We love having examples. It’s so much easier to follow a recipe, build a puzzle, or yes, even write a cover letter when you know what the end product should look like.
So that’s what we’re going to give you — all the cover letter examples and tips you need to make yours shine (we’re unfortunately not experts in recipes or puzzles).
Why Bother With a Cover Letter at All?
Before we jump in, it’s worth emphasizing why cover letters still exist and are worthy of your attention. I bet when you see a job listing where one’s “optional” you gleefully submit a resume and move on. But you’re truly doing yourself a disservice by not creating one (or by writing one that’s super generic or formulaic).
“When you’re writing a resume you’re oftentimes confined by space, by resume speak, by keywords — you’re up against a lot of technical requirements,” says Melody Godfred, a Muse career coach and founder of Write in Color who’s read thousands of cover letters over the course of her career, “whereas in a cover letter you have an opportunity to craft a narrative that aligns you not only with the position you’re applying to but also the company you’re applying to.”
When you’re writing a resume you’re oftentimes confined by space, by resume speak, by keywords — you’re up against a lot of technical requirements, whereas in a cover letter you have an opportunity to craft a narrative that aligns you not only with the position you’re applying to but also the company you’re applying to.
It helps you explain your value proposition, stand out from the stack, and create “continuity between your application and the person you’re going to be when you walk into the room,” Godfred says. If there’s a gap in your resume, you have the opportunity to explain why it’s there. If you’re changing careers, you have the chance to describe why you’re making the switch. If your resume’s pretty dull, a cover letter helps you add personality to an otherwise straightforward career path.
Convinced? A little less worried? Maybe not sold on the idea but now know why you need to spend time on it? Either way, let’s get started — we promise this will be painless.
The Elements of a Perfect Cover Letter
Let’s go back to puzzles for a second. They’re made up of bits and pieces that fit together a specific way to complete the whole, right?
Cover letters are a little like puzzles. When you put each component in its proper place (and remove any parts that don’t fit), you create a complete picture.
An Engaging Opening Line
Not “I’m applying for [position].” Not “I’m writing to be considered for a role at [Company].” Not “Hello! How’s it going? Please hire me!”
“Starting with something that immediately connects you to the company is essential — something that tells the company that this is not a generic cover letter,” says Godfred. “Even if your second paragraph is something that doesn’t ever change, that first intro is where you have to say something that tells the employer, ‘I wrote this just for you.”
It can be a childhood memory tying you back to the company’s mission. It can be a story about the time you fell in love with the company’s product. It can be an anecdote from another job or experience showing how hard of a worker you are. Whatever you decide to open with, make it memorable.
A Clear Pitch
The next few paragraphs, Godfred explains, are where you include one of two things: “If you’re someone who’s transitioning careers, and you need to explain that transition, you do it there.” But if you’re not a career changer, use this section to “hit them with the strongest results you have that are aligned with the opportunity,” she states.
Ryan Kahn — Muse career coach and founder of The Hired Group — calls this your pitch. In other words, the part where you’re “selling yourself for the position and why you’re qualified for it.”
Godfred emphasizes that this section should have a balance of soft and hard skills. Talk about your experience using Salesforce or doing SEO work (and get those job description keywords in! More on that later), but also highlight your ability to lead teams and communicate effectively.
“Companies are embracing authenticity, they’re embracing humanity, they’re looking for people who are going to fit their culture. So what are your values? What do you stand for?” says Godfred. These values should be as much a part of your cover letter as the nitty-gritty.
A Great Closing Line
Kahn explains that your closing line could include your next steps, such as “I welcome the opportunity to speak with you more about how I can contribute to [team]” or “I would love to schedule a time for us to discuss this role and my experience.”
But more importantly, “you want to make sure that you’re gracious and thanking them,” he says. While seemingly cliché, it never hurts to end on a simple “thank you for your consideration.”
You can, however, exclude the “references upon request” line. “If an employer wants your references, you better believe they’ll ask for them,” says Godfred.
A Few Other Cover Letter Essentials
First off — please, I beg you, address your cover letter to a person. No “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” People don’t talk that way, so why would they want to read it?
Secondly, keep the applicant tracking system, or ATS, in mind. This robot will be sifting through your cover letter much in the way it does with your resume, so you’ll want to scatter relevant keywords from the job description throughout your cover letter where it makes sense.
Third of all, get your contact information on there, including your name, phone number, and email (most of the time, your address and theirs is irrelevant) — and on every page, if yours goes over one.
“Imagine you come across a cover letter and you print it out with a bunch of applications to review and it doesn’t have the person’s contact information on it,” states Godfred. “You never want to put yourself in a situation where you’re the right person and they can’t find you.”
And know that the ATS can’t read crazy formatting, so keep your font and layout simple.
How to Get Started Writing a Cover Letter
Overall, says Godfred, “when you’re up against dwindling attention spans, the more concise you can be the better. Make every single word count.”
To get started, she always suggests that her clients do a “brain dump.” Once you just get your ideas onto the page, then “ask yourself how you can cut half of it.” Through this process, “you’ll find that those very generic phrases oftentimes are the first to go,” she says. You only have so much space to get your point across, so focus on the information that isn’t stated elsewhere rather than simply regurgitating your resume.
This can feel like a lot to do on one cover letter, let alone several, so Kahn likes to remind his clients that quality comes first. Target the jobs you’re most closely drawn to and qualified for and give them all your energy, rather than try to churn out hundreds of cover letters. You may not be able to apply to as many jobs, but you’re guaranteed to have better results in terms of response rate.
Cover Letters Come in All Shapes and Sizes
Whether you’re writing a cover letter for a data scientist or executive assistant position, an internship or a senior-level role, a startup or a Fortune 500 company, you’re going to want to tailor it to the role, company, and culture (not to mention, the job description).
Don’t fret! We’ve got examples of the four basic types of cover letters below: a traditional cover letter, an impact cover letter, a writing sample cover letter, and a career change cover letter. We’ve also included the exact job descriptions they’re written for — to help inspire you to tailor yours to a specific position.
One note before you read on: There’s a difference between your cover letter and the email you send with your application. If you’re not sure whether to copy and paste your letter into your email or attach it as a document, common practice is to pick either/or, not both.