If you’re applying for jobs, there is likely to be one question on your mind: What does a great cover letter look like?
The truth is that there seems to be a lot of misinformation out there. You’ll even find people who will tell you that the tried-and-true cover letter is no longer necessary. Don’t believe that for one second – it is simply not the case.
Your cover letter has the unique potential to grab a hiring manager’s attention and leave them wanting more. The fact is that your cover letter is a critical part of a well-constructed job application, and is often the best way to ensure that you properly sell yourself as the best candidate for any desired position.
Of course, knowing that you need to write a cover letter is just one part of the equation. You also need to know what a good cover letter looks like. In this guide, we’ll look at an example of what a good cover letter looks like, and break down the reasons experts like this format.
Example of a good cover letter
Before you even put pen to paper, there’s one thing that you need to do. Start with the right format. Hiring managers expect a certain structure in the cover letters they review. Stray from this and you could do your application more harm than good. With that in mind, you’ll want to use the standard business letter format for the cover letter, as follows:
Contact information. Often provided in the header, your contact information should be clear and easy for the hiring manager to read. Keep in mind that the details you provide need to match those on your resume. If these two things are different, your cover letter may be flagged by the ATS or make your application package look inconsistent.
The date. Next up, you should include the date that you are sending the application. Ensure that you use a standard format here. For example, you could use “MM/DD/YYYY” as your structure. Equally, you may want to write the date out in full. Whatever approach you take, be sure to double-check that the date is correct.
Recipient’s details. Now that you’ve provided your basic details, it’s time to move on to the recipient’s contact information. That includes their formal name and the business for which they work. As a general rule, you should know who you are addressing your cover letter to. Sometimes, the hiring manager’s name will be listed on the job posting. If it’s not there, it is worth a quick call to the company ahead of applying. That way, you can make sure that the information you are sharing is right.
Salutation/greeting. Once you’ve dealt with all of the red tape above, the next step is to directly address the reader. You should avoid casual greetings, such as “Hi” or even “Hey” as these can appear unprofessional. On the other hand, you also need to steer clear of the old-school “To whom it may concern.” Instead, go for something more personalized. For example, you can use “Dear Mr. Smith,” or, on the off-chance that you don’t know their name, “Dear Hiring Manager.” The choice is yours.
Cover letter body. The cover letter body is the main bulk of this document. On average, you should write three to four paragraphs, explaining why you are the ideal candidate for the position. Later in this guide, we will take a look at some of the ways that you can make this section of your cover letter stand out from the crowd.
Call to action. At the end of your cover letter, you should add a strong call to action (CTA). This is a phrase or statement that encourages the reader to reach out to you. You may want to tease them and say that you have more to reveal at the interview stage of the process, for example. Alternatively, you could reaffirm that you are enthusiastic about the prospect of the job opportunity and want to know more.
Now that you understand what structure your cover letter should take, let’s talk about what a cover letter should look like in 2023.
Your First Name, Last Name
Number | Email Address | LinkedIn URL
Mr. John HiringGuy
1234 Big Money Lane
Anytown, State, and ZIP
Re: Customer Service Manager Opening at ABC Corp
Dear Mr. HiringGuy:
I was very intrigued and excited to receive notice of your open position for a Customer Service Manager and am hopeful that you will be open to discussing the job with me in an interview.
I have followed your company’s progress for some time and have been impressed with the strides you have made in bringing innovative communications solutions to a global audience. ABC Corp’s commitment to changing the face of modern media has inspired much of my own career progress over the last several years.
My recent background has involved work as a Customer Service Director for outbound tech and service support at XYZ Inc. – a position that has provided me with hands-on experience in many of the same types of projects that ABC Corp routinely undertakes. In my time at XYZ, I have been responsible for leading our outbound team to ensure client satisfaction in the area of product returns, refunds, and damaged products. I was also involved in organizing and implementing the company’s most recent CRM upgrade, which increased service rep productivity by 18.2%.
In addition to my strong record of experience in technology and communications, I would also bring to the position an equally strong skill set that includes proficiencies in CRM technology and workflow software. I have also recently undertaken a managerial qualification to help me to better support team members. My attached resume provides a complete picture of these skills and qualifications.
