Many people focus on writing the perfect, concise, yet detailed resume to demonstrate their qualifications when applying for jobs. While a strong resume is a key component of a job application, candidates shouldn’t overlook the importance of a well-crafted cover letter to accompany their resume.

This article breaks down the dos and don’ts of writing a cover letter, with step-by-step instructions for composing each section and tips for creating a cover letter that will show potential employers why you’re the best person for the job.

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter introduces yourself and your resume to potential employers. A strong cover letter complements your resume by summarizing your professional background and accomplishments, providing specific examples of your interest in the company and suitability for the position, and sparking the hiring manager’s interest in reading your resume (and then scheduling an interview).

Although a cover letter performs these functions, it’s important to remember that a good cover letter is also brief. Hiring managers review dozens of cover letters and resumes daily, so the ones that stand out are those that express the necessary information clearly and concisely.

Cover letters should be one page, consisting of 3-5 paragraphs, and approximately 400 words, maximum. They’re written in business letter format with a header, greeting, body paragraphs, closing, and signature. Use an easily readable 10- or 12-point font, such as Helvetica, Arial, or Calibri.

What a cover letter isn’t

When creating a cover letter, there are a few common pitfalls that you’ll want to avoid.

First, a cover letter isn’t a rehash of your resume. Rather than repeating all the same information about past jobs and responsibilities on your resume, use the cover letter to provide more context for what’s on it. You can expand on the accomplishments outlined in your resume or dive into what you find compelling about the opportunity you’re seeking.

However, a cover letter also isn’t a detailed biography of your life and work history. If your cover letter spills onto a second page, find ways to trim it, as a proper cover letter is one page only.

Lastly, a strong cover letter isn’t generic. Don’t expect just to write one cover letter or change the hiring manager’s name when applying to different jobs. While you can keep some elements of your cover letter consistent, it’s always best to tailor the letter to the specific job you’re seeking. Not only does this mean you’ll get to show off the experiences and qualifications that make you well-suited for a particular job, but it also demonstrates to hiring managers that you’ve read the job description, know what you can bring to the role, and are conscientious in the work you do.

Preparing to Write Your Cover Letter

Before you begin writing your cover letter, take some time to complete these steps, which can make the process go more smoothly.

Ensure contact information is professional and up-to-date

Your contact information, including phone number and email address, is front and center on your cover letter, so make sure that it is current and accurate. If you don’t already have a professional, non-school-related email address, now is the time to create one. A professional email address should directly connect to your identity (think name or initials) and be easy to read, write, and say.

You only need to include social media accounts or personal websites in your contact information if they directly relate to your work. However, assume that companies will search your name online, so make sure that any social media pages they may find accurately represent your professionalism.

Review job description

You should always customize any cover letter you write based on the job or opportunity you seek. Carefully reading the job description can help you identify the specific skills and achievements the employer is looking for in applicants and ensure that you have the right qualifications for the position. You can use the details from the job description to guide what experiences and accomplishments you highlight in your cover letter.

Research company

Your familiarity with the company you’re applying to will determine how much time you need to spend researching it. At a minimum, visit the company’s website or LinkedIn page to confirm the name, title, and contact information of the person to whom you’re addressing your cover letter. You can research a company by visiting its website and social media pages, reading available news coverage, and speaking to any personal contacts who are familiar with the company.

Doing this research will also help you further customize your cover letter. You can call out specific elements of the company’s mission or work that interest you and provide more detailed information about how you think you’ll be able to support the organization. Knowing more about the company culture will also inform the tone of your cover letter. While you always want to be professional, the level of formality can vary based on whether the company is a prestigious law firm or a laid-back creative agency.

Create your resume

Since a cover letter and resume complement each other, creating your resume (if you still need to do so) can be a helpful way to review and catalog your skills, accomplishments, and work and educational history. You can then use your resume as a blueprint when writing your cover letter, expanding on specific experiences and achievements relevant to the position you’re seeking.

Guide to Writing a Cover Letter

Your cover letter should be no longer than one page in length or approximately 400 words, maximum. It should be easy to read (use a 10- or 12-point font, such as Helvetica, Arial, or Calibri) and formatted as a business letter. The sections of a cover letter include:

  • Header
  • Greeting
  • Opening paragraph
  • Middle paragraph(s)
  • Closing paragraph
  • Letter ending and signature


If you have a header template for your resume, you can also use it on your cover letter. However, remember that the most important thing is that your contact information is clear and easy to read. Hiring managers should be able to quickly find a way to contact you so they can follow up on your application.

  • Your full name
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Location (city and state are typically sufficient)
  • Date
  • Name of cover letter recipient and their professional title
  • Company name and contact information


Whenever possible, address your cover letter to a specific person. You may have the hiring manager’s name and title from the job posting or through a personal connection. If not, visit the company’s website or LinkedIn page to identify the person in charge of the department you’re applying to.

