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How to Write a Cover Letter That Gets You the Job in 2021+

Arran Stewart

Arran Stewart

Arran James Stewart is the co-founder and CVO of blockchain recruitment …

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The dreaded cover letter – a core factor in getting a coveted position in a competitive job market. However, figuring out what goes into a successful cover letter can feel like an unsolvable mystery.

It doesn’t have to be that way! We have a systematic approach to writing a cover letter that helps get you in the door for the interview. This article will explore the importance of the cover letter, provide a step-by-step approach to writing yours, and show you what a good and bad letter looks like.

What Is a Cover Letter, and Do I Need One?

A cover letter is a single page that outlines your fit for a specific job in a professional but conversational style. Cover letters are the perfect place to add detail and personality to the data points listed in your resume. They’re an opportunity to use your voice, show off how you would fit in with the company culture, and set yourself apart from the crowd.

Studies have shown that a majority of employers prefer applications with a cover letter. A cover letter can potentially be the difference between you and another candidate with similar qualifications.

Breaking Down a Cover Letter

A good cover letter will include seven to eight sections. Each section has a specific purpose, which can help you craft a quality letter quickly. Let’s break it down by section.

Heading

The header of your cover letter should include:

  • Your contact information
  • Receiver’s contact information
  • Date of submission

Many people include their contact information in a header or sidebar. This allows you more space to include things like a website or social media links if those would be helpful for the job application.

Including the name and contact information for the hiring manager shows you’ve done your research and therefore care about the position.

Example Heading:

[Your Name] | [Your phone number] | [Your email address] | [Optional: Your website or social handles]

[Hiring Manager Name]
[Their Title]
[email protected]

XYZ Company
1234 W. 56th St., Ste. 78
New York, NY 10019
(123) 456-7890

Jan 1, 2021

Salutation

The best salutation will address a specific person by name.

When we see our name, we feel like we’re reading something tailored to us. That’s precisely how you want the hiring manager to feel! Do some research to find the name of the HR Manager or the manager of the team you hope to join.

In addressing the letter, consider the company culture at the place you are applying.

Is it a casual startup? Go ahead and use the person’s first name in the salutation.

Is it a more corporate company? Use their last name.

Bad Examples:

  • Dear Sir or Madam,
  • To Whom It May Concern,

Good Examples:

  • Dear Alice,
  • Dear Ms. Smith,
  • Dear Mr. Smith,
  • Dear Mx . Smith, (non-binary or agender)
  • Dear M. Smith, (gender-neutral)

If you absolutely can’t find the person’s name, you can (as a last resort) go ahead with something specific like “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear [Department] Team Hiring Manager.”

Opening Paragraph

The opening paragraph is the most important part of your cover letter. It’s the attention-grabber that determines if they keep reading.

Most hiring managers read through several cover letters each day, so how can you make yours stand out?

You want to lead with your key strengths and get to the most valuable point.

A great way to open is by stating one of your most significant accomplishments over your career. Express enthusiasm and be as specific as possible in communicating value.

Bad Example:

“I am writing to apply for the job of Sales Manager at XYZ Company. I worked at ABC Company for over five years and was an essential part of their team. I am confident I will be a good fit for this role."

See how the sentences are all pretty vague and forgettable? This person’s cover letter isn’t giving detail or communicating what value they have to offer.

Good Example:

“As a self-professed fanatic about XYZ Company’s innovative Sales approach, I was thrilled to see a job opening for your Sales Manager. I am confident I can help your company take the Sales team to the next level. In five years with ABC Company, I personally brought in over $1 million in value and helped grow the company’s customer base by over 20%. Leading the Sales team, I coached other Sales reps to surpass their quarterly goals for three years in a row."

This example is direct, specific, and communicates real value. The applicant clearly knows a lot about the company they’re applying for and has the track record to succeed in the role.

Second Paragraph

In the second paragraph, you should lead by addressing the company’s needs and how you will solve their issue.

How do you know their needs?

Use the job posting! Let’s say they need at least two things:

  • Someone who can supervise a team to improve revenue.
  • Someone who can bring on significant customers and help secure funding.

In your second paragraph, you should show how your specific experience prepares you to succeed in these two areas.

Bad Example:

“In my role at ABC Company, I was a valued sales leader who outperformed the rest of the sales team every quarter. My skills include strategic selling, contract closing, and sales development. When the company needed someone to close big deals, I was the representative they called in."

This example comes off as braggy but not specific at all. It’s also not targeted to the job description.

Good Example:

“As the first Sales employee at ABC Company, I helped build our Sales team from the ground up. I managed a Sales representative team who helped increase our revenue from $0 to $10 million in five years. My goal over the past year was to sign enterprise-level deals with top companies. I was able to:

  • Personally close key enterprise accounts with [Massive Company #1] and [Popular Company #2].
  • Help secure our A round of funding from ABC Venture Capital Firm.
  • This could go on with more bullet points! Notice how our applicant shares specific results directly related to a need they saw on the job description."