Again, I am excited to have the opportunity to apply for your company’s position and am confident that I have the communications, customer service, and problem-resolution skills that ABC Corp needs. Please feel free to contact me at (555) 555-0000 to schedule an interview. I appreciate your time and look forward to discussing this opportunity in greater detail at your earliest convenience.
First Name, Last Name
Why this is the perfect cover letter template
The above cover letter example is certain to turn a hiring manager’s head for all the right reasons. To help you understand what works so well about the above, we’re going to break things down for you. Here are some of the reasons that the cover letter example is better than the vast majority that an average hiring manager comes across.
1. Direct and to-the-point
First up, there’s no messing around here. The cover letter example above is direct and gets right to the point. As you may already know, the average hiring manager doesn’t have a wealth of time to spend reviewing each new application. For that reason, this letter doesn’t waste any precious time with a preamble. It gets straight in there.
This cover letter template immediately mentions the position the candidate is targeting, which lets the hiring manager know what they can expect from the application from there on. It also shows that the candidate has done their research in advance. Put simply, they have tailored the cover letter to meet the employer’s needs, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach. By getting straight to the point with the right information, you can quickly and easily set yourself apart from the competition.
Expert Tip: Proofread like a professional!
Typos and spelling mistakes won’t win you an interview. If your cover letter is littered with these annoying problems, the hiring manager won’t be impressed. It doesn’t matter how great the content of your application is if you fail to fix these grammatical issues.
With that in mind, you absolutely need to make proofreading a priority. Take the time to double-check your cover letter before you submit it. You can also use a spell-checker program, such as Grammarly, to give yourself that extra peace of mind.
2. Highlight your best qualifications
Let’s talk about how the cover letter positions the candidate’s qualifications. The best cover letter templates include a brief summary of qualifications. Your resume will provide more details. The cover letter should entice the manager to look into your resume.
With that in mind, it’s a savvy move to mention your qualifications in passing. You can weave them into the body of the content to show the ways that they support you in the working world. Don’t spend too much time on this part of your cover letter – you need to keep things short and sweet. Simply mention your training or qualifications and then move on.
3. Provide value through achievements and numbers
Quantifying your experiences is a quick and easy way to boost the potential of your cover letter. This approach provides the reader with evidence of your track record. So, when you are writing the letter, consider how you can add in extra details. Can you slide some statistics into the mix? Are you able to offer up a timeline to prove your point?
Like your resume or CV, your cover letter should contain quantifiable achievements. A common mistake job seekers make on their cover letter is simply listing out job duties and work history instead of accomplishments. With hundreds of job seekers applying for a single position, you need to know how to stand out. Include numbers and flourishes of information wherever possible to capture the attention of the employer.
Expert Tip: Make sure you have the whole package!
We’ve talked about how to perfect your cover letter, but why stop there? Professional resume writers know how to organize your resume to appeal to hiring managers. Check out our guide to the best resume writing services to find your perfect fit!
4. Tailored for the company and hiring manager
Research matters when you’re applying for jobs. When the hiring manager reads your cover letter, it should be instantly clear that you have done some. That means delving into the wants and needs of a business, and ensuring that you tailor your cover letter to meet them.
The above cover letter template mentions the company name and shows the candidate took the time to do some research. This shows employers and the hiring manager a strong desire to work for the company. Blasting out the same cover letter to every employer and job application won’t get you very many interview requests.
EXPERT TIP: Unleash your inner Sherlock Holmes!
When you’re applying for a job, it truly pays off to do some detective work. Take the time to find out as much as possible about the business at hand. Here’s where you can start:
Google. See what happens when you Google the business. What news articles come up? Can you find recent press releases? What is the buzz around the business and what do you need to know before you apply?
Company website. You want to take a look at the business’ website. What information can you find there? Is there a “blog” or a “news” section? What details can you learn about the hiring manager? Do some digging here.
Social media. Chances are, the business has a social media presence. If it does, you should take a look at it before you write your cover letter. This approach allows you to get to know the public-facing side of the business ahead of time.
