Your cover letter is one of the best marketing tools you have in finding a position. It’s often one of the first things asked of you in the job or internship search process. Learn about how to write an effective cover letter to help you land your next interview!
The purpose of a cover letter is to make a compelling case for yourself as a candidate for a particular job, and it complements what’s in your resume. It’s an opportunity to tell an employer more about you than just what they’ll see in your work history. Other things matter too, like work habits, communication skills, drive, people skills and overall enthusiasm for the job. A good cover letter doesn’t summarize the resume that follows; it adds new details that aren’t on the resume that explain why YOU would excel at this particular job.
We suggest thinking back to past compliments from supervisors or teammates when you’re trying to come up with skills to highlight and tying them to an anecdote to make things feel a little more grounded. Anyone can say they are a “team player” who “works well under pressure,” but not everyone can talk about how their successful presentation sealed the deal with a hesitant client, or brag that they’ve got spreadsheet customization skills that their coworkers have described as a “game changer.”
To take the pressure off the writing process, imagine you’re writing an email to a friend about why you think you’d be great at the job. You probably wouldn’t do that by stiffly reciting your work history; you’d talk about what you’re good at, how your experiences align with what it takes to do the job well, how you’d approach the work, and why you’re excited about it. That’s a good basis for any cover letter.
Be Mindful of the Medium
For a hard copy cover letter or a word document for electronic application submission, use the same heading as you have in your resume. This will make sure all of your documents match and looks very professional.
- If you’re submitting the cover letter as an email, the subject line should include your name, the job title, and/or the posting number
- When emailing your materials, write your cover letter in the body of the email — omit the header, date, and address section; only keep whom the letter is addressed to and the body of the letter
- Make sure to include your contact information in the signature of the email when emailing a letter, in case it’s forwarded
What to Avoid
While different job descriptions will require you to think differently, here are some points you should always avoid:
- Don’t use a generic letter for every position you apply for, instead, take the time to tailor each cover letter to the particular company and position that you’re applying for
- Don’t be in a hurry — be sure to follow the instructions in the job posting, and include any information specifically requested
- Avoid typos, misspelled words and false or exaggerated information — always have someone else proofread before sending
- Don’t address the letter to “To Whom it May Concern”! Use the name of the hiring manager or you can use one of the following salutations: “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Hiring Team”
Below you’ll find cover letter examples paired with respective job descriptions. For these examples, read the job description closely and then the matching cover letter to better understand how to write a cover letter that’s tailored to the job. These examples are intended for inspiration only — to show what our cover letter advice can look like in practice.