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How to Write a Cover Letter

Cover letters. As much as they require more work, cover letters are a great opportunity to cover qualifications we can’t fully explain in our resumes. In addition, they help personalize job applicants to enable them to come across more as real people to potential employers. If you throw together a cover letter in the hopes that nobody will actually read it, you might be missing a chance to land the job. To take advantage of a cover letter's full potential, follow these steps below. You’ll find advice on formatting, reviewing, and researching cover letters. You will also find links to three free samples, which you can copy and adapt to your own personal cover letter.

Method One of Four:
Write an Email Cover Letter

  1. 1
    Include a salutation. There are a number of cover letters to choose from. And, the greeting you choose will depend on how much information you have about the company.
    • If you know the name of the hiring manager, your salutation should be something like "Dear [insert name]" followed by either a comma or a colon. Make sure to address the manager formally using their proper title (Mr., Ms., Dr., etc.).
    • If you don't know the name of the hiring manager, consider addressing your letter "Dear Hiring Manager," "Dear Recruiting Team," or "Dear [insert company name] Team."
    • As a last resort, address the letter "To whom it may concern," though we recommend avoiding this salutation, as it could come across as a template letter.
  2. 2
    Write the first paragraph of your letter. This is where you will mention the job for which you're applying and how you found the job listing. It only needs to be 1 to 2 sentences in length.
  3. 3
    Write the body paragraphs of your letter. Most cover letters will only have 1 or 2 body paragraphs. You don't want to overwhelm the hiring manager or use up a great deal of their time. Try to answer the following questions in your body paragraphs:
    • Why am I a qualified candidate for this position?
    • What work experience do I have that fits the job requirements in the company's listing?
    • Why do I want to work for this company specifically?
  4. 4
    Write the final paragraph of your letter. This will be where you wrap up and discuss how you will proceed with the application. Consider including the following:
    • Reiterate in one sentence why you feel you're a perfect fit for the position.
    • Discuss what you'll do next. If you plan on following up with the hiring manager in a week or two, include a specific date. Otherwise, just say that you look forward to interviewing for the position and discussing your qualifications further.
    • Provide your contact information. Include your email address and your phone number so the hiring manager can get in touch with you.
    • Mention that your resume or references are attached (if applicable).
    • Thank the person for their time.
  5. 5
    End your cover letter with a respectful closing statement. "Best" or "Sincerely" are both classic options. Also, since you won't be able to sign your email, finish the letter by typing your full name.
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Method 1 Quiz

What should you include in the first paragraph of your email cover letter?

Try again! You should include this information in the last paragraph. You've outlined this information in the body of the email, but you should use the last paragraph as a final opportunity to sell yourself by summarizing in one sentence why you feel you're a perfect fit for the position. Guess again!

Nope! Include your email address and phone number in the final paragraph of the email so the hiring manager can get in touch with you. Make sure both your email address and voicemail are professional! Click on another answer to find the right one...

Not quite! You should include this information in the body of the email. Do some research on the company so you know what to say here. You can mention its excellent corporate culture or how you love its most recent product. Pick another answer!

That's right! In the first paragraph of your letter, mention the job for which you're applying and how you found the job listing. It only needs to be 1 to 2 sentences in length. Read on for another quiz question.

