We surveyed US hiring decision-makers to find out if cover letters are still necessary and if *you* need one to land a job in 2020. Here’s what we found.
You need a perfect cover letter.
Because it’s your best chance to stand out from the crowd of candidates who think a generic cover letter will do.
Cover letters are of great importance to hiring managers.
And whether or not you get the job depends solely on their final decision.
“Forget all the others, let's hire this one!”
You want your cover letter to bring this response from your hiring manager. The good news?
You need only 10 minutes to learn how to write a cover letter for a job that lands you any gig you set your sights on.
Read on and you’ll find:
- A perfect cover letter sample you can copy, adjust, and use.
- How to write a job-winning cover letter in less than 10 minutes.
- Simple techniques to make your cover letter the best one in the pile.
- How to give employers exactly what they want in your job cover letter.
What does a perfect cover letter look like? See below—
Save hours of work and get a cover letter like this. Pick a template, fill it in. Quick and easy. Choose from 18+ cover letter templates and download your cover letter now.
What users say about ResumeLab:
I had an interview yesterday and the first thing they said on the phone was: “Wow! I love your cover letter.”
I love the variety of templates. Good job guys, keep up the good work!
My previous cover letter was really weak and I used to spend hours adjusting it in Word. Now, I can introduce any changes within minutes. Absolutely wonderful!
First, let’s get the basics clear:
What is a cover letter for a resume?
A cover letter is a document you send along with your resume that shows your qualifications and explains your motivation to join the company (hence it’s sometimes called a motivation letter).
Now, let’s see a pitch-perfect cover letter example.
Sample Cover Letter You Can Copy and Use
Customer Service Specialist
89 Westfield Road
Anytown, CA 92301
Mr. James Stipe
Head of Product
3015 Round Table Drive
Anytown, CA 90544
3. The Main Body
An Opening Paragraph That Gets Attention
When I found the opening for the Senior Customer Service Specialist with ABC Bank I felt as if it was addressed to me, personally. In my current position as CSR at Acme Corp, I’ve boosted customer retention by 37% in 9 months and raised the mean NPS from 7.9 to 8.8. I’m sure my expertise can translate into similar results for ABC.
Central Paragraph: Why You’re the Perfect Candidate
I realize that the major upcoming challenge for your Customer Service Team will be to assist other teams in launching the new AI-based platform for Personal Internet Banking. While working at Acme, I’ve planned and supervised online and phone surveys prior to the redesign of our home page. Collaborating with colleagues in a cross-departmental project team of customer service reps, data analysts, and software developers, we’ve designed a consumer-insight-driven product that finally met the varying needs of Acme’s customers.
Closing Paragraph: Why You Want In
I love that your Customer Service Team operates with one goal in mind only: to maximize the business opportunities by finding and implementing tailor-made solutions for all customers. It perfectly reflects my core professional value: the drive to connect every customer with personalized support at every step of their consumer life journey.
4. Call to Action
When can we schedule a call to discuss solutions for boosting ABC’s Customer Satisfaction Scores by 20% in the next Fiscal Year?
5. Formal Closing
P.S.—I’d also value the opportunity to tell you how I raised my team’s customer experience phone survey ratings by 48% above the company average.
That’s a killer cover letter example, right?
Think writing an equally good one is grueling? Nope. It’s super easy.
All boils down to using a good cover letter template that:
- Showcases your best strengths, and...
- Gives your future employers exactly what they want.
If you need a cover letter guide for less experienced candidates, see: How to Write a Cover Letter with No Work Experience
Here’s a breakdown of how to write a cover letter quick and easy:
1. Start with Creating a Professional Cover Letter Heading
The hiring manager loved your cover letter. But—
You never landed the interview. You forgot to add a cover letter heading. No one knew how to reach you.
Don’t let this bad dream come true.
Before you start writing, create a cover letter heading with:
- Your names, professional title, and contact info.
- City and date: no longer a must but it will add a professional touch if your cover letter is addressed to a more conservative company.
- The addressee's details.
Expert Hint: Double check to make sure your cover letter contact details are consistent with your resume.
If you need to know more about cover letter formatting (fonts, line spacing, alignment, and more) see: The Only Proper Formal Cover Letter Format
2. Use a Proper Salutation in Your Cover Letter
The question a lot of candidates ask:
How to address a cover letter?
Address your cover letter directly to the hiring manager who’ll read it. Use “Dear” followed by:
- Their first name only if you’re applying to a company with a relaxed culture.
- Mr./Ms. and their last name if eyeing a stiff corporate job.
Cover Letter Examples: Salutations
Expert Hint: If your hiring manager is a woman and you’re not 100% sure about her marital status, don’t risk being rude by guessing whether it’s “Miss” or “Mrs.” Go with the universal “Ms.”
Don’t know who to address your resume cover letter to? Find out!
