Cover Letter

What Is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a document that accompanies an applicant’s resume and provides context for the information they include in their application. In a few paragraphs, it allows the applicant to share more details about their background, experience, skills, and personal traits than can fit on the resume.

Many people wonder: How long should a cover letter be? The information in a cover letter is designed to convince you, as the hiring manager or business owner, that the applicant is right for the role. An applicant should need no more than a few paragraphs to accomplish this goal.

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4 Common Styles of Cover Letters

A cover letter may seem fairly straightforward, but there are actually multiple types. The type of cover letter an applicant sends will depend on their ultimate goal for contacting you.

Application

This cover letter is always written in response to a job description or ad you’ve placed. Its purpose is to expand on the information that appears on the applicant’s resume and give HR professionals and business owners a fuller picture.

This type of cover letter usually focuses on the applicant’s background and experience. The applicant’s mission is to compel you to call them in for an interview or at least gather more information.

Referral

Applicants use this type of cover letter when someone who is already working for your company refers them for a position. The applicant is usually hoping their personal or professional connection to the company helps them stand out in the application process.

As an employer, you may be interested to know whether your employer brand is strong enough to warrant a loyal employee recommending your business as a great place to work. You may even want to start a referral program that rewards the employee for doing so.

Prospecting

Also called a letter of interest or cold contact letter, applicants send a prospecting cover letter to companies they want to work for even before they’ve seen any open positions. They want you to keep their resume on file for a later time.

This type of cover letter shows tenacity and can help you build a pipeline of prospective candidates to contact when you do have an open position.

Value Proposition

This type of letter has a distinct purpose—to help you understand exactly what a candidate can offer your company. This cover letter is short enough to act as a resume summary.

An applicant may use this type of cover letter with a brief email or with your online application if it has a character limit for a cover letter.

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What Should a Cover Letter Include?

Cover letters for resumes should have contact details at the top, including the applicant’s name, phone number, and email address, in case you want to contact them right away.

After greeting you (or the hiring manager) by name in the salutation, many candidates start their opening paragraph with a statement of the job they’re applying for and where they learned about it. This information is helpful for you because it provides context for the rest of the letter and lets you know which recruitment channels are attracting applicants.

The opening paragraph should also detail the candidate’s interest in the company and explain why they want to work for you.

The body of the cover letter should address the candidate’s background, skills, experience, and personal traits. These paragraphs may include some professional anecdotes, but all information should be relevant to the position the candidate is applying for. The point of the body paragraphs is to show you why the candidate is a good fit for the role.

The end of the cover letter should include a succinct statement summarizing the candidate’s qualifications and reiterating their enthusiasm about your company and position.

Many candidates also like to show extra effort and boldness with a call to action directly asking you to contact them for an interview so you can learn more about what they can offer your company.

Cover Letter Format

Cover letters matter—94% of hiring managers report that cover letters influence who they decide to interview—so it’s important that they’re formatted correctly and communicate the right information. An applicant’s cover letter should be formatted like any other letter your business receives. The content should go in this order:

Using this format helps an applicant ensure their resume cover letter comes across as coherent and professional.

Cover Letter Examples

Reviewing cover letters is a skill hiring managers and business owners develop over time as they read hundreds of them. Here are a few examples to help you get a feel for what an applicant’s cover letter should look like and what should be included.

Sample Cover Letter #1: Marketing Associate (Application)

From: Sam Eubanks

(678) 929-6212 | [email protected] | Atlanta, Georgia

To: Alana Hayes

Hiring Manager, Tin Roof Suites | 900 Corporate Plaza SW | Smyrna, GA 30080

March 22, 2024

Dear Ms. Hayes,

I am writing to apply for the marketing associate position at Tin Roof Suites. Having worked in hospitality marketing for the last two years, I was excited to see this opportunity posted on the Recruit Hospitality website. I see your company’s ads posted all the time on a billboard near my home, and I am always impressed by your team’s ability to position your hotel as a warm, inviting place to get away and relax. I would love to use my skills to help enhance your brand.

My colleagues value my ability as a junior marketing assistant to coordinate projects in the department, communicate with clients in a way that inspires trust, and ensure that milestones and deadlines are always met without exception. With a degree in graphic design, I also love bringing creative ideas to the table, one of which has won an Effie Award in the Travel and Tourism category and another of which earned a client a 42% increase in foot traffic last holiday season.

I am a highly organized and detail-oriented marketing professional who doesn’t mind taking risks to get results. If you’re looking for a tenacious team player who will help keep your marketing department on track and deliver for clients without fail, I’d love to talk more about how I can use my expertise to serve your company.

Please feel free to reach out at your earliest convenience to set up a meeting or interview to talk further about my qualifications. Thank you again for considering my application. I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Sincerely,

Sam Eubanks

Sample Cover Letter #2: Security Analyst (Referral)

From: Debra Brandt

(303) 744-8674 | bran[email protected] | Broomfield, Colorado

To: Christopher Bollinger
HR Manager, Southside Hospital | 1220 High Street, Denver, CO 80014

March 22, 2024

Dear Mr. Bollinger,

The purpose of my letter is to apply for the security analyst position you have open at Southside Hospital. Your organization was recommended to me by a former colleague, Aiden Smith. Mr. Smith and I worked together in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, where we both served as threat hunters in our early years in cybersecurity. I would love to have the opportunity to use the skills I have developed serving our country to deter threats in your healthcare organization.

In my current position, I have the pleasure of being a blue team member who takes pride in analyzing potential vulnerabilities in our system. Using my gift of communication, I always recommend improvements to our security processes and measures.

In the last 18 months, I have significantly streamlined our protocols and reduced our average threat response time by 25 minutes. My recommendations have saved the agency 18% in security spending while reducing incidents by 64%. I am confident I can produce these same results for your organization.

Thank you again for taking the time to consider my application. I am excited about the prospect of partnering with your team of administrators and healthcare providers to protect patients from every angle. I would love to talk further about how my cybersecurity skills can benefit this mission, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best Regards,

Debra Brandt

How to Effectively Review Cover Letters on Job Applications

Reading through hundreds of cover letters to find the right candidate can be challenging, but knowing what to look for can make your job much easier. As you scan each letter, there are a few things you should note. Checking for these critical elements will help you in your quest to select the right candidates to advance in the hiring process.

Check for Initiative

Look for evidence that the candidate has gone the extra mile, like if they’ve taken the time to find out who the hiring manager is and address them by name. It’s also a good sign if they’ve done research on your company and understand your mission and vision.

Note Any Connections

Note any evidence of connections to the company. If the candidate mentions a referral, follow up with that employee to ask questions about the candidate and learn why they think this person is a good fit for the role.

See Whether Skills Align

Review the candidate’s background and experience to see if they’re aligned with what you need. If the candidate isn’t able to articulate how they can help you, it may be a sign that they don’t have the skills for the job.

Look for Personality

Check for evidence of the candidate’s personality to see if they would be a good cultural fit. Skills are important, but you want to make sure the employee you select will be happy at your company and work well with your team.

Check for Tone

You want to make sure a candidate will respect the professional nature of the hiring process. Make sure the tone of their letter isn’t overly casual and that they come across as someone who truly cares about their professional image.

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