Method Two of Four:
Write a Paper Cover Letter

  1. 1
    Add a letterhead at the top of the letter. Your letterhead should include your full name, address, telephone number, and email address. Some guidelines to follow when creating your letterhead:
    • Your name should be in bold 14- or 16-point font.
    • Your address and other contact information should be in normal 12-point font.
    • The font of your letterhead does not need to be Arial or Times New Roman, like the rest of your letter, but it should be professional looking and easy to read. The most important thing to remember is to include up-to-date information so that you make it easy for the employer to contact you.
    • You may want to include an extra line under the letterhead to create visual appeal and to separate the letterhead from the rest of the letter.
  2. 2
    Write the recipient’s name, address, and the date below the letterhead. It doesn't matter whether you put the date first or last, or how many blank lines you include between them, as long as it looks professional.
    • From here on out, use 12-point Arial or Times New Roman throughout the entire letter, set your margins to one inch, and use single spacing. Be sure your font is black, and if you're printing your letter out, use standard-sized paper (8 1/2” by 11”).
  3. 3
    Address the recipient. Be sure to refer to the recipient by his or her proper title (Mrs., Mr., Dr., etc.). If you’re not sure who the recipient is, write, “To Whom It May Concern:” or “Dear Sir or Madam”; however, it is always best to address a cover letter to a real person to make it look like you’re not sending form letters.
  4. 4
    State your purpose in the first paragraph. Tell the employer why you are writing to them in two or three sentences. State the position for which you are applying (or the one you would like to have should it become available).
    • You don't necessarily need to include how you became aware of the position unless it was through a mutual contact or recruiting program—in which case you should make the most of the connection.
    • If you are writing a letter of interest (also known as a prospecting or inquiry letter) in which you are asking about positions that might be available, specify why you are interested in working for the employer.
  5. 5
    Outline your qualifications in the middle paragraph(s). Make sure to match them to the requirements of the position. If you are writing to inquire about open positions, tell the employer how you can contribute to their bottom line, not what you want to get out of the deal. To do this, use what you have researched about the employer's background and history.
    • Make your qualifications jump out at the reader by researching the company to which you are applying for a job and tailoring your letter accordingly. This will also be useful if you get an interview. Some questions to keep in mind as you write are
      • What is the employer's mission? What do they promote as the one thing that sets them apart from their competitors?
      • What kind of customer base does the employer have? Who is their target audience?
      • What is the company's history? Who founded it? How has the business evolved? What are the main highlights of the company's performance over the past few years?
  6. 6
    Include a positive statement or question in the final paragraph that will motivate the employer to contact you. Make this closing paragraph between two and four sentences. Direct the employer to your enclosed resume and make sure you specify that you're available for an interview. Finish off by thanking the recruiter for their time and consideration, and welcome them to get in touch with you to continue the conversation.
  7. 7
    Write an appropriate closing. It’s a good idea to thank the reader for his or her time. After that, write “Sincerely,” “Respectfully,” or “Regards,” leave several spaces, and print your name.
  8. 8
    Add your signature. If you will be submitting your cover letter digitally, it’s a good idea to scan and add your signature, write it in with a digital writing pad, or make a digital signature stamp with appropriate software.
  9. 9
    Make a notation of the enclosures. If you enclose something, such as a resume, with a letter, you should indicate that the letter contains enclosures by making the notation “Enclosure” or “Enclosures” at the bottom of the letter.
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Method 2 Quiz

How should you format a paper cover letter?

Not quite! "Yours Truly" is too informal for a cover letter. Instead, write a sentence thanking the reader for their time. After that, write “Sincerely,” “Respectfully” or “Regards,” leave several spaces and print your name. Guess again!

Yes! Your letterhead should include your full name, address, telephone number and email address. Your name should be in bold 14- or 16-point font, and your address and other contact information should be in normal 12-point font. Make sure this is the most up-to-date information so the employer can contact you. Read on for another quiz question.

Definitely not! Comic Sans is an informal font, and 16-point is much too big. Use 12-point Arial or Times New Roman throughout the entire letter, set your margins to 1 inch and be sure your font is black (including any hyperlinks). Try again...

Nope! Your cover letter should be single-spaced. With your letterhead, contents and closing, you will have enough to fill the page! Try again...

Method Three of Four:
Review Your Cover Letter

  1. 1
    Spell-check and proofread. If you have a spell-check feature, use it. Some programs, such as Microsoft Word, also include a grammar check that you should use. Proofread your letter yourself. Some things to avoid are
    • Common misspellings.
    • Writing in the passive voice. Own your accomplishments. Stay away from phrases like "This experience gave me the opportunity to...," or worse, "these goals were met by me." You don't want to sound like everything happened to you or that it was done by some other entity. Make yourself the active subject of every sentence (e.g., "In this role, I developed/reinforced/learned/etc."). However, this does not imply that every sentence should start with "I..." so vary your syntax accordingly.
    • Colloquial (informal) writing. You want to sound professional and educated. Avoid all forms of slang, unnecessary abbreviations, and texting lingo.
    • Incorrect punctuation.
  2. 2
    Read your letter aloud to hear how it reads. Do not rely on the spelling and grammar checks to catch mistakes. Consider asking a friend, or even two, to proofread your letter as well. If no one is available to help, another good strategy is to spend some time away from your final draft (a few hours or even a whole day) so that you can return to it with a fresh perspective.
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Method 3 Quiz

True or False: You should write a cover letter in the passive voice.

