Cover Letter

How to Write a Cover Letter for a Job in 2024 (+Examples)

Contents

This is how you write cover letters that actually convey your unique selling points and build a connection with the hiring managers—before you even get your foot in the door.

To write an effective cover letter, start with an engaging intro and mention referrals if applicable. Use specific examples to show and verify your key skills. Link your abilities to the company’s needs. Conclude by reiterating your interest and add a call to action. Finally, thank the reader for their time and consideration. Before you submit the cover letter, edit rigorously for clarity and brevity.

Most cover letters are useless. There, I said it.

If you’re thinking of a cover letter as a recap of your resume, or “just another piece of paper” where you’ll put together some well-worn phrases and go heavy on selling yourself, you might as well skip writing altogether.

A cover letter is your opportunity to speak directly to hiring managers, to tell the story that your resume can’t. It’s where you translate your experiences and skills into a narrative that not only says “I’m qualified,” but also “I’m the perfect fit for your team.”

Sound difficult or straight out exhausting? It’s really not.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to write cover letters that sound like you, while also giving the hiring decision-makers instant reasons to call you in for an interview. All that, without overcomplicating things.

Before we get into theory, here’s a great sample cover letter you can use as inspiration.

Simple-yet-Effective Cover Letter Example

Anatomy of a Cover Letter
Charles Bloomberg
New York City, New York
01062375053
charlesbloomberg@gmail.com
May 1st, 2024
ABC Company
Dear [Manager’s Name]
Mark Winslaw, a developer at ABC Company, told me about the opening for a Customer Service Specialist position. I got really excited about the chance to work with your team. I have spent the last five years working in customer service, always in busy places where things change fast. During that time, I learned a lot about making customers happy and solving problems quickly.
At my last job at XYZ Company, I led a small project that really improved how satisfied our customers were. We jumped from an eNPS score of 30 to 65 in a year, just because we improved our feedback analysis algorithms and were able to identify key problem areas more quickly and effectively. I am excited to bring what I have learned to your team, especially because I love tech, and am always looking for how to refine existing processes.
Your team’s excitement for trying new solutions and making real changes is what draws me to this job the most. I thrive when it comes to figuring things out and getting things done, especially when it gets busy and the pressure is on. I am ready to jump in, help solve your customers’ problems, and help your company grow.
Thanks for considering me for this job. I am looking forward to the opportunity to talk about what I can bring to your team.
Sincerely,
Charles Bloomberg

If you want to see more sample cover letters, and find one for your profession and industry, see: 50+ Cover Letter Examples for All Popular Jobs

Understand the Purpose of a Cover Letter

A cover letter isn’t just a courtesy wrapper for your resume (especially since, nowadays, most hiring decision makers read your resume before they get around to your cover letter). 

A cover letter is your elevator pitch in written form. It’s where you get to speak directly to the hiring manager, not just as a professional but as a person.

What does it mean for you as a jobseeker? 

That you need to highlight the crème de la crème of your accomplishments, skills, and experiences—but with a twist. Of course, you need to convey the “I’m great at what I do” part, but also, “I’m a great fit for you, and here’s why.”

Your cover letter should answer two crucial questions that are on every hiring manager’s mind:

  • “Why do you want this job?”
  • “Why should we want you for this job?”

Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework on the company and that you’re genuinely excited about the opportunity to contribute to their team.

Plus, a cover letter lets you address anything on your resume that might raise eyebrows, like minor gaps in employment or a sudden career change—in a positive and proactive way. It allows you to frame your story on your own terms.

The bottom line: your cover letter isn’t an afterthought. It’s a tool that can land you your next job, even if your resume alone wouldn’t (a study I ran back in 2021 revealed that 83% of employers think a great cover letter can book you an interview even with a less-than-perfect resume).

More about the real purpose behind modern-day cover letters in this guide: What’s the Purpose of a Cover Letter in 2024?

Let’s see how to write a cover letter that opens doors.

1. Do Your Research Before You Write

Proper research will let you write a cover letter so tailored, it feels like you’re already part of the team.

