Complete guide to writing a winning cover letter with examples

Hacks and tips you can use to write a cover letter that’ll get noticed November 06, 2020 · 15 min read

Your resume has been whipped into shape and it’s ready to go to the top of every recruiter’s pile.

Hold up! There’s something else you can’t neglect to include when you send off the application for your ideal job.

It’s your cover letter.

Your first thought is likely — are cover letters necessary nowadays?

In a word — yes.

You get a whole 6 seconds to grab the recruiter’s attention when they read your resume. Sending off a cover letter shows you’ve done just a little more and could well be the differentiator you need.

Knowing the potential to impress with a cover letter, we’re going to share everything you need to know to write a perfect cover letter that should get you invited for an interview.

You’ll get the details about:

  • Things to write about in your cover letter
  • Great example texts you can use

Let’s start from the very beginning...

Infographic: why cover letters are important and why do you need itThe letter provides detailed information on why you are perfect fit for the job you are applying for.

What’s a Cover Letter?

Usually, a cover letter is no longer than A4 document that you enclose with your resume to give extra details about your skills and experience.

A cover letter...

  • Allows you a little more space to write about how you’re excited about landing the job.
  • Gives the hiring manager more specifics about exactly why they need to interview you.

This isn’t where you repeat everything you said on your resume.

Instead, a cover letter should add to your resume and show that you’ve put in a little more effort than others to get the job you want.

Done properly, a cover letter serves to give a great first impression. To get that first impression spot on, you can use a well-formatted, visually appealing template. We’ve got a range of ready-made cover letter examples so you can choose the one you need. Cover letter examples by SweetCV

We’ve also created a useful guide that’ll help you to understand more about the differences between a resume and a cover letter.

Pro-Tip
Do your research on the company you’re applying to before you put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard. Understand the company’s challenges and what value you can bring to ease them. Give this detail in your cover letter.

How to Write a Cover Letter

As you sit at your computer, poised to write a winning cover letter, questions start to cross your mind.

What needs to be included in my cover letter? How do I phrase what I want to say?

Fret not, we’ve got the answers coming straight up.

First of all, remember…

You should be preparing a new cover letter for every role you’re going to apply to.

Yet, you can still use a standard winning formula that will give your cover letter an edge.

Let’s start with the look of it.

How to format cover letter?

To write your cover letter, follow this outline:

  1. The Introduction: add header, address letter, write opening paragraph
    This is where to grab attention and explain why you’re perfect for the job. Include in this section a header, greeting, and an eye-catching opening line.
  2. Body Paragraphs: explain why you are a perfect candidate
    Write two to three paragraphs that pull out the skills and experience you’ve got that are relevant to the role. Show the recruiter you can solve the company’s issues, that you’re perfect for the job, and that you’d be a positive addition to the team.
  3. Conclusion: call to action
    Wrap up your letter with a couple of concise sentences that bring home your strengths and request the reader get in touch — this is what we call a "call to action".
How to write a cover letter: structureLearn more about the structure of a cover letter

Want more details? Let’s keep going...

The Introduction: add header, address letter, write opening paragraph

At the very top of the page, you add your cover letter header.

In this part, you add your name and contact details, plus who you’re addressing — the hiring manager, including their professional title.

Next comes the date you’re writing the letter and the company, along with it's name and business address.

Right at the top of the page of your cover letter should be:

  • Your full name
  • A professional email address, not your high school i_luv_britney_4eva@hotmail.com
  • A contact telephone number
  • Your postal address, if you want to
  • The link to your LinkedIn, if you’ve got one you maintain

After your personal details, next comes:

  • The date
  • The full name of the person you’re sending your cover letter and resume to
  • The name of the company
  • Its phone number
  • The email of the hiring manager or generic contact email

To make it easy, here’s an example for you to check out:

Melinda Butler
Melinda.butler@myemail.com
2465 Gomer Street
Salt Lake City, UT
(555) 888-4000
October 22, 2020

Asma Morris
Be Content Co.
139 Central Avenue
Salt Lake City, UT

Follow this up with your opening line.

Addressing a cover letter correctly is really important. Do some digging and find the name of the person who’s going to get your cover letter and resume on their desk.

"To whom it may concern" is pretty archaic. It makes your cover letter look generic and shows that you’re probably preparing 20 of the same thing to send to everyone you’re applying to.

Make sure you personalize your cover letter from the get-go.

Some ideas for how you can address your letter include:

  • Dear Katherine,
  • Dear Miss Jones,
  • Dear Ms. Smith,

Are you thinking "Is the first name of a hiring manager enough?"

It’ll all depend on the company.

When the position you’re applying to is with a cool, chilled company then stick with the first name of the hiring manager.

