How to Write a Cover Letter: A Complete Guide

How to Write a Cover Letter: A Complete Guide

Sat down to writing a cover letter and your mind’s gone blank? Check these tips and tricks and write your cover letter in no time.

It’s hard writing about yourself. We’ve all been through it. 

 

You sit down to write your cover letter and 3 hours later all you have is several wads of paper on the floor. Or a very cheeky cursor flashing on a blank screen.

 

Why even bother then?

 

Well, a cover letter gives you a chance to let the hiring manager get to know you and see you in the role. A CV gives them a list of information, but a cover letter gives them a story.

 

And it’s not at all that hard once you know how.

 

This guide will tell you all you need to know and give a multitude of handy examples to help you write the best possible cover letter to get an interview.

 

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 CV—See more cover letter templates and create your cover letter here.

 

What is a Cover Letter?

 

A cover letter(also known as a covering letter) is a letter that you attach to your CV and is a crucial part of your job application.

 

Your cover letter is an introduction to who you are. You’re demonstrating that you have both the skills and professional experience the hiring manager wants. You are selling your candidacy. In a competitive labour market, you need to know how to do it right.

 

Cover Letter Examples

 

Your cover letter isn't just some separate document you need to submit, but rather it compliments your CV. In the end, your CV and cover letter should go together like Ant and Dec.

 

Let’s take a look at a great cover letter sample to see how that works.

 

Harriet has spent 6 years in office management and now feels like it’s time to take the next step. Look at how she focuses on her relevant achievements and proves that Storex is looking for her.

 

Cover Letter Sample With Experience

 

Harriet Lees

89 Manor Close

London

EX5 1JH

harriet.lees@gmail.com

078 3879 6162

 

 

Jane Harrison

HR Recruiter

Storex Ltd.

100 Sea Road

London

KW8 4QX

 

11th November, 2019

 

Dear Ms. Harrison,

 

After five years in the same small business, I feel like it’s time to broaden my horizons and challenge myself. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I found your opening for an office manager at Storex. With both my solid experience in office management as well as my passion for organizing workflow and communication, I believe I have both the knowledge, drive, and skills necessary to help Storex achieve new heights.

 

Currently at Auct, I successfully manage an office of 20 people where I am responsible for invoice processing, travel bookings, calendar management, HR administration, and tracking and ordering of office consumables. My crowning achievements over the years have been:

  • Switching from Excel to Timekeepr which reduced the number of timekeeping errors by 30%.
  • Increasing office efficiency by 15% through uploading all paper based documents into the cloud.
  • Introducing OneLogin to considerably increase efficiency through a substantial drop in the amount of lost passwords and new tool account creations.

 

Becoming the office manager at Storex would be much more than simply the next step in my career. Storex has been a forerunner in demonstrating how even large companies can help their teams be agile and flexible in today’s dynamic market through the intelligent use of the latest technology in office management. It would be an amazing experience to be involved of such a forward-thinking team and I’m excited about how I could personally become a part of Storex’s future successes!

 

Can we schedule a call to talk to you more about this office manager role and what I can bring to the Storex table? I’m available every day, early morning and late afternoon. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Harriet Lees

 

What do you think? Is it engaging without being cliche? Is it thorough without being waffly? After reading this, Harriet definitely seems to be the perfect candidate for the office manager position!

 

So what if I told you that you could write a cover letter just like that? Keep on reading to learn exactly how!

 

How to Write a Cover Letter Step by Step

 

Let’s go through how to write the specific sections of a cover letter so that you can write a fantastic cover letter tailored to your own specific needs.

 

1. Start with a Cover Letter Header

 

The cover letter header is obviously the first thing the hiring manager sees so you can’t botch this up. 

 

Your personal details go on the right hand and should include your full name, address, email address, and reachable phone number.

 

On the left hand side, enter the name of the person you are writing to, their title, the name of the company and the company address.

 

At the end, add the current date. Here's how to address a cover letter.

 

Cover Letter Header Examples

Right

Mia O Perry

55 Guild Street

London

N11 6LP

mia.o.perry@gmail.com

070 0949 0214

 

 

Daniel Rice

HR Manager

Sales Bite Ltd.

14 Crown Street

London

SW99 4UN

 

23rd October, 2019

 

Looks perfect!

 

Wrong

Mia Perry

55 Guild St.

London

070 0949 0214

 

HR Manager

Sale Bite Ltd.

London

 

23 October

 

If you can’t type in an address, how can you do the job?

 

Read more: Cover Letter Layout Examples

 

2. Address a Cover Letter Properly

 

You should try to address your cover letter directly to your reader.

 

If you’re struggling to find a name, use the title instead, e.g. ‘Dear Hiring Manager.’

 

If all else fails, ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ is fine.

