Cover Letter

What Should a Cover Letter Include? 5 Key Elements and What to Write About

Contents

Explore the best practices for writing a cover letter in 2024

All cover letters need a header section where your contact details go. Next up is a formal greeting to the hiring manager or head of department. This is followed by a strong opening paragraph where you introduce yourself. Then, you should write 1–3 paragraphs for the main body, explaining your top achievements that are related to the role and linking your background to the company’s needs. Lastly, cover letters include a closing statement with a formal sign-off. 

Here’s what a cover letter must include: 

  • Header section 
  • Formal greeting
  • Opening paragraph 
  • Main body 
  • Closing paragraph
  • Formal sign-off

Within the opening paragraph and main body, you’ll also want to include some of the following:

  • Professional achievements
  • Relevant projects
  • Certifications and qualifications
  • Referrals
  • Transferable skills 
  • Quantitative data

In short, there’s your answer to, “what should a good cover letter include?”

Not all cover letters will include each of the elements listed above. Ultimately, it depends on each individual’s professional background and experience. 

That’s why, in this guide, I’ll walk you through all key factors a cover letter might include and how to best include them. 

What Are You Even Supposed to Write in a Cover Letter?

The aim of a cover letter is to explain how your work history aligns with the job responsibilities and how it makes you the right candidate to hire in terms of skills, personality, and experience. 

So, write about all the things that prove you’re qualified for the role. Whether that’s because of your technical expertise or long-term goals and interests, focus on what makes you a good fit for the company’s needs.

What Should a Cover Letter Include? 5 Essential Sections for All Cover Letters

Here’s what to include on a cover letter: 

  • Background details. Name, location (city, country), phone number, email address, date, company name. 
  • Formal greeting. Address the hiring manager or head of department using their last name. 
  • Opening paragraph. Introduce yourself by leading with your track record, enthusiasm, or mutual connections. 
  • Main body. Detail relevant skills and experiences. Link them to specific company needs and directly explain why you’re the right fit. 
  • Closing paragraph and sign-off. Show enthusiasm once more and reiterate why you believe you’re the right person for the company. Then, include a short thank-you note to the reader followed by a formal sign-off.

This is also the standard cover letter format

To get a better sense of what to include in each section, I’ll dive into a bit more detail below. 

If you want to learn how to write an effective cover letter step-by-step with proven examples, go to this guide here.

1. The Header Section

All cover letters include a header section. This is where your contact details are such as: 

  • Full name
  • Location
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Date
  • Company name

Use this format for your cover letter header. If it helps, start with an outline before you start slinging ink. 

2. Salutation & Greeting

The first line after writing your contact details is the salutation. Greet the hiring manager by their last name, honorifics, or job title. Here’s a few examples: 

  • Dear Mr Smith
  • Dear Ms Smith
  • Dear Sir
  • Dear Madam
  • Dear Hiring Manager

Ideally, you’d include the hiring manager’s name in your greeting. But if you’re unsure, either greet them by their honorifics or job position. 

Here’s another piece of advice for writing cover letters: don’t address the reader through the infamous phrase “to whom it may concern.” It’s impersonal and suggests that you didn’t do your research. 

3. The Opening Paragraph 

This covers two things:

  • The job position you’re applying for 
  • An introduction to your professional background

After reading the opening paragraph, the reader should know the job vacancy you’re interested in as well as your professional strengths or career highlights.

4. Main Body

The main body is made up of 1-3 paragraphs. Each paragraph of the main body focuses on a few of the following:

  • Achievements
  • Relevant experience
  • Hard skills
  • Soft skills

This takes up most space in your cover letter. The purpose here is to prove that you’re a strong candidate by showcasing how your work history aligns with the job responsibilities. 

Here’s an example of what each paragraph in the main body can focus on: 

• First paragraph: work history and technical skills
• Second paragraph: academic background and qualifications
• Third paragraph: personality traits and communication skills

However, three paragraphs aren’t always necessary. What you write about is more important than how much you write about. 

5. Closing Paragraph & Sign Off

The closing paragraph is where you sum up your application, drop a call to action, and include a professional sign off. 

