The cover letter you write for a job has to complement your resume, not reiterate it.

There is a common misconception that cover letters for a job have gone the way of the do-do. The fact is that hiring managers use cover letters quite frequently to determine the potential success of a job applicant in a new position. 

When you write a cover letter that complements your resume, you open the door to a couple of things:

  1. You get to inject some personality into your application

  2. You can explain any faux pas that may show up in your resume, like employment gaps

With that said, what should you write in your cover letter? Let's talk about the essential cover letter elements that you'll need to consider for job search success. 

Related reading: Do Hiring Managers Actually Read Cover Letters?

Things to consider as you write your cover letter for a job

When you write a cover letter for a job opening, you're not supposed to simply regurgitate what's already on the resume. No one wants to read the same thing twice. Instead, use the cover letter to 

  • Talk about how your personality aligns with the company culture

  • Mention how you learned about the job – this provides an excellent opportunity for you to bring up whether you were referred to the job and do some name-dropping

  • Emphasize how much you know about the company by talking about what you've learned during your research to exclaim that you're excited to be a part of their team

You already know that your resume is your first chance to make a great  impression on a company. The cover letter you write for a job does the same thing. So, be sure to highlight your relevant skills and experiences with a personalized and detailed explanation of your qualifications. 

How to write a cover letter – some rules

As with anything you submit to a prospective employer, there are some best practices to follow. For the cover letter, rule number one is that it should be written like a formal business letter, using this structure:

  • Your contact information – Lay this part out the same way you have it formatted on your resume. 

  • Date

  • Recipient information – The name of the company and its location 

  • Salutation – “Dear Hiring Manager,” but try to use a person's name, if possible

  • Paragraph 1 – Your introduction to the hiring manager and  why you're reaching out

  • Paragraph 2 – Detail why you're a great match for the job and explain any issues that you may see that could cause the hiring manager to be concerned about your candidacy

  • Paragraph 3 – You could opt to use bullets or a paragraph here, but your goal is to emphasize career achievements that make you the best fit for the job

  • Call to action – Your final paragraph – it's less a paragraph and more a blurb – should encourage the hiring manager to reach out to you to schedule an interview

  • Signature

A template you can use for the cover letter you write for a job

If you're a visual person, it may help for all of that to be put into something more tangible. Here's a good example of a cover letter:


Location | (111) 222-3333 | | LinkedIn URL


April 1, 2024

Company Name


RE: Job Title/Reference Code

Dear Hiring Manager: (Try to use a person's name, if possible)

The first paragraph of your cover letter introduces yourself and briefly touches on how you can benefit the company. In everything you write, you must always talk about how you'll be of use to the company. You can even include how confident you are that you'll be an immediate asset. 

The second paragraph will discuss two or three things you've accomplished in your career. A common way to start this paragraph is with the words, “In my current role, …” Keep all paragraphs of your cover letter between 3 and 5 sentences. 

If you really have MAJOR accomplishments to call out, you can add a bulleted list.

  • MAJOR accomplishment one.

  • MAJOR accomplishment two.

  • MAJOR accomplishment three.

End with something like: “I look forward to meeting with you so that we can further discuss how my talents match what you seek.”


Your Name

How to write a cover letter for a job – step-by-step guide

As you work your way through the steps below, refer to the template so you can have a visual of what the outcome looks like. 

The header of your cover letter for a job

The best way to get a cover letter with the right header is to open your resume. Click File and then Save As so you can save the resume as a cover letter. Then, delete everything beneath the contact information and title section of the resume. Now, you'll have a blank document with a header that you can use to write your cover letter

All you'll need to do is add in the date and recipient information. If you're using MS Word, you can insert the date so that it automatically updates with the new date when the file is opened. However, this is not a requirement. Just make sure that your cover letter is properly dated.

The greeting/salutation of your cover letter for a job

For the love of all things great on this planet, you should avoid writing “To Whom It May Concern.” It's outdated and has a very high cringe factor. Do a bit of due diligence and look for the hiring manager's name. The best place to find the name you need is on the job description. 

Sometimes, it'll be way at the bottom. If not, then head to LinkedIn and search for the company that you're applying to. When their page pops up, click on the number of employees that have LinkedIn profiles to get to the list and scroll through until you find the manager's name. 

Related reading: How to Use LinkedIn to Get a Job

If you absolutely cannot find a person's name, then use “Dear Hiring Manager.”

Paragraph one of your cover letter for a job

Remember, this is only an introduction paragraph – how you know about the job, why you want the job, and why you're interested. It's the shortest paragraph of your cover letter for a job, sometimes coming in at only two to three sentences. Write it in a way that makes them want to keep reading.


