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Nobody likes writing cover letters, but the reality is that employers still depend on them to evaluate you as a candidate.

That’s why it’s essential to know how to write a strong cover letter that highlights your qualifications and skills.

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a formal one-page document you submit with your CV for a job application. A good cover letter demonstrates why you’re the ideal candidate for the role by providing employers with greater detail about your qualifications, skills, and experience.

A cover letter’s purpose is to introduce yourself formally to a company, provide context for your application, and explain why you’re a good fit.

What to include in a cover letter

Here’s a copy-and-paste cover letter format that shows you everything you need to include in your cover letter:

Basic cover letter template

1. Header

YOUR NAME

2. Contact information & date

Your address
your.email@gmail.com
07123 456 789

Today’s Date

Contact Person’s Name
Company name
Company address
07023 776 766
contact.person@gmail.com

3. Salutation

Dear [Mr/Ms/Mx] [Contact Person’s Name],

4. Introductory paragraph

The first paragraph should be a self-introduction. Write about who you are, where your expertise lies, where you found the job advert, and why you’re applying for the job.

5. Body paragraphs

The second paragraph should respond directly to the job advert. Describe how your previous work experience, skills, and qualifications mean you meet the company’s needs. To make that easier, include words and phrases from the job advert in your cover letter.

  • You can include a bulleted list of your accomplishments
  • Make sure you quantify (add numbers to) these bullet points
  • A cover letter with numbers is 100% better than one without

To go the extra mile, research the company and find out their activities and goals given the current state of their industry. Explain how you can fit into that plan and help the company achieve its objectives.

6. Closing paragraph

The final paragraph is the “call to action” part of your cover letter. Tell the employer that you’d love to have an interview. Repeat your email address and phone number. Then, thank them for taking the time to read your cover letter.

7. Sign-off

Yours sincerely,

 

[Your Name]

 

Below, we’ll explain what to include in each section of your cover letter in more detail.

How to write a cover letter in seven steps

Now that you know what goes in a cover letter, here are seven steps for writing one that’ll impress even the pickiest HR manager:

1. Write your contact information and a proper salutation

An example of how to write a cover letter heading highlighted by an orange box with a white arrow pointing at it from the upper right corner

Place your name and contact details in the header of your cover letter, where they’ll be noticed right away.

List the following contact details at the top of your cover letter:

  • first and last name
  • phone number
  • email address (make sure it’s professional)
  • location (it’s no longer necessary to include a postal address, but employers likely want to know you’re near the company)

You can also add links to relevant web pages, such as your LinkedIn profile, online portfolio, or blog.

Underneath your name and contact information, list the date and the hiring manager’s information, including their:

  • name (if you have it)
  • company name
  • company address
  • company phone number
  • email

Greet the reader with a proper salutation

An example of how to address your cover letter highlighted by an orange box with a white arrow pointing at it from the upper right corner

Then, you formally start your cover letter by addressing the employer by name, like so:

Cover letter salutation

Dear Mr/Ms/Mx [Contact Person’s Surname],

If you can’t find a contact person’s name in the job advert, you may need to do a little research. In this situation, you should:

  • check the company’s website or LinkedIn to see who’s the department head for the role
  • ring the company and ask who you should address your specific job application to

If you can’t find a contact person, you can address your cover letter using a position title or department name:

What to do if you don't know the contact person's name

Dear Sales Director,

Dear Engineering Team,

Dear Head of Marketing,

Dear Accounting Department,

Dear Human Resources Manager,

Dear Hiring Manager,

2. Open with an introductory paragraph tailored to the role

An example of how to write a cover letter's opening paragraph highlighted by an orange box with a white arrow pointing at it from the upper right corner

Get the employer’s interest by starting your cover letter with a concise yet targeted first paragraph that includes the following information:

  • Who you are: briefly describe your professional background.
  • The job title: the name of the company and the position you’re applying for.
  • How you discovered the opening: where you saw the job advert (employers appreciate having this information so they can track their success on different hiring platforms).
  • Your interest in the position: your enthusiasm for the role and what drove you to apply (especially if you’re writing a career change cover letter).
  • What makes you qualified: briefly describe how you’re qualified for the role – whether that means mentioning an outstanding achievement, your key skills, or areas of expertise.d

That might sound like a lot to squeeze into an opening paragraph, but if you keep everything concise it’s doable. Here’s an example of an opening paragraph that’s tailored for the company:

Example of a tailored opening paragraph

I was excited to see the Business Analyst position at Harborough’s currently being advertised on Reed.co.uk. As an experienced business analyst with over four years of experience optimising processes, evaluating risk, and analysing operations, I’m confident that I’d be a perfect fit for the role.

