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.
Picture this: You’re searching for the next great job opportunity and found more than a dozen applications that caught your eye. So you prepare your resume, upload it, and just when you’re about to hit “send,” you realize all of these companies require a cover letter.
Don’t let these opportunities pass you by. With this guide, you’ll learn how to create the perfect outline for a cover letter that will help you secure your next big job.
In this guide, we’ll show you:
- What sections to use to create a professional outline for a cover letter.
- Ways to avoid rookie mistakes when writing your cover letter outline.
- An expertly crafted example of a cover letter outline with five samples straight from our builder.
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Looking for more helpful articles about cover letters? Check out our other guides:
- Email Cover Letter
- Free Google Docs Cover Letter Templates
- How to Write a Cover Letter
- Things to Include in a Cover Letter
- What Should a Cover Letter Look Like
Or take a look at some of our many cover letter guides for specific jobs:
- Administrative Assistant Cover Letter Example
- Data Entry Cover Letter Guide
- Executive Assistant Cover Letter Sample
- HR Cover Letter
- Office Manager Cover Letter Guide
Perfect Cover Letter Outline
A cover letter outline is divided into several vital sections. Let’s discuss them in detail:
1. Cover Letter Heading With Contact Details
Just like a resume, cover letters require your contact information. But unlike a resume, you need to personally address the hiring manager or recruiter to make it look proper.
A cover letter header needs this information in this specific order:
- Your full name
- Job title
- Telephone number
- Email address
- Links to relevant sites, e.g., LinkedIn or your professional website (optional if you’re sending a physical letter)
- Current date
- Recruiter’s full name
- Job title
- Company name
Can’t you find the recruiter’s information? Refer to our guide on how to address a cover letter.
2. Salutation and an Enticing First Paragraph
Always personalize your cover letter opening. If you start with a generic: “To whom it may concern,” you can pretty much throw your application out. The proper cover letter etiquette demands that you use the hiring manager’s name. It shows you took the time to read through the application and research the company. And a dedicated applicant has a much higher chance of landing an interview.
So start your cover letter with a “Dear [Recruiter’s Name]” for the maximum impact.
And the next step in writing your outline for a cover letter is the hook. Use the first paragraph to entice the reader and make them want to know more about you. How do you do that?
- Introduce yourself.
- Show interest in the company (be direct, but not desperate).
- Showcase your major achievement or knowledge of skills required in the job ad.
- Briefly mention how you believe you can help the company in the future.
Do it right, and they’ll proceed to the next paragraph. Speaking of which…
3. Middle Part Full of Achievements
Now that you managed to hook the recruiter, it’s time to reel them in. And what better way to do that than to show them how incredible your work achievements are?
Showcasing a couple of your best professional accomplishments is a proven way to vastly improve your chances of getting hired. Here’s how to do that:
- List up to 3 achievements or examples of skills (and, if possible, prove them with numbers).
- Tell a short story about your most prominent achievement.
- Use resume power words and resume keywords for maximum impact (yes, they work with cover letters, too).
This part of the cover letter outline is going to be the longest. Take your time creating it, pick your achievements carefully, and flesh them out with numbers.
We also recommend you do a bit of research on the company’s culture. The result of poor culture fit due to turnover can cost an organization between 50-60% of the person’s annual salary. For example, if the company puts emphasis on learning and continuous improvement, show them you’re always looking for opportunities to further your own knowledge and expertise. A course you’re currently taking or a certificate you recently received will show the recruiter
Expert Hint: No matter how many achievements you have, pick only a couple of them so that your cover letter is only one-page long. A single page is the only correct length of a cover letter.
4. Call to Action in the Last Paragraph
Remember why you’re creating a cover letter. It’s a tool meant to persuade your future employer to hire you. And how do you usually convince people to do something? That’s right—you ask them to do that thing.
So begin the last paragraph by restating your interest in the job. You can remind the recruiter of your values and that you’d be honored to work for them. And try to avoid saying “your company.” Instead, use the company’s name.
After such a short reminder, it’s the perfect time to ask to schedule a meeting. Offer a chance to talk to you about the solutions you can provide for their company. Present yourself confidently, and you’ll be recognized as the right person for the job.
5. Proper Sign-Off
The only step left is to end the cover letter the right way. Start with “Sincerely,” and then repeat your contact information. Just your contact information. Adding your contact at the bottom lets the recruiter contact you immediately after reading your cover letter.
Expert Hint: Double-check your cover letter for typos—they make you look completely unprofessional. And the last thing you want is not to land a job because of unfortunate misspellings. You can use a program like Grammarly to help you out.
6. Appealing Post Scriptum
This step is entirely optional, and you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. You already have a perfect cover letter ready. But, a well-tailored P.S. can bring it one step further.
A P.S. is an extension of your call to action. Here, you promise to tell the recruiter the story behind your most significant work achievement, like increasing sales by 22%. This part needs to have a serious impact, so if you don’t have a jaw-dropping accomplishment, you can skip adding a P.S. to your cover letter outline.
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.
Outline for a Cover Letter—Examples
Now that you know how to craft a cover letter outline, let’s turn the theory into practice. Below, you’ll find an expertly crafted cover letter outline plus five different formats created in our builder.
Text-Based Cover Letter Outline Example
March 16, 2019
1708 Masonic Drive
Bozeman, MT 59715
Dear Mr. Melendez,
I am excited to see Formula-C is hiring for a Web Developer position. As a Web Developer with 3+ years of experience in the field, I have gained a strong knowledge of JS, Python, Ruby, and HTML, which I am confident will help me provide untried solutions to your company.
While working for Apex Technologies, I honed my abilities in optimizing UX and customer satisfaction. I was also responsible for handling clients’ websites on both desktop and mobile. Some of my work achievements include:
- Raised customer retention by up to 27% and customer satisfaction by up to 41% on six different websites.
- Optimized and streamlined back-end code, reducing its length by 33%.
I am also committed to further improving my abilities, which a recently gained title of “Ruby Association Certified Ruby Programmer Gold” can prove. I continue to learn other languages and will become certified in Python in the nearest future.
Formula-C is well-known in the industry for its expertise in web development, and I am positive I can meet your high standards. Could we schedule a meeting to discuss the next steps of the recruitment process? I would love to tell you more how my work experience could influence your further successful development.
Eric Jones, Web Developer
P.S.—I would be glad to share how I created an e-commerce application that improved company sales by 42%.
Feels like too much work?
Our cover letter builder is designed to guide you through the entire process. If you’re stuck, you can use the pre-written suggestions as guidelines for crafting the perfect cover letter. The layout doesn't need to be complicated, either. Pick one of the many available templates, and the cover letter outline will reorganize itself accordingly.
See how yours could look on five different cover letter templates:
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Nail it all with a splash of color, choose a clean font, highlight your skills in just a few clicks. You’re the perfect candidate and we’ll prove it. Just pick one of 21 resume templates and get started now.
In order to create the perfect cover letter outline, remember to:
- Use a visually appealing cover letter format.
- Begin with your contact details, date, and the contact details of the employer.
- Address the recruiter by name.
- Hook the reader by referencing skills and accomplishments they’re looking for.
- Show your motivation and dedication.
- Finish with a solid call to action.
- Include a P.S. for maximum impact.
Do you have questions about creating a good outline for a cover letter? Need more cover letter tips to enhance your application? Let’s chat in the comments section. We’ll be more than happy to help you! Thanks for reading!