Start with the company’s website

Look beyond the homepage. Dive into their blog posts, recent news releases, and their mission statement. What values do they hold high? What projects are they launching? 

Do it right and instead of droning on about how you “meet all the requirements,” or “feel as if the job description was addressed to you, personally,” you can confidently say, “I love what you’re doing with Project X, and here’s how I can contribute.”

Research the role you’re applying for

What skills does it demand? What challenges might you face, and more importantly, how can you address them? The job description comes with plenty of insightful keywords and phrases. Use them. 

This isn’t about parroting back the job listing. It’s about connecting the dots between what they need and what you offer.

Look into industry trends

Are there recent developments or challenges that you can speak to? Showing that you’re not just aware of the broader industry context, but also have ideas or solutions, is a powerful way to make your cover letter memorable.

For example:

  • If you’re working in cybersecurity, you could refer to a recent rise in popularity of IoT devices and how safeguarding those interconnected systems from malicious attacks should be a strategic priority.
  • If you’re a marketer, share ideas for preparing the organization for projected developments related to AI-augmented search engines.

You get the drill. It all boils down to saying, “I know what’s happening with the industry and I know how to turn this challenge into an opportunity.”

And while the whole idea of “researching” might sound like a lot of work:

  • It won’t take you more than two hours.
  • It’s 100% worth it.

Proper research is what separates a one-size-fits-all cover letter from one that screams “I belong here.” Doing your homework shows you’re not just interested in a job, but this job at this company. There are no shortcuts here. Cut corners at your own peril.

2. Follow the Right Cover Letter Structure

Showing creativity can be tempting, but sticking to a clear and professional structure ensures your enthusiasm doesn’t tip into chaos. 

Here’s how to organize your cover letter:

Formal header

This part looks the same as in any other formal letter, which includes:

  • Your full name
  • (Optionally) your location
  • Your phone number
  • Your email address
  • Date
  • Addressee full name and job title (if known)
  • Company name

Greeting

  • Never start with “To Whom It May Concern.” That’s the cover letter equivalent of “Hey you!”
  • Instead, try to find the name of the hiring manager or the head of the department you’re applying to. This can be mentioned in the job ad on the company website. Not there? Search for “[Company Name] Head/Director of [Department]” on LinkedIn.
  • A direct “Dear [First name]” or “Dear Mr./Ms [Last name]” (depending on how formal the work environment is) sounds respectful and shows you’ve done your homework.
  • If you can’t find the name of your potential supervisor, don’t obsess over it. “Dear Hiring Manager” is still way better than “To Whom It May Concern.”

Opening paragraph

  • Start strong. Spark curiosity and grab the reader’s attention by telling a story, mentioning a significant achievement, or expressing genuine enthusiasm about the opportunity to work at the company.

Body paragraph(s)

  • Focus on one or two key achievements and explain how they’re relevant to the job you’re applying for. 
  • Use specific examples and quantifiable results to illustrate your impact. 
  • Tie it back to how you can solve the company’s current challenges or contribute to their projects.

Closing paragraph

  • Reiterate your enthusiasm for the role and the company. 
  • Summarize why you’re not just a great candidate, but the right candidate. 
  • This is also a good place to suggest the next steps, like looking forward to discussing your application in further detail during an interview.

Sign-off

  • End professionally with “Sincerely,” “Best regards,” or a similar closing, followed by your name.
  • Right below your name, you can use a footer with your email address and phone number.

A structure like this keeps your cover letter focused. It helps the reader get a strong sense of who you are, why you’re applying, and what you bring to the table. Sticking to this format is also important because it shows your ability to organize and prioritize information effectively.

More on that in this guide: How to Format and Structure a Cover Letter

Next, I’ll walk you through how to write each part of your cover letter, step by step.

3. Write a Captivating Cover Letter Opening

This is your first (and possibly only) chance to make a memorable impression.