5. Stay employer-focused
Whenever you are writing a cover letter, think like the employer. What do they want to know? What can you bring to the table? The candidate in the above example shows how they will be beneficial to the company and doesn’t just type out an objective or summary of what they've done.
You can do the same when you start working on your cover letter. Make sure to show the hiring manager how you will benefit the company with your skill set, work experience, and other qualifications. There are plenty of ways that you can demonstrate your worth to the reader. Review your cover letter before sending it and make sure that it hits the mark.
A good cover letter matters. Naturally, your cover letter will be slightly different for the company you’re applying for, since it should be customized to match your unique history, skill set, and desired job position. However, the basic structure and level of enthusiasm found in this cover letter example should serve you well in most situations.
Tips on how to make your cover letter look great
You already know how to structure and write your cover letter – but looks matter too. So, what does a great cover letter look like in 2023? When you’ve sorted out the content of this letter, you should spend some time making sure the design is on point. Recruiters spend just seven seconds assessing each new application. That means that you need to make the right impression quickly. Take a look at these handy design tips to help you along the way.
Avoid including too much information
Generally speaking, your cover letter should be 300 words or less. It should fit onto one A4 document and not run onto two pages. When the hiring manager looks at your cover letter, they should be able to gather all of the information that they need quickly. So, keep things short and sweet. You don’t want to confront them with a wall of endless text. If you are having a hard time saying what you need to say in that word count, try editing out unnecessary details. Look back at your cover letter and consider what parts are essential.
Stick to a professional font
The typeface you use says more about you than you might imagine. When the reader first glances at your cover letter, they won’t have all that much to go on. However, if you have used a wacky font – such as the dreaded Comic Sans – you could damage your chances of success. If in doubt, choose a typeface that is easy to read and looks the part. Popular choices include Helvetica, Times New Roman, and Georgia, for example. Should you be unsure whether your cover letter looks good, ask a friend to take a moment to review it.
Get the spacing right from the start
Nobody wants to read an endless stream of consciousness. When you are writing a cover letter, you need to make it visually appealing to the reader. That means breaking up the text into manageable paragraphs. That way, it will be easy for the hiring manager to skim your application and pick out the key details. The simpler you make their job, the more likely you are to land that all-important interview. So, be sure to remove any pesky barriers for them.
Look for any inconsistencies
Attention to detail matters in most jobs. When you are creating your cover letter, you need to make sure that everything matches. For example, if you copy and paste the text from another page, does the font still look the same? Is there a difference in the size of the text? Can you see anything that jumps out to you? Look for any stylistic inconsistencies that will make the hiring manager pause. You don’t want to give them any reason to think twice about your application. Pay close attention to the finer parts of your cover letter here.
Stick to black and white
Think that you can grab the hiring manager’s attention with a colorful cover letter? Think again. Black and white is the standard format when it comes to this type of document. If you stray from that, you may hinder your chances of landing the job before they have begun. Opting for an overly creative look might not go down as well as you imagine. Play it safe.
Don’t use imagery on your cover letter
Imagery has no place on your cover letter. Whether it’s a graph, a headshot, or even a logo, you need to avoid including it on this part of your application. Keep in mind that your cover letter is a formal document. It is you expressing your interest in the vacancy at hand. For that reason, you need to make sure that it does the job.
For example, you might think that including a graph that demonstrates your sales success is a winning idea. However, this addition is likely to stick out for all the wrong reasons. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it could confuse the ATS software, meaning that your application ends up in the trash.
Cover letters still matter – so don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. The letter is your only chance to talk directly to the hiring manager about your resume. Don’t waste that golden opportunity. With the right resume and a powerful cover letter, your job search effort should be rewarded with a dream job that’s perfect for your needs. Why not get started today?
Now that you know how to perfect your cover letter, let’s talk about your resume. Check out our free resume review today and boost your chances of landing your next interview and getting hired faster than ever.
Marsha Hebert, Professional Resume Writer
Marsha is a resume writer with a strong background in marketing and writing. After completing a Business Marketing degree, she discovered that she could combine her passion for writing with a natural talent for marketing. For more than 10 years, Marsha has helped companies and individuals market themselves. Read more advice from Marsha on ZipJob's blog.