“As an experienced research and development scientist with exposure to product development, quality assurance testing, safety, and environmental protection standards, I am an ideal candidate for your *Job Title* opening. Having progressed through a series of laboratory-based projects spanning 10 years where I've integrated protocols and presented findings to medical and scientific professionals, I am excited to become a valuable member of the *Company Name* team.”

Be sure to customize the job title and company name every time you send out the cover letter for a job listing. 

Paragraph two of your cover letter for a job

This is the time to explain in detail why you're a great fit for the role. Just like you did when you wrote your resume, take some keywords from the job description and weave them into the cover letter – specifically into this paragraph. Remember, you're attempting to add value to what they've already learned about you in the resume.


“My passion and energy allow me to approach each role with dedication and enthusiasm while maintaining balance with the organization's core mission. Comfortable in collaborative and independently-driven roles, I am a future-focused leader with refined analytical and critical thinking skills. I am a strong communicator with natural interpersonal strengths that drive me to engage with my peers and other stakeholders to both identify needs and develop problem resolutions”

You should include a balanced mix of hard and soft skills so that your cover letter properly relays that you have what it takes to succeed in the position.

Related reading: What Are Skills? (With Examples and Tips on How to Improve Them)

Paragraph three of your cover letter for a job

Again, you can use another paragraph for this part of your cover letter, or you can use bullet points. Bullet points are a great way to add white space in your cover letter, allowing the hiring manager to quickly assess your value as a job seeker. 

Whether your decision is to write a paragraph or bullets, you should add some quantifiable achievements to this part of your cover letter. Hiring managers are able to assess your future value based on past accomplishments. 


“Further, I would bring the following strengths to your team:

  • In my last role, I designed 3 new medical devices, formulated ideas for 6 new products, and worked with a team to come up with methodologies for treating 12 new ailments.
  • I apply GxP standards in all projects and am well-versed in GCP, GLP, GMP, and CCLP protocols. I am also extremely dedicated to stringent compliance with federal regulations governing research and development, having improved compliance by 15% in my last role.
  • I am fiercely committed to continuing education and staying abreast of modern scientific developments and standards of excellence. I am 9 credit hours from completing my Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Toledo and have completed over 40 hours of graduate-level coursework from MIT, in addition to my Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine education.”

Did you notice how that last bullet mentions that the candidate isn't quite finished with their education? This point was made to explain away the unfinished degree listed on her resume and is what we meant when we said that cover letters can be used to explain any information gaps in your resume. 

Related reading: How to Track Your Work Accomplishments Throughout the Year

The call-to-action and closing for your cover letter for a job

The main point of writing a cover letter and resume to apply for a job is to get an interview. Just like the first paragraph, this doesn't have to be a long and drawn-out message. Thank the hiring manager for reviewing your application and letting them know how to get in touch with you to schedule a meeting. Then, close the letter with your signature.


“I look forward to meeting with you where we can discuss my background and your needs in detail. Thank you for your time and kind consideration.


Your Name”

Some do's and don'ts

Knowing the right way to put together a cover letter for a job is only part of the picture. You also have to follow certain standards to ensure that the hiring manager will actually take the time to read the letter you've submitted. 

1. Don't restate your entire resume

The recruiter already has your resume, so there's no need to rehash your entire work history in your cover letter. This is often a turn-off for employers who are sick of letters that merely summarize their candidates' resumes. Consequently, they see no need to read them.

2. Don't make your cover letter generic!

Boilerplate is not the way to go. You need to tailor your cover letter to speak specifically to each company's needs. Read the job description and brainstorm how you have each prerequisite. Then, pair it with a specific contribution, experience, or accomplishment. Relay this information in a paragraph or a set of bullets. 

3. Keep it short

Your cover letter for a job opening should not exceed one page – ever. You don't have to say it all when you write a cover letter. If you want to get a job interview, just say it right.

Cover letter plus resume equals complete job search toolkit

Just like every good toolbox needs a hammer and a screwdriver, every good job search should have an accomplishments-driven resume and a complementary cover letter. When done correctly, both work together to prove to future employers you're the best candidate for a job. 

Key takeaways:

  • Avoid restating what's already on the resume
  • Demonstrate your enthusiasm for the company and your passion for the job
  • Use a formal business format
  • Tailor your cover letter to the job description
  • Don't let your cover letter go over one page in length

Make sure your resume is as strong as your cover letter. Request a free resume review from one of our career experts today!

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