“Thanks for helping me customize my resume,” my friend said cheerily. “Now I just have to find the cover letter I used for my last job application and spruce it up a little.”
“Nooooooo!” I said. “There’s no point in taking all that time to tailor your resume to each application if you’re going to use a fill-in-the-blank cover letter.”
We ended up sitting together for another 30 minutes and coming up with a new one that highlighted what a great fit she was—not just for the role, but for the company. And while a half hour is a time investment, it’s absolutely worth it if it gets you the job. (Which my friend did.)
Wondering how to customize your own cover letter? Check out the cover letter template below.
In Your Salutation
Most job seekers already know this, but just in case: You should always address your cover letter to a specific person. It shows you’re willing to do your research. Plus, seeing “Dear John Doe” will impress the person reading it (even if he or she is not John Doe) much more than “To whom it may concern” will.
If the job posting doesn’t include a name, look up the company’s hiring manager. No luck? Search for the person in charge of the department to which you’re applying. If you’re still striking out, try these advanced techniques.
In Your Opening Paragraph
The first section of your cover letter is the perfect opportunity to tell the hiring manager you understand what makes this organization and job special. I like to start with:
I am excited to apply for [job title].
Then I launch into my explanation.
I am excited to apply for the Sales Analyst position. TravelClick has become a leader in the hospitality industry by always focusing on its clients—whether they’re huge global brands or local hotels. Your commitment to customer satisfaction is something I’ve always strived for in my own career. I’d love to bring this dedication, along with my relevant skills and experience, to your award-winning company.
If you’re having trouble with this section, look through the company’s site, social media profiles, employee LinkedIn accounts, and so on to focus in on the key reasons you want this job and would be good at it. Sure, we all need a salary, but you should be able to explain why you’re enthusiastic about this opportunity in particular. (Oh, and make sure you’re describing how you can help the company, rather than how the company can help you!)
For even more ideas, check out these 31 cover letter examples of attention-grabbing intros.
In Your Body Paragraphs
Your next two paragraphs should describe your most relevant previous roles, the skills you’ve learned and experiences you’ve gotten from them, and how you’d apply those skills and insight to this position. I know, that sounds a little scary, so let’s break it down.
The first line is super simple:
During [time period], I worked as [job title] for [company name].
In your next couple sentences, talk about the specific responsibilities you had in that role that are the closest to the responsibilities you’d have in this job.
As [job title], I was responsible for [Task 1, Task 2, and Task 3].
In this role, I worked on several projects, including [Project 1, Project 2, and Project 3].
Now, it’s important not to regurgitate your resume here; rather, you want to take the most relevant experiences from your resume, expand on them, and describe why they’re so applicable for the job.
It’s even more important to bring it home in your last one or two lines by discussing how you’d use what you learned from those experiences in this position.
Here’s the whole thing:
For the past three years, I’ve been working as a technical product manager for Blue Duck, where I’ve developed more than 30 high-level features that incorporated client requests, user needs, and design and product team capabilities with deadline and budget demands. Balancing so many needs was often challenging, and I learned how to find the solution that satisfied the maximum number of stakeholders. As your product manager, I’d apply this knowledge to ensure we delivered innovative solutions that worked for our customers and their users while staying on-time and within budget.
Choosing Your Examples
Wondering how you know which jobs and qualifications to highlight?
Your current or most recent position should usually be in your cover letter (unless it was for a very short time period, or it’s not at all similar to the one you’re applying for). To find your second example, go back to the job description and highlight the three things they’re asking for that seem most important—as in, you couldn’t get hired if you didn’t have them. Maybe that’s familiarity with a niche field, or great writing abilities, or leadership talent.
Whatever three things you highlight, make sure they’re reflected in your cover letter. Choose the job experience where you utilized those traits. And if you don’t have the exact skill they’re looking for, use the closest example you have.
In Your Closing
Most people use their closing paragraph to essentially say, “Thanks for reading, looking forward to hearing back.” But that’s a waste of valuable real estate! Just like the rest of your cover letter, your closing should be personalized.
First, if you want to proactively answer a potential concern, here’s a good place to do it. Let’s say you’re currently living in Atlanta, but you want to work in Portland. End with one sentence explaining that you’re moving, such as “I am relocating to Portland in May and look forward to working in the city.” This line shows your reader you fully read the job description, and that location (or relocation) won’t be an issue.
Perhaps you’re not quite qualified for the position. You should never say, “I know I’m not as qualified as other candidates, but…” However, you can say, “My background in [industry or profession], combined with my passion for your company and this role, would make me uniquely qualified to tackle [specific responsibility].” Ending on a strong note and highlighting why your unexpected experience is actually an asset will put the hiring manager’s mind at ease. (More on that here.)
Alternatively, you can use your closing to reinforce your strong interest in the job.
For example, you could write:
Again, TravelClick’s focus on customer service has made a huge impression on me. I would be thrilled to work at an organization where every employee—from an intern to the CEO—cares so much about the people they help.
Thank you for your time,
There’s no arguing that it takes longer to compose a custom cover letter for each application than just changing out the company names in a canned one. But if you care about getting the job (and I hope you do, since you’re taking the time to apply for it), personalizing each one is the way to go.
