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Write a Killer Cover Letter With 5 Tips (+Examples)

Write a Killer Cover Letter With 5 Tips (+Examples)

Face it—you need a killer cover letter or your job search is burnt toast. But what elements go into writing a truly exceptional cover letter? Let a career expert show you the plan.

The competition is terrifying. Do everything in your power to write a killer cover letter, or you’re sunk. If you don’t step up your game, your application is toast. But you hate writing cover letters, and it’s tough to find a good example. With so much pressure, how can you knock it out of the park?

 

Your mission? To convince recruiters you’re the best investment among hundreds of resumes and candidates. But how? Everybody else is struggling to write killer cover letters, too. And lots of them are actually good at this—or they paid someone. What can you do?

 

Don’t worry. People have been writing cover letters for hundreds of years—maybe thousands—and we’ve seen it all. We’ve got it down to a science, and it doesn’t have to take a year. Take a quick scroll through the 5 quick tips below for blazing cover letter writing, plus exceptional examples.

 

This guide will show you:

  • How to write a killer cover letter that gets 10x more interviews.
  • Exceptional examples of the best cover letter parts to make your phone ring off the hook.
  • What to put in your cover letter to knock it out of the park.
  • The key strategies that make employers excited to call you.

 

Want to write your cover letter fast? Use our cover letter builder. Choose from 20+ professional cover letter templates that match your resume. See actionable examples and get expert tips along the way.

 

sample resume and cover letter set

Sample Cover Letter for a Resume—See more cover letter templates and create your cover letter here.

 

Want to see killer cover letter examples for every job title on the planet? See our guide: Best Cover Letter Samples for All Careers

 

Here’s how to write a killer cover letter:

 

1. Make Your Killer Cover Letter About Them

 

What’s the #1 rule of writing a killer cover letter? Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. What interests you more? Someone who talks all about themselves? Or someone who talks about you? About your needs? It’s the oldest sales rule in the book. Talk about them—not yourself.

 

“But I can’t get hired by talking about them!” Of course you can. You just need to do it the right way. It’s not about you, and it’s not about just them. It’s about what they need, and how you can deliver it. A cover letter is a sales pitch. You’re selling your resume. The price is ten minutes of their time.

 

See this killer cover letter example first paragraph:

 

Killer Cover Letter Example—Make it About Them

 

Good Example

I was thrilled to see your ad for an administrative assistant position at Morgan Mercury. As an administrative assistant with 6+ years of experience creating massive efficiencies in fast-paced insurance firms, I think I bring a lot to the table. For example, last year, I developed a new office project management system that was adopted by our entire office staff of 6. It saved an estimated 20 employee hours per week, which translates to about $20,000 a year in cost savings for the company. It also freed up staff to work on more important projects, which resulted in a 10% increase in client satisfaction with the firm.

 

See that? It starts with their job ad and their company name. “But it talks a lot about me!” Yes, but—it shares a killer accomplishment they care about. That’s because you wrote it after reading the job ad. You know they want a take-charge administrative assistant who can find efficiencies. That’s why that achievement is actually about them.

 

To do it, know before you go. Don’t spend three days researching. But at least read the job ad and the About Us page on their website. If there’s time, check YouTube. Google some articles about them. You can even do a couple informational interviews to pick the brains of current team members.

 

But—if you really care about the job and want a truly killer cover letter, do them all. Get the hiring manager nodding. Get them saying, “Ohh, she completely understands us.” The quicker you make that happen, the more killer your cover letter will be.

 

Pro Tip: Can’t find the hiring manager’s name? Call and ask. If that doesn’t work, search their staff page for the most likely hiring manager, and send a quick email to check.

Read more: How to Start a Cover Letter

2. Show You Understand Them

 

“I feel like I’ve known you my whole life.” Yes—a killer cover letter has that kind of impact. It has to, or you won’t get hired. There are too many other applicants fighting for the job. But I’ve got good news. If you’ve read the job ad, you already know their needs. Now you need to write them down.

 

So—sit down with the job ad. Look for things that jump out at you. What skills do you already have? What do they seem to want most? Some companies will list their most important job requirements first. Others put a % near each requirement or duty. Still can’t tell? Do an informational interview.

 

Killer Cover Letter Example—Find Their Needs

 

killer cover letter

 

You can already start to see the things your killer cover letter will need to mention. Next up—sit down and start wringing your brain to remember when you’ve done those things.