A strong, creative hook can set you apart, but remember—substance always follows style. If you’re struggling to find the right “twist” for your opening line, don’t worry. It’s perfectly acceptable to go with a formal intro sentence. Where you take it from there can turn a standard opening into an invitation to read on.

Here are a few strategies for a cover letter opening:

Share a connection with your values

When I discovered XYZ Company’s initiative to support renewable energy, it resonated deeply with my own commitment to environmental sustainability, demonstrated through my work on an innovative solar power project at ABC Corporation.

Lead with an achievement

Transforming a struggling sales department into a high-performing team and exceeding sales targets by 150% within one year at ABC Corporation has equipped me with the expertise to contribute to XYZ Company’s sales goals.

Focus on your enthusiasm

Seeing XYZ Company’s recent launch of the innovative ABC project was thrilling, and the opportunity to contribute my skills to such forward-thinking endeavors is exactly why I’m excited to apply for the [job title] role.

If you choose a strictly formal opening, make it a springboard to demonstrate your unique selling proposition—first, just state that you’re applying for an advertised position. Immediately after, explain what you bring to the table that (probably) few other candidates can.

Use a basic formal cover letter opening

I am writing to apply for the [job title] role with [company name], where I believe my extensive background in digital marketing and a proven record of boosting online engagement by 200% can significantly contribute to your team’s success.

What follows should go into specific examples of your achievements, highlight relevant skills, and mirror the enthusiasm or problem-solving mindset you’ve introduced. 

The goal is to transition smoothly from your initial statement to why you are the ideal candidate for the job.

More strategies to write a powerful intro to a cover letter in this article: How to Start a Cover Letter (Examples)

4. Mention Referrals (When Applicable)

A referral is an instant credibility boost, showing the hiring manager that someone they know (and hopefully trust) believes you’d be a good fit. 

Here’s how to weave a referral into your cover letter without it feeling forced or out of place.

  • First, ensure you have permission from your referral to mention them. 
  • Once you have the green light, integrate their recommendation smoothly into the first or second paragraph.

Here’s a template you can use:

I was thrilled when John Doe, Product Lead at [Company Name], recommended I apply for the [Job Title] role. Having worked closely with him at Company XYZ, John has firsthand experience of my ability to [mention a relevant skill, achievement, or project].

This approach works for several reasons:

  1. Establishes a trust connection right off the bat, leveraging your referral’s standing within the company.
  2. Provides context about how the referral knows you, highlighting past collaboration or accomplishments.
  3. Validates your expertise, suggesting that your skills and qualifications have already been vetted by someone the hiring manager knows.

All good, but—

Referrals aren’t a free pass. Following the referral, you have to deliver substance and validate the recommendation. You don’t want to ride your referral’s reputation, but prove you’d bring value to the position they’ve recommended you for.

This could look something like:

John Doe and I have collaborated on numerous projects aimed at enhancing user experience, leading to a 30% uptick in internal user survey scores at Company XYZ. With [Company Name]’s focus on unparalleled customer service, I am excited to bring my expertise in [your skills] to your team.

Mentioning a referral like that effectively transforms your application from a cold call to a warm introduction.

5. Show, Don’t Tell

This isn’t an overused piece of advice for aspiring novelists. This approach works wonders for your cover letter, too.

Here’s the shift in mindset: don’t just claim you’re a great team leader. Instead, tell a brief story or give an example that proves it. 

That way, your cover letter will  be more engaging and credible.

Here’s a practical example.

Instead of saying, “I’m an excellent communicator,” illustrate this skill in action:

In my last role, I spearheaded a bi-weekly webinar series that demystified tech jargon for our non-technical stakeholders, leading to a 40% increase in collaborative project proposals from other departments within six months.

See the difference? The second version not only claims good communications skills, but also backs the claim up with a specific, quantifiable outcome.

Here’s how to apply the “show, don’t tell” rule:

Select your stories wisely

Choose instances directly related to the job you’re applying for. Highlight the skills and experiences that align with the job description.

Be specific

Provide details. Numbers, percentages, awards, and other quantifiable achievements add substance to your claims. 

