provider—that means either Gmail or your personal domain (if you have one.)
- Your email address should only include your first and last name—email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org will be deal-breakers.
- Don’t use your current work email. It’s impolite to both your current and potential future employer.
- Make sure your contact information is consistent across your resume, cover letter, and social media profiles.
Pro Tip: Writing a cover letter with no name of the hiring manager available? In the addressee section include only the name of the department: for example, “XYZ Sales Department.”
Want to save time and have your professional job application ready in minutes? Here are a sample cover letter and a matching resume made with our resume and cover letter builder. Write your cover letter and resume here.
Resume and a sample cover letter for a job application. See +15 resume and cover letter templates and create your job application here.
Open Your Cover Letter with a Proper Greeting
Who do you address a cover letter to?
Directly to the hiring manager who’ll read it.
The greeting of your cover letter (i.e., the salutation) might be the very first thing the hiring manager sees. There’s one great, foolproof strategy to make your greeting catch her attention:
That’s right. Her name.
If we hear or see our name, we react. Focus on what comes next. There’s a lot of science behind this:
Once the hiring manager sees her name in the greeting of your cover letter, she’s going to feel like she’s found something tailored specifically for her. It will feel personal, she’ll know whatever comes next might just be the exact information she’s been looking for.
All of the following are good examples of professional cover letter greetings.
Sample cover letter greetings:
- Dear Katherine,
- Dear Miss Jones,
- Dear Ms. Smith,
- Dear Mrs. Ford,
- Dear Mr. McConnor,
Pro Tip: Wondering whether you should use the hiring manager’s first or last name? That depends on the company culture. If you’re applying for a position with a relaxed, casual company, use the first name. For corporate cover letters, it’s safer to go with the addressee's last name.
How do you find out the hiring manager’s name?
Do some research!
There are multiple ways to find out who your hiring manager is. You can learn about them in our dedicated guide: How to Address a Cover Letter: Sample & Guide [20+ Examples]
If you’re unable to find the name by any means possible, you’ll need to write a cover letter to whom it may concern.
Who to address a cover letter to if there’s no name of the hiring manager provided?
Have a look at those sample cover letter to whom it may concern greetings:
- Dear Sales Team Hiring Manager,
- Dear Hiring Manager,
- Dear [XYZ Company] Team,
- To Whom It May Concern
Pro Tip: If you’re not living in Victorian England, don’t start a cover letter with “Dear Sir or Madam.”
Done with the header and greeting? Now it’s time for the meat and potatoes. The central paragraphs of your cover letter.
How to get them right?
Go for the three paragraph cover letter format:
- The first paragraph to grab the hiring manager’s attention
- The second to show what you’ve got to offer
- The third to prove that you’ll fit in
Want to learn more about best professional cover letter formats? Read our guide: Cover Letter Formats: A Complete How-To Guide [10+ Examples]
Now, have a look at a quick breakdown of the cover letter main body.
Write a Catchy Opening Paragraph
Here’s the brutal truth:
These few sentences at the beginning of your cover letter will determine whether the hiring manager will read on.
You need to make your cover letter introduction attract and hold the hiring manager’s interest.
Have a look at these two sample cover letter opening paragraphs:
How To Make a Cover Letter—Opening Paragraph
In response to your posting for the Digital Marketing Manager, I would like to express my interest in taking part in the recruitment process. As a digital marketing manager with 8+ years of experience, I am positive that I would be successful at this role.
Why is it so bad?
Because it provides no value and no details. The bottom line is basically “I’ve already done this job so I think I’d fit in.” That’s not what the hiring manager is looking for.
Now, see a properly written cover letter opening example:
As a lifelong enthusiast of XYZ’s marketing initiatives, I was thrilled to see your posting for the position of Digital Marketing Manager. I am positive I can help with XYZ’s upcoming challenges. I have experience with leading successful national online campaigns with budgets over $300,000. What is more, I have succeeded at expanding ABC’s client base by 19% since 2011.
“Wow, I’d have to be a lunatic not to hire her!”
That’s the response this cover letter first paragraph will bring.
There are a few different, effective strategies for your cover letter opening. You can highlight your achievements, show how well you know your prospective employer’s needs, or base the intro on your enthusiasm.