 

Pro Tip: Don’t write about everything they need. That’s exhausting. Stick to the top 2–3 duties, skills, or requirements from the job ad. That way they know you understand priorities.

Read more: What Does a Good Cover Letter Look Like?

3. Show You’re the #1 Choice

 

“We decided to go with another candidate.” Don’t you get tired of hearing that? Let’s nip it in the bud. Once you understand the job requirements, the next step is to show you’ve done them in the past—better than anybody else. Don’t just talk about your career or job history. Again, make it about them.

 

How? Well—Thomas Andrews and Scott Butler could both say, “I’m a ship designer” in their cover letters. But Butler designed the legendary Oasis of the Seas cruise ship. Andrews? He designed the Titanic. Your job with your killer cover letter is to show you’re Butler and not Andrews.

 

See this example second paragraph to do it right:

 

Killer Cover Letter Example—Prove They Should Hire You

 

Good Example

After carefully reading your job ad on LinkedIn, I know you’re looking for an administrative assistant with good organizational skills who can follow company policies, schedule meetings, and handle travel arrangements and expense reports. Not only have I done all of the above regularly for the past 6 years, but I’ve also excelled. For instance, I trained 3 other administrative assistants in adherence to company policies. After my training, they scored 50% higher in quarterly reviews.

 

“But I don’t have an achievement like that!” Every job seeker says that. Every one is wrong. One woman I spoke with said she had no IT accomplishments. After some nudging, she remembered—oh yeah. She’d implemented a communications hub that cut 8 meeting hours a week for hundreds of employees.

 

That killer cover letter sample tells them what they need. It gets them nodding. Now they know you’re on the same page. Until you did that, they didn’t know if you had a clue. Now they’re drooling for your resume.

 

Pro Tip: Where should you show your impressive accomplishments? In your second and third paragraphs—after you’ve caught their eye with a big, attention-getting hook.

Read more: How to Mention Salary in a Cover Letter

When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building your resume here.

When you’re done, Zety’s resume builder will score your resume and tell you exactly how to make it better.

4. Put Scale in Your Killer Cover Letter

 

Disaster. You’re the best employee for the job—by far—but they went with someone half as skilled. How could they have known you raised revenue by $2M or got 15 commendations for your leadership skills? You could have told them. Not just in your resume, but in a killer cover letter.

 

You know those images where they put a penny or an ice axe next to things, to show how big they are? You cover letter has to do that. But please—don’t do it with an ice axe. Do it with some numbers. I’m talking about percents, dollar figures, and numbers of team members hired, led, trained, or promoted.

 

See this example:

 

Killer Cover Letter Example—Give Them a Yardstick

 

Good Example

I’ve scheduled and organized materials for 20+ employee meetings per week for the past 4 years. I’ve managed travel arrangements for a team of 100+ during that same amount of time, ensuring that all expense reports were logged promptly. I also sourced and implemented a new expense-tracking app that reduced errors and omissions by 22% over the past 2 years.

 

See how that works? Without those numbers, they don’t know if you led the team that created Google or a group of three kids in a rowboat.

 

Pro Tip: Don’t just toss in any old numbers. Make sure the ones you use prove key skills from the employer’s job description. Do they want Agile leadership? Show you led 5 Agile teams.

Read more: 35+ Successful Cover Letter Tips, Advice

5. Add the Right Elements

 

Need a few more killer cover letter tips to make your application stand out like Tony Stark in a platinum suit? Address your cover letter to a person (not “dear manager). Then, add a digital signature, and make your cover letter heading the same as your resume heading.

  • Address your letter to a person. Dear recruiter or To Whom It May Concern cover letters feel like spam because they are. How can you know thing one about their needs if you don’t even know their name? Look on LinkedIn, on their website, or call the company to find the right name. Still can’t find it? “Dear [JOB TITLE] Team Hiring Manager” is the least generic cover letter salutation.
  • Make your cover letter heading match your resume heading. Whoops! Your application pages got separated, and now the hiring manager doesn’t know which resumes and cover letters match. Pay attention to your cover letter layout, and use the same cover letter heading in all the documents you send.
  • Add a digital version of your written signature. It’s a fantastic way to take your cover letter from blah to bang. Don’t know how to make one? There are plenty of vendors on Fiverr who’ll create one for $5 or $10.

 

Killer Cover Letter Template

To write a job-getting cover letter, follow a killer cover letter template. You can copy-paste the sample below and change the facts to fit your career. But make sure you preserve what makes it great—the header, hook, targeted achievements, personal connection, and grabby call to action at the end.

