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What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a one-page document sent alongside a resume or CV that summarizes your professional experience and explains why you’re an excellent fit for the job.

It consists of contact details, a greeting, three to four paragraphs and a formal signature.

Your cover letter paragraphs should:

  • Include two to three examples of your top achievements..
  • Tell a story of your skill level and career path.
  • Explain why you’re a good fit for the role and company.
  • Include any relevant details you can’t fit in your resume or CV.

Parts of a cover letter

Personal Assistant Cover Letter Anatomy
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • Header

    Your header sits at the top of your cover letter. In this section, you put your name and contact information, like your telephone number and professional email address.

  • Greeting

    Say hello to the person reading your cover letter, for instance, a hiring manager or potential supervisor. Try to get the hiring manager’s name by doing company research!

  • Opening paragraph

    Outline why you are applying for the job in two to three sentences. Mention the role by name, how you heard about it, and your top skills and reason(s) you’re a good fit.

  • Body paragraph(s)

    This section should be one or two paragraphs long and tell a compelling story about your career achievements. Include quantifiable metrics and numbers when possible.

  • Closing paragraph

    Here, you want to re-express your reason for applying. Thank the reader for their time and mention that you hope to meet to discuss the role further.

  • Signature/enclosures

    Use a professional sign-off at the end of your letter and then write your name. It’s also good to mention any additional documents or enclosures you submit with your application.

Why cover letters matter

Research shows 83% of recruiters say cover letters are important to the hiring process! That means you must have a well-written cover letter if you’re serious about a job.

If writing a cover letter from scratch seems like a hassle, try our Cover Letter Builder. You’ll get a completely personalized letter that makes you sound like a pro and showcases your best qualifications.

Even if you’re a seasoned writer, our builder draws from a vast content database where you can pick and choose your paragraphs and customize them to your liking.

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STEP 1

Add a structured header

Structure your header

Your cover letter’s header should include:

  • Your name
  • Location (city and state)
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • The date of when you plan to send the letter
  • Name and job title of the hiring manager
  • Name and address of the company you’re applying to

Some optional information you can include in your cover letter’s header is:

  • Your current job title
  • Your LinkedIn page
  • Links to your professional social media accounts

STEP 2

Address the hiring manager

Addressing the hiring manager by name is a great way to show professionalism and attention to detail.

Avoid addressing the recipient with “Dear Sir or Madam,” which is outdated and impersonal.

It’s always best to address them by their title and name. For example:

“Dear Dr. Ramírez,”

Tips to discover your hiring manager’s name

  • Do a LinkedIn search.

    Find the company’s account, and look for the “People” tab. You should be able to find a human resources manager or recruiter.

  • Ask someone who works at the company.

    If you can’t find the HR manager or there’s more than one recruiter, try to find an employee who can get you the right contact. Send them a message explaining how you’re interested in working at XYZ company, and ask if they happen to know to whom you should address your letter.

  • Give the company a call!

    If it’s a smaller-sized organization, you can call the main company number and politely ask them to confirm if X person is the hiring manager for your desired role.

How to address a cover letter when you don’t know the hiring manager’s name

If all else fails and you still need to find the hiring manager’s name, there’s still a correct way to address your letter. A simple “Dear hiring manager,” is a sure way to go, but here are a few other options.

Good cover letter greeting examples

  • “Dear hiring manager,”

  • “Dear [XYZ Company] team,”

  • “Dear Customer Acquisition Hiring Manager,”

Weak cover letter greeting examples:

  • “To whom it may concern,”

  • “Dear sir,”

  • “Dear madam,”

STEP 3

Grab the reader’s attention in the opening paragraph.

Your opening paragraph should concisely state who you are and your interest in the position in no more than one or two sentences.

If a current employee at the company has referred you, you should mention it immediately in the opening paragraph. This way, the hiring manager will likely pay more attention to the accomplishments stated in your letter.

A few key elements that should appear in your opening paragraph are:

  • Your profession/current job title
  • Your desired position
  • Your motivation for applying

Compare these cover letter opening paragraph examples:

Good example of a cover letter opening paragraph

“”After seven years working in marketing as brand manager in multinational companies like P&G and Unilever, I want to use my negotiation and extensive knowledge of retail operations to expand your company’s market as a sales representative.”

Why this cover letter opening works

In just one sentence, this applicant informs a potential employer of their years of experience, area of expertise, the role they wish to pursue and the skills to back up their career aspirations.

Weak example of a cover letter opening paragraph

“Hello. I am Lester Peterson. I hope you are doing well. I am writing to you because I want to apply to your company. I am a determined professional with all the qualities needed to excel in this role.”

Why this cover letter opening doesn’t work

This opener sounds informal, and instead of showing examples of his qualifications, the applicant opts for empty statements that need more convincing detail.

STEP 4

Prove your value in the body paragraphs.