Even professional writers struggle to make a perfect intro to their pieces. We know that starting a cover letter can be daunting, that’s why we’ve put together a dedicated guide for you. Give it a read: How to Start a Cover Letter: Sample & Complete Guide [20+ Examples]
Explain Why You’re The Perfect Candidate
You see a job posting from your dream employer. The name of the job is the same as your current position. You’ve been a very successful professional so far.
This means, to get that job you just have to show off your best assets in your cover letter, right?
Your cover letter is not a trophy case.
What to write in a cover letter’s second paragraph?
You need to get the hiring manager exactly what she’s looking for. You have to show that you’re going to satisfy the company’s specific needs.
Remember Jane, our digital marketing manager candidate? The XYZ company to which she’s applying needs:
- First of all, a savvy digital marketing manager (1).
- And, on top of that, someone who will supervise the development of their new online portal (2).
Let’s have a look at how Jane managed to show that she’s both (1) and (2).
How To Make a Cover Letter—Second Paragraph
Sample cover letter for a job application in digital marketing:
In my current position at ABC, I have supervised all phases of our online marketing initiatives, both technical and creative (1). Last year, my key challenge was to design and optimize nine product websites for ABC’s most strategic products and improve our SEO results as well as enhance the UX (2). Here we are a year later:
- Eight of the nine websites I optimized have achieved and secured their spot in the top 3 results on Google (2). These are organic, non-paid results for 10+ key search terms;
- The incoming search engine traffic to all nine websites comprises 47% of the total organic traffic (2) for key terms and phrases.
See how it’s done?
In the first sentence, show that you’re an expert in your field. But don’t keep on bragging. The remaining part of your cover letter’s second paragraph should be all about how your previous experiences will help your future employer press ahead with their plans.
What if you’re creating a cover letter for an internship and don’t have a wealth of professional experience to present? Don’t worry, we’ve got a dedicated guide to show you how to write a good cover letter and land your dream internship: How to Write a Cover Letter For an Internship [+20 Examples]
Tell Them Why You’re Eager to Join
Your future employers have needs. If they’re willing to hire you, it’s because they think you’ll satisfy those needs.
But what they also want is for you to actually enjoy working with them. They want your future job to feel rewarding to you—that way, they know you’re more likely to stay with them for a longer period of time.
The key to writing a perfect cover letter third paragraph is showing the hiring manager why you want this job, not just any job.
Here’s the easiest way to do it:
- Start with a company fact - for instance, an upcoming project (1)
- Say why you find it interesting (2)
- Reiterate that your experience and knowledge will let you succeed with the project (3)
Have a look at this cover letter example:
How To Make a Cover Letter—Third Paragraph
I know that XYZ’s current plans involve developing a comprehensive online portal focused on healthcare-related issues (1). This project is a perfect match for my personal and professional interests and an exciting opportunity to create a unique online base of knowledge for patients and healthcare professionals (2). I would love to leverage my knowledge of SEO marketing and online growth marketing to achieve groundbreaking results with this initiative (3).
Pro Tip: How long should a cover letter be? In general, relevant and short cover letters are best. Three paragraph tops. Your go-to word count shouldn’t exceed 300 words.
Wondering how to write a good cover letter for a job application when there’s no job offer? Want to see some general cover letter writing tips? Read our handy guide, 35+ Successful Cover Letter Tips, Advice & Guidelines (With Examples), and find out about effective cover letter strategies for different types of cover letters!
Make Your Offer in the Closing Paragraph
So far so good:
Your cover letter shows that you have relevant skills. You’ve explained your motivation. What could possibly go wrong?
Actually, a lot.
You still have a cover letter ending to write. And it’s the decisive part.
It has to amplify the general impression you’ve made with the previous paragraphs. It has to make the hiring manager excited as she starts reading your resume.
How to make the best cover letter ending?
Long story short: by providing value.
Tell the hiring manager that you’re looking forward to meeting in person and discussing how your experience and knowledge can help your future employer in fulfilling their goals.
Like in this cover letter example:
How To Make a Cover Letter—Closing Paragraph
I would welcome the chance to discuss your digital marketing objectives and show you how my success at ABC can translate into digital and online marketing growth for XYZ.
Two worst cover letter mistakes you can make in the final paragraph are:
- Coming off needy - focusing on how much you want the job, not on whatyouhave to offer.
- Repeating the cliched phrase “Thank you for your consideration and your time.”
