A resume without a cover letter is like Lennon without McCartney.
It just feels incomplete.
Don't know how to write a cover letter? There's no point in spending days and weeks on the perfect resume if all you'll do with it is just mindlessly send it on any and every job profile that you come across without writing a cover letter to go with it.
Let me guess, you first heard of cover letters in a conversation but felt too embarassed to ask further questions about it, lest you'd be labelled as someone who doesn't know what a cover letter is?
You only have a vague idea but don't know what it is, and what it's not, and how to make a cover letter?
Fret not. There are thousands like you who are in a similar conundrum who don't know how to write a cover letter.
Which is why our cover letter examples as part of our 2019 Guide to Writing a Cover Letter will take care of all your problems. The Guide will broadly tackle the following areas, with cover letter example in the end to explain how to write a letter.
In case you want to directly start off with writing a cover letter of your own, you can check out our infographic below and a cover letter example in the end before getting straight to work.
What is a Cover Letter?
The most underrated component of the job-hunting process, it's apalling how little attention is paid to the humble cover letter.
Simply put, a cover letter is a document that you send along with your resume to provide additional information around your skills and experience.
When a recruiter is flooded with thousands of applications for a single vacancy, how do you expect him/her to peruse through them all and select the winner?
That's where the cover letter comes in handy. Right out of the way, more than half of the applicants won't bother to send a cover letter along with their resume. They belong to the category of those exasperated souls who select multiple job listings and hit 'send resume'.
You can imagine what happens to them. They spend their days and nights dazed and confused, wondering what they're doing wrong.
'I applied to like a 100 different vacancies man. I don't know what's going on.' If this sounds like you or someone you know, read on.
Why do you need a cover letter?
As you now know, since you are competing with thousands of other equally accomplished (if not more) professionals for a single job, one thing is absolutely clear-
You get only a single chance to make it.
So ask yourself: do you want to waste that chance by endlessly sending your resume to 100+ recruiters and then wonder what went wrong, or do you want to play it smart by applying to just 10 but simultenously increase the probability of getting that coveted shortlist?
That's right. The second option.
I bet some of you are still wondering that the math doesn't quite makes sense: how is applying to 10 places better than applying to a 100?
To which, we ask: Would you rather eat 5 average burgers that you make you go 'meh', or would you rather eat a single kickass burger that will make you want to kiss the hand that delivered it from heaven?
We thought so too. Cover letters are that missing piece of the equation which makes applying to a few targeted vacancies better than applying for dozens of random ones.
Contrary to popular belief, HRs are smart people. Well, let's rephrase that. If you encounter hundreds of resumes on a daily basis for years, you do get to know a little something about them.
You figure out how to spot a mildly bad resume from a terribly bad one.
Similarly, you can figure out if the candidate actually went through the job vacancy and gave it a thought before sending in their application, or whether your job listing was just one of a few dozen which they checked at once before hitting 'send'.
And if you belong to the second category, all the HRs in the world will band together and hit you with bulky binders till you rush back and fix your job-hunting process.
How is a Cover Letter different from a Resume?
Isn't your resume enough, you ask? If you spent hours and days working on it, what's so special about that additional piece of document which will increase your chances of getting a shortlist?
A resume is a statement of all your work profiles till date. You can rephrase or tailor your professional experience along the lines of a few profiles or industries which you are targeting, but other than that, there's very little that you can do when it comes to customizing your application.
That's where the humble cover letter comes in.
The format or structure of a resume is pretty standard (for more, you can check out our detailed guide on resume layout and resume format). Most applicants who are up-to-date with resume trends will send in their resumes along those lines itself.
A cover letter is where you can break free from the rest and showcase how you and you alone can kill it, how you are meant for that particular job role, how you were born to be an Associate at XYZ, for instance.
Trust us, we aren't being dramatic when we say it. Unless you are able to prove to the recruiter that everything you've ever done till date was only leading to that particular vacancy, everything else is hogwash.