Photo of typing courtesy of Shutterstock.
Curious to see how a cover letter in your industry should look? We provide dozens of cover letter examples from over 15 different industries. Find your industry below and download your favorite samples. Plug in your own information and you’re ready to send off your application.
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If you are looking for free downloadable cover letter templates, click here. Or, you can learn How to Write a Cover Letter
SEE ALSO > Resume Examples by Industry
Cover Letter Samples Sorted By:
Job & Industry
Food Service Industry Cover Letter Samples
Waiter, Waitress, Server
For the food service industry, cover letters should highlight the candidate’s customer service abilities, their knowledge of a particular type of cuisine, and their adherence to food safety and sanitation guidelines. If you are able to demonstrate these key attributes, restaurant owners will certainly call you in for an interview.
Customer Service & Retail Industry Example Cover Letters
Call Center, Phone & Support
Hotel, Hospitality & Transportation
Since customer service is such a broad category, we offer a variety of letters from different areas of the field. The key to getting a job in customer service is to showcase your ability to upsell and retain customers. Click on any of the samples above to learn how to display these abilities in your cover letter.
Office Worker & Administrative Assistant Cover Letter Examples
Assistants & Office Managers
The responsibilities of administrative assistants and office workers are often quite similar across different companies. So the challenge is to find a way to differentiate yourself from other candidates. One way to do this is to emphasize your organizational skills through measurable achievements, such as the money or time you saved with your initiatives in a previous position. Take a look at how the examples above accomplish this.
Housekeeping Industry Example Cover Letters
We provide two versions of a cover letter for a housekeeper: one for a candidate with experience and one for an entry-level housekeeper. So no matter how much experience you have, our examples will help you get started.
Janitor & Maintenance Worker Samples
Janitors must demonstrate their concern for safety and accident prevention in order to be considered for the position. Use our experienced and entry-level examples to guide you on how to include these traits in your letter.
Nursing & Healthcare Cover Letter Samples
Nursing & Social Care
Whether you want to get a job in nursing, dentistry, or pharmaceuticals, we have a sample that applies to your career path. Careers in the healthcare industry require a wide range of experience and education. Technical skills, licenses and certifications, and the ability to communicate effectively are a few of the top qualities to include in your cover letter.
Marketing & Sales Example Cover Letters
If you’re applying for a job in marketing or sales, you’ll need to highlight key performance metrics. Employers will be looking for you to elaborate on the projects that were mentioned in your resume and the results that were produced.
We offer samples for 4 different kinds of engineers. Find your career track and discover how to best format your own letter. No matter what engineering track you are on, your cover letter needs to highlight problem solving skills and the ability to meet quality standards.
Teaching & Education Example Cover Letters
Our teaching and education samples are great for job seekers who are just starting their career or for those that need help showcasing their wealth of experience. Although our sample is for an english teacher, the format can be used for a teacher of any subject.
Construction Industry Examples
Working in construction usually entails being able to use a wide variety of tools and equipment while also having knowledge numerous construction techniques. Make sure you mention the equipment you have used and the different techniques that you are familiar with.
Accounting & Finance Cover Letter Samples
We offer five different examples within the accounting and finance industry. Quantifiable/numerical achievements are extremely important when it comes to applying for an accounting job. Check out the samples to see how the candidates discuss their accomplishments.
Driver & Transportation Examples
A truck driver cover letter should focus on the years of driving experience, the type of vehicles you have operated, and your specific state and national licenses. Click the sample above to see how our job candidate lists this information.
Whether you are just starting your career as a librarian or are looking for a senior position, we have a sample that will help you tailor your own cover letter. Click on the position above that applies to you.
Information Technology (IT) Cover Letter Examples
When applying for an IT job, you will likely need to get through an HR representative who might not be well-versed in the technical aspects of the position. Keep this in mind when writing your cover letter and consider toning down the technical language.
Art and Music Samples
Art & Design
Writing a cover letter for an industry as abstract as music and entertainment can be difficult. Instead of focusing on numerical achievements, you’ll have to focus your letter towards a portfolio of specific projects or performances. Use our letters above for inspiration.
C-Suite & Executive Cover Letters
C-Suite executives have extensive industry experience and their cover letters must go beyond a list of duties and facts. Their cover letters must reflect an ability to fit within an organization. Our cover letter examples and tip sections will help you communicate a strong profile to boost to your candidacy.
Real Estate Industry Examples
For a job in real estate, you’ll need to highlight your ability to market to prospective home owners as well as your drive to reach sales quotas. Our real estate agent letter does all of this and much more. Click the link above to learn how to write your own.
Law Enforcement, Security & Fire Cover Letters
Law Enforcement & Security
In this section we offer cover letters for those in the legal space and law enforcement. Click the position that you are in and learn about exactly what you can highlight in your cover letter to make you an outstanding candidate.
Student and Internship Cover Letters
Students often have the hardest time writing a cover letter because they lack professional experience. The key for students is to focus on relevant coursework, internship experience, and skills you might have gained from working a part-time job.
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