A cover letter for a job application introduces a candidate to their potential employer by outlining their skills and experience in relation to the position they are applying for.
It is not meant to be used in place of, or as a substitute for, your resume or CV.
It is a fundamental part of the job application process and will market you as a suitable candidate and substantiate why you are the best person for a position. Typically, it expresses your interest in the job, mentions relevant qualifications, requests an interview, and initiates communication with the potential employer. In addition, it adopts a narrative approach, detailing your suitability for the position.
To achieve this, it links the qualifications mentioned in the resume with your professional and personal experiences in a convincing narrative that gives the recruiter an overall but clear picture of your suitability as an employee. As such, it can determine whether your job application is successful or not. Considering the importance of a cover letter, this article will discuss how to write a strong and persuasive one when applying for a job.
When applying for a job, crafting a compelling cover letter is essential to make a strong first impression. Fortunately, you can save time and effort by utilizing free cover letter templates specifically designed for job applications. These templates offer several technical benefits, including standardized formatting, pre-written sections for easy customization, and guidance on the appropriate structure. By using these templates, you can create a professional cover letter that effectively highlights your skills and qualifications, increasing your chances of securing the desired position.
Use a Professional Formatting Style
How you format the letter’s content is essential because it is the first impression you make to persuade your potential employer to hire you. This first impression could determine whether you succeed or not. It starts with appearance and structuring.
Here is how to format your letter professionally:
- When printing your CV, you should use an A4 page size when applying for jobs in Europe or other regions and a U.S. letter size when applying for jobs in the U.S.
- The letter word count should range between 200-350 words.
- The content should be single-spaced with a professional font such as Arial or Calibri and a font size of between 10.5-12 points.
- One inch or 0.5 margins on all sides can be used to ensure the letter is legible.
- The letter’s content should be aligned to the left, including your contact details.
- While saving the document, save it as a PDF file. PDF format is easily read from various platforms and maintains your structure. When saving the letter, use the format name: position-coverletter.pdf.
- Your cover letter’s structure should have the following components; a header with contact details, greetings/salutations, a body (three paragraphs), and a formal closing. In addition, the 1st paragraph or opening paragraph should mention 2-3 significant achievements, the second paragraph details your suitability, and the 3rd paragraph should explain how you can be an asset and a good fit for the company.
Writing the Cover Letter for a Job Application
Employers may find your resume intriguing, but your cover letter convinces them to invite you for an interview. You want to show them how well you meet their needs, so they will call you for an interview. Here is a list of the sections you should include in your cover letter when applying for a job:
1. Provide header
Start by including a header in the upper left corner of the page. Your information and the recruiter’s information should be in the header section.
Therefore, indicate your full name, contact information (a valid mailing address, email, and phone number), and date. You can sometimes include your professional online profiles such as LinkedIn, GitHub, or Medium for the respective professions. You should then provide the recruiter’s details, including their name, job title, name of the organization, and mailing address.
A letter’s header can be structured as follows:
123 Greenpark Street
Lockwood City, NC 30987
Phone No: 03833 001 001
June 5, 202x
Manhattan, CA 4811
2. Greet the prospective employer
Your cover letter should be addressed appropriately to the person reviewing your job application. Greetings are in the form of a salutation in a professional letter. You can write the salutation as follows – Mr./Mrs./Ms. or an appropriate title such as Dr. [first] [last name]. You can also refer to the recruiter as “Dear [mention their name].”
To ensure that the letter is addressed to a specific person in the company, use the recruiter’s full name.
Tip: If you do not know the recipient’s name, you can opt to find it through research (preferred). If you have to do research, you can use LinkedIn to find the recruiter’s details, visit the company’s website and look under “About Us” for the “Team” section, or contact the company’s human resources department.
If you are unable to locate the recipient’s name, use the following formats: Dear Hiring Manager or Committee, Dear [Department] Hiring Manager, Dear [Department] Team. The salutation can be structured as shown below:
Dear Mr. William Lowey or Mrs. Amy Lively or Dear Sales Hiring Manager
3. Begin with an engaging paragraph
Next, you should provide a solid introductory paragraph. This section is meant to let the recruiter know the purpose of the cover letter and what to expect from this job application. Typically, the opening paragraph highlights the following:
3.1. The job position
By including the job title in the cover letter exactly as it appeared in the advertisement, it should be clear which position you are applying for. Remember, recruiters receive multiple cover letters, so having clarity is always helpful.