Your cover letter’s body consists of one or two paragraphs where you offer more context to your career accomplishments.

Because the cover letter is a companion to your resume, you should mix up the language and descriptions you use. Expand instead of repeat!

Try to spin the details of your resume into a story. Narrate the challenges and opportunities during your career that led you to accomplish, for instance, an increase in sales, gaining a valuable client or leading a big project

Check out these cover letter body paragraph examples for different approaches you could take depending on your unique situation:

Body paragraph example focused on career accomplishments

“In my previous teaching role, I carved out 10-minute slots in my senior class to do SAT prep testing, resulting in having the district’s highest SAT score average in English. My dedication to my student’s needs has always been my priority, and students responded with increased participation in the portion of the class allotted for the syllabus topics. After being named Teacher of the Year, I organized a continuing education and mentorship program for newly graduated teachers in the school district.”

Body paragraph example focused on skill set

“Throughout my career as an accountant, I have acquired skills in various areas of accounting and finance. In my first years, I worked in the public sector, developing budgets between $50,000 and $2 million and ensuring accounting records complied with federal and state regulations. Eventually, I moved to work in private equity firms. I gained firsthand experience in financial analysis in tech investments and monitoring funds’ investments, preparing all financial statements and presenting to investors and stakeholders.”

Body paragraph example focused on career goals

“After graduating from Columbia School of Social Work and working as a volunteer in various non-profit organizations focused on at-risk youth and women’s shelters, I’m eager to put my skills to work as a counselor in the court system. My understanding of vulnerable children’s needs and challenges has inspired me to continue my career supporting children through their caregivers’ or their court proceedings.”

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PRO TIP

If you find your body paragraph is becoming too long, use bullet points to break up blocks of text.

Body paragraph example with bullet points

In my current role as sales lead, I’ve attracted several local businesses in a variety of industries and brought financial gains to both our company and clients. Notable achievements in this capacity include:

  • Adding 14 new accounts to our portfolio.
  • Improving client retention rate by 47% over four-year period.
  • Negotiating and renewing longer contracts with current clients, increasing net revenue 11%

If you want your cover letter to impress a hiring manager, your body paragraph must be full of job-relevant skills and achievements — and written like a pro.

Our Cover Letter Builder will suggest over a dozen body paragraph examples you can choose from to wow employers.

You can edit these content suggestions with quantifiable achievements and keywords from the job ad to make your cover letter unforgettable.

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STEP 5

Close your letter with positivity and thanks.

Your closing statement should be concise and direct, leaving the reader excited to learn more about you.

Make sure your closer is:

  • One or two sentences long
  • Direct about your eagerness to fill the role
  • Encouraging the reader to set up an interview
  • Polite and thankful

Compare the impact of these two cover letters’ closing statements:

Good example of a cover letter closer

“Hope we can meet to discuss my plans to contribute to XYZ Company’s mission to impact women professionals in their search for investment opportunities and financial education resources as Head of Marketing Operations. Thanks for your time in reading my application.”

Why this cover letter closing works

This closer proves the candidate wants to have a serious discussion with a manager by getting specific. It offers both value and respect to the hiring manager.

Weak example of a cover letter closer

“All in all, you won’t likely find a better candidate than me. My qualifications and experience will knock it out of the park. Let me know when you can meet with me for an interview.”

Why this is a weak cover letter closer

Although supremely confident, this statement lacks substance, and the tone is off-putting. It’s demanding instead of polite and friendly.

STEP 6

Sign off and mention any enclosures.

Your cover letter’s sign-off consists of two words at most. Plenty of signatures will make you sound like a pro, and others you should avoid.

Good cover letter sign-offs

Keep it formal and professional with these signature lines:

  • Sincerely,

  • Most sincerely,

  • Regards,

  • Best regards,

  • Kind regards,

  • Thank you,

  • Thank you for your consideration,

  • Respectfully,

Bad cover letter sign-offs

Avoid informal phrases you would use with friends:

  • Take care,

  • Take it easy,

  • Have a great day,

  • Love,

  • Yours,

  • Yours truly,

  • Cheers,

  • Best,

  • Warm wishes,

  • Affectionately,

  • Warmly,

  • XOXO

  • Emojis

  • Thanks,

  • Thx, or any other abbreviation

Enclosures

If you need to include additional documents beyond your resume –– like a portfolio of your work or letter of recommendation –– add a double space below your signature at the end of the cover letter. Then write “Enclosure:” for one document; “Enclosures:” for two or more documents. Below this, list each enclosure you are including.

Enclosures example:

  • Sincerely,
  • Tom Smith

Enclosures:

  • Portfolio
  • Letter of recommendation

Now that you’ve learned how to write every part of your letter, check out our collection of cover letter examples. These professionally written letters for various jobs and industries can inspire the content you can include in your cover letter.

Cover letter structure + templates

All cover letters follow the same structure, also called a cover letter format.

