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Knowing what to include in a cover letter is crucial—
Because if you stuff your cover letter with wrong or irrelevant things, it will land in… the garbage can.
After you read this guide, you’ll write a winning one which lands you that job interview.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What to put in a cover letter to clinch that coveted open position.
- Suggestions on how to write a cover letter by formatting and structuring it right.
- Tips and examples of cover letter templates to make sure you get that interview call.
- Key components and important sections you have to include in a successful cover letter.
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1. A Brief Outline of What to Include in a Cover Letter
Are you staring at your blinking cursor on that empty, white page and slowly going blind?
I agree that writing a cover letter sounds tough.
It becomes easy once you break it down into parts of a cover letter.
Here’s a winning cover letter outline:
- Cover Letter Heading
- Your Name & Details
- The Date of Writing
- Recipient’s Name & Job Position
- The Company’s Details
- Cover Letter Opening
- Cover Letter Salutation
- Cover Letter Introduction
- Cover Letter Body
- How You’ll Benefit Them
- Why You’re a Great Fit
- Achievements With Numbers
- Cover Letter Closing
- Cover Letter Ending Statement
- Complimentary Close
- Letter Postscript
Not hard at all, right?
As long as you know the best cover letter structure, the rest will be a cake walk.
In the upcoming chapters, you’ll learn how to write each of these cover letter sections.
2. Start with the Proper Cover Letter Address Format
You’ve put your address on a resume, so you know how to address cover letters, too, right?
The heading area on a cover letter follows a few different rules.
Before we cover those guidelines for the address section, look at this example cover letter header area:
[Your First & Last Name]
[Your Phone Number]
[Your Email Address]
[Today’s Date / Date of Writing]
[Addressee’s Professional Title]
Here’s an explanation of this address template:
How to Address a Cover Letter
Even an informal cover letter is a formal letter, so it should follow the standard letter format. This means your contact info goes first, then the cover letter date, and then the main details of the company and the specific person you’re addressing.
Don’t have the name of a particular person when you’re sending the cover letter? Don’t worry, if you can’t find it anywhere, you can still address the cover letter without their name and job title.
Expert Hint: In resume writing, we recommended not adding your address. However, to follow professional cover letter formatting, you have to include it in a cover letter. Social links, on the other hand, you can leave off.
3. Write a Gripping Cover Letter Opening
If your cover letter hasn’t sold them, they likely won’t read your resume.
So, let’s sell them.
First, start with a simple cover letter greeting:
Dear Ms. Ruiz,
That salutation is how to begin a cover letter, and the introductory paragraph follows.
Ideal cover letter examples of introductory paragraphs come in a variety of forms, because there’s more than one way to catch a recruiter’s attention.
Here’s one take on writing a compelling intro paragraph:
As a yearslong client of 55 Finance, I’m still constantly amazed at all the things your bank does better than the others — from personalized help to an easy iPhone app. You can imagine my delight, when, the week after finishing my bachelor’s in accounting, I see that you have an opening for a new personal banker!
Expert Hint: Of all the best cover letter advice we give, the most important is to tailor the cover letter to the job description, as you did (hopefully) on your resume. Don’t send the same letter of application to 50 companies; you’ll only hurt yourself.
What to Say in a Cover Letter Intro?
Start with a story, maybe, or lead with an interesting anecdote or impressive achievement. You could choose to be witty, charming, congratulatory, funny, or a mixture of these.
Part of making sure you catch the HR manager’s eye in your opening is to use their name. Likewise, use the company’s name in your writing, as well as your specific position sought, especially when writing an entry-level cover letter.
Do you want a job in marketing?
You won’t get it, if you phrase it like that.
Instead, say you are eager for the opportunity to join Acme Corp and prove yourself as their new junior marketing coordinator.
See the difference?
Our article on how to start a cover letter gives you great sample cover letter openings, and it will help you brainstorm your own path to a fascinating introduction paragraph. Also, if you don’t have a recipient’s name or don’t like the sound of dear so-and-so, it’ll assist you with that, too.
Expert Hint: Why is using a name important? Not only does it personalize it and speak directly to the recruiter addressed, but it also lets them know you didn’t just spam every business in the country with the same generic cover letter template.
4. Show You’re the Best Fit in the Cover Letter Body
As with your own squishy one, you’ve got to take care of your cover letter body.
With a great intro paragraph from the previous section, you have their attention from the onset.
Don’t let it go as you transition into the heart of this document.
Here’s what to include in the body of a cover letter:
- Convince them that you are the best candidate for the position.
- Without bragging, explain how you can help the company’s plans succeed.
- Find two or three key achievements, with numbers, to prove to them that you have what it takes to be the candidate they’re looking for.
- Show them how enthusiastic you are to be a member of their company and team.
Our guide on how to write a cover letter has great cover letter samples and actionable tips for you to get these paragraphs just right.
Expert Hint: How long should a cover letter be? 3 or 4 paragraphs is an ideal cover letter length, which should take up no more than three-quarters of a page, somewhere between 250 and 300 words.
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5. Add a Call to Action in the Cover Letter Closing
In your cover letter so far, you’ve written a killer introduction and used a few paragraphs to prove to them you're their best bet.
Time for a happy ending:
Write a cover letter closing which includes a call to action.
A good cover letter call to action confidently restates that you look forward to meeting with the hiring manager to further discuss how you can benefit the company as their future employee.
Here’s a sample cover letter ending statement:
I would gladly welcome the opportunity to review your near-term plans for the accounting department and demonstrate for you how my previous wins at EBT Bank can be replicated and improved at 55 Finance.
It’s brief and to-the-point, and should be no more than a two sentence-long paragraph.
Then, add just your complimentary close (also called a valediction) and your John Hancock:
And you’ve got a solid cover letter ready.
Expert Hint: To really tailor your cover letter to the company you’re applying to, find their “voice” by reading their website or blog and replicate it in your writing.
6. End your Cover Letter with a Postscript
A postscript is an additional note or an incidental detail mentioned at the end of a letter.
It always draws the reader’s eye, even if they haven’t read the rest of the letter first.
Many people notice that P.S. first and start reading from there. So—
A postscript makes a great cover letter hack.
Just look at this:
P.S. I found you on LinkedIn to get your name to address this letter, and I found out you’re from Costa Rica, as am I! I know a place with delicious gallo pinto nearby, so perhaps we could discuss working at 55 Finance from there. What do you say?
Add a short, friendly statement like this, and your recruiter will definitely read the rest of your cover letter.
Expert Hint: Like your compelling cover letter beginning, you can use this postscript in a variety of ways—funny, enthusiastic, etc.—so long as it’s irresistible, sincere, and adjusted to the company’s “voice”.
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To sum up, a cover letter needs:
- Heading: your name and details, the date of writing, and then the company’s info.
- Salutation: simple resume cover letter greeting, ideally personalized to your recruiter.
- Opening: an interesting intro paragraph that quickly and effectively compels the recruiter to continue.
- Body: two or three paragraphs proving your worth and fit for the position.
- Closing: a confident call to action that encourages them to read your resume and invite you for a job interview.
- Valediction: a sign-off (complimentary closing) and your signature.
- Postscript: an excellent trick to hook the recruiter’s attention once more.
Get started writing your cover letter with these free resources:
- Download one of these free cover letter templates in MS Word or these free cover letter templates.
- Learn how to write a cover letter with no experience.
Have any questions on what to put on a cover letter? Need some advice for any of the various cover letter sections? Wondering whether writing a cover letter is necessary? Write us a comment in the space below, and, as always, thanks for reading!