Specify the name of the company you are applying for. Make sure to capture the name accurately.
3.3. How did you hear of the vacancy?
Mention how you learned about the open position. It could be through a friend, family member, company newsletter, job site, or Facebook group.
3.4. Intention to apply (purpose of the letter)
Explain your intention to apply for the position. You should show some enthusiasm for the position. In addition, you can state your interest in the company, respective industry, or field.
3.5. Notable achievements
Tell the recruiter why they should hire you. This can be achieved by succinctly describing your greatest professional accomplishment, such as your experience, knowledge, credentials, or honors.
Note: If you learned about the job opportunity through a referral, you could mention the person who referred you. Remember to mention their name and relationship with you.
Below is an example of an opening paragraph.
I am writing to you because I consider myself an ideal candidate for the Sales Assistant job opening at ABC Company. I saw the job advertisement on your company’s website on May 20, 2022. I am competent and motivated, and I see this as an excellent opportunity to demonstrate my abilities further and become part of a reputable and established organization such as ABC Company.
4. Elaborate on why you are qualified for the job
Provide a more detailed case on why you are qualified for the job. This section of the cover letter should focus on how closely your qualifications align with the requirements of the open position and how your background fits those requirements. You can do this by providing a combination of three core details.
4.1. Professional achievements
It would be best to highlight any notable milestones you have achieved in your previous roles. This can be shown by using numbers to illustrate how your skills, qualifications, level of expertise, and competencies qualify you for the position. Next, you can mention any achievement you had in your previous jobs, such as increasing sales, revenue, or profit, exceeding company targets, contributing towards company objectives, etc. Finally, you can mention in your cover letter specific projects you have worked on in the past.
4.2. Mention any honors or awards
You can also mention any honors or recognition you have received from coworkers or previous employers. Here, you can mention the qualities that led to the attainment of those awards.
This section of the cover letter of a job application can be written as follows:
As a sales officer for ten years, I have been able to work for YXZ Company and Lively Corporation. I successfully transitioned from one region to another while working at XYZ Company, where I previously increased sales by 35% in 2017. I am very social, which has enabled me to effectively interact with customers and boost customer conversion rates for my employers. My extensive experience in sales has equipped me with industry knowledge of policies, techniques, and tools to boost sales and increase company revenue. I am conversant with CRM (customer relations management) and POS (point of sale) software. Additionally, I have won several awards for my work, including the Outstanding Marketer Achievement Award (2016), the Gold Marketing Award (2015 and 2017) at XYZ Company, and the Silver Sales Award (2017) at Lively Corporation. I have also received recognition from my colleagues, who have spoken to me about my excellent work ethic and professionalism.
Try to align your qualifications and awards with the job requirements and responsibilities listed in the job advertisement.
Note: For entry-level applications, you can highlight your academic qualifications and achievements in this section. You can also mention any voluntary work and extracurricular activities and how they have prepared you for the professional field.
5. Connect your experience to the needs of the company.
It would be best if you discussed how you can be an asset to the company and how you are a suitable match for its short-term and long-term requirements. You can reference any challenges the company may be undergoing at the moment. Employers will hire you if they are sure you can directly and immediately help them resolve some of their issues. Make sure to link your experience and skills to the company’s needs. You can do quick online research to identify the needs.
Below is an example of how you should structure this section:
I am responsible for training sales representatives on how to effectively sell their products and services. This is an area your company will need to optimize, especially now that you are expanding into a new market with the launch of product X. In addition, my negotiation skills will help secure distribution deals with retailers for new products. With my extensive experience in sales, I can be a great addition to the team spearheading this program.
6. Explain why you want to join them
Employers want an employee who will be committed to their work and company. As a result, you should demonstrate why you want the job at this specific company to reassure them that you value the opportunity to work with them. You can do this by following these guidelines:
- You can discuss your interest in the job and the organization itself, your future goals, and align them with the company’s goals and culture.
- Share your interests in the role, products or services, company history, or endeavors.
- Demonstrate passion in the particular profession or industry. This may reassure them that you will enjoy working with them.
Structure this section as illustrated below:
I am eager to work with your company because I want to be part of an organization that is pioneering its way in the marketing industry. I am somebody who has been successful and has the drive to succeed again. After reviewing your recent launch, it is clear that product X is a game-changer for ABC Company, and you are looking to strengthen your foothold in the market. I am interested in working on this project because I am passionate about introducing new product lines and increasing their reach. In addition, my expertise in sales and marketing will be of great benefit to this organization.
