Asking yourself "Do I need a cover letter?" We surveyed 200 hiring decision-makers to find out if cover letters are still important in 2023.
About 50% of the candidates send cover letters. And only 26% of the recruiters consider them important.
But since you never know whose hands your job application is going to end up in—
It’s better to be safe than sorry, isn’t it?
The problem is:
If you send a cover letter that doesn’t look as it should, you’ll be doing yourself more harm than good.
In this article you’ll learn:
- What a resume cover letter should look like.
- What template works best for any cover letter.
- Tips on how to write one so it both looks and reads great.
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Not sure how to proceed with a cover letter? Check our step-by-step guide on how to write a cover letter.
1. Example of a Great Looking Cover Letter
Before we go any further—
Here’s what a resume cover letter looks like:
A Good-Looking Cover Letter for a Resume
Below you can find an outline you can copy and paste into a blank document:
Proper Cover Letter Outline
[Your Job Title]
[Addressee’s Job Title]
Dear [Addressee’s Name]
[Paragraph 1] Get the recruiter’s attention and introduce yourself.
When I found the opening for [Position] with [Company], I was [Describe your excitement]. In my current position as [Current Job Title], I [Mention a key achievement of yours]. I’m sure my experience will translate into similar results at [Company].
[Paragraph 2] Prove your worth and explain why you’re a great fit.
I realize that [Mention a current problem a company is facing, e.g. refer to what you think is the most challenging in the role]. While working at [Previous Company], I’ve [In two sentences, describe what you did specifically, mention another one of your key achievements and say how it helped the company].
[Paragraph 3] Explain your motivations.
I love [Say what you like about the company and/or the role you want to fill in]. It’s perfectly in line with my core professional values: [In a sentence, say what it is. Make sure the values or skills you mention here tie in with the previous sentence].
[Paragraph 4] Call to action.
When can we [arrange a meeting/schedule a phone call/interview] call to discuss [your contribution to the company].
P.S. [Optional Section] Grab the recruiter’s attention once more with an additional achievement of yours included in the postscript. [E.g. I’d also love to tell you how I managed to motivate my team to achieve X by doing Y].
Expert Hint: Your job application documents consist of a resume and a cover letter. It’s crucial for both of them to be formatted in the same way. Also, make sure both the resume header and cover letter header match one another.
2. How to Format and Write a Professional Looking Cover Letter
Cut to the chase:
As the name rightly suggests a cover letter is a letter.
It’s not an informal note. Or an email. And it’s not a novel either.
Just like you see in the template above, a cover letter should consist of:
- Main Body
How long should a cover letter be? How much space do you have?
A single page.
To be more precise:
- Experienced candidates should stay below 300 words.
- Entry-level candidates shouldn’t exceed 200 words.
Obviously, nothing is set in stone.
Let common sense be thy guide. If your cover letter is 20% longer or shorter, it’s fine.
A single paragraph won’t look good. Neither will a 5-page treatise.
Here’s what you can do to make your cover letter look professional and get enough room for everything you want to say on a single page:
1. Format Your Cover Letter to Make It Look Professional
- Set one-inch margins on every side of your resume cover letter.
- Pick the best cover letter fonts. The safest font size is within 10–14pt range.
- Stay away from double line spacing. We recommend single or 1.15 line spacing.
- Don’t cram in too much. White space is a friend. Embrace it.
Your recruitment documents consist of a resume and cover letter combo. So see to it that they look alike and use the same template for both.
2. Address Your Cover Letter Properly
Here’s the secret—
You can tickle the hiring manager’s curiosity before they even read a single word on your cover letter.
Putting the hiring manager’s name on your cover will make it look professional and feel personal.
Find out who the hiring authority is and send your cover letter and resume to them directly, preferably through a mutual connection you have. This often takes research, but more often than not, you’ll have a connection somewhere in your network that can assist you.
Double your impact with a matching resume and cover letter combo. Use our cover letter generator and make your application documents pop out.
Want to try a different look? There's 21 more. A single click will give your document a total makeover. Pick a cover letter template here.
3. Write a Great Looking Introductory Paragraph
The best way to grab the recruiter’s attention from the word go is to mention some of your key achievements in the opening paragraph.
Our guide on how to start a cover letter will give you detailed instructions on how to get it right.
This way your cover letter will NOT look like it’s been copy-pasted an umpteenth time, but specifically crafter to this particular reader and job opening.
4. Compose a Compelling Main-Body Section
Relevance is key.
So make sure the main body paragraphs of your cover letter look nothing but relevant to the career you’re after.
Explain to the reader what makes you the best candidate, how you want to help the company grow, and why you believe the job is a perfect match for you.
If you’re having doubts about how to put your best foot forward, you can find the answers in our guide on what to include in a cover letter.
In most jobs these days, communication skills are critical. Demonstrate that you can provide information in a clear, concise, and grammatically correct manner. And make sure that your letter is free of any typos or punctuation errors. If your cover letter is full of mistakes, you're speaking volumes about your attention to detail. So have somebody else (who has good writing skills) proof-read your cover letter. I once received a cover letter in which the applicant mentioned that he'd graduated from a top-tier "collage”—and I was not impressed!
5. Add a Call to Action
A cover letter isn’t a list of demands—
It’s a request.
You’re introducing yourself to someone you’d like to meet in person.
So make sure you finish your cover letter with a powerful call to action that will help you achieve your goal.
6. Sign Off In a Professional Manner
Don’t get sloppy as you’re approaching the end of your cover letter.
How you finish is just as important as how you start.
Learn how to end a cover letter to make it look great from start to finish.
And this is it!
If you follow the steps above your cover letter will look professional and read great.
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Here’s all you need to remember about what a cover letter looks like:
- Address it to the right person.
- Make it one-page long.
- Follow a classic letter template.
- Set the right margins.
- Choose professional fonts.
- Format it just like your resume.
- Write killer content, relevant to the job.
- Make sure it’s free from typos and mistakes.
Do you have any questions? Would you like to share your ideas on what a great cover letter looks like? We’d love to hear from you! Give us a shout out in the comments below.
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At ResumeLab, quality is at the crux of our values, supporting our commitment to delivering top-notch career resources. The editorial team of career experts carefully reviews every article in accordance with editorial guidelines, ensuring the high quality and reliability of our content. We actively conduct original research, shedding light on the job market's intricacies and earning recognition from numerous influential news outlets. Our dedication to delivering expert career advice attracts millions of readers to our blog each year.