Tips for Writing a Captivating Cover Letter

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 8 November 2022

Published 26 May 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A cover letter can help you stand out from other candidates. With automated applicant tracking systems and online applications, a well-written cover letter can give you an opportunity to express your enthusiasm for the position and add a personal touch. It may convince hiring managers that you're a good fit for the company, encourage them to review your resume and increase your chances of getting an interview. In this article, we'll discuss what a cover letter is, explain why it's important and provide a few tips for wiring an effective cover letter.

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a one-page document sent with your resume to provide more information on your experience and skills. It details why you're a good fit for the position you're applying for. It doesn't just repeat what's on your resume, but rather includes specific details on why you are a strong match for the company's job requirements.

Related: What is a CV?

Why is a cover letter important?

A cover letter is important for getting the attention of hiring managers and recruiters, expressing your personality and style and demonstrating that you are a good fit for the role and the company. Hiring managers often have limited time to review each candidate's resume in detail. A strong cover letter can hold a hiring manager's attention and convince them that you are a strong applicant for the job.

Cover letter tips

Here are some tips to help you create a strong cover letter:

Grab attention

Begin the first paragraph with an informational opening to encourage hiring managers to continue reading. Some examples of a good opening for your cover letter include referrals from a mutual connection, relevant accomplishments and a belief statement that demonstrates your commitment to your work.

Then, continue your opening by specifying why you are interested in applying for this role and why you believe you're an ideal candidate. Include your specific characteristics, values or qualifications that align with the company and position.

Related: Resume Format Guide (with Examples)

Demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role and the company

If you admire the company's brand or have used their services or products before, you can express it in your cover letter. Companies value authentic enthusiasm, as it often translates to highly motivated employees. For instance, you can say, 'I was excited to know Future Industries, Inc. is hiring an event manager good at increasing brand awareness and improving growth using high-traffic events, especially since I have attended many of your company's speaking events myself. With over five years of experience organising successful events in the corporate space, I believe I'm a great fit for the position'.

Related: 3 Habits That Could Increase Your Chances of Getting the Job

Reflect your personality

Many companies use an online applicant tracking system (ATS) to automate the process of screening candidates and resumes. The ATS usually performs best with a simple resume format limited to a bullet list of qualifications and experience, which may limit how much of your personality you can add to it.

This is where your cover letter comes in. Your cover letter gives you an opportunity to express your personality. You can utilise your cover letter to tell employers how your experience has moulded you into the best candidate for the role. Adjust the tone of your cover letter to match the role and the company's culture. You can also express your beliefs, values and commitment that align with the work you do and the company's values and mission.

Highlight your best qualifications

Choose a couple of the most relevant bullet points from your resume and put them together in your cover letter with rich detail that explains what you can bring to the company. Use your experience and qualifications to show how you have contributed to your previous employers and how you are uniquely positioned to support the company's values and mission. Expanding on your qualifications and experience in your cover letter communicates how you can support a company to achieve its strategic goals.

Relate the role to your career goals

You can use your cover letter to explain how the position you're applying for supports your overall career goals. This demonstrates that you'll value your experience in the job, are interested in growth with the company and are committed to a career in the field.

When you write your cover letter, explain how the position you're applying for will be an important step in your chosen career path, which shows to a potential employer that you are intrinsically motivated to work for them. While extrinsic motivation can help get the job done, intrinsic motivation demonstrates your passion and commitment to your job. This shows hiring managers that you are a worthy investment and increases your chances of getting an interview.

Related: Understanding Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Add a call to action

When closing your cover letter, it's beneficial to thank the hiring manager for their consideration and time. It's also beneficial to include a call to action. Your cover letter is essentially a short persuasive essay designed to persuade a hiring manager that you are the best candidate for the role. When written thoroughly, your cover letter can inspire a hiring manager to take action to learn more about you as an applicant for the position.

For example, you can say, 'I appreciate you taking the time to review my application and for considering me for this position. From what I have researched about this position and your company, I believe my teamwork abilities and communication skills will make me a great fit. I would love the opportunity to meet and discuss more the importance of collaboration and community, which are values we both share'.

Make it unique

It's important to tailor each cover letter for the company and the position you're applying for. Writing a unique cover letter for the role allows you to highlight your characteristics, values and qualifications that are most relevant to that company and position. For instance, if you are applying for a teaching position, you can discuss in your cover letter how you have used your patience to help students improve their performance.

Because hiring managers have limited time and attention to review each application, it's important to grab their attention and demonstrate you are an applicant worth pursuing. A well-written cover letter can achieve this goal. It can highlight your relevant qualifications, demonstrate that you're a good fit for the company and show your commitment to building a career with the company.

How to write an effective cover letter

Here are a few simple steps to write an effective cover letter that gets noticed by employers:

1. List the date and your contact information

Include a few pieces of information at the top of your cover letter. You can centre your name and address at the top page, mimicking the way it looks on your resume. For instance:

Michael Spencer

23 Kunarra Rd Wamberal, NSW 2260 | 0418-861-000| michaelspencer@email.com

Otherwise, you can just list each piece of information on a new line formatted to the left-hand side of the page. For instance:

Michael Spencer

michaelspencer@email.com

23 Kunarra Rd

Wamberal, NSW 2260

0418-861-000

2. Indicate the date

Next, indicate the date you're sending the letter. Separate the date from your address and your recipient's address.

3. List your recipient's name and address

After the date, list your recipient's name and information. You can find these details by browsing the company's website. This information will also likely be indicated on the job posting. The top portion of your cover letter should look like this:

Michael Spencer

michaelspencer@email.com

23 Kunarra Rd

Wamberal, NSW 2260

0418-861-000

February 16, 2021

Alice Eisenhower

Alice Flower Shop

9 Sundridge St

Taringa, QLD 4068

4. Open with an introduction

Begin by introducing your letter with a standard greeting such as 'Dear Mr Walters'. If you don't know the name and gender of your recipient, you can just say, 'Dear Hiring Manager'.

5. Include an opening paragraph that expresses your intention to apply

When writing your introductory paragraph, indicate the position you're applying for. Also, include a statement about your enthusiasm regarding the company and the position.

6. Write a second paragraph about your background

The second paragraph of a cover letter typically includes a short overview of your background as it applies to the position, including your key specialities, skills and achievements. You can focus on one or two relevant qualifications and provide specific details about your achievements, including measurable impacts you made. Also, look for keywords in the job description and include those that you identify in the body of your cover letter. Make sure to only include information about your most recent one or two professional experiences.

7. Include more reasons why you are qualified in the next paragraph

In the next paragraph, mention another key skill or achievement relevant to the position. Instead of repeating the information from your resume, expand on specific anecdotes or stories that demonstrate your fitness for the position.

8. End with reasons why you're uniquely qualified

In the last paragraph of your cover letter, restate the reasons why you're applying for the position and why you're a good fit. Keep your conclusion brief and mention that you look forward to hearing from the company with the next steps.

9. Indicate your signature

Finally, sign your complete name after a closing line like 'Sincerely', or 'All the best'.

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