And that's where a cover letter breaks away from a resume.
Cover letters are written for a particular vacancy and addressed to a specific Hiring Manager/Recruiter. You can scan your entire professional career and cherry pick only those instances and achievements which will present you as a perfect response to the job listing.
And there's more. You can do the same for every job that you are applying for. This is how you reduce the number of places where you apply while streamlining your job-hunting process and making your applications more targeted and concise.
A cover letter also gives you a chance to explain your case or justify your shortcomings in a way which is not always possible in a resume.
For instance, in cases where you were off the job market for a particular time period (owing to any reason whatsoever), you can justify the same in your cover letter.
In case you are changing industries or starting in another industry from scratch after a significant experience in another wildly divergent segment, you can dispel the ambiguity surrounding your application so as to leave little room for doubt.
You can be outrightly honest in your application and explain your motivation so that the recruiter at least has adequate information and has a chance to factor in your perspective before coming to a decision.
How to write a Cover Letter - A Crisp 5-step Guide
Since you now know what a cover letter is and why you need one, let's get down to the nuts and bolt of making one.
Within 10 minutes, the secret to writing a killer cover letter will be revealed to you in a simple step-by-step guide.
How to begin - Addressing the cover letter
A) Your name and job title comes on top. The job title is not a sacrosanct rank assigned to you from the heavens above. You have a certain level of flexibility wherein you can tailor the same as per the requirements of the job.
For instance, if you are a Sales Executive in your present profile and come across a Sales Associate vacancy, you can go ahead and modify the same to make your application a better fit for the job.
B) Unless you are living in Dickensian England, avoid 'Dear Sir/Madam'. Depending on the culture which is prevalent in your targeted company (casual vs. corporate), you can go take a call on whether to use the first name or last, followed by the profile held by that person aligned to the left.
Mr. John Buchanan
Hiring Manager, XYZ Ltd.
(In case you can't find the name of the Hiring Manager, you can simply proceed with Human Resources, XYZ Ltd.)
This goes a long way in making a huge impact than using a generic 'Sir/madam'. This tells the recruiter that what they are about to read is written specifically for them. This will help your cover letter feel like a breath of fresh air for someone who is so used to seeing general cover letters thrown around by the dozen.
C) Start off with your contact details aligned to the right, which would typically include your phone number, email and location (no need for the complete address, just the location will do).
While we are at it, you wouldn't want to break your chances of getting a shortlist if, for instance, your email id is email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org...you catch the drift, right? So let's avoid that as well. Ideally your email id should only consist of your first and last name.
Additionally, avoid using email-id of your current organization. That's just disrespecting not only your present employer but also the recruiter who's seeing your cover letter for the first time.
D) You can add your digital profiles here as well (only LinkedIn and blog, not your Facebook or Twitter), but only if you think they'll add value to your application. If your blog is flooded with posts on Kim Kardashian and UFO sightings since 1970, keep that **** miles away from your cover letter.
Finally, make sure that the contact information is consistent across your resume, cover letter and digital space in general.
The first pararaph: Hook, Line & Sinker
The first paragraph of the cover letter is the hook which is supposed to catch the recruiter and draw them in. The first paragraph will contain within its lines a reason for the recruiter to continue reading.
So how do you do that? What's the secret?
Want the Hiring Manager to read your cover letter in its entirety? Give him/her a reason to. The first paragraph is your chance to showcase how the skills and experience that you possess stand to benefit the organization.
Try to identify a need which you can fulfill. That's the basic premise for any transaction since the dawn of mankind. If you can't fulfill a pressing need of the organization, your cover letter will end up in a big ol' steaming pile of Nope.
Identify something which the organization is looking for, scan your previous achievements and demonstrate how you can leverage that to solve critical organizational issues. Unless you can generate that need, you'll always be at the periphery of getting shortlisted but won't ever make the cut.