7. Finish with a formal closing
You should then end the letter professionally and politely. To do this, consider addressing the following information:
- You can add any relevant information that might have been missed in the other sections of the letter that can influence the recruiter’s decision.
- You can also politely request an interview by including a call to action. The CTA can also inform them of any action you intend to take, such as a follow-up in a few weeks.
- A formal closing can be given by inserting a message of appreciation. Courtesy is highly appreciated in the professional sphere.
I am excited to apply for this position and look forward to being interviewed by your organization. I have read your requirements, which align with my skills and qualifications. I look forward to hearing from you. You can contact me through the number provided in the letter. Thank you for your time and consideration.
8. Write the signoff remarks
Lastly, you need to sign off professionally. You can do so by supplying a formal, complimentary closing, followed by your signature (for physical cover letters). Examples of complimentary closings you can use include “sincerely,” “respectfully,” “best regards,” “thank you,” etc. For example:
Tip: You can also add a “PS” (postscript) to your letter to convey anything noteworthy career-wise to the recruiter. Again, it does not have to be related to the position you are applying for. The best plan would be if you also let them know that you would be happy to provide them with more information if they felt it was worthwhile.
Template Cover Letter
Dear [Hiring Manager’s Name]
I am a qualified [job title] seeking the [name of job title] at [company name]. I have [years] of experience in the field. I learned of this opportunity [through whom or how you heard of the vacancy] on [date], and I would like to formally convey my interest in the position. I have [two or three exceptional skills or achievements].
Body of the letter
I am currently [position] at [company] and have been for the last [number of years]. I also have an [academic qualification] from [institution]. My expertise and professional experience in [profession] have made me a dependable [job title]. I am conversant with [mention applicable skills mentioned in the job description]. In my previous position, I have been equipped with [mention skills that align with the requirements provided by the employer].
I am able to mention a notable achievement that increased company revenue by [using figures to demonstrate impact] in [year]. This was my first [award/certification] for my outstanding performance. I believe I can replicate and improve such a contribution to the [department] at your company. In addition, I can use my skills to help your company with [mention the project, challenge, or issue the employer is facing].
As an enthusiastic person about [mention your goals or reference the company’s core values], I am confident that [name of company] would be an ideal workplace for me. In addition, I have admired your work in [a specific thing that the company specializes in].
I believe I have the right set of skills and experience to become an invaluable member of [company name]. I am available for an interview at your discretion. I will follow up on the interview in [timeframe, typically two weeks].
Thank you. [or any other appreciation message]
[Complimentary Close such as Sincerely]
Points to Remember
Aim to write a vital, objective, and persuasive cover letter. To help you do that, below are some tips you ought to keep in mind before sending the cover letter for any job application:
Keep the writing tone professional
Keep the formatting, tone, and language professional. You can make the tone of your writing professional and conversational by utilizing contractions; for example, use “won’t” instead of “will not.” Also, avoid using generic and overused words like “hardworking,” but rather mention specific things that demonstrate you are a hard worker, as this exudes confidence. Be polite and genuine. However, do not be too stiff or too formal, and maintain a balance.
Keep it concise and to the point
The cover letter is a multipurpose document but not one to discuss unnecessary details. It does not serve as an autobiography and does not require elaborate reflection. As a result, it can be quickly and succinctly written without being vague, providing enough details to convince the recruiter that you are a suitable fit for the open position.
Proofread the letter before sending
A job application letter that is poorly written can have a negative impact. Therefore, you should carefully proofread your letter and correct any errors that you may have made. You can try reading the letter aloud, changing the font, or having somebody else read the letter. These are quick and easy ways of finding out about mistakes in the letter.
- A cover letter is a business letter that provides information and introduces the applicant to the recruiter.
- The format of a cover letter is not subject to any definite guidelines. However, try not to copy-paste sample cover letters, especially without modifying them, as it can lead to generic cover letters that do not add value to your job application.
- One of the best ways to differentiate yourself from the rest of the applicants with equivalent training and experience is through the cover letter.
- You can use templates and sample cover letters as guides on what to include in your letter when submitting a job application.
- Try to align your cover letter with the specific job position and organization as much as possible.
- A cover letter is a marketing document; thus, keep it simple yet functional and use it to market your skills and experience. Include all the information an employer may want to know about you.