There are some easy tricks you can use to write an effective cover letter closing paragraph. Make sure to read our guide, How to End a Cover Letter: Sample & Complete Guide [+20 Examples] and check them out!
Use the Right Formal Closing
Once you’ve written the body of your cover letter, you just need to put a formal closing at the very end.
Write “sincerely” and follow it with your full name. Adding your handwritten signature is optional, but it’s recommended for more formal cover letters.
If you’re not a fan of the well-worn, “sincerely,” feel free to use any of the following synonyms:
Sample cover letter sign-offs:
- Thank you,
- Best regards,
- Kind regards,
- With best regards.
The ones listed above are going to be your safest bets. Still not what you’re looking for?
Have a look at some alternative cover letter sample salutations:
- Thank you for your consideration,
- Sincerely yours,
- Yours truly,
- Respectfully yours.
Pro Tip: It’s a good idea to repeat your basic contact information, such as your LinkedIn profile, email address and telephone number below your sign-off.
Add the Postscript: A Great Cover Letter Hack Nobody Uses
All of the above sections are must-haves in a good cover letter format.
But there’s one special trick you can use:
Why is the “P.S.” so important?
Because it’s like a magnet for the hiring manager’s eyes. It screams: “you cannot miss this information.”
Use the postscript to tell the hiring manager about something impressive about your career (1), even if it’s not strictly related to the job opening.
And say that you’d be happy to provide them with more details (2) if they find it interesting.
Like in our cover letter example:
How To Write a Good Cover Letter Postscript
P.S. — I would also value the opportunity to show you (2) how my e-detailing solutions grew the combined sales of three ABC flagship products by a record-breaking 13% in one year (1).
Don’t just send a cover letter in Word. Select the most important bits and paste them into your resume cover email: How to Email Your Resume to Get More Job Offers (Examples). It’ll immediately work magic on the recruiter.
Worried you might miss something? Don’t worry, we’ve got a checklist guide for you: What to Include in a Cover Letter (15+ Examples & A Complete Guide)
The most important thing to remember about how to write a cover letter for a job is to personalize it.
Address the hiring manager by their name.
Identify your potential employers’ needs and show how your past work experience can help them achieve their goals.
Don’t just talk about your past responsibilities—focus on your achievements. Provide details and quantify whenever possible.
Explain your motivation. Make your future employers feel special: tell them why you want this job, not just any job. Make them feel that you’d like to stay with them for a longer while.
Finish strong. Be straightforward about your interest and enthusiasm about the new position.
And for the final advice:
Keep it short.
Do you have any questions about how to create a successful cover letter? Want to share an example of a cover letter? Give us a shout in the comments and we’d be happy to reply!
Ah, the dreaded cover letter. Every time you sit down to write one, you probably browse cover letter examples online, get overwhelmed, and think something to the effect of: Does anyone really read these? Wouldn’t it be so much easier if I could just let my resume speak for itself?
First off: Yes, we can assure you that cover letters do, in fact, get read. In fact, to some hiring managers, they’re the most important part of your application. And yes, while it would be easier to let your resume speak for itself, if that was the case you’d completely miss the opportunity to tell prospective employers who you are, showcase why they should hire you, and stand out above all the other candidates.
Ready to get started? To make sure your cover letter is in amazing shape (and is as painless as possible to write), we’ve compiled our 31 best cover letter tips of all time into one place.
Read on—then get cover letter writing.
1. Don’t Regurgitate Your Resume
Instead of just repeating yourself (“I was in charge of reviewing invoice disputes”), use your cover letter to describe additional details that you weren’t able to squeeze onto the single page of your resume: “By resolving invoice disputes, I gained a deep analytical knowledge—but more importantly, I learned how to interact calmly and diplomatically with angry customers.” A cover letter gives you the freedom to use full sentences—instead of bullet points—so use them to expand upon your resume points and tell the story of why you’re the perfect fit for the company.
2. Think Not What the Company Can Do for You
A common cover letter mistake? Talking about how great the position would be for you and your resume. Frankly, hiring managers are aware of that—what they really want to know is what you’re going to bring to the position and company. On that note:
3. Clearly Show What You’re Capable Of
Beyond explaining what you’ve done in the past, show hiring managers what you can do in the future. “Determine the key requirements and priorities for this job, and make it instantly clear to the reviewer that you can deliver the goods on these key things,” says Jenny Foss, job search expert and founder of JobJenny.com. “Consider crafting a section within the letter that begins with, ‘Here’s what, specifically, I can deliver in this role.’ And then expound upon your strengths in a few of the priority requirements for that role.”
