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Writing the Cover Letter
What are the objectives of a cover letter.
A good cover letter puts your résumé in context and persuades the prospective employer that you are a good match for the position in question. If your cover letter does its job, the prospective employer will begin to consider your candidacy and go on to review your résumé in detail.
Your cover letter also serves as a sample of your organizational and communication skills. For this reason, it's essential to spend time writing and organizing the content, and to proofread it carefully. The time and care that you devote to constructing and writing your cover letter and résumé will demonstrate to the prospective employer that you're capable of producing high quality work.
Finally, your cover letter expresses your interest in the particular position or particular organization. Cover letters should be individually tailored for each job prospect. Your letter should convey to each prospective employer that you have an understanding of the job, and that you've done some thinking about how you could fit in to the organization and contribute to its goals.
How should I approach the writing task?
Your cover letter is your opportunity to market those aspects of your skills, abilities, education, training, background, and experience which are most relevant to the position you're seeking. This means that you will need to begin by doing some thinking about your skills and background and how these relate to the position for which you're applying. (For more information about skills, visit the Humanities Academic Services Center website .) Your cover letter should reflect your individuality, but remember that you are "introducing yourself" for the first time to a stranger: it's best to err on the side of professionalism.
Read the job announcement carefully. What are the most important qualifications being sought? How can you best demonstrate that you have them? Try to put yourself in the prospective employer's position: What would you want to know about a candidate for this particular job? What information would be most important to you? Include only the most relevant attributes and experiences you possess which specifically match the job for which you're applying.
Research the company or organization: What does the employing organization do? What are its goals? What is its history? How does it fit in to its industry? What characterizes the organization's culture (e.g., is it casual, conservative, highly structured, diverse, traditional, modern, fast-paced, etc.)? Some information, such as the organization's mission, purpose, clients, partners, and a sense of its "style" can be found on its website (if it has one). There are also industry and employer directories available on the web, in the libraries, and at UW Career Center in 134 Mary Gates Hall. Local and national newspapers, industry-related publications and journals, and the Washington Occupational Information System are also good resources.
Address the letter to a specific individual. As with all writing, it's important to identify your audience. Taking the time to find out the hiring party's name and correct title is another way to demonstrate your interest in the position.
How should I format my cover letter?
Your cover letter should be three to four paragraphs in length and limited to one page. Like an essay, its content can usually be divided up into three parts:
The introduction states the position you're seeking, explains how you learned about the position, and indicates your interest. It often also contains a brief statement of your qualifications (education, experience, and skills).
The body highlights the most important qualities you can offer to this particular employer , related to the position that you're seeking. Because you will be attaching your résumé, this is not the place to go into great detail. What you are attempting to do is to get the employer's attention and interest him/her in your candidacy. This is also the place to present other relevant information about your characteristics or background that may not be evident from your résumé. You might provide the employer with some specific examples of how you've demonstrated particular key skills or how you fulfill the most important qualifications listed in the job announcement.
The conclusion should summarize your qualifications and your interest in the position. Be sure to close your letter with a request for action or an indication that you'll be following up. This might include a request for an interview, a statement of your intent to call the employer on a specific date, or the dates you'll be in town for an interview. Finally, always thank the employer for considering your application.
Sample Cover Letters
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Cover Letter Examples and Writing Tips
Alison Doyle is one of the nation’s foremost career experts.
What is a Cover Letter?
How to write a cover letter, cover letter examples and templates, basic cover letters to apply for a job, email cover letter examples, cover letters with a referral, examples listed by type of applicant, cover letters listed by occupation, applying for a transfer or promotion, inquiry and networking letters.
- Cover Letter Formats
Do you need to write a cover letter? A cover letter should be sent or posted with your resume or curriculum vitae when applying for a job, so it's essential to write a good one. Your cover letter is an opportunity to show the employer how you're an excellent match for a position.
Learn about writing a cover letter, including what to include, how to send it, review examples, and get free templates to download for many different types of occupations and applications. There are also guidelines and samples for writing email cover letters, inquiry letters, referral letters, prospecting letters, and networking letters.
A cover letter is a (typically) one-page document that explains to the hiring manager why you are an ideal candidate for the job. It goes beyond your resume to explain in detail how you could add value to the company.
A cover letter is a document that you send or upload with your resume when applying for jobs to provide additional information on your skills and experience.
A cover letter may be required by an employer, optional, or not needed as part of a job application. The requirements should be listed in the job posting.
Keep in mind that your cover letter doesn't have to be boring. Taking some time to showcase your personality and how it will be an asset to the employer can help your application get noticed. Follow these tips on how to write an effective cover letter .
Tailor each letter to the job. It takes a little extra time, but be sure to write a unique cover letter for each job. Your cover letter should be specific to the position you are applying for, relating your skills and experiences to those noted in the job posting.