The first line itself can be your gateway to accomplish just that. There won't ever be a single sure-shot way to guarantee a shortlist. You can either highlight your achievements or demonstrate your interest in the organization by researching their requirements and showing how you can fulfill the same.
Try to talk less about yourself and more about how your track record will help the organization. Let us make the point even clearer with a few examples:
"An 11-year track record of leading teams in Sales and generating multi-million dollar revenues on an annual basis. Played a key role in partnering with MNCs and other conglomerates. Highly interested in the profile of Sales Manager at XYZ Ltd."
Now let's take a look at another one:
"As a keen follower of XYZ Ltd. and its initiatives, I was thrilled to find a vacancy of Sales Manager. With my track record of generating USD 8.2m in sales and forging strategic alliances with Fortune 500 companies, I think I'd be a significant value add to your organization so I can play an instrumental role in achieving your target of 20% YOY growth."
Notice the difference between the two? In the second one, not only is the candidate talking about his achievements, she's also mentioning how her previous work experience can help the organization achieve their goals.
This is a significant departure from those candidates who select multiple job listings and send their resumes everywhere.
This shows that the candidate shortlisted this particular vacancy from several others and conducted research to find the targets which the company is trying to achieve, and how she can play a role in fulfilling those targets.
The Second Paragraph - You & The Company
Continue in the same vein while making sure that the second paragraph is not you just bragging endlessly with your achievements.
All your achievements are detailed in your resume - don't worry about that. Here, your goal is to showcase only those achievements which the recruiter or organization can deem to be useful.
Another component which we only implied till now but are explicitly mentioning only here is RESEARCH. That can be a huge deal-breaker or a life-saver, depending on which camp you fall under.
You can't fulfill the needs of the recruiter if you don't know what it is.
For instance, if you are a Software Developer who has overseen several dozen projects across your tenure, you'll only highlight those projects - more specifically achievements of those projects - which the organization can find useful.
For example, if one of your project was around developing a portal, and as part of your research, you find that the organization you're targeting is somehow targeting just that, you can go ahead and mention the same in glowing letters.
Staying relevant is the key. Otherwise you'll just look like a braggart who's full of himself.
The Third Paragraph - The Company & You
Your goal is to convince the recruiter why you want that particular job and how it's not just any generic job you are applying for - what is it about that company which makes it a perfect fit for you?
The research component that we talked about in the earlier point will reap more dividends here as well. Scan the company's website and make a list of everything which you think might be relevant.
The points here will range from the organization's interest in non-core activities (sports, environment, etc.) to strategies around its core initiatives.
The idea is to make the recruiter believe that you know everything there is to know about the company and can't wait to be a part of it.
You can research and identify any particular project which the company is targeting, or any component of its long-term plan which you think might be relevant for you. Mention that project or component and explain how with a track record like yours, you will be a killer addition to the same.
If you genuinely think that you'd be a perfect fit for the organization, it's only a matter of phrasing it correctly. Believe it or not, even the recruiter is desperately looking for people like you.
If the company is actually going to benefit from having you on-board, why won't they? An example will clear that right up:
"It is difficult to come away un-awed by the passion for excellence that XYZ has displayed in its meteoric rise to become a dominant player in this field. It’s remarkable that despite a presence in x states/countries, it values its employees & ensures a continuous learning environment. I am inspired by its collaborative working style that emphasizes upon teamwork, trust & tolerance. Hence, I consider XYZ to be my most preferred employer."
Ending the cover letter - Seal the Deal
Instead of having a generic last paragraph, you can utlize the space to include additional details which you think will further seal the deal.
The idea is to close the cover letter on such a note that the recruiter is left with no option but to contact you and schedule an interview.
You can take our advice and avoid using cliche phrases like 'thank you for your time' or 'looking forward to hearing from you'. Even if you are desperate for that job, try to not reflect the same in your cover letter.