Third Paragraph

The third paragraph is where you bring it all home. Show them that you are the best fit not just because of your skills but because you’ll love working for them specifically.

Think about why you want to work for the company. What is unique about them? Do they have any future projects you’re excited about being a part of?

Bad Example:

“I love XYZ Company and would love to work for you. With my expertise and experience in sales, I believe I could be a real asset to your sales team. I would love to help the company keep growing in the coming years."

See how it’s vague?

Good Example:

“I’ve been following XYZ Company since you first launched in 2015, and I know your next set of goals involves growing your customer base by 25%. A growth phase like this is a perfect fit for my experience building a startup Sales team. I would love to contribute my expertise, network, and knowledge of the tech market to take on XYZ’s next development stage."

Closing Paragraph

Your closing paragraph should be no longer than one or two sentences. Think of it as your mic drop moment. Above all, don’t be cliche or come off as needy. Focus on the value you will add and any next steps.

Bad Example:

“Thank you for considering me as a candidate, and I look forward to hearing from you about the next steps."

Good Example:

“I would love to speak with you about your vision for your Sales team and how my experience at ABC Company can convert to massive Sales growth at XYZ."

Formal Closing

You’ve done the hard part! The rest is just signing off. You can close with a simple “Thank you” or “Sincerely” and then your full name.

Examples:

  • Sincerely,
  • Thank you,
  • Best regards,
  • Warm regards,
  • Thank you for your consideration,

Depending on what you included in the header, you could also repeat or add personal information under your name.

Example of an A+ Cover Letter

Now you have yourself a cover letter! Let’s put it all together and see the final product:

**M. Alice Smith
**Chief Revenue Officer
[email protected]

_XYZ Company
1234 W. 56th St., Ste. 78
New York, NY 10019
(123) 456-7890
_

Jan 1, 2021

Dear M. Smith,

As a self-professed fanatic about XYZ Company’s innovative Sales approach, I was thrilled to see a job opening for your Sales Manager. I am confident I can help your company take the Sales team to the next level. In five years with ABC Company, I personally brought in over $1 million in value and helped grow the company’s customer base by over 20%. Leading the Sales team, I coached other Sales reps to surpass their quarterly goals for three years in a row.

As the first Sales employee at ABC Company, I helped build our Sales team from the ground up. I managed a Sales representative team who increased our revenue from $0 to $10 million in five years. My goal over the past year was to sign enterprise-level deals with top companies. I was able to:

  • _Personally close key enterprise accounts with [Massive Company #1] and [Popular Company #2].
    _
  • Help secure our A round of funding from ABC Venture Capital Firm.

I’ve been following XYZ Company since you first launched in 2015, and I know your next set of goals involves growing your customer base by 25%. A growth phase like this is a perfect fit for my experience building a startup Sales team. I would love to contribute my expertise, network, and knowledge of the tech market to take on XYZ’s next development stage.

I would be happy to speak with you about your vision for your Sales team and how my experience at ABC Company can convert to massive Sales growth at XYZ.

_Sincerely,
_

[Your Full Name]
[Optional: Your Phone Number]
[Optional: Your Email]

Example Of A Poorly Written Cover Letter

[Your Name]
[Your phone number]

To: XYZ Company

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to apply for the job of Sales Manager at XYZ Company. I worked at ABC Company for over five years and was an essential part of their team. I am confident I will be a good fit for this role.

In my role at ABC Company, I was a valued sales leader who outperformed the rest of the sales team every quarter. My skills include strategic selling, contract closing, and sales development. When the company needed someone to close big deals, I was the representative they called in.

I love XYZ Company and would love to work for you. With my expertise and experience in sales, I believe I could be a real asset to your sales team. I would love to help the company keep growing in the coming years.

Thank you for considering me as a candidate, and I look forward to hearing from you about the next steps.

_
Thanks so much!_

[Your Name]

Frequently Asked Questions When It Comes To Cover Letters

Of course, you may still have questions about crafting your ideal cover letter. Let’s take a look at the most frequently asked!

1. How is a cover letter different from a resume?

Think of a resume as a list. You should have a timeline of your work history and an itemized list of skills and experiences. A cover letter is a paragraph-style letter. The cover letter should flesh out the resume and give the human story behind the facts.

2. How long should a cover letter be?

Keep your cover letter to one page and aim for three to four paragraphs with room for the header and optional footer.

3. Should a cover letter always be unique?

Yes! Your cover letter should be unique both to you and to the company to which you’re applying. Hiring managers can tell if you put in the work to understand their company and the role.

4. What fonts and or styling should a cover letter use?

Unless you’re a designer and have an excellent reason to get artistic with your cover letter, use standard fonts and styling. Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman are the most typically used fonts.

5. Should a cover letter address salary demands?

Only mention salary demands if the job posting requires you to. In general, you want to avoid sharing your salary requirements until you know what the employer is offering.

However, if you have to share your salary requirements, always opt to give a range, with the low end of the range being the high end of what you want.