How to write a great cover letter in 2023. [With examples]
Cover letters may seem outdated. But believe it or not, they are still one of the best ways to make your resume stand out.
Think about it, if a hiring manager is spending hours going through a tower of resumes, they’re all going to eventually sound the same.
Cover letters allow you to grab the hiring manager’s attention with a personalized and engaging message that sets you apart from the crowd.
If that sounds difficult, I promise, it’s a lot easier than you think.
In this blog we’ll be going over how to write a great cover letter with strong messaging that helps you stand out from the rest.
What does a cover letter need to accomplish?
Cover letters only exist for one reason.
The purpose of a cover letter is to answer the question “Why should we bring this person in?”
Don’t forget this. Everything in this guide will be for this reason alone.
The biggest mistake people make is rewriting their resume in paragraph form. Don’t fall for this trap. Cover letters should compliment your resume, not repeat it.
Preparing for a cover letter
I know I know. You want to get straight into writing. But bear with me, preparing will make writing a lot easier. Especially when it comes to putting together the body paragraphs.
First thing you want to do is create an outline of what experiences you’re going to highlight. That means figuring out what the employer is looking for.
Here’s how to get started:
- Take a look at the job description. You can find a list of job duties the employer expects from you. Break down each job duty and categorize it into things you can and can’t do.
- The easiest way to do this is to create a spreadsheet and write down each job duty listed on the job description. Next to it, rate how well you can perform each duty on a scale of 1-5.
- Take the top 3 and add a quick summary of how you’ve done these job duties in the past. Doesn’t have to be long, but it will help you visualize what you want to focus on down the line.
Below is an example of a preparation spreadsheet.
To further help you, consider using a word cloud.
Word clouds help you visualize what keywords stand out from a job description.
Paste the entire job description into a word cloud and take a look at which keywords are used the most. The bigger the word, the more often it’s used.
Use this to your advantage. The more often they use a word, the more likely it’s something they care about. Use these words in your cover letter and resume.
Here’s an example of one I used for a customer service position.
Writing your cover letter
On to the fun part, actually writing the cover letter. Below is how we’ll break it down. You can find each section below with a tutorial for each.
The cover letter consists of 4 main parts.
Formatting a header
Pretty straight forward. The header is the same as one you’d find on a resume. It’ll include:
- Full name
- Phone number
- Linkedin (if you have one)
- Location (optional; only mention the city if you include it)
If your resume already has a header, make sure to keep the same design. Consistency always looks better
Below are some examples of acceptable header designs. A subtle design with minimal color, if any, is enough for most cover letters.
Creating your introduction
Greeting the Hiring Manager
The first thing to start every letter is a greeting. Most people opt for the standard “Dear Sir/Madam” or “Dear Hiring Manager”. Both of these are acceptable.
if you’re able to get the exact name of the hiring manager, you’ll instantly stand out from the rest. It shows you put in the time to research the company and are serious about working there.
The best way to do this is to find the hiring manager through LinkedIn.
- Look up the company and find the head of HR. More often than not, they’re the ones handling the interviews.
- If you’re applying for something a little less structured like a restaurant server. You would look for whoever the “restaurant manager” is. As they’re usually conducting interviews for all restaurant positions.
Having a hard time finding certain positions? Take a look at the “Team” page from the company’s LinkedIn. There you’ll see a list of all their employees.
If that still doesn’t work. Check out their website as a last resort. (Use at your own risk. Some websites are outdated when it comes to employee lists.)
All in all, even if you get the person wrong, as long as you were close, it won’t hurt you. It shows you researched the company.
Writing the Introduction
After the greeting, you’ll want to start with a strong opening statement.
As I mentioned before, the main purpose of a cover letter is to answer the question “Why should we bring this person in”. This needs to be clearly expressed from the start.
Instead of wasting space about what job you’re applying for and how you heard about it, start strong.
Open with why you find this job exciting and what you bring to the table.
Check out the difference between starting a cover letter the traditional way vs packing a punch from the beginning:
See what I mean? Cut the fluff. Get straight to the point.
Constructing the body
The body is where the meat of your cover letter is. Here you’ll tell them why you’re the perfect person for the job.
Remember the preparation sheet you did earlier? Here, you’ll break down the top 3 job experiences you picked and write about them in paragraph form.
Here are some tips to follow:
- Remember to use examples when talking about your experiences. Hard data is preferred but at the very least mention what your duties accomplished for the company.
- If you prefer listing out your experience similar to a resume. Consider using a transition sentence. It’ll help your introduction flow into your body paragraph. (examples further below)
Consider matching yourself with the company culture
At the end of the body paragraph, consider adding a couple sentences matching yourself with the company culture.
It’s one of the biggest things that you can do to stand out from the crowd.
If you think about it, employees that don’t fit the company culture eventually quit, costing the company more money in the long run. Hiring managers look at resumes with that trailing over their heads. If you can address it directly, it’ll skyrocket your chances.
To figure out a company’s culture you’ll need to do some research. You’ll want to know things like:
- What is the company’s business model? (And where you would fit in the company’s goals)
- What are the company’s values? Do you relate to any of them?
- What work styles does the company promote? Micromanaging vs independent work.
Here are the easiest ways to research a company:
Check out their website
- An about us page will usually outline a company’s values
- Look for a resources page, you can usually find blogs (like this one) where you can read more about what they do
Check out all their social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter)
- Companies will usually express their values through social media posts. Pay close attention to patterns and keywords. It shows how they’re trying to brand themselves. (very similar to the word cloud exercise earlier)
Look up their Glassdoor or any other employee review site.
- You’ll be able to hear directly from past employers and get a good idea of the work culture.
- If you find out it’s actually not a company you want to work for, that’s also a good thing.
After you’ve done your research, include parts of the culture that you relate to or feel like you yourself express.
Here’s some examples of a body section:
Writing the conclusion
Here, you’ll want to wrap up your cover letter.
- Mention anything you missed in the previous paragraphs.
- Thank the reader for their time and consideration
- And end the letter with a call to action that encourages them to reach out to you. (This one is crucial)
For the closing, stick to the same rules as a business email. Use these popular closings:
- Thank you,
- Thank you for your consideration,
- Best Regards,
Here is an example of a good conclusion:
You should now have a strong and well written cover letter. Be sure to double check it for spelling and grammar.
Grammar.ly is a great tool for proofreading your cover letter.
If you still need some inspiration, Here are some examples of great cover letters.