Use keywords. One useful way to tailor your letter to the job is to use keywords from the job posting. Circle any words from the job posting that seem critical to the job, such as specific skills or qualifications. Try to use some of these words in your letter. This way, at a glance, the employer can see that you match the requirements of the job.
Explain how you will add value. Think of concrete ways to prove you will add value to the company. Include examples of specific accomplishments from previous jobs. For example, if you helped reduce turnover by 10% at your last company, or implemented a filing strategy that reduced file errors by 15%, include this information.
Try to quantify your successes when possible to clearly demonstrate how you could add value to the company.
Carefully edit your letter. Your cover letter is your first, and best, chance to sell the hiring manager on your candidacy for employment, so make sure it's perfect. Read through your letter, proofreading it for any spelling or grammar errors. Ask a friend, family member, or career counselor to read it as well. You want to make sure the letter is polished before submitting it.
It can be beneficial to look at cover letter examples when writing your own. A sample can help you decide what to include in your letter, and show you how to format it.
This collection of free, professionally written cover letters will help you get started writing your own letters.
Below you'll find both hard copy and email samples and templates, for a variety of different types of employment inquiries and job applications, including general cover letters, cold contact cover letters, referral letters, customized cover letters, job promotion letters, networking outreach letters, and letters to inquire about unadvertised openings.
Applying for a new job can be both exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. However, writing a cover letter that really “sells” the qualities you have to offer an employer is a great confidence-builder—you’ll know your letter is perfect when you read it and think, “Hey—I’d interview me!” Here are some examples of effective cover letters, with downloadable templates.
- Basic Cover Letter Example for a Resume
- Sample Cover Letter for a Job Application
- Cover Letter Example Matched to a Job
- General Cover Letter
- Academic Cover Letter
- Applying for More Than One Job
- Cold Contact Letter
- Letter For Unadvertised Openings
While cover letters that are emailed do not have as conservative a format as traditional “snail mail” cover letters, there is still a specific structure one should observe when drafting and sending them. Here’s how to make sure your email cover letter gets read.
- Email Cover Letter
- Email Cover Letter With Resume
- Email Cover Letter - Part-Time Job
- Email Cover Letter - Summer Job
- Email Message - Volunteer Position
One of the best ways to “get your foot in the door” at a company you would love to work for is to mention a professional connection to one of their current personnel. Here’s how to ask someone to serve as a referral for you and how to drop their name in your cover letter.
- Employee Referral
- Referral Cover Letter
- Referred by a Contact
- Requesting a Meeting
- Temp to Perm
- Value Proposition
- With Salary History
- With Salary Requirements
The ideal content and format of a cover letter depend both upon the type of position you are applying for and your relevant experience.
The cover letter of a seasoned professional will emphasize experience, whereas that of a recent college graduate is best focused upon training and potential.
Similarly, a cover letter for a sales position will use more aggressive marketing language than one designed for a social work role. The following cover letter samples are for candidates who are applying for a specific type or level of position.
- Samples Listed by Occupation
- Career Change
- College Graduate
- Part-Time Jobs
- Summer Jobs
- Transferable Skills
Here's a list of cover letter samples and downloadable templates listed by industry and position. Choose one that's a match for the jobs you're applying for, then tweak it to include your most relevant skills and experience.
- Cover Letters Listed by Type of Job
When you’ve worked for an employer for a while and know, through both your own impressions and strong performance reviews, that they value your work, it may be time to ask for a promotion or a transfer to a better position. Be proactive—companies don’t always have upward career tracks, and may not automatically award a promotion unless this is requested.
- Job Promotion
- Job Transfer Request Letter
- Job Transfer Request Letter - Relocation
Applying to officially advertised positions isn’t the only way to land your dream job. Often opportunities can be discovered through strategic networking; more than one person has been offered a position because they made their availability and interest known to employers who were not actively hiring.
- Inquiring About Job Openings
- Letter of Interest
- Networking Cover Letters
Cover Letter Formats and Templates
Review more examples of professional formats, layouts, and templates to use to apply for jobs, keeping in mind that you should tailor any cover letter template you decide to use as your model to reflect your own circumstances and personality.
- Cover Letter Format
- Cover Letter Layout
- Cover Letter Template
- Email Cover Letter Template
- Google Docs Cover Letter Templates
- Microsoft Word Cover Letter Templates
Cover Letter Template to Download
Download the cover letter template (compatible with Google Docs or Word) or see below for more examples.
Cover Letter Sample (Text Version)
Joseph Q. Applicant 123 Main Street Anytown, CA 12345 555-212-1234 firstname.lastname@example.org
July 20, 2020
Jane Smith Director, Human Resources Fit Living 123 Business Rd. Business City, NY 54321
Dear Ms. Smith:
I’m writing to apply for the position of Social Media Manager for Fit Living, as advertised on your website careers page. I have three years of experience as a Social Media Assistant for Young Living, and I believe I am ready to move up to the manager position.
