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What goes in a cover letter?

how to write a cover letterEverything you need to know about writing cover letters

In this section I’m going to show you what goes in a cover letter.

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You’ll find several examples you can use to help create a cover letter that fits your style, personality and background.

Introduction to what goes in a cover letter

More than eight out of ten Human Resource professionals spend less than one minute on average reading a cover letter. If your letter is too long, it’s unlikely your letter will be completely read.

It seems the larger the organization, the less time HR spends on reading cover letters. It is so important to know your audience when writing your letter.

You should always attach a good cover letter to every resume you send out, whether via postal mail, email or on-line web forms and applications.

Think of your cover letter as a personal introduction between you and a prospective employer. Since the cover letter will be the first thing an employer reads, you want to make sure that you are making a great first impression so they’ll keep reading all the way through your letter and resume, and hopefully you’ll get an interview.

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There are basically two styles of cover letters: standard business and standard email.

Standard business cover letters will use the same full-block format as common business letters. They typically include: a return address, date, reference line, inside address (the person you are sending to), salutation, subject line, body, complementary close (Best regards), and your signature.

Standard email cover letters are similar to common business letters, except they usually skip everything except the salutation, body, and complementary close. Basically, they are an abbreviated version of the common business letter.

Anything you would write in a standard business cover letter can be written in a standard email letter.

These cover letter guidelines will help you write a cover letter that best represents everything you have to offer.

Guidelines to Writing a a Perfect Cover Letter

Who are you writing to?  How to know what goes in a cover letter?

Find out the name of the person you are writing to, otherwise your cover letter comes across as a cheap form letter. You can find out who to write to by visiting the company’s website or even calling the company on the phone.

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If you are still unable to find a persons name, consider using a relevant job title, like Dear Manager of Engineering, or Dear Director, but never use “To whom it may concern,” “Dear Sir,” or “Dear Madam.” These are just too informal for a cover letter that is meant to be personable.

  • Name dropping is the perfect door opener. Look hard to find the name of a person your reader knows and you will greatly increase your chances of getting an interview.


  • Grab your prospective employer’s attention in the first line of your letter.
    Avoid dull phrases like these:
    • I am responding to your ad that was published in …
    • Enclosed please find my resume …


  • Do your homework. Find out about this company, their goals, problems, competition, and work this into your letter.


  • Keep your letter focused on the employer and what you can do for them. Employers don’t really care if you need to broaden your horizons or how you need to expand your career. Generally, all they want to know if what you can do for them.

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  • Don’t write a book! Your cover letter should be relatively short. Three to four short paragraphs on a single page is all you need to deliver your message. Any more than that will put your cover at risk of not being read.


  • Use terminology that is specific to your industry to show them you know your stuff.


  • Be personable, but professional. A warmly written letter is much more likely to get read, plus it will come across to your reader as you sitting down with them and having a nice conversation. While writing your letter, keep in mind you are writing to a real person, and not a company, so write in a conversational manner that projects warmth and sincerity, but is professional.


  • Show them you are different from everyone else. Set yourself apart from the competition and tell them about your unique blend of skills that makes you a perfect fit for a job with them. Maybe you have a technical background, but you’re also good at selling or teaching. Technical people generally make poor teachers, but if you can do both, then you have just differentiated yourself from most of your competition and have potentially raised the hiring bar thus substantially increasing your chances for the job.

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  • Show them you have a passion for the type of work you do. Let them know your work is not just a job to you, and that you sincerely believe in what you do.


  • Emphasize your skills and show your reader how they are related to the job you would want. Show measureable accomplishments using numbers, years, percentages, etc.


  • Tell them who you are and ask them for what you want. The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce YOU to a prospective company and request an interview. So you might mention the type of work you are seeking and the experience you have that qualifies you for this type of job.


  • Be professional and avoid being cute or humorous in your letter. Your humor could be taken out of context, or your reader may not even be in the mood for your jokes. Save them for after you get the job.

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  • Close your letter by saying, “I’ll contact you next week to see if it’s convenient for us to meet,” or something similar. If you are searching for un-posted jobs, you might say, “I’ll contact you next week to see if we can meet and discuss how my unique blend of skills can benefit your company’s needs.” Be proactive and avoid leaving the ball in their court by requesting them to contact you. Take the initiative and call them because it’s easy for employers to ignore you if you show no intension of calling them.

Cover Letter Sample of what goes in a cover letter

Jonathan Brubaker
7323 Cherry Lane
Akron, Ohio 44311

June 7, 20xx

Mr. David Cortez
Hotel Manager
Marriott Hotels
374 South Main Street,
Akron, Ohio 44311

Dear Mr. Cortez,

After working as a morning lark for a while, I’m ready to revert to my true nightingale status. I want that night manager’s job!

As my resume indicates, I have worked as a front desk clerk at the Best Western for two years. Having filled in for the night manger’s days off for the last six months, I know how important it is to combine solid accounting skills with good judgment. I also know the pace can vary from slow to hectic with multiple crises needing attention in a single evening. I function well in chaos.

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Now that I have tested the water of this position, I want to jump in and perform the job full time, and where better to do that than at Marriott Hotels. I have read your annual report and know that your motto of “Enjoy and Experience” is a key to your success. I want to deliver that service as the Night Manager in Akron.

My expertise in technology and management are at your disposal. I am confident that when we meet and further discuss your company’s goals and my qualifications, you will agree that we are a match. I will call Thursday to schedule an appointment.

Best regards,

Jonathan Brubaker

Enclosure: Resume

That wraps up this lesson on what goes in a cover letter.

There are many more cover letter samples in the Resume Masterpiece.

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by Don Georgevich

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