Not exactly! Writing in the passive voice places less emphasis on your accomplishments. You want to include sentences with a strong noun, verb, and direct object. Instead of saying, "These goals were met by me," say, "I met these goals." Pick another answer!

Correct! Make yourself the active subject of every sentence (e.g., "In this role, I developed/reinforced/learned/etc."). However, every sentence should not start with "I ..." so make sure to vary your syntax as necessary. Read on for another quiz question.

Method Four of Four:
Checklist for Preparing Your Cover Letter

  1. 1
    Double-check some of the most-overlooked basics before you do anything. While misspelling or misidentifying the name of the company you're applying to isn't the end of the world, it's not exactly starting off on the right foot. Double-check the following:
    • The complete name of the company to which you are applying for a job
    • The name of the person to whom you are addressing the cover letter
    • The address of the person to whom you are sending the letter
    • The title of the job for which you are applying and/or its reference number, if it exists
  2. 2
    Ask yourself what skills do you possess that you are not using enough in your current role. Would the ideal candidate for this new role be required to make more use of those types of skills? What opportunities are missing in your current role? Answering these questions will help you explain why you are interested in leaving current position. For example, are you looking for:
    • "room for advancement"
    • "an opportunity to learn new skills"
  3. 3
    Hammer down your current job or educational position. This may seem like an obvious question, but knowing how to clearly define your current role is a tremendous asset. For example, you could be a:
    • "graduate student in environmental science"
    • "customer service professional specializing in the high-end retail market"
  4. 4
    Provide a general description of your accomplishments/experiences in the field to which you are applying. For example, you could have:
    • "fifteen years of excellent customer service experience"
    • "an outstanding background in scientific research and discovery"
    • "a solid history of dependability in the automotive industry"
  5. 5
    Identify the assets can you offer to the company to which you are applying. List a few in your cover letter, such as:
    • "extensive experience with start-ups"
    • "demonstrated ability to solve problems"
    • "refined ability to manage teams"
    • What will you help the company accomplish, if given the job you desire?
    • "increase its bottom line"
    • "meet its goal of providing only the best in customer service"
    • "expand its customer base and increase its revenue"
  6. 6
    Specify the type of job or level of the position you are seeking. Is it:
    • "entry-level"
    • "management"
    • "senior level"
0 / 0

Method 4 Quiz

What should you double-check before sending your letter?

Almost! You definitely want to double-check the address of the person or department where you will send your letter. Some companies have multiple addresses, and you want to be sure yours goes to the right place. Still, there are other things you should double-check before sending your letter! Pick another answer!

Not quite! It is true that you should include the exact job title of the position you want. You can find this in the job description either on the company's website or through a third-party employment site. However, there are other things you should double-check before you send your letter. Choose another answer!

Close! You absolutely want to make sure you include the complete name of the company. A good place to find this is on the company's "Contact Us" page or at the bottom of the website. But keep in mind there are other things you need to check before dropping your letter in the mail. There’s a better option out there!

Not exactly! Be sure to refer to the recipient by their proper title (Mrs., Mr., Dr., etc.). If you’re not sure who the recipient is, write, “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam." However, it is always best to address a cover letter to a real person to make it look like you’re not sending form letters. Still, there are other things you need to check before sending your letter. Pick another answer!

Nice! Before sending your letter, double check that you've included the correct address, job title, company name, and recipient name. Read your letter out loud to yourself or have a friend look it over before you drop it in the mail. Read on for another quiz question.