In your job posting, you mention that you want to hire a Social Media Manager who understands the Internet and social media trends. During my time at Young Living, I was given the responsibility of increasing follower numbers on Instagram. I explained to my manager that I would be happy to do so and that I would also work hard to increase follower participation because engagement has become an important metric.
Within six months, I increased our followers by over 50% and increased engagement by 400%. I’m very proud of that accomplishment. Currently, I’m working to build a following with the best influencers in our niche.
When I saw the job opening, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to offer you both my social media marketing skills and people skills. I’ve included my resume so you can learn more about my educational background and all of my work experience. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Please feel free to email me at email@example.com or call my cell phone at 555-555-5555. I hope to hear from you soon.
Your Signature (hard copy letter)
Joseph Q. Applicant
Watch Now: 9 Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid
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Three excellent cover letter examples
Cover letters are the first chance you have to impress an employer – they’re not just a protective jacket for your CV. Here’s our guide on what to include and how to format them
- More CV and cover letter templates
- Looking for a job? Explore the range of vacancies on Guardian Jobs and find the perfect role for you
The first thing a potential employer sees in your job application is the cover letter. This doesn’t just support your CV – it’s an opportunity for you to stand out from the crowd and persuade the recruiter to put you through to the next round.
Be wary of spending hours on perfecting your CV at the expense of your cover letter. If you need some inspiration on what to include and what format to use, here are our helpful guides – just remember not to copy them as exact templates.
1. Standard, conservative style
This is ideal for sectors such as business, law, accountancy and retail. For more creative sectors, a letter like this might be less appealing, and could work against you.
Dear Mr Black, Please find enclosed my CV in application for the post advertised in the Guardian on 30 November. The nature of my degree course has prepared me for this position. It involved a great deal of independent research, requiring initiative, self-motivation and a wide range of skills. For one course, [insert course], an understanding of the [insert sector] industry was essential. I found this subject very stimulating. I am a fast and accurate writer, with a keen eye for detail and I should be very grateful for the opportunity to progress to market reporting. I am able to take on the responsibility of this position immediately, and have the enthusiasm and determination to ensure that I make a success of it. Thank you for taking the time to consider this application and I look forward to hearing from you in the near future. Yours sincerely
2. Standard speculative letter
This may vary according to the nature of the organisation and the industry you’re applying to.
Dear Mr Brown, I am writing to enquire if you have any vacancies in your company. I enclose my CV for your information. As you can see, I have had extensive vacation work experience in office environments, the retail sector and service industries, giving me varied skills and the ability to work with many different types of people. I believe I could fit easily into your team. I am a conscientious person who works hard and pays attention to detail. I’m flexible, quick to pick up new skills and eager to learn from others. I also have lots of ideas and enthusiasm. I’m keen to work for a company with a great reputation and high profile like [insert company name]. I have excellent references and would be delighted to discuss any possible vacancy with you at your convenience. In case you do not have any suitable openings at the moment, I would be grateful if you would keep my CV on file for any future possibilities. Yours sincerely
3. Letter for creative jobs
We’ve used the example of a copywriter but you can adapt it for your profession. The aim of a creative letter is to be original and show you have imagination, but understand what the job entails. Balance is essential: don’t be too wacky, or it will turn off the reader.
Dear Ms Green, · Confused by commas? · Puzzled by parenthesis? · Stumped by spelling? · Perturbed by punctuation? · Annoyed at the apostrophe? (And alliteration?) Well, you’re not alone. It seems that fewer and fewer people can write. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who can read. So they’ll spot a gaffe from a mile off. And that means it’s a false economy, unless you’re 100% sure of yourself, to write your own materials. (Or to let clients do it for themselves.) To have materials properly copywritten is, when one considers the whole process of publishing materials and the impact that the client wishes to make, a minor expense. Sloppiness loses clients, loses customers. There is an answer. Me. Firm quotes are free. You can see some of what I do on my multilingual website at [insert web address]. If you’d like, I can get some samples out to you within 24 hours. And, if you use me, you’ll have some sort of guarantee that you can sleep soundly as those tens of thousands of copies are rolling off the presses. Luck shouldn’t come into it! With kindest regards
Other helpful resources
How to write a perfect CV and cover letter
Applying for jobs without experience? How to build and sell your skills
Five steps to the perfect graduate CV
School-leavers and graduates: how to write your first CV
How to write a personal statement for your CV
CV templates to fit every stage of your career
Looking for a job? Browse Guardian Jobs for your next career step.
- Guardian Careers
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- Covering letters