Applying to a corporation or a serious company? Stick with the title and last name of the recruiter.

What if you can’t find the recruiter’s name? How to address a cover letter when you don’t know who’ll be reading it?

In the case that you can’t track down the hiring manager, you should address your cover letter to the department you’ve included in the address section a little earlier or use a generic salutation.

For instance, you can write:

  • Dear Recruiting Manager,
  • Dear Hiring Manager,
  • Dear Customer Service Hiring Team,
  • Dear Content Marketing Department,

Because you don't know who will read your cover letter it's important to make sure the salutation is gender-neutral. For that, don't use old-fashioned "Sir" or "Madam".

Now, we come to the really important part…

It’s your opening paragraph about why you’re applying for the job.

Keep your opener short and sweet, and be sure that you add in these three details:

  • The reason you’re writing the letter
  • Which position you’re applying for
  • Where you saw the job advertised

What’s key here is giving value to the hiring manager and offering them concrete examples to back up what you say.

The whole point of the opening paragraph of your cover letter is to:

  • Shine a light on your best achievements
  • Demonstrate you have what your next employer is looking for
  • Show how enthusiastic you are about the potential role

Sometimes we need to see a bad example to really understand something.

Here’s what you shouldn’t do in the opening paragraph of your cover letter:

  • "I’d like to apply for the role of digital content writer that I saw advertised on Lookingforajob.com. My CV is attached for you to check out."

What do you notice immediately? Or rather, what do you not notice?

There’s no mention of any achievements. There’s no passion, zero enthusiasm.

Not exactly filling you with confidence to hire the person...

The above example doesn’t talk about adding value or even offer any details at all.

Now...

After we’ve shown you how not to write your opening paragraph, here’s a good example of a cover letter opening paragraph:

  • Throughout my career, I’ve admired the campaigns put out by Be Content Co.’s content team. When I saw there was a vacancy for a Content Designer on your team I jumped to my desk to apply. My skills in researching content that ranks highly on search engines will help with Be Content’s plans to develop your online offering in the coming year. I planned and executed the digital content strategy for WordWork LLC, seeing an increase of 245% in organic traffic to its site and a doubling of the conversion rate, all on a tight budget of $65,000.

A whole world of difference, right?

With this paragraph, the recruiter is familiar with the applicant’s biggest professional achievements and they’ve got the feeling that they’re aimed to bring their company success.

There is no doubt the second example wins over the first.

Of course, you’d hire the applicant who shows some passion and industry knowledge along with some measurable achievements.

First part: done.

It’s time to move on to the juicy details — the central paragraph of your cover letter.

Pro-Tip
Research really is key to a successful cover letter. You need to know who’s going to be reading your letter, what skills are required in the job description, and what the company culture looks and feels like.

Body Paragraphs: explain why you are a perfect candidate

In the next couple of paragraphs, you need to be giving an overview of the skills and experience you have that are directly related to the position.

You’re going to be talking about:

  • Your proudest achievements
  • The skills and specialisms you’ve got that are ideal for the role
  • Specifics about the successes you’ve had before with facts and figures to back it up

When making your body paragraphs, the aim is to:

  • Show how your past experience will contribute to the future of your next employer’s business
  • Let the recruiter know you’re passionate about working at the company

Want to know what not to do?

Here’s a bad example for the body of your cover letter:

  • In my last job I had to write blogs, which I liked and people told me they liked my writing. My friends tell me I'm a go-getter, a great listener, and proactive and dynamic. All of this makes me perfect to work with you and your company.

Sad to say, but this text is just taking up space in a cover letter, and adding nothing of substance.

There’s no details, no KPIs, and nothing that says why the applicant would be good for the specific role being recruited for.

Let’s check out what a winning cover letter body paragraph looks like:

  • In my last role, as a Content Lead for WordWorks LLC, my primary target was to increase customer acquisition through organic search traffic and Instagram ads with a budget of $35,000 pa. I managed a team of three virtual assistants to produce graphics and captions and took charge of blog writing. I oversaw the digital marketing campaign end-to-end and produced monthly tracking.
    In terms of organic search, I became adept at using the following tools to target customers and monitor progress:
    • Google Search Console
    • SEMRush
    • Screaming Frog
    • Google Analytics
    With your advertised role requiring knowledge of planning future content and optimizing existing web pages, I can use my acquired knowledge to boost your website traffic.

Here, we see tangible examples and results that will impress any hiring manager.

Even better, there’s a solid reason why the applicant can fill the role in the advert.

There’s clear evidence in these two paragraphs that our applicant is an expert at what they do.

Following on from this, you should cover information about your previous work and how it connects to the plans of your next boss.