Mention the impact you had

Don’t just state what you did. Explain how your actions benefited your team or company. Did you save time, increase revenue, improve efficiency, or perhaps enhance customer satisfaction? This is the part that makes your narrative truly compelling.

Keep it concise and relevant

Storytelling is powerful, but this isn’t the place for digressions or over-contextualizing. One or two sentences that pack a punch are all you need to hold the hiring manager’s attention.

When used properly, the “show, don’t tell” methodology elevates your cover letter from a series of claims to a powerful “portfolio” of mini case studies.

For more actionable cover letter tips like that, visit: 12 Cover Letter Tips to Instantly Implement

6. Address the Company’s Needs

This section is where you become the solution to the company’s needs. Here, transition from showcasing your achievements to directly linking how your skills can solve the problems or challenges the company faces. 

In short, shift the focus from “I” to “You”—from what you’ve done to what you can do for them.

How to figure out what pain point you should focus on?

Identify the company’s needs from the job description, their website, or news articles. Are they expanding into new markets? Launching a new product? Struggling with customer retention? 

Whatever it is, position yourself as the solution.

Here’s how:

Connect your skills to their challenges

Draw a clear line between the company’s needs and your skills and experiences. For instance:

Understanding XYZ Company is poised for international expansion, I’m sure my background in navigating regulatory compliance in over ten countries would help streamline managing your global legal challenges.

Use relevant examples

Circle back to your “show, don’t tell” stories, but this time, tailor them to address the company’s specific challenges. Like this:

At my current role, I increased customer retention by 25% through a targeted loyalty program. I’m excited about the possibility of creating similar impactful strategies to enhance XYZ Company’s customer engagement.

Match their lingo

If the company uses specific language to describe its goals or challenges, mirror this in your letter. It subtly aligns you with them and shows you’re on the same wavelength.

Talk about the future

Suggest how you could apply your skills to future projects or initiatives that the company is undertaking.

With your upcoming product launch, my experience in go-to-market strategies and social media campaigns can help amplify XYZ Company’s reach and consumer adoption.

Keep their culture in mind

If you know the company values innovation, teamwork, or sustainability, for example, highlight how your approach or achievements align with these values. 

For instance:

My approach to problem-solving is deeply rooted in innovation, aligning seamlessly with XYZ Company’s commitment to cutting-edge solutions.

Addressing the company’s needs makes your cover letter not just a self-presentation, but a compelling pitch of your candidacy as the solution they’ve been searching for. 

Think about it this way—

They decided to open this position because they need help with certain areas of their business. If your cover letter can clearly show how you’re going to assist their efforts, you’re good to go!

7. Inject Personality and Avoid Overused Phrases

Your cover letter should sound human. It should sound like you. And hiring managers expect to get a glimpse of your personality in your cover letter.

So, steer clear of all those overused phrases recruiting pros have seen thousands of times. No more “go-getters,” no more “A-players,” no more “seasoned professionals with X years of experience delivering Y.”

At the same time, strike a balance between being distinct and maintaining the professionalism that’s expected in a job application. Remember—your cover letter is a formal document.

Highlight your personality

Describe both what you do and who you are. Give the hiring manager insight into your work ethic, or how your mind works, in general. It’s okay to use anecdotes or examples where your unique approach to a problem or challenge led to success.

Example:

Faced with a plummeting employee morale, I initiated “Motivation Mondays,” a series where our team shared inspiring stories. Not only did it give us a weekly morale boost, but it also improved our team cohesion significantly.

This tells the hiring manager you’re someone who takes initiative, thinks creatively, and values team spirit.

Ditch meaningless jargon

Terms like “team player,” “hard worker,” and “go-getter” have been used so frequently that they’ve lost any traces of actual meaning. 

Instead of leaning on these clichés, describe specific instances that demonstrate these qualities.

Example:

Replace “I’m a hard worker” with “My dedication to finalizing the XYZ project meant I had to put in extra hours for a few weeks, ensuring we met the deadline without compromising on quality.”