Like a standard business letter, a cover letter must include:

Cover Letter Structure Templates

Cover letter templates are a great tool if you want to jump in and start writing! Templates save you time and effort because the formatting and design of your cover letter are already in place.

Find a template design you like, and just plug in your information!

Professional graphic designers create our cover letter templates to look sharp and modern. Best of all, they’re designed to pass applicant tracking systems (ATS), which most companies use to scan your cover letter for keywords.

Cover letter checklist + mistakes to avoid

Before sending your cover letter to employers, ensure it’s ready!

Here’s a cover letter checklist before you send it:

  • Review the job post or ad and match your cover letter to it as closely as possible!
  • Send a targeted letter for each job to which you are applying.
  • Open strong by mentioning key skills or a proud career accomplishment.
  • Sell your experiences and knowledge to help you excel in the role.
  • Close your cover letter by suggesting a job interview, thank the reader, and use a formal signature.
  • Ensure there are no spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Ask a mentor or trusted professional to read your letter and get their feedback.
  • Send your documents from your professional email account (e.g., J.Smith614@email.com), not your email address (e.g., Pizzalover888@email.com)

Also, double-check that your document avoids these common cover letter mistakes:

  • Avoid including paragraphs that are too long.

    You should never have a paragraph that exceeds five sentences. It’s too wordy! Instead, consider bullet points in your body paragraph to break down your text into easy bite-sized statements.

  • Don’t write the exact phrases you have on your resume.

    In your cover letter, you need to expand on the details you list in your resume, not repeat them. Try to bring the details of your resume to life by turning them into a story.

  • Don’t forget to include numbers to illustrate your achievements.

    Numbers capture attention. Using dollar amounts, numbers or percentages gives verifiable proof of your success, and employers will notice!

  • Never send your cover letter using your current company’s email.

    Recruiters will perceive it poorly, and employers may monitor company emails. Use a personal, professional email instead.

  • Don’t discuss salary.

    Only mention money if explicitly asked to state your desired salary by the job post. Never include information about your current salary. Some states have made it illegal for recruiters and hiring managers to ask about salary history.

  • Don’t make a generic cover letter for all your job applications.

    Each job you apply to deserves a fresh, tailored cover letter. Pay attention to the job post or ad details to better understand what the employer wants to hear!

If you need help preparing unique cover letters for every job, our Cover Letter Builder can craft unlimited original documents!

Cover letter examples

The best way to get inspired to write your cover letter is by looking at solid examples written for the same role to which you’re applying.

We have a library of cover letter examples for hundreds of job titles.

Here are six of the most-searched cover letter examples in our database:

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Key takeaways

To recap the main points of this article, keep these tips in mind:

  • Write a fresh, custom cover letter for every job you apply to.
  • Keep it to three to four paragraphs under one page.
  • Use your cover letter to expand on details in your resume and tell a story.
  • Ensure your document is free of errors.

Since your cover letter matters as much as your resume, you want to take this seriously! That’s why you should consider using our best tool for the job, the Cover Letter Builder.

The builder will suggest prewritten text tailored to the job for which you’re applying. You can select it and customize it in your cover letter. Our career experts wrote these phrases to ensure you sound professional and capable.

Best of all, since the builder automates the process, you can complete your letter in just a few minutes!

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Cover letter writing FAQ

How do I write a cover letter for an internship?

When writing a cover letter for an internship, you should:

  • State the internship position for which you’re applying.
  • Mention the required skills and keywords from the internship advertisement.
  • List any relevant coursework or projects that show you are a capable candidate.
  • Explain your motivations and career aspirations.
  • Emphasize what the company can gain from your unique abilities.

How do I format a cover letter?

Cover letters follow a standard business letter format. You must include the following sections to format a cover letter accurately:

  • Date, your contact information and the recipient’s information.
  • Address the hiring manager.
  • Include a one- to two-sentence opening paragraph.
  • Write one or two body paragraphs (you can use bullet points) to showcase your qualifications.
  • Closing statement with a call to action for an interview.
  • A sign-off like “Best regards,” or “Sincerely,”
  • Your name and signature.

What is the best cover letter template?

The best cover letter template is the one that provides you with a visually attractive but practical design. You want something clean and readable, not flashy or distracting.

Our builder features 25+ expert-approved templates that are fully customizable!

You can change the fonts and colors, adjust margin size and even include additional sections to discuss availability, relocation and employment gaps.

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About the Author

Gabriela Hernandez

Gabriela Hernandez CPRW, Career Advice Expert

Gabriela Hernandez is one of LiveCareer's resident writers. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a degree in Journalism. Throughout her career, she has tackled copywriting, blog articles, journalistic writing, academic writing, resume writing, and even prose and verse.

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*The names and logos of the companies referred to in this page are all trademarks of their respective holders. Unless specifically stated otherwise, such references are not intended to imply any affiliation or association with LiveCareer.

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