 

Cover Letter Salutations

 

Right

Dear Timothy Rodgers,

Dear Hiring Manager,

Dear Ms. Fairweather,

 

Since the job seeker made the effort to find out more about the person they’re writing to, the reader will want to know about them in turn.

 

Wrong

Dear Company,

Hi,

To Whom it May Concern,

Hello Ellen,

 

The first three of these examples don’t show any effort being put into learning about the reader. The fourth example is just too chummy.

 

3. Introduce Yourself in the First Paragraph

 

This is another part where many job seekers bungle up their covering letter and let hiring managers toss it away with a sigh. 

 

Your cover letter opening needs to start with a bang. Avoid overly vague and cliche statements. Instead, grab the reader’s attention with a tailored introduction. 

 

Thankfully, there are a few tricks you can use to help yourself off to a smoother start. 

 

When thinking about your cover letter introduction, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Am I passionate about the company? Start with how their brand is the reason you’re applying.
  • Do I have a passion for the role? Begin with how your professional or personal passion is the basis for why this job is for you.
  • Do I have an accomplishment that really stands out? Demonstrate that your achievements are exactly what the company is looking for.

 

You can start the paragraph off with a single statement about which position you are applying for.

 

Further on, explain why you’re interested in the position and/or company.

 

Cover Letter Introductions

 

Right

Last March, I became the top selling retail assistant and have kept that title ever since. Now I’m looking for my next big sales challenge and I believe Sales Bite Ltd. is exactly the place to find it. Selling new tech to non-tech savvy customers is a challenge, but I’ve mastered just that and helped sales rise 5% continuously over a 10 month period.

Right

I knew my calling was to be a maths teacher ever since my 7th grade teacher helped me discover the magic behind calculating numbers. I would love to take my experience and hands on approach and not only raise maths test scores by at least 20%, but also instill an admiration for the subject.

Right

Your colleague, Elizabeth Perry, suggested that I apply for your office clerk position as she is well aware of my experience in the role and my passion for organizational management. My experience in streamlining office organization in dynamic companies coupled with my passion for new technology is something that I believe will help pull Stery out of its organizational woes.

 

These examples are powerful and concise. The hiring manager knows that they’re definitely dealing with a professional.

 

Wrong

I’m writing in reference to your job posting for the position of retail assistant at Sales Bite Ltd. I have several years of experience in retail and I think that Sales Bite Ltd. would a great place to gain more.

Wrong

My name is Daniel and I’m interested in working for you as a maths teacher. I’ve been a teacher my entire career and I have a real passion for maths which I think your school also has.

Wrong

I’m writing to express my interest in the role of office assistant at your company. I’ve always worked as an office assistant and see my career in that role. Working as an office assistant at Brek is simply a natural step for me.

 

Yes, but no. Seriously, recruiters already know that you’re writing to them about the advertised opening, you don’t need to tell them. 

 

Remember: few things annoy a hiring manager more than a cover letter that is obviously sent in the exact same format to several different job openings across half of Britain. Always tailor your cover letter and the introduction is the best place to do it.

 

4. Show How the Company Will Benefit From Hiring You

 

Now you mention why the company would benefit from having you in their team.

 

It’s not enough to simply list that you’re experienced in this, that, and the other thing and call it a day. Simply rehashing your CV on your cover letter is definitely not the right way to go. 

 

Instead, you need to demonstrate why you truly are the best possible candidate for the role. It’s about showing, not telling.

 

And do you know what really gets showing down right? Numbers.

 

Numbered achievements can really get accomplishments across in a way that mere words can’t. Take a look for yourself.

 

Cover Letter Central Paragraphs

 

Right

My years spent in the dynamic world of consulting at McKinsey have taught me to always have a backup plan handy. When the Partner was stranded in Dubai due to unexpected airline strikes 12 hours before the global company meeting in Frankfurt, I was ready with alternative travel options to make sure he arrived on time and which saved the company $4000 in emergency travel expenses. He actually called to tell me that he’d only feel comfortable travelling to the moon and back if I was booking the trip!

 

This example really demonstrates that the candidate has a deep understanding of the role and what it takes to be excellent. Who wouldn’t want an employee like this?

 

Wrong

I have worked at McKinsey for more than five years as an executive assistant. I have a lot of experience in calendar management, booking travel and hotels, and communicating with high level clients. I’ve been in consulting for half of my career so I am used to working in a very stressful and high paced environment. 

 

Candidate skills mentioned? Yes. Anything different from the CV? Not really. And the recruiter tosses out your CV on the way to make a fresh tea.

Pro Tip: If you have any testimonials that can underline your achievements, use them. One well placed testimonial can really give your cover letter a boost. Use them very sparingly though, no one likes a pompous overachiever.