Stay professional

Avoid overly casual language, slang, or humor that might not translate well on paper. You can be genuine and personable without crossing the line between a job application and casual chit-chat.

Show what makes you unique

Perhaps it’s your unconventional career path that’s given you a unique perspective, or maybe it’s a passion project that parallels the company’s mission.

Example:

As a software developer with a background in graphic design, I bring a keen eye for user interface aesthetics alongside my coding skills, which I believe aligns perfectly with [Company Name]’s commitment to creating intuitive and visually appealing digital experiences.

Give hiring managers a glimpse of what you’ll bring to their team—not just in terms of skills, but the personality and your unique perspectives.

8. Wrap Up Your Cover Letter with a Strong Closing

The ending of your cover letter is where you reinforce your enthusiasm, summarize why you’re the perfect fit, and encourage the next step in the hiring process. 

Here’s how to nail your cover letter closing: 

Reiterate your interest and fit

Briefly sum up why you see yourself as an ideal match based on your skills, experiences, and the company’s needs that you’ve outlined. 

Example:

I am incredibly excited about the opportunity to bring my experience in [key skill/experience] and my commitment to [Company’s values and mission] to the [Job Position] role at [Company Name].

Include a call to action

Invite the next step without coming off as presumptuous. But instead of the overused “I look forward to hearing from you,” use a call to action that reflects your confidence and readiness for next steps.

Example:

I am eager to discuss how my [specific skill/experience] can contribute to the ongoing success and growth of [Company Name]. Please feel free to contact me at [your contact information] to schedule a conversation.

Thank the reader

Ending on a note of thanks not only shows good manners but also respect for the reader’s time and consideration.

Example:

Thank you for considering my application. I appreciate the opportunity to apply for the [Job Position] at [Company Name], and I look forward to the possibility of contributing to your team.

Use a formal sign-off

Close with a professional sign-off followed by your name. If you’re submitting your cover letter electronically, a typed name suffices, but you can add a scanned handwritten signature for that extra personal touch.

As for the sign-off itself, go for one of the following:

  • Best
  • Best wishes
  • Best regards
  • Regards
  • Kind regards
  • Sincerely

Follow this formula, and your cover letter won’t just be ending—it will actually be an invitation to the start of something new. Be it a conversation, a job interview, or, potentially, a successful career move.

For more cover letter closing strategies, give this guide a read: How to End a Cover Letter (With Examples)

9. Before You Hit “Send:” Edit Ruthlessly

Every word on the page must earn its place. If a given sentence or a phrase doesn’t paint you as the right candidate for the job, drop it.

Here’s how to edit your cover letter like a pro:

Review your cover letter for errors

Always have the spell check on in your word processing software, that’s your obvious first line of defense. But bear in mind that “basic” in-build tools like the Word or Google Docs spell check can miss errors, especially with homophones or where incorrect word choices technically pass as correct spelling.

There are more advanced tools available for free. Grammarly is a popular choice among jobseekers. I have nothing against it but have always found LanguageTool more helpful—apart from correcting basic mistakes, it will also give you wording tips and help you break down long sentences into smaller chunks.

As for pro-level editorial software, you can take ProWritingAid for a spin. It’s more suitable for long-form, journalistic writing, but it provides some helpful tips for other kinds of texts as well.

Cut the jargon

Although industry-specific terms can show expertise, too much jargon can make your letter vague. Ensure that your achievements and qualifications are described in clear, plain language. 

Sometimes, the first person to read your letter might be a recruiter who’s not a specialist in your field.

Cut the fluff

Brevity is the soul of wit—and the hallmark of a strong cover letter. Review your draft for redundancies, overly complex sentences, or any fluff. Aim for strong, clear sentences. If a sentence doesn’t add value or support your application, cut it.

Read your cover letter out loud

One of the most effective editing techniques out there. 

Hearing your words can help catch awkward phrasing, run-on sentences, or areas where the flow stumbles. It’s a different experience from reading silently, and can bring your attention to issues you might have overlooked.

