It’s a good time to be a job seeker: U.S. job growth is strong, unemployment is on a steady decline, and openings are at an all-time high.
That doesn’t make the search any less daunting. Differentiating yourself from every other job seeker on the market is no small feat, and the monotony of filling out online applications can make the task downright exhausting. That’s where a killer cover letter comes in.
Done right, a great cover letter is like a secret weapon for catching a hiring manager’s attention. Next to your resume, it’s one of the most important, underutilized tools at your disposal.
Here are some cover letter writing tips, and a free, downloadable template, to make yours stand out.
Every cover letter you write should be tailored to the job you’re applying for — just like your resume. Study the job posting carefully, and make a quick list of any essential qualifications.
“Job seekers really struggle with what to say on a cover letter,” says Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, President and CEO of Great Resumes Fast. “Taking a second to think about why you’re applying, and why you’re a good fit for the company, makes the process a lot easier.”
If you’re adding a cover letter to an online application, use a business letter format with a header and contact information. If you’re sending an email, it’s OK to leave out the header, but be sure to provide a phone number (and an attached resume, of course). Make sure you’re clear about the position you’re applying for.
Avoid nameless salutations — it might take a little Google research, and some LinkedIn outreach, but finding the actual name of the position’s hiring manager will score you major brownie points. “Do not start a cover letter with, ‘to whom it may concern,’” Holbrook Hernandez says. “It concerns no one.”
2. Tell a Story
To grab a recruiter’s attention, a good narrative—with a killer opening line—is everything.
“The cover letter is a story,” says Satjot Sawhney, a resume and career strategist with Loft Resumes. “What is the most interesting thing you’re doing that’s relevant to this job?” Use that to guide your letter.
Ideally, the story that drives your resume will focus on a need at the company you’re applying for. If you’re a PR professional, maybe you have a list of clients in an industry the team wants to break into. If you’re in marketing, a successful promotional campaign might be the ticket in. “A hiring manager wants to see results-driven accomplishments with a past employer,” says Holbrook Hernandez. “If you’ve done it before, you can deliver it again.”
If you have a career gap or are switching industries, address it upfront. “If there’s anything unique in your career history, call that out in the beginning,” says professional resume writer Brooke Shipbaugh.
(Here’s a downloadable sample.)
3. Use Bullet Points to Show Impact
Hiring managers are usually slammed with applications, so short, quick cover letters are preferable to bloated ones, says Paul Wolfe, Senior Vice President of human resources at job site Indeed.
“Make your cover letter a brief, bright reference tool,” he says. “The easier you can make it on the recruiter the better.”
Bullet points are a good tool for pulling out numbers-driven results. Job seekers in creative fields like art and design can use bullets to break down their most successful project. Those in more traditional roles (like the one in the template), can hammer off two or three of their most impressive accomplishments.
4. Highlight Culture Fit
It’s often overlooked, but a major function of the cover letter is to show a company how well you’d mesh with the culture.
As you research a potential employer, look for culture cues on the company website, social media, and review sites like Glassdoor. Oftentimes, employers will nod to culture in a job posting. If the ad mentions a “team environment,” it might be good to play up a recent, successful collaboration. If the company wants a “self-starter,” consider including an achievement that proves you don’t need to be micromanaged.
The tone of your letter can also play to culture. “The cover letter is a great place to show [an employer] how you fit into their world,” Shipbaugh says. “Show some personality.”
5. End with an Ask
The goal of a cover letter is to convince the person reading it to make the next move in the hiring process — with a phone call, interview, or otherwise. Ending on a question opens that door without groveling for it.
“You have to approach this with a non-beggar mentality,” Sawhney says. “Having an ‘ask’ levels the playing field.”
Related: What Your Resume Should Look Like in 2018
Cover letter examples by industry
A good cover letter highlights the specific skills employers are looking for. Check out these cover letter examples for a variety of industries.
A great cover letter will show that you're the right candidate.
If you're wondering how to write a cover letter, you're in the right place! It doesn't matter what level you're at in your career—to get noticed by potential employers, your professional cover letter needs to knock their socks off. Your cover letter is much more than friendly greeting; it's a tool that lets hiring managers know that you're the candidate they've been hoping for.
Recruiters and hiring managers have seen every type of cover letter format imaginable. For maximum wow-factor, you must build a cover letter that highlights your industry-specific experience, accomplishments, and credentials.
Steps to write a cover letter
- Start with the proper greeting: Address your cover letter to the person who will be reading it.
- Introduce yourself with an opening: Write a personable, inviting opening paragraph that highlights how your skills are a perfect fit to the company and position.
- Get them interested with a compelling hook: Highlight your past achievements as they relate to the job you're applying for.
- Promote your skills: Highlight your additional relevant skills, such as computer languages or certifications.
- Thank them in the close: Briefly recap your strengths as a candidate, thank the reader for their time, and include your contact information.
If you need cover letter help, check out these cover letter templates for various careers and career levels in the following industries:
Administrative/Support Cover Letter Examples
Art/Design/Media Cover Letter Examples
Business Cover Letter Examples
Education Cover Letter Examples
Engineering Cover Letter Examples
Finance/Accounting Cover Letter Examples
Health Care Cover Letter Examples
Human Resources Cover Letter Examples
Job Search Cover Letter Examples
Law Enforcement and Legal Cover Letter Examples
Marketing and PR Cover Letter Examples
Military Cover Letter Examples
Nurse Cover Letter Examples
Restaurant and Hospitality Cover Letter Examples
Retail Cover Letter Examples
Sales Cover Letter Examples
Science Cover Letter Examples
Student Cover Letter Examples
Technology Cover Letter Examples
Trades Cover Letter Examples
Transportation and Warehousing Cover Letter Examples
Help hiring managers find your cover letter
When your cover letter is in good shape, don't let it just sit on your computer. You need to get it out there! Could you use a little help getting your cover letter in front of hiring managers? Join Monster today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume and cover letter—each customized to the kinds of jobs you're interested in. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Make it easier for them to find you, and for you to find a job.