Sample Cover LettersEdit

Here are some well-written sample letters you can copy and use as a starting point.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Is It convenient to send a cover letter in PDF format attached to an email?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • No. Do not send it as an attachment unless that is how it was requested.
    Thanks! 18 0
  • How many paragraphs should my cover letter be?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • It should be at least 4 paragraphs. The opening paragraph is where you mention the position being applied for; two short body paragraphs are where you outline your skill set for the job in question and why you'd be a good fit or asset to the company; and the closing paragraph is where you reference the resume or other document included and thank them for their time.
    Thanks! 6 0
  • Is a cover letter different from an application letter?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • They are very similar, but an application letter is usually sent by itself to apply for a job. A cover letter is often used as the introduction to yourself followed by the details in your attached documents: resume, references, letters of recommendation, work portfolio, etc. So a cover letter is kept short and sweet while an application letter may go into a bit more detail about why you are a good fit for the position.
    Thanks! 13 2
  • What kind of salutation should I use if I don't know the name of the hiring manager?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • "Dear Sir or Madam" is appropriate.
    Thanks! 34 10
  • Is it okay to make a cover letter longer than one page?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • In general, you should avoid making it that long. It should be short and concise, emphasizing why you would be suitable for the position you're applying for.
    Thanks! 34 11
  • Should I mention my age?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • No, because unless it is mentioned in the job ad they are looking for a specific age range, employers are not allowed to discriminate due to age. Therefore, mentioning your age is irrelevant.
    Thanks! 18 6
  • Is it okay to apply for a job that needs experience that I don't have?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • It can be, but it depends on the job. Usually having even a little experience is good.
    Thanks! 6 1
  • If I have a disability that may affect my work, should I mention it in my cover letter?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Unless the disability would pretty well disqualify you from doing the job well (in which case you probably shouldn't be applying for the position), you'll have a better chance of getting an interview if you omit mention of it in the cover letter. In the interview, once you've had the chance to showcase your strengths, honestly explaining how it might impact some portions of your job -- but be ready with ways you plan to work around your issues, too.
    Thanks! 18 17
  • What if I don't know who to send the cover letter to?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Just address it to whom it may concern. If applying to a larger facility, find out if they have a human resources division.
    Thanks! 3 1
  • If I am using one cover letter for multiple companies, should I just make the letter broad?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • You should write each cover letter tailor-made for each company, since, in the cover letter, you have to mention the name of the company, the name of the hiring manager (if at all possible), where you found the job posting, and how you are an excellent fit for the position. You should not be able to use the same cover letter twice.
    Thanks! 0 0
Show more answers
  • Could I create a cover letter heading without including my address?
  • Why don't cover letters have heading after salutation?
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Quick Summary

Address your cover letter directly to the hiring manager for an important personal touch. In your first paragraph, introduce yourself and state the job you’re applying for. In 1-2 body paragraphs, describe why you’re a great candidate, what relevant experience you’ve had, and why you want to work at that company, using language from the job posting. In the last paragraph, give your contact information and thank them for their time. Sign off with “Sincerely,” and send!



  • Consider name-dropping if you are confident that the person you know at the company you are applying to will vouch for you. Sometimes a bit of inside help does go a long way, so don't dismiss this option if it is open to you.
    12 Helpful?  3
  • Be concise. Never use two words when one will do. Always strike the word "very" and eliminate the word "that" as much as you can.
    12 Helpful?  3
  • Do not overdo the style elements. Choose a font that is simple but elegant. Avoid uncommon decorative fonts unless you are applying for a job where being quirky is of greater value than being businesslike and the people who are doing the hiring are on board with this philosophy.
    8 Helpful?  2
  • Make sure your cover letter is visually appealing and coordinated with your resume. Use the same personal information block in the heading of your cover letter and your resume. A cohesive resume package is a very attractive selling point. If using paper (i.e., not online), use the same high quality paper for the cover letter as for your resume.
    7 Helpful?  2
  • Tweak your cover letter depending upon your target. If you are applying for specific jobs then make it as relevant as possible. Include the job reference number and address your cover letter directly to the company contact (if you have their name). Alternatively, if you are applying speculatively you can start with the salutation 'Dear Sirs,' and finish with 'Yours faithfully' rather than 'Sincerely'
    6 Helpful?  3


  • Avoid generic, empty language ("I will bring a depth of experience," or "I believe my qualifications and experience suit the demands of the position"). Be specific and concrete about what you can bring to the position.
    9 Helpful?  1
  • Be careful not to overplay your cover letter's role in the job application process. Yes, a good cover letter is important and a well-written cover letter should help entice the employer to read your resume. Even so, you should still be aware that your resume/CV is the main player, whereas the cover letter's role is a supporting one. If you get the balance wrong and place too much emphasis on the cover letter (making it too long and complex), then it could deter the employer from reading your resume.
    6 Helpful?  1
  • If you're doing a thorough job search, you will get rejected sometimes. If you're not getting rejected, you're not putting yourself out there enough. In addition, if you don't learn to see rejection as a chance to improve your approach, then you'll have a very difficult time getting a job.
    5 Helpful?  1
  • This is not your autobiography. Keep it well under a page.
    8 Helpful?  4

About This Article

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Co-authors: 160
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Categories: Cover Letters

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