Smart tips to help you format and write a cover letter
Struggling to write a cover letter that will catch an employer's attention? We've got tips to help you show your best self—and a sample you can use to get started.
There's nothing scary about writing a cover letter.
You've found the perfect job, hit the "apply" button, and started the process with your engines revved and ready. But wait! Slam the brakes! They want a cover letter. Oh no.
Don't let this request derail you. Here's everything you need to know to write a letter that truly sells your skills. Plus, scroll down to see a sample cover letter you can use to craft your own.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a one-page document that, along with your resume, is sent with your job application. A cover letter is your chance to tell a potential employer why you’re the perfect person for the position and how your skills and expertise can add value to the company. The letter should be professional but personable, and serve as a sort of introduction.
Do I need to send a cover letter?
A lot of job seekers today wonder if a cover letter is still appropriate to send with your resume—and the answer is yes! Even if an employer doesn’t ask for a cover letter, it couldn’t hurt to send one. In fact, it’s can help you get someone's attention in a different way, and it can be a great way to display your enthusiasm for the job and company.
What are the basic elements of a cover letter?
- Greeting: Address your cover letter to the proper person.
- Opening: Write a personable, inviting opening paragraph that notes how your skills are a perfect fit to the job and displays your enthusiasm.
- Hook: Highlight your past achievements as they relate to the job you're applying for.
- Skills: Emphasize additional relevant skills, such as computer languages or certifications.
- Close: Briefly recap your strengths as a candidate, and include your contact information.
Cover letter tips
1. Parrot the keywords: Just like with your resume, your cover letters should be customized for each job you apply to. Start by reviewing the job description. In it, you will find important keywords that let you know what kind of employee the company is hoping to find. Use these same keywords throughout your cover letter.
2. Adapt for the company: Each version of your cover letter should talk about how your skills will benefit the particular company that you want to work for. You want to target the company’s needs—not your own. Demonstrate how you could help them achieve their goals. Remember: You're selling yourself in a resume and a cover letter, but the employer has to want to buy.
3. Show you "get" them: Your cover letter should demonstrate that you have done some research into what the organization's pain points are. Presenting yourself as a solution to a hiring manager’s problem can help your cover letter take the right tone. If you’re applying to an administrative position, be sure to mention your time-management skills; if you’re an IT professional, include your expertise in improving efficiency. Always ask yourself: How can I help this company?
4. Proofread. Don’t assume spell check will catch every mistake (it won’t). Slowly review your cover letter to make sure everything reads properly. Have someone else read your cover letter for backup.
Need even more confidence before you start your cover letter? Below are some additional cover letter tips you could reference—or keep scrolling for a cover letter sample:
Cover letter mistakes you should avoid: From overusing “I” to being too vague, there are a bunch of pitfalls that can trip you up. Don’t let them!
Cover letter format and advice tips: Learn how to set up your cover letter and what each section should include.
Cover letter tips for new grads: You might lack real-world work experience, but your cover letter can be chock-full of activities that demonstrate your potential to succeed.
Cover letter tips for technology professionals: The ease of applying to online jobs has led many IT professionals to skip sending a cover letter, but that’s a mistake.
Cover letter tips for finance professionals: If you’re searching for a finance job or want to be prepared just in case, you will need a dynamic cover letter to grab the hiring managers’ attention.
Tips for better email cover letters: If you're emailing a resume, your cover letter will deliver the first impression. These eight tips will help you craft a better email cover letter.
Cover letter sample
Check out the sample cover letter below (or download the template as a Word doc) to get some inspiration to craft your own. And we've also got you covered if you're looking for a cover letter in a specific industry.
Once you've finished your cover letter, consider joining Monster—you can upload and store up to five cover letters and resumes, so that you can apply for jobs on our site in a snap!
Ms. Rhonda West
Customer Service Manager
123 Corporate Blvd.
Sometown, CO 50802
Re: Customer Service Representative Opening (Ref. ID: CS300-Denver)
Dear Ms. West:
I was excited to see your opening for a customer service rep, and I hope to be invited for an interview.
My background includes serving as a customer service associate within both call-center and retail environments. Most recently, I worked on the customer service desk for Discount-Mart, where my responsibilities included handling customer merchandise returns, issuing refunds/store credits, flagging damaged merchandise for shipment back to vendors and providing back-up cashiering during busy periods.
Previously, I worked within two high-volume customer-support call centers for a major telecommunications carrier and a satellite television services provider. In these positions, I demonstrated the ability to resolve a variety of issues and complaints (such as billing disputes, service interruptions or cutoffs, repair technician delays/no-shows and equipment malfunctions). I consistently met my call-volume goals, handling an average of 56 to 60 calls per day.
In addition to this experience, I gained considerable customer service skills during my part-time employment as a waitress and restaurant hostess while in high school.
I also bring to the table strong computer proficiencies in MS Word, MS Excel and CRM database applications and a year of college (business major). Please see the accompanying resume for details of my experience and education.
I am confident that I can offer you the customer service, communication and problem-solving skills you are seeking. Feel free to call me at 555-555-5555 (home) or 555-555-5500 (cell) to arrange an interview. Thank you for your time—I look forward to learning more about this opportunity!