Here’s an example:

I believe my strong education and employment experience make me an ideal candidate for this position. I look forward to discussing this position further.
Sincerely,
Charles Bloomberg

To go one step further to help you stand out, feel free to include your digital signature.

4 More Things All Cover Letters Must Include

Now, we’ll zoom in and go through a few more things that are essential for cover letters to include. 

Why You’re Interested in the Job

The first sentence of your cover letter should tell the reader the job position you’re applying for, which is often followed up by why you’re interested in the role. This step is crucial for letters of interest

The opening paragraph can end after stating the job opportunity you’re interested in and why. Or, you can expand by writing a short introduction about your professional background. 

Career Objectives

Sharing your career goals is effective for all types of cover letters whether it’s for an internship role or for a manager position. Even for seasoned professionals or seniors, sharing your objectives is good for giving your potential employer confidence that you have a genuine interest in the field. 

Job Description Keywords

Without using any of the keywords from the job description, your application may not get past the initial hiring phase because of the applicant tracking system.

However, keywords must be used in the context of your skills, work experience, and achievements. This tailors your application and shows that you have a good understanding of the job requirements.

Reference to the Company’s Core Values

Show that you align with the company culture and mission. For instance, share your own personal values and motivations. 

Being qualified for the role in terms of hard skills is one important factor. But another important factor is showing that you have the ideal qualities and personality for the job which enables you to perform better. This can help you stand out, especially when you have no work experience

Anything Else That a Cover Letter Should Include?

Not all of these will be necessary on a cover letter but here’s a few more things to keep in mind:

  • Bullet points
  • Numbers, data, statistics
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Mutual connections
  • Side projects

And Here’s What to Avoid Including on a Cover Letter

Avoid these cover letter mistakes

  • Spelling and grammar errors
  • Clichés
  • Including no examples
  • Greeting the wrong person
  • Writing in an informal tone of voice
  • Showing signs of a negative attitude
  • Overexaggerating 

3 Examples of What a Good Cover Letter Looks Like

We also have a library of more than 180+ free cover letter templates. So if your job title isn’t listed below, try checking that out. 

On the other hand, feel free to check out our cover letter examples guide for key takeaways on some of our best cover letters.  

Accountant Cover Letter

Accontant cover letter

Mechanical Engineer Cover Letter

Mechanical Engineer cover letter

Sales Cover Letter

Sales

Use Rezi AI Cover Letter Writer to Generate a Tailored Cover Letter in Seconds

At the start of this guide, I mentioned that we’d show you a way to generate a personalized job application in as quick as 10 seconds. 

Well, here’s how it works: 

  • Enter the company name.
  • Write the job position/title you’re applying for. 
  • Select a previous job position/title to highlight. 
  • Press “AI Writer Ready”.

And that’s a wrap. 

Surprised that it’s that quick to create a cover letter? More than 850,000 job seekers were too but after discovering this hack, sending more tailored resumes and cover letters was a piece of cake. Best of all, it led to landing more interviews. 

Want to be next? 

Sign up here to get started for free. 

Or if you’re still curious, feel free to watch the short clip below to see Rezi's AI cover letter generator in action. 

 

Summary

Here’s an overview of what to put on a cover letter:

  • Contact details, as well as the date and company name, go in the header section. 
  • An introduction of your professional background in relation to the company’s needs, and how you’ll be able to uniquely contribute. 
  • Explanations of relevant skills, achievements, and experiences in the main body. This should make it clear you’re a good fit skills-wise and personality-wise.
  • An overview of your application that directly addresses how you can add value to the company and reiterates enthusiasm. 
  • An expression of gratitude for the reader’s time alongside an implication of the next steps, followed by a formal sign-off. 

Your cover letter is all good as long as it explains why you’re a good fit in terms of skills and areas of interest. This is done by showing how your background makes you a good match for solving company-specific challenges. 

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Astley Cervania

Astley Cervania is a career writer and editor who has helped hundreds of thousands of job seekers build resumes and cover letters that land interviews. He is a Rezi-acknowledged expert in the field of career advice and has been delivering job success insights for 4+ years, helping readers translate their work background into a compelling job application.

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