Cover letter format and content advice tips
Wondering how to write a cover letter? Make sure you can answer “yes” to the questions on this checklist.
Many job seekers struggle with how to write a cover letter, as well as cover letter format, but this skill can be learned and perfected. The time and effort will pay off, because a great cover letter can increase your odds of getting a job interview.
These cover letter tips can help your job application standout. Make sure you can answer “yes” to the questions on this checklist:
- Does your cover letter have a strong opening paragraph, communicating your job target and key strengths within the first few lines of text?
- Does your cover letter conform to a standard business letter format? (See our cover letter examples.)
- Is your cover letter addressed to a specific individual, if the name is available?
- Does the body of your cover letter express how you would benefit the employer if you were hired?
- Do you avoid starting every sentence with “I” or “my” so you can focus more on the employer’s requirements and not your own?
- Do you demonstrate your expertise by using industry-specific language?
- Do you include examples of your accomplishments so employers can see you have a proven track record?
- Is the content engaging and relevant to hiring managers’ needs?
- Is the cover letter succinct, containing just enough information to entice the reader to review your resume?
- Did you include all information that was requested, such as a job reference number, employment availability date and salary requirements?
- Is the content unique? Did you avoid copying text from your resume verbatim?
- Does your cover letter sound genuine? Does it reflect your personality and make you seem likeable and approachable?
- Did you proofread your cover letter to ensure that it’s free of spelling, grammar, syntax and formatting errors?
- Does the writing style and design coordinate with the resume, such as by using the same font and layout style?
- Did you provide an easy way for employers to contact you, such as a direct phone line and email address?
- Does your cover letter end with a call to action, confidently requesting an interview?
- Did you remember to sign your letter if you’re mailing a hard copy?
5 steps to writing a successful cover letter
If you're wondering how to write a cover letter, this easy-to-follow five-step formula offers helpful tips.
Caroline M.L. Potter, Monster contributor
When applying to online jobs, most folks put (or should put) a lot of effort into writing a resume that conveys their talents and breadth of experience. But these same people often drop the ball when it comes time to write a cover letter.
This can be a costly error.
If your resume gets you in the door, your cover letter is what prompts employers to answer that door in the first place.
If you're intimidated by writing a cover letter, don't be. Job-search expert Deborah Brown-Volkman has an easy-to-follow, five-step formula for cover letter success.
Tips to write a cover letter
- Cut to the chase: Brown-Volkman reminds applicants to begin their cover letter by clearly identifying why they're reaching out to a company. "Start by completing the statement, 'I am writing to you today because....'" Cover all pertinent facts, such as the position's title and location. Also include up front where you saw the ad for the position and who recommended you, she says.
- What I like about you: Brown-Volkman says that flattery will get you everywhere. "Next, complete the statement 'I like your company because....' Compliment the organization on what they have done right and what you admire about them. This will show that you've taken the time to get to know the company in detail," she says.
- What you'll like about me: Brown-Volkman urges job seekers to list their most vital qualifications. "Now, tell the employer, 'Here are relevant examples of work that I've done that match what you're looking for.'" Briefly discuss the items you want to showcase so a hiring manager can spot them easily. "Bullet points work well in making your accomplishments easy to read," she says.
- What else you'll like about me: Now, succinctly, personalize your letter. "Describe who you are and what makes you stand out from other applicants," says Brown-Volkman. "Discuss your soft skills and strengths and what you're passionate about professionally." Research the company's mission statement to see if your values match up and use similar language. "This is your last chance to say, 'Here's why I am a good candidate,'" she says.
- And in conclusion: In your closing paragraph, Brown-Volkman recommends expressing your enthusiasm for a position and an interview and to include a plan of action. "Make note of your contact information and state what the next steps will be," she says. "If you will wait for their reply, tell them that. If you will be following up, tell them when they can expect to hear from you." Don't drop the ball on your first promise to a potential employer, though. "Whatever you put down, make sure you do what you say you will do," she says.