Depending on the instructions you read on a private school's employment page, you may be directed to send a letter of interest or a cover letter. Some people think that a letter of interest is the same as a cover letter. But they really are not the same. What then exactly is the difference between these two letters and how do you compose them?
What is a letter of interest?
Strictly speaking, you compose and send a letter of interest when a prospective employer requests that you do so. In the sense that a letter of interest is a letter written to accompany your resume and other required documentation it functions almost the same as a cover letter. But there is a major difference. The letter of interest is written to give a snapshot of you and what makes you worth interviewing.
Remember the mechanics involved here. A staff member is charged with reading all those applications which have been submitted for the advertised position. Depending on circumstances there could be dozens of applications to review. The school wants the best candidate for the vacant position after all. So, there sits the member of staff who has to open all the envelopes and review them. Is he going to have time to read each one in detail? Probably not. But he will scan that letter of interest which you have written looking for a couple of features which set you apart from the other applicants.
One of the goals of the letter of interest is to help you make the first cut. That gets your application into a much smaller pile of applications. That group of applications most likely will be reviewed in detail by several people. Depending on how the school has set up its hiring process the group of applications which made the first cut will be further reduced to perhaps 3 to 5 applicants which they would like to interview.
Interviewing for any job can be very time-consuming for all concerned. Interviewing professionals for positions in a private school is even more time-consuming because the school is hiring somebody who will be working with children. There are background checks and references to be spoken with. The school administrators need to be absolutely sure that they have the right candidate for the position.
Consequently, if your letter of interest gives any hint that you may not fit their requirements, you will not make that first cut. You will never get the interview which you so very much want.
Here are some of the things you have to do to craft the perfect, interview-getting letter of interest:
1. No typos. No mistakes. None.
2. Use a plain business font such as Arial or Courier New. 12 point is fine. Nothing larger. The ink color is black. Nothing else is acceptable.
3. Use plain white paper. 20 or 24 pound. Whenever possible print your letter of interest and supporting documentation with a laser printer. Ink jet printer ink can smudge easily.
4. Include a sentence or two which becomes that written picture of you and why you are one of the best candidates out of all the applications which they have received.
5. The letter of interest is one page. No longer.
There are hundreds of examples of letters of interest and cover letters online. The authority on such matters is Alison Doyle, the Job Search Guide at About.com. Follow her instructions and suggestions closely.
Other uses for a letter of interest
Often a letter of interest is what is called in the trade a 'prospecting letter'. No specific job has been advertised at the school to which we plan to send a letter of interest. It just happens to be an institution in which you are very interested. You also feel that your credentials and experience might be a good match for the school's requirements. So you are writing a letter of interest which is unsolicited. The same rules of the road apply: include a sentence or two which become the snapshot of you and your skills to make them stand out from all the other applications. Even though the school may have no immediate opening, if they like what they see, they might just keep your application on file.
When do you use a cover letter?
A cover letter is a letter which you send along with your application, resume and whatever supporting materials the school has specified. Think of the cover letter as the first impression which a prospective employer has of you. It is a general impression as opposed to the detailed, data-driven impression which your resume will give.
Why do the two letters seem to be the same thing and have the same use? Often employers don't always know which one to ask for or they will use the terms interchangeably. Consequently, they will ask for a letter of interest when they really mean a cover letter.
The distinction between letters of interest and cover letters blurs when a school asks you to send a letter of interest. What they probably meant was to send a cover letter. Try to understand what they are really asking for.
Cover letter 'must haves'
You write a cover letter to accompany your formal application for a position. The school has specifically instructed you to send them letters of reference, a resume and copies of your academic transcripts. This is the first thing whoever opens the envelope will see. A cover letter must be perfect. It must be well-written and fit one page.
As with the letter of interest, perfection is a must. Use sample cover letters as models. But do not copy and paste. Customize your cover letter to fit your specific requirements.
More tips and strategies
Producing a cover letter or letter of interest which will increase your chances of making the first cut takes time. Be prepared to write and rewrite your letter several times. Don't simply copy and paste letters which you see on the web. Always edit and customize your finished letter so that it fits the school to which you are planning to send it.
Make sure that your letter is the perfect business letter. No typos. No misspellings. Plain white paper. Standard business fonts. Perfect in every aspect. After all, this is the first impression a prospective employer will have of you. Make it your best impression. If your materials are not flawless, be assured that your competitors' materials will be.
Don't lie. If you imply that you have certain credentials or experience, then you better have them. Schools do their due diligence very carefully. They will include a review of your degrees and transcripts as well as conversations with the referees which you have listed.
Don't give personal information in a letter of interest or cover letter. Things like age, social security number, marital staus, hobbies and social activities never go in cover letters or letters of interest.
The most important advice which I can give you is to read the instructions for submitting the application carefully. Follow them to the letter. This is even more important if you are asked to submit your application on line. Why? Because you will not have a chance to correct anything after you click the Save and Submit buttons. If the online application asks you to write a few sentences about why you would be the ideal candidate for the position, treat it just like the letter of interest. Create that snapshot of you and why you are the best candidate for the job.
Proof read. Always proof read. Better yet have another trusted pair of eyes proof read your letters. Impressions are so important in cover letters and letters of interest.
Questions? Contact us on Twitter. @privateschoolreview