Don't focus on your requirements. Instead, focus on how you can fulfill theirs.
"Please find enclosed my CV. Looking forward to hearing from you."
"Enclosed for your consideration is my CV. I’d appreciate the opportunity to further discuss my suitability and qualifications with you on call or in person so I can share my roadmap for reducing your costs by 20%."
Cover Letter Tips & Hacks
We cannot overstress the importance of research in drafting the perfect cover letter.
There's little sense in spending time writing a cover letter and trying to customize it without making sure that you are indeed hitting the mark. Research is how you truly tailor the cover letter in line with a particular profile and organization.
Your cover letter should ideally be a response to the Job Description. You should present yourself as someone who can single-handedly resolve all the issues which are outlined in the JD.
Look up the Hiring Manager if possible instead of addressing the cover letter to Human Resources. Researching on the specific issues and challenges which the company is facing will help if you want to scan your own achievements and assess how you can truly resolve them.
Cover letter format
A precise cover letter format will undoubtedly be a gamechanger for getting those shortlists. The cover letter format includes the structure and design in which you present the document, in addition to the basic information which goes in the same, including your contact details and job title.
In most cases, you need not experiment too much with design and structure. In top-end MNCs and official vacancies, the recruiter specifies the exact format in which to deliver the resume and cover letter. Here, be cautious. If the recruiter has asked for a particular format, submitting your application in any other format most often means immediate rejection.
Customization is the key to the perfect cover letter. There are no two ways to that.
Right from the greeting on the top to the closing paragraph, the cover letter should feel like a response to that particular job vacancy. The research part may seem gruelling to most, but believe us, it's worth it. Always.
Finding out intricate details of the company and incorporating the same in your cover letter speaks volumes. Even before you appear for the interview, the recruiter will think of you as someone who knows what s/he's doing, someone who has spent time on their application and meticulously tailored it to the job vacancy.
Going easy with customization and sending generic cover letters is a sure short recipe for disaster. You'd rather not send a cover letter at all than send a general one.
Know what to include, and what not to
The cover letter is not a register of all your achievements till date. That's your resume. Make sure you are not coming across as someone who can't perceive anything outside their own achievements.
It doesn't matter to the company if you've been a hero in your last organization. That only says that you did well at your last job. It's your task to convince the recruiter that you have the capability to replicate your successes in their organization as well.
Don't include elaborate project details and administrative responsibilities. While there's no universal consensus on the word limit, general wisdom suggests you keep it limited to 350-400 words.
Filling resume gaps
In most cases, you'll follow a standard format for your resume. There's little room in there for justifying any shortcomings. That's where the cover letter comes in.
Ranging from employment gaps to too many work profiles in a short span of time, you can use the cover letter to remove ambiguities and ensure that the recruiter does not jump to any conclusion.
A resume is your personal statement. It's filled with your details and your achievements. But the same is not the case with a cover letter. It's more about the organization which you are targeting than anything else.
Don't lie or go overboard
We felt it was important to state this despite it being something too obvious. Any decent organization knows the value of a good recruit and the cost of a bad one. They'll go at great lengths to validate each and every little thing you've mentioned in your resume and cover letter.
Which is why, don't lie.
Not only will it ruin your chances of bagging that particular role, if a company finds out you blatantly lied on your resume/cover letter, they'll spread the same in their network which might include other significant companies and recruitment agencies.
In other words, you are a goner.
All recruiters know that anyone they go on to recruit will spend 8-10 hours in their environment, interact with their teams, coordinate with their clients and what not. In other words, they aren't looking for a machine. They are looking for a living and breathing individual who'll be a team player.
Gone are the days when you had to be uptight in your tone and language. Don't confuse it with being not professional though. You can be professional without sounding like a robot.
Give a snapshot of the individual that breathes beneath the surface. It helps if the recruiter knows that you have a healthy sense of humour or are a perfect fit for the team.
Cover Letter Example
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