- Check if the name is included in the job listing.
- Try to find the head of your future department on LinkedIn and other networking sites.
- Research the company website.
- Try googling “[Company Name] [Department Name] + manager / team leader / lead”
- Call the company and ask the receptionist who the decision maker is.
You’ll need to write a so-called “To Whom It May Concern” cover letter.
Don’t actually start a cover letter with “To Whom It May Concern.” Instead, write:
- “Dear Hiring Manager,”
- “Dear [XYZ Team] Manager.”
It’s far from perfect but still way better than the old-school “Dear Sir or Madam.”
Double your impact with a matching resume and cover letter combo. Use our cover letter builder and make your application documents pop out.
Want to try a different look? There’s 18 more. A single click will give your document a total makeover. Pick a cover letter template here.
3. Get Attention, Sell Yourself, Say Why You Want In—Three Key Steps to Writing the Best Cover Letter
Heading and salutation—done. Time for the dreaded part. Selling yourself without coming off awkward.
Here’s an easy step-by-step formula you should use.
The three-paragraph cover letter format:
- Start your cover letter with “the hook.” Tell a quick story that shows how impressive your skills are.
- Make an offer. Emphasize how your expertise will benefit the company.
- Explain your motivation to join them so that the hiring manager will know you’ll be likely to stay at the job longer.
Now, if there’s one thing I want you to remember after reading this guide, it’s this:
Personalize every cover letter you send.
If you came here to learn how to write a generic job cover letter you’ll include with every application you send out...
You might as well leave now.
Seriously. No cover letter is better than an impersonal one.
Let’s go back to our main cover letter example.
Our candidate, Jennifer is applying for a Senior Customer Service Specialist position with The ABC Bank.
Her prospective employer has specific plans: they’re launching a new AI-based, customized platform for personal internet banking. This means they need:
- A skilled Customer Service Specialist, obviously.
- Someone experienced in developing customer surveys to analyze insights.
- An employee good at collaboration with members from other teams.
- A Customer Service pro passionate about creating tailor-made customer solutions.
Here’s how Jennifer managed to show that she’s 1, 2, 3, and 4:
Cover Letter Examples: First Paragraph
Years of experience don’t matter. They’ll count them on your resume anyway. Don’t tell who you are. Prove how good your work has been.
Cover Letter Examples: Second Paragraph
The only message this one conveys? “I’m a Customer Service Rep.” Yeah, we know, just like 350 others who’ve applied, so what?
Expert Hint: If you want to save space in this paragraph, you can use bullet points to outline how your expertise matches the job offer.
Cover Letter Examples: Closing Paragraph
Needy as hell and not even flattering.
The whole thing screams: “I’VE ALREADY COPY-PASTED THIS A MILLION TIMES.”
See, Jennifer managed to show how exceptionally qualified she is for the position in three short paragraphs. All it took was to identify what’s expected of her and give tangible proof she’s got it all.
Remember—always seal your cover letter with a KISS: Keep It Short & Simple.
Speaking of which…
How long should a cover letter be?
- 250–300 words for experienced candidates.
- Entry-level cover letters should stay within 200 words.
Expert Hint: This study suggests it’s crucial you use your cover letter to highlight what doesn’t rise to the surface in your resume. Other candidates might have similar experience. Expand on details that make you special for this position.
Done with writing the cover letter main body? Congratulations. Let’s finish with a bang:
4. Add an Engaging Call to Action to Your Cover Letter
“Tom, make sure we interview this one by the end of the week.”
That’s what the hiring manager will tell his PA after reading your cover letter call to action.
Here’s how to nail it:
- Reiterate your offer and directly ask them to reach out.
- Gently remind them that you won’t be be available forever.
- Don’t write the overused phrase “Thank you for your time and attention.”
Cover Letter Examples: Call to Action
That one’s more like a call to fall asleep over yet another identically-phrased cover letter.
And while we’re at phrasing, here's a cover letter writing tip you need to remember: your word choice matters. Avoid jargon and overused, meaningless corporate phrases. Just to give you an idea of what I mean:
What Words to Avoid in Your Cover Letter
The guidelines from the official US Plain Language Network list these phrases as the worst and most commonly overused in the business jargon:
- Thinking outside the box
- Value added
- Best practice
- At the end of the day
- For all intents and purposes
- Touch base
- Quite frankly
- Truth be told
- Integrating quality solutions
- Promoting an informed and inclusive multicultural society
5. End Your Cover Letter with a Professional Formal Closing
Put a formal closing below the contents of your cover letter.
Cover Letter Template: Ending
- A “Sincerely” or “Thank you” synonym.
- Your full name: a copy of your handwritten signature will be a good idea.
- Basic contact details: phone number, email, LinkedIn profile.
- Optionally, a “PS” where you showcase your most impressive achievement.