4. Showcase Your Skills
When you know you have the potential to do the job—but your past experience doesn’t totally sell you as the perfect one for the position—try focusing on your skills, instead. Here’s a template that helps you do just that.
5. …Not Necessarily Your Education
Many new grads make the mistake of over-focusing on their educational backgrounds. At the end of the day, what hiring managers care about most is your work experience (and yes, that can be volunteer or internship experience, too)—and what you can walk through the door and deliver on Day 1.
6. Don’t Apologize for Skills You Don’t Have
When you don’t meet all of the job requirements, it’s common for job seekers to use lines like, “Despite my limited experience with marketing…” or “While I only have work experience doing administrative tasks…” But why apologize? Instead of drawing attention to your weaknesses, try to focus on the skills you do have, says career expert Lily Zhang. “Stay positive, focus on your strengths, and immediately launch into your transferable skills and infectious enthusiasm for the position.”
7. Highlight the Right Experiences
Not sure what skills and experiences you should be featuring? Drop the text of the job description into a word cloud tool like Wordle, and see what stands out. That’s what the hiring manager is looking for most.
8. Tell a Story
What brings you to this company? Did you used to sing along to all of its commercials as a kid? Did the product make some incredible difference in your life? Do you sometimes pull into the parking lot and daydream about what it would feel like to work there? Stories bring your background and experiences to life, so feel free to tell them. (Just, you know, keep them short and to the point.)
9. Use a Few Numbers
When it comes to the job search, numbers often speak louder than words. “Offer stats to illustrate your impact on companies or associations you’ve worked for in the past,” suggests career expert and founder of ProfessionGalMegan Broussard. “Employers love to see numbers—it shows them that you speak their language and that you understand what they’re looking for in an employee: results.”
10. Consider Testimonials
If you have great feedback from old co-workers, bosses, or clients, don’t be afraid to use it! A seamless way to integrate a positive quote from a previous manager or client is to use it as evidence of your passion for your area of expertise. For example, “I have developed a keen interest in data science during my years working various political campaigns (as my past supervisor once said, I love Excel more than anyone she knows).”
11. Cut the Formality
“Don’t be overly formal (‘I wish to convey my interest in filling the open position at your fine establishment’),” writes career expert Mark Slack. “It makes you seem insincere and even robotic, not anything like the friendly, approachable, and awesome-to-work-with person you are.
12. Think Custom, Not Canned
Most companies want to see that you’re truly excited about the position and company, which means creating a custom letter for each position you apply for. “When a recruiter reads, ‘Dear Hiring Manager, I am so excited to apply for the open position at your company, where I hope to utilize my skills to progress in my career,’ he or she immediately recognizes it for what it is—a stock cover letter that you’ve mass-distributed to every place in town,” says Muse career expert Katie Douthwaite. And then probably throws it in the trash.
13. Start With a Template
That said, there’s nothing that says you can’t get a little help. Our easy, downloadable cover letter guide will walk you through, step-by-step, how to create a cover letter that rocks.
14. …Or Some Inspiration
Having trouble getting started? Check out 31 examples of how to start your cover letter in an engaging, attention-grabbing way or these eight examples of awesome cover letters that actually worked.
Give yourself a little (or big) boost by running your application by an expert
Talk to a Cover Letter Coach Today
15. Be Open to Other Formats
If you’re applying to a more traditional company, then the tried-and-true three-to-five-paragraph format probably makes sense. However, if you’re gunning for a more creative or startup job—or need to explain to the hiring manager, say, how your career has taken you from teaching to business development, a different approach could be appropriate. Here at The Muse, we’ve seen cover letters use bullet points, tell stories, or showcase videos to (successfully) get their point across. This professional even turned hers into a BuzzFeed-style list!
16. But Don’t Go Too Far
Like this guy did. Just—don’t.
17. Consider Adding a Headline
One formatting idea from The Undercover Recruiter? Add an eye-catching headline to your letter, like “3 Reasons I’m an Excellent Fit for the Marketing Manager Position.” Again, no one says you have to follow the tried-and-true format, and this can be an easy way to catch the hiring manager’s eye quickly.
18. Be Real
“Honest, genuine writing always goes much, much further than sticking to every dumb rule you’ve ever read in stale, outdated career guides and college textbooks,” explains Foss.
