How to write a cover letter for a job

How to write a good cover letter: it’s one of the most commonly asked questions. Whether you want to know how to write a simple cover letter, the perfect cover letter or how to write a cover letter for an internship, Jobbird has all the information you need. We’ll tell you exactly how to write a cover letter, from how to start a cover letter to how to end a cover letter, how long a cover letter should be and of course, what to put in a cover letter.

In this article, you’ll learn how to write a good cover letter that will get you any job you want. Read about the ideal cover letter length, format, and countless tips and tricks on how to write the best possible cover letter.
 

How to write a cover letter: what is a cover letter?

Before we tell you how to write a cover letter, let’s go over what exactly a cover letter is. A cover letter is a document you send with your CV when applying for a job. Where a CV sums up your skills, abilities and experiences, a cover letter is your opportunity to show some personality and expand on any relevant experience and skills. Where you can create one CV to send to countless employers, a cover letter should be modified for each individual job application.

Traditionally, a cover letter was added on top of a CV, hence the name. Today, however, most cover letters are sent through email. Want to know more about how to write a cover letter email? Have a look at our cover letter email article.
 

How to write a cover letter: what to include in a cover letter

Are you wondering what a cover letter should include? Traditionally, there are 7 parts to a cover letter. Of course, how you write a cover letter is completely up to you, so you can modify these 7 parts slightly. However, if you want to ensure you’ve mentioned everything important in your cover letter, make sure to include the following:

  1. Header

    In a traditional cover letter, this is usually the address, in emails, this could be the subject line. Not sure who to address the cover letter to? Address the letter to the company itself.

  2. Greeting

    This may sound obvious, but start your letter by greeting the reader. If you know it, use the hiring manager or recruiter’s name. If not, opt for the neutral ‘dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘Dear hiring manager’.

  3. Introduction

    A lot of people struggle with how to open a cover letter. Start with a first sentence that catches the reader’s attention and immediately gives them a sense of who you are. A safe bet is to start with ‘I am writing to apply…’

  4. Qualifications

    An employer wants to know what you have to offer. Speak about your experiences, degrees, and relevant skills. Don’t just sum up your CV, but pick the most relevant qualifications and elaborate on them with examples.

  5. Values and goals

    Employers love people with ambitions and future goals. They want to hire people who are in it for the long run, so explain how you want to grow with the company and what you hope to achieve.

  6. Call to action

    The goal of any cover letter is to get an invite to a job interview. You can do this by saying something like, ‘I would like to explain my CV in person’

  7. Signature

    How to sign off your cover letter? Finish the letter by thanking the reader, then add your name and contact details. Keep it simple and professional.

 

How to write a cover letter: a guide

You’re here for one reason: to find out how to write a cover letter. Even though you may want to, don’t just start typing everything that comes to mind. First, research the company and the position you’re applying for. This proves you have knowledge of the field and shows how motivated you are. For example, drop the company name, department name, product names and/or the industry at some point in your cover letter to sound authoritative (and like you know what you’re talking about).

Take notes during your research and write down why you want to work for this company and in this position. Here are some questions you can ask yourself, such as:

  • Why do I want this role?
  • What relevant knowledge do I bring to the company?
  • What do I want to achieve in this position and in this company?
  • Why do I fit in well in the company?
  • What do I add to the company?
  • What about the company and/or the role appeals to me?

 
The purpose of a cover letter is to grab the reader’s attention and keep them reading. So keep it positive and show why you want this job and – more importantly – why they should want you. Not sure how to start writing a cover letter? Read the vacancy carefully and find out what specific skills and qualifications are required. Do you possess any of these skills? Make this clear in your cover letter. Use examples to back up your statements. This way you’re not just summing up skills they’re asking for, but telling a story about what you’re capable of and – what a coincidence! – it’s exactly what they’re looking for. Also, write with the future in mind. How can you develop in this position? What’s your vision for the future at this company? Employers don’t want to keep hiring new people, so showing you have ambition and are in it for the long haul will score you definite bonus points.

Some other things to keep in mind in how to write your cover letter:

  • The ideal cover letter length is less than one page, usually between 3 to 5 paragraphs.
  • Write your cover letter in a style that matches the tone of the company. For example, you’ll probably write a more formal letter for a job at a bank than for a job at a magazine.
  • Cheesy, but true: it’s most important to stay true to yourself, because a cover letter is about showing who you are, after all.
  • Write about your skills, abilities and experiences, but don’t brag.
  • Recruiters read countless cover letters every day, so make sure your letter stands out.
  • Avoid clichés or standard phrases that everyone uses. What makes you unique and why are you perfect for the position? Use anecdotes that vividly showcase your qualities and skills.

