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!
Most people know that sending the same cover letter to every job is a mistake, especially if the jobs to which you’re applying are in different industries. But formatting a cover letter to suit an industry can often seem like a daunting task, and many people are confused as to how to accomplish it. These tips can help you target your cover letter to the employers you want to work for, so you can land your dream job faster!
Focus on Your Skills
When you go to apply for jobs, try to tailor your skills section to the industry your targeting. For instance, if you worked as customer service representative and you’re applying for a job in sales you can talk about your excellent phone communication skills, and your ability to thrive in a fast-paced environment. If you’re applying for a financial consultant position you can highlight the consultative nature of your job as a customer service representative, how you were able to explain technical processes in a simple way, and how you were able to solve problems for your customers. You’re using the same work experience to apply for these different industries, but you’re highlighting different skills depending on what the industry or job position at hand requires.
Customize Your Cover Letter by Experience
While you want to be honest about your work experience, you don’t necessarily have to include everything you’ve ever done, particularly in your cover letter. Your cover letter should sum up the places you’ve been and skills you’ve learned that directly apply to the job to which you’re applying. So if you’re applying for a marketing position and you’ve worked as a sales associate, include that. However, you probably don’t need to discuss the two years in college you spent as a waitress in your cover letter unless it somehow applies to your future marketing career.
Speak to Your Audience
Another way to customize your cover letter is to speak directly to your audience. It would be beneficial for you to research a little bit about the company to which you’re applying, and even the person who will interview you if you have the opportunity. By understanding who you’re talking to, you can highlight different life and work experiences you’ve had. If you know the hiring manager is a huge animal lover, you might mention the volunteer work you did with the ASPCA. If the company is known for its aggressive marketing tactics, you could mention the canvassing you did for a political campaign. Knowing to whom you are speaking allows you to “speak their language” in a sense and relate to them on their level.
Customizing your cover letter to suit the company, position, and industry at hand is incredibly important, and it will also help you to stand out from the crowd. Many people mass apply to jobs without updating their cover letter or tailoring it to a specific job or company. When you take the time to do this it will be very obvious, and you’ll automatically be ahead of the game. If you’re wondering how to create the perfect cover letter, try using LiveCareer’s Cover Letter Builder tool as a starting point. First impressions are important; make yours count.