Let’s take a look at a different example of how to assert your value using numbers, which could be useful in tech, business and analytical industries.

 

Cover Letter Central Paragraph

 

Right

I’ve been working in IT ever since I left university, but at MPVZ I had some notable achievements that I’m very proud of, especially taking into account my relatively junior role at the time:

  • Not only initiated the migration from a Windows based platform to an OSX environment, but also completed it a week ahead of schedule, which saved an estimated $10K.
  • Deployed mobile devices across the office and synchronised all user devices within the cloud which raised office efficiency by 25%.
  • Implemented two-factor authentication for all sensitive accounts which reduced the number of hacked/stolen accounts by 30%.

 

Look at how these more analytical or technical experience and skills can be easily rendered in a bulleted list. It’s quite an effective technique! 

 

Neither of the above ways is better in a cover letter. Pick and choose the one that suits you!

Pro Tip: Keep it humble. You may be an experienced, talented musician, for example, but no one is going to believe that you’re the greatest thing since the Beatles.

5. End Your Cover Letter With a Call To Action

 

This is the moment where you can reiterate your interest in the role, but also express an interest in the company you’re applying to. You’ve already told them why you’re perfect for them, but you can also mention why you think they’re perfect for you.

 

Give your cover letter ending a more personal feel and tell the hiring manager that this isn’t just another job for you.

 

Examples of How to End a Cover Letter

 

Right

I was pleased to read in several marketing blogs that Hipe is one of the leaders in advocating eco-friendly, budget travelling. I believe that marketing needn’t only be driven by financial results, but can also offer customers alternative, “friendlier” solutions that they might not have been aware of. I’d be happy to maintain that spirit as part of the Hipe marketing team.

 

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to meeting you to further discuss ways in which Hipe can take even bolder steps in the future.

 

This candidate underlines that they share the same values. It’s enthusiastic, engaged, and shows that the candidate is interested in more than just earning money at some random job.

 

Wrong

I’m very interested in this opportunity to work for your company and I think I can make a useful contribution to it. I hope this application will be treated favourably and I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Urgh. Obviously this candidate can’t be bothered with doing anything more for this role other than copy-pasting from some generic cover letter they found on the internet.

 

6. Sign Off a Cover Letter

 

Just this last, important step and you’re done!

 

‘Yours sincerely,’ can be used if you know the person you are writing to (e.g. you’re taking part in internal company recruitment). 

 

Use ‘Yours faithfully,’ if you don’t know the person you are writing to. Refrain from informal closings such as ‘Cheers’ or ‘Thank you.’

 

Type your name below your cover letter ending, and leave some space for your signature. 

 

If you’re printing your cover letter, remember to sign it by hand. If you’re feeling particularly creative, feel free to add a digital signature for a bit of personal charm.

 

7. Format Your Cover Letter the Right Way

 

Now that the content is squared away, it’s time to make it pretty!

 

Here’s how to format a cover letter properly:

  • Make sure that your personal details are aligned to the right. The rest of your text should be aligned to the left side of the page like the standard British business letter format.
  • Use single spacing or 1.15 line spacing throughout.
  • Double space between paragraphs and between cover letter sections.
  • Use a template that matches your CV.
  • Choose the right cover letter length, no longer than 1 page (A4).
  • Use a nice, professional font like Helvetica or Calibri. Go for professional, not Picasso. The best CV fonts also work for cover letters.
  • Send the cover letter in PDF (unless otherwise stated in the job posting). This will avoid the problem of having your cover letter open with formatting issues.
  • If printing, use a good, high quality paper.

 

Attention! Before clicking ‘send’, remember to proofread your cover letter! You might be an amazing PA, but recruiters will ignore your definate interest in an asistant role.

 

And this doesn’t mean just letting Word underline things in red (try typing in ‘missteaks’ and see what happens if you want proof). 

 

And now you've got the perfect cover letter you'll need the perfect CV to go with it. Read more here: How to Write a CV [Professional UK Examples]

 

Key Takeaway

 

Cover letters may seem daunting and downright tedious, but hopefully you’ve gained some useful insight and tips that will help you write your cover letter in a jiffy.

 

To have your cover letter be a star in your award winning application, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Create a proper cover letter header.
  • Address your cover letter professionally.
  • Start your cover letter introductory paragraph with a strong opening statement.
  • Show how the company can benefit from your skills and knowledge in the next paragraph.
  • Reiterate your interest in the role and the company.
  • Finish your cover letter with a professional closure.

 

I hope you found this guide useful! Let us know any questions or comments you may have down in the comment below!

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Oliwia Wolkowicz
Oliwia is a career expert with a solid background in various industries, including consulting and aviation. At Zety, she writes dedicated, advice-driven guides to help readers create great resumes and cover letters to land the job of their dreams.
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