  • Cover letter header. Start with your name, address, phone number, and email. Add a blank line, the date, another blank, and the hiring manager’s name and info.
  • LinkedIn. Add your LinkedIn profile. It’s a great way to show them more about you, and 87% of hiring managers will try to find you on LinkedIn anyway. Save them time!
  • 3-4 paragraph structure. Don’t write a 2-page cover letter or a half-page cover letter. Start with a hook, then mention the job title you’re applying for.
  • Middle paragraph(s). Show you fit their needs by knowing their needs. Then tell about 2–3 times you moved the needle in a big way for a past employer to serve those needs.
  • Cover letter margins. Stick to a full inch on the top, bottom, left, and right.
  • Best font for cover letter. Use only one font, but make it a respected, easy-to-read one like Cambria, Calibri, or Didot.
  • Line spacing. Cover letter line spacing should be 1 to 1.15. Don’t get creative with this part of it.

 

Pro Tip: Do the head-scratching before you start your killer cover letter. In my experience, everyone has wow-getting accomplishments and almost nobody realizes it at first.

Need a killer cover letter for an internship? See our guide: Cover Letter for an Internship: Examples & Tips for All Interns

Sample Killer Cover Letter

Carla Bowen

Administrative Assistant

2943 Nutter Street

Kansas City, MO 64106

816-990-5064

carlazbowen@gmail.com

linkedin.com/in/carlazbowen

 

5/18/20

 

Robert Griffin

HR Director

Morgan Mercury

3458 Traders Alley

Kansas City, MO 64106

 

Dear Mr. Griffin,

 

I was thrilled to see your ad for an administrative assistant position at Morgan Mercury. As an administrative assistant with 6+ years of experience creating massive efficiencies in fast-paced insurance firms, I think I bring a lot to the table. For example, last year, I developed a new office project management system that was adopted by our entire office staff of 6. It saved an estimated 20 employee hours per week, which translates to about $20,000 a year in cost savings for the company. It also freed up staff to work on more important projects, which has resulted in a 10% increase in client satisfaction with the firm.

 

After carefully reading your job ad on LinkedIn, I know you’re looking for an administrative assistant with good organizational skills who can follow company policies, schedule meetings, and handle travel arrangements and expense reports. Not only have I done all of the above regularly for the past 6 years, but I’ve also excelled. For instance, I trained 3 other administrative assistants in adherence to company policies. After my training, they scored 50% higher in quarterly reviews.

 

I’ve scheduled and organized materials for 20+ employee meetings per week for the past 4 years. I’ve managed travel arrangements for a team of 100+ during that same amount of time, ensuring that all expense reports were logged promptly. I also sourced and implemented a new expense-tracking app that reduced errors and omissions by 22% over the past 2 years.

 

I would value the opportunity to speak with you about how my organizational skills and passion for discovering office efficiencies can make me the perfect administrative assistant at Morgan Mercury. Could we set up a time next week to discuss improving your front office operation?

 

Best regards,

 

Carla Bowen

Administrative Assistant

2943 Nutter Street

Kansas City, MO 64106

816-990-5064

carlazbowen@gmail.com

 

Now that’s a killer cover letter. It’s got everything—a perfect header, a hook, and a few showstopping accomplishments that plug right into what the hiring manager is hungry for. Then it’s got a snappy call-to-action at the end. Also it gets attention by starting with the manager’s name.

 

Write your cover letter like that killer example, and you’ll get a lot more callbacks.

 

Finally, make sure to follow up. Each follow-up email or phone call is like a fresh application in the employer’s inbox. See our guide: How to Follow up on a Job Application

 

Key Takeaway

 

Here’s how to write a killer cover letter:

  • Examine the hiring manager’s job description carefully. Build a list of the skills and job requirements they want most.
  • Search your own work skills and abilities to see where you match the job ad.
  • Don’t assume the manager will believe you fit the job. Give proof with your best work-history accomplishments.
  • Add a call-to-action at the end that comes right out and asks for the interview.
  • Follow up in a few days—and every week—for the best shot at getting hired.

 

Questions? Concerns? We’re here for you. If you’re still unsure how to write a cover letter for killer jobs that thrives, drop me a line in the comments. 

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Tom Gerencer, CPRW
Tom Gerencer, a Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW), is a career expert who has published over 200 in-depth articles on Zety. Since 2016, he has been sharing advice on all things recruitment from writing winning resumes and cover letters to getting a promotion.
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