You need to:

  • Explain what you find interesting about the job
  • Reinforce that your skills will drive results for what the company is working on — this is why you research!

Something like this will be effective:

  • I’ve seen that Be Content is working on taking its whole product line online to reach a larger audience. This is perfect for my skills and interests and I relish the challenge of working with a website that is in the process of being expanded. It’d be really interesting to go from working from a very low base — WordWorks had less than 2,000 organic clicks per month to start — to working with a company aiming to maintain their site traffic of 15,000 clicks and expand their base.

Harness your recent experience and the facts and figures to show that you’ve got the skills to achieve the company aims.

Pro-Tip
Enthusiasm is great, but don’t get too involved with the ego massaging, it can seem false. Be authentic in your praise, you’re not talking about your teenaged love for Britney anymore.

When you need to write a cover letter with no experience, you can include:

  • Academic and other achievements: refer to your GPA on your degree if it’s over 3.5, and any awards, merits, or scholarships that you won. Your thesis and its topic, if you wrote one, are worth noting, too
  • Extracurricular activities: add any part-time or seasonal work, your volunteering activities, and how you participate in your hobbies
  • Self-motivation and goal setting: talk about your goals and where you see yourself, explain how the job fits into your plans

An example of a cover letter body text for someone with no work experience could read like this:

  • I graduated summa cum laude (3.7 GPA) from Utah State University with a BA in Digital Communications. Whilst at university, I was the editor of the student news site, including creating and commissioning content. I also ran the social media accounts for the theatre club, building the page from 100 likes to over 2000 within a year and boosting ticket sales with it. Having both studied and worked in volunteer roles around digital marketing, I would make a great addition to your team as a Content Assistant familiar with social media.

Your resume power words also come into play when crafting your cover letter, these will add extra punch to your text.

Coming to the end of your cover letter, it’s time to close things off with a strong and powerful call to action.

Conclusion: call to action

At the end of your cover letter is your closing, which should be polite, confident, and one last sentence that sells your candidacy.

The following details are all-important:

  • A thanks to the recruiter for reading your cover letter and resume
  • A concise summary of why they need to hire you
  • A polite request that you get invited to an interview

Done properly, your closing paragraph will have the recruiter keen to move on to reading your resume next.

What does a good cover letter ending look like?

You want to tell the hiring manager that you’re excited to meet them in person to have a full discussion about your knowledge, background, and what you can do for them.

Looking for one more example?

Here you go:

  • "I strongly believe that the skills I’ve outlined and the qualifications I’ve achieved make me the perfect candidate for the role of Content Designer. I’d love the opportunity to have a full conversation with you about how my experience at WordWorks will translate into growth and increased sales for Be Content."

This part of your cover letter should be brief and to the point.

Lastly, it’s time to sign off with a professional closing phrase, like:

  • Sincerely,
  • Best,
  • Regards,
  • Respectfully,
  • Kind regards,
  • Best regards,

To wrap it all up, add two line breaks after closing phrase and add your full name.

Infographic: your missionRemember, writing a cover letter doesn't have to be boring and exhausting. We created a little game about writing a cover letter for you to better remember.

Summing Up

Using this guide will help you come up with a simple and powerful cover letter to demonstrate to employers that you’re the exact right person to fill the vacancy they have.

Let’s do a rundown of the key takeaways you’ve got from this post.

Remember how long should a cover letter be? Your perfect cover letter should fill one side of A4 paper.

On that page, you need to have:

  1. An introduction, which has a letter header, an opening paragraph with a great opening line, and a reason why the recruiter needs to keep reading the letter — because you can fulfill the needs they have.
  2. Body paragraphs with emphasis on your best achievements in your last job, how what you know will translate to results in the new job, and let them see how motivated you are to be a part of their team.
  3. A closing paragraph including a call to action and a reason for the recruiter to keep on reading over to your resume.

Doing research about the company, person, and the role before starting creating your cover letter will be really helpful.

With your research, you can personalize your cover letter and use the name of the exact person who will read it. You can also target the experience you highlight based on what the company actually needs.

Your cover letter should have regular references to the company ethos and to specific projects that appeal to you.

Doing this will give a clear signal to the recruiter that you’ve taken time to learn about the company and you’ve got a genuine interest in the job.

Another key element to note is to back up everything you claim with facts, numbers, and examples, giving business results and problems you’ve solved.

Your cover letter should be short and to the point, letting your skills shine through.

Winning cover letters and perfect resumes can be a challenge. We can help you take them head-on — register now and you get professional quality templates that will boost your chances of landing your dream job.

Julia Tsarenok
Article by:
Julia Tsarenok