19. ...And Normal
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!” Downplay the adverbs a bit, and just write like a normal person.
20. Cut the Fluff
Avoid, at all costs, describing yourself as a “team player” or a “people person,” says Broussard. “Instead, show off your skills with descriptive statements like ‘I’m an expert communicator with experience bringing together diverse departments to develop a cohesive program.’ It’s longer—but it’s also stronger.”
21. Write 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 and prove that you’ve got what they are looking for. So, always keep in mind who will be reading your cover letter, and tailor it to what you know will get them excited. Spending five or 10 minutes reading over the company website before you get started can be a great way to get in the right mindset—you’ll get a sense for the company’s tone, language, and culture, which are all things you’ll want to mirror as you’re writing.
22. Boost Your Confidence Before Writing
Writing guru Alexandra Franzen offers a simple mind trick that will dramatically change the way you write cover letters: Pretend. “Pretend that the person you’re writing to already loves and respects you. Pretend that the person you’re writing to already believes that you’re worthy and valuable. Pretend that the person you’re writing to doesn’t need a big sales pitch,” she explains. Then, write. Your words will come out so much easier. (Here’s more on how to do it.)
23. Have Some Fun With It
News flash: Cover letter writing doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, there are plenty of ways to spice it up! Hoping for a job at a startup? Making your cover letter more creative—whether you use a spunkier tone, play with the format, or make it more visual—will likely improve your chances of getting a call back. Applying for a corporate position? Stick with the traditional format, but make it more conversational, or include a story about how you first came in contact with the company or how much you love it. Much more fun, right? (Here are a few other ways to make cover letter writing suck less.)
24. Don’t Let Your Fear of Bragging Get in the Way
If you tend to have a hard time writing about yourself, here’s a quick trick: Imagine you’re someone else writing a letter about yourself. Think from the perspective of a friend, mentor, or previous employer—someone who would only sing your praises—and then write the letter from her point of view. If it helps, you can even write the letter in third person (i.e. “Erin would be a great fit for this position because…”). Just make sure you’re very careful about going back through and changing it to first person when you’re done!
25. Have Someone Gut Check It
Have a friend take a look at your cover letter, and ask him or her two questions: Does this sell me as the best person for the job? and Does it get you excited? If the answer to either is “no,” or even slight hesitation, go back for another pass.
26. 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. “According to the Orange County Resume Survey, almost 70% of employers either want a half page cover letter (250 words) or ‘the shorter the better,’ approach,” writes Slack.
27. Don’t Start With Your Name
Because, well, the hiring manager can see it already on your resume. Get right to the point with what you can bring to the job.
28. But Do Include the Hiring Manager’s Name
Use the person’s first and last name, including a “Mr.” or “Ms.” (e.g., Mr. Jack Smith). Never use “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear or Sir or Madam”—nothing could be more generic (not to mention archaic). For more on addressing it correctly, read these cover letter rules.
29. Unless You Don’t Know It
OK, sometimes, even after hours of online searching (try these tips), you still might not be able to definitively figure out who exactly the hiring manager for the position you’re applying for is. If you can only find a list of executives and you’re not completely confident who the hiring manager is, use the head of the department for the position you’re applying for. If you really don’t have a name to use, try to still be as specific as possible in your greeting. Consider using “Senior Analyst Hiring Manager” or “Research Manager Search Committee”—something that shows that you’ve written this letter with a particular audience in mind.
We shouldn’t have to tell you to run your cover letter through spell-check, but here’s an even better step: Check out how the wording sounds to others using Hemingway. Drop your text onto the page, and the color-coded app will give your writing a once-over. Is a sentence too wordy, overly complex, or totally unreadable? It’ll be highlighted in red until you revise it. Tend to overuse the passive voice? Every instance of it will show up in green. The site will even recommend when you can use shorter or simpler words (Why take up precious resume space with “utilize” when you can say “use?”).
31. But Care Most About Standing Out
Perhaps the best piece of cover letter wisdom we can offer you comes from Foss: The most memorable cover letters are written by people who care less about the rules and more about standing out to the hiring manager. “Next time you sit down to write a cover letter, vow to not get uptight about all the tiny little ‘rules’ you’ve picked up along the way,” she writes. “Instead, buck convention. Be memorable. Nail the stuff that will make you a true standout.”