If you absolutely cannot find the name of a specific individual who will be reviewing your application, one of the following standard greetings can suffice:

  • Dear Hiring Manager/[Department] Hiring Manager
  • Dear [Department] Team
  • To whom it may concern

Opening paragraph

This section should capture the reader’s attention and compel them to continue reading. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Mention any connections you have to the company, if applicable. Perhaps you know a current or former employee or have a contact who referred you to the job. A professional connection to the organization can help you stand out among applicants.
  • Call out your most significant professional experience or achievement relevant to the position.
  • Note a specific aspect of the job or company that excites you or aligns with your skills or background.

Whichever approach you take, be as specific as possible. Be sure to include the job you’re applying for and how you learned about the opportunity to ensure the correct people see your application. The opening paragraph should be brief, including three sentences at most.

Middle paragraph(s)

This section is the main section of your cover letter, which essentially seeks to answer two questions:

  • Why are you interested in this job/company?
  • Why should this company want you for this job?

To answer the first question, call out specifics about the job and company that align with your professional interests, values, and goals. These can include the company’s mission and core values, your personal relationship to the company’s products or services, or the company culture.

To answer the second question, highlight key achievements, skills, and specialties relevant to this particular position. Whenever possible, include measurable impacts you’ve had in previous jobs, such as sales stats or honors. Your resume will provide more details, so choose one or two examples of your experience that best align with the requirements for this job. Use recent examples as much as possible.

If you haven’t already, familiarize yourself with keywords from the job description and include some naturally and appropriately. This will help your cover letter pass through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software, which many companies use to sort through applications.

This section of your cover letter should be one to two paragraphs.

Closing paragraph

In your last paragraph, mention any relevant information not previously included. If you’ve covered everything important, briefly summarize your interest in the position and qualifications. Thank the hiring manager for their time, and include a call to action or reference to the next step in the process. For example, you can close with, “I look forward to further discussing my qualifications and interest in this position with you.”

Letter ending and signature

End your cover letter with a professional sign-off, such as:

  • Best Regards,
  • Kind Regards,
  • Sincerely,
  • Thank you,
  • All the best,

If you have a digital signature, you can use it here. Otherwise, type your full name after your sign-off.

Cover Letter Dos and Don’ts

Here are a few final tips to keep in mind when writing a cover letter:

  • Do proofread your cover letter: Remember, this is likely the first impression you’re making on the hiring manager, so you want it to be as flawless as possible. If possible, set the letter aside and return to it with fresh eyes to help you spot spelling, punctuation, or content errors. It can also be helpful to have a second person or proofreading program like Grammarly review the letter to find any mistakes you may have missed.
  • Do ensure you’re addressing it to the correct person: Addressing your cover letter to the wrong person, misspelling their name, or misidentifying their title can quickly eliminate you from consideration. Double-check all information about the recipient. If you’re unclear about who will receive your application, default to a generic greeting rather than address it to the wrong person.
  • Do save your cover letter as a PDF: Since most job applications are now submitted electronically, you’ll want to have a PDF version of your cover letter that you can upload to an application portal or attach to an email. However, if the job description instructs applicants to submit materials in another format, such as a Word document, follow those instructions.
  • Don’t rehash your resume: Your cover letter should complement your resume, not repeat it. If you’re struggling to find new information to include in your cover letter, think about what’s not on your resume — why you’re interested in this particular company or role and what specific qualities make you a good fit.
  • Don’t send a generic cover letter: While it takes extra time to customize your cover letter for each job you apply to, this effort helps show potential employers your genuine interest in the position.
  • Don’t forget contact information: If you write a cover letter and resume that impresses a hiring manager and sells your qualifications for a job, you want them to be able to reach out to you. Be sure your contact information, including phone number and email address, is included prominently and correctly in your cover letter.

Cover Letter Example

Angela Miller
[email protected] | (555) 135-6800 | Los Angeles, CA

May 1, 2024

Ken Williams
Senior Hiring Officer
Executive Consultants
(555) 244-0088
[email protected]

Dear Mr. Williams,

I’m writing to express interest in the Talent Retention Specialist position with Executive Consultants, which current team member Christine Beckmann shared with me.

In my current position, I implemented a new employee retention plan, which reduced employee turnover by 50%. The retention plan included an employee wellness program, additional staff benefits, and an internal promotions program. This is an excellent example of the type of asset I could be to the Executive Consultants’ team.

With six years of experience in talent retention and a degree in Human Resource Management, I was drawn to Executive Consultants because of the firm’s impressive employee retention rate and reputation for high-performing staff.

If I were to secure a role at Executive Consultants, I would bring an even greater rate of success to the team. My previous accomplishments include:

  • Improved employee satisfaction by 31% via an incentive program
  • Created new training program, which leads to a 22% increase in in-house promotions
  • Worked with department managers to establish and implement a new performance evaluation system

In recognition of these accomplishments, I received my company’s Employee Excellence Award for 2023. I look forward to speaking with you further about my qualifications and how they can benefit your company. Thank you for your time.

Kind regards,

Angela Miller