Ask for an external review

If feasible, have someone else review your cover letter. Choose a trusted colleague, mentor, or, if you can afford it, a professional editor—someone who can provide constructive feedback and catch errors you might have missed. An external perspective can also assess how well your personality and professionalism come through.

Apply the final formatting touches

Before declaring your cover letter done, ensure the format is clean, professional, and consistent with your resume. This includes font choice, headings, and margins. If you’re submitting electronically, save your cover letter as a PDF.

Summary

Here’s how to write an effective cover letter:

  • Start with a compelling intro, whether it’s sharing a connection to the company’s values, leading with a notable achievement, or expressing genuine enthusiasm for the role. A formal intro is also acceptable if it segues into unique selling points.
  • Mention referrals when applicable. Including a referral from a credible source instantly boosts your cover letter’s impact. Ensure you have permission and mention their endorsement to establish trust and showcase relevant skills or experiences.
  • Avoid broad claims about your abilities. Instead, share concrete examples or stories that highlight your skills and achievements.
  • Directly link your skills and experiences to how you can solve the company’s specific challenges, moving the focus from your accomplishments to how you can benefit the employer.
  • Ensure your cover letter reflects your unique perspective and personality, avoiding jargon and overused phrases.
  • Finish strong. Reiterate your interest and suitability for the position, include a call to action, and thank the reader, using a formal sign-off.
  • Edit carefully. Every word should justify its place in your cover letter. Use spell check and editing tools to refine your letter, cutting fluff and ensuring clarity and conciseness in your presentation.

Questions? Concerns? Any personal cover letter stories you’d like to share or consult? Feel free to reach out via LinkedIn, always happy to talk about career advice, in general, or cover letter writing, in particular. But first, see the most frequently asked questions about cover letters, maybe you’ll find yours on the list.

FAQ

How to write a cover letter if I have little to no experience?

Emphasize transferable skills, academic achievements, and any relevant extracurricular activities. Mention how your unique qualities can contribute to the company. Use specific examples to demonstrate your eagerness and potential to learn and grow.

More information here: How to Write a Cover Letter with No Experience and How to Write a Cover Letter for an Internship

How long should a cover letter be?

Keep your cover letter concise and impactful, ideally between half a page to one full page. This translates to around 250–400 words.

Is submitting a cover letter mandatory?

While not always explicitly required, submitting a cover letter can set you apart and is highly recommended unless the job posting explicitly says not to. It shows initiative and interest in the position.

How to create a cover letter outline? Is it necessary?

For some, it’s easier to start with a rough cover letter outline and then elaborate on the specific ideas listed in the outline. If you’re struggling to get going, you can make a “brain dump” of all your relevant skills, achievements, and areas of expertise, written in bullet points. Then, you can organize the contents of the cover letter: begin with a brief introduction of yourself and the position you’re applying for. Next, state why you are the right fit for the job and the company. Conclude by expressing your enthusiasm for the opportunity and suggesting a meeting or call. But if you feel comfortable starting with a regular draft, rather than an outline, that approach can be just as effective. Experiment with the two and find what works for you.

What if I can’t find the name of the hiring manager? Who do I address the cover letter to?

If finding the hiring manager’s name proves difficult, opt for a generic but professional greeting using their job title, like “Dear Customer Service Team Leader” or even “Dear Hiring Manager.” Avoid broad salutations like “To whom it may concern.”

Is it okay to send a cover letter as the email message with your resume attached?

If you’re applying directly to the head of the department or otherwise, the hiring manager, sending your cover letter as the body of your email with the resume attached is perfectly acceptable (and can save the reader’s time, they’ll thank you for it). Start with a courteous greeting, insert the cover letter content, and conclude with a professional sign-off. Explicitly mention that your resume is attached for further details.

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Michael Tomaszewski

Michael Tomaszewski, CPRW, is a resume and career advice expert with 7+ years of experience in the hiring industry. He has helped millions of readers and dozens of one-on-one clients create resumes and cover letters that *finally* do their talents and accomplishments justice.

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