 

How to write a cover letter: structure and layout

Now that you know what to write in your cover letter, it’s time to start writing. Here is a step by step of how to write your cover letter:

  • Start with addressing the cover letter. On the top right, add your name, address, email address and phone number. A little lower on the left, add the name of the person you’re writing to, with their title, company name and company address. Start with your own name and address and add the address details of the company you are writing about below. If you’re writing an email cover letter, you don’t necessarily need to know how to address the cover letter email. Most online applications don’t need you to address the letter either, but when sending your cover letter as an attachment, it doesn’t hurt to address the letter properly, just in case.
  • Under the address of the employer, add the date.
  • Next up: the greeting. Try to find out the name of the recruiter or hiring manager and use this. If you really don’t know, use the neutral ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘Dear hiring manager’.
  • Now it’s time for the body of text, which is the most important part of your cover letter. Start with an enthusiastic, catchy opening sentence that immediately grabs the recruiter’s attention. Make it obvious from the get-go why you’re writing this cover letter.
  • Next, it’s time to introduce yourself. Mention relevant education and work experience, but be mindful not to simply repeat your CV. A cover letter should also tell an employer something about your personality and interests. Explain why you are the most suitable candidate, but also why you are interested in the vacancy. Make this part as personal as possible and make it stand out. Use examples, state your ambitions and state how you see your future at this company. This is where you can convince the recruiter that you are the right person for this job, so take your time writing and editing.
  • Finally, there is the conclusion of your cover letter. Refer to your CV and have a call to action, for example, say you’d like to further explain your CV in an interview. End on a friendly note and thank the reader for his/her time.

 
Still not sure how to write your cover letter or what to include? Here are some ideas for subjects:

  • Where you first heard about the company;
  • Why the company (and the position) appeals to you;
  • The things about the company that you find interesting;
  • Why you are right for the job;
  • Why you fit in the team;
  • Things you and the company have in common (for example, maybe the company has an annual charity volleyball tournament and you’ve been playing volleyball since you were 12).

 

How to write a cover letter: 20 tips

By now you probably already have an idea of how to write a good cover letter and how to structure it, but we have even more tips to help you nail writing that cover letter:

  • Be original and creative in your opening and closing sentences, but stay formal and polite;
  • Save your cover letter as a PDF file so that the layout remains intact;
  • Write the opening sentence last. This way you don’t get stuck on the perfect first sentence for too long. By then you also already know what you are going to say in the rest of the letter and what your motivation is, so it’ll be easier to come up with a fitting first sentence;
  • Read your cover letter out loud to hear if everything sounds good. If you need to take a breath to read a sentence, it’s too long;
  • You can send the same cover letter to different companies, but it’s better to adapt each letter to the specific company and position;
  • Use numbers, percentages and years to give strength to your statements;
  • Do you already know someone who works at the company? Mention them. Even if it’s only someone who referred you;
  • Don’t brag about your knowledge and talents, keep it factual;
  • Read the vacancy carefully to see what’s being asked for. Emphasize qualities you have that match the requirements;
  • Keep it concise. Your motivation letter should be no longer than one A4;
  • Refer to your CV instead of repeating everything;
  • Avoid clichés;
  • Check your spelling and grammar and have your cover letter checked by others;
  • Read your cover letter again a day later, fresh eyes are quicker at catching mistakes;
  • Use an active writing style but avoid exclamation marks;
  • Write in the first person but never start a sentence with ‘I’;
  • Write curriculum vitae without capital letters when writing it out in full;
  • Provide enough white space on the paper;
  • Save your cover letter on your computer and keep track of when you sent it;
  • Write your cover letter in your own personal style. Avoid complex structures or old-fashioned language.

 

How to write a cover letter: some examples

Need some inspiration to help you write your cover letter? We’ve got some examples to help you get started. Find them in our article about cover letter examples.

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FAQ

  • What is a cover letter?
    A cover letter is a letter in which you explain to an employer why you’re applying for the job and why they should hire you.
  • How do I write a cover letter for a job?
    Start by figuring out why you want to work for the company and what you have to offer. Need some tips on what to include and how to write a cover letter? Check out the tips on this page.
  • How many words should a cover letter be?
    There is no minimum or maximum word count for a cover letter, but your cover letter should not be more than one A4. It should be between 3 and 5 paragraphs.
  • How do I begin a cover letter?
    Start a headline with your address, the employer’s address and a formal greeting.