Additionally, if you were referred to the job by someone working there, clearly state that referral in your cover letter introduction. Mentioning a referral can significantly increase your chances of landing an interview.

3. Explain why you’re the best candidate for the job

An example of a few cover letter body paragraphs highlighted by an orange box with a white arrow pointing at it from the upper right corner

Your second and third paragraphs should explain why you’re a good fit for the job by highlighting examples of your relevant experience, skills, and qualifications.

Here are some details you can discuss in your body paragraphs to show employers the value you bring:

  • Achievements: Exceeded your sales goals at work or finished a major project at university? Highlight accomplishments like those in your cover letter.
  • Awards: Mention any awards you received at school, university, or work.
  • Praise: Have your employers praised you for your work? Use your cover letter to showcase moments your contributions were applauded.

Consider adding a short bulleted list to highlight your most impressive accomplishments. Bullets will make your achievements stand out on the page and will break up text, making your cover letter easier to read.

Any accomplishments on your cover letter should be directly relevant to the job you want or demonstrate transferable skills that would be useful for the position.

Here’s an example of how to effectively demonstrate your achievements and relate them back to the job requirements in the body of your cover letter:

Example of how to show your experience matches the role

Your job description mentions that you’re looking for a candidate who has experience with agile methodologies such as Kanban. For the last two years, I’ve been working as a business analyst at Stafford Tech, where I’ve used Kanban extensively to streamline output. In fact, last year, Stafford’s newest app was released 4 months ahead of schedule due to a more efficient task management system that I helped implement.

Additionally, I’m highly adept at identifying points of inefficiency in business processes. For example, in my previous role I managed to reduce development costs by 20% by creating a plan to merge several features our team was working on into one centralised product.

I’m confident that my adaptability, work ethic, and successful track record in business analysis make me an ideal candidate for the position at Harborough’s.

Note how the applicant who wrote this example uses hard numbers to make their achievements stand out to the employer.

You should also use data to achieve the same effect when you write your cover letter. For example, you could specify how much money you saved a client or how many new employees you trained.

4. Sell your candidacy by researching the company

To maximize the impact of your body paragraphs, research the employer so you know exactly what they’re looking for in their ideal applicant.

Ask yourself the following questions before writing your cover letter

  • What is the company culture like? Traditional? Laid-back? Collaborative? Independent?
  • What kind of voice is the job posting written in? Is it sober and professional? Energetic? Humorous?
  • What does the job description say about the company culture, work environment, or team dynamics?

In addition to the job description, check these resources to deepen your understanding of the employer:

  • the ‘About Us’ page on their official website
  • their social media accounts
  • company review sites like Glassdoor

Once you’ve developed your understanding of the company, you can write your cover letter using a suitable tone and position yourself as the candidate that will meet the company’s needs.

5. Thank the employer and let them know how to reach you

An example of a proper cover letter ending paragraph highlighted by an orange box with a white arrow pointing at it from the upper right corner

To write a good closing paragraph for your cover letter, thank the employer for reading your letter and mention how they can contact you.

Additionally, you can repeat your phone number and email address to make it easier for the interviewer to get in touch.

Need help writing your cover letter? You can get a fully-crafted and expertly designed cover letter in minutes by answering a few questions in our cover letter builder.

6. Finish with a professional sign-off

An example of how to write a cover letter's sign-off highlighted by an orange box with a white arrow pointing at it from the upper right corner

Finally, close your cover letter by writing a polite sign-off followed by your name.

The rules for cover letter sign-offs are simple:

  • if you addressed the reader by name (for example, ‘Dear Ms Stephanopolous,’) then end with ‘Yours sincerely,
  • if you used a job title (‘Dear Sales Manager,’) or generic greeting (‘Dear Sir or Madam,’) then end with ‘Yours faithfully,

This distinction might seem minor, but applying proper letter-writing etiquette when ending your cover letter shows the reader that you’re a professional.

7. Check your cover letter formatting

Here are some expert tips to make sure your cover letter looks professional:

  • Include a header that features your name in a large font and makes your contact information easy to see
  • Pick an easy-to-read cover letter font (Arial or Georgia, for example)
  • Right-align the date at the top of the page.
  • Set your margins between 1.27–2.5 cm to maintain a professional balance of white space and text.
  • Use 1–1.15 line spacing to make text easy to read.
  • Keep it to one page or less. One page gives you plenty of space to make a strong first impression on the reader without taking too much of their time.

If formatting your cover letter seems like a hassle, you can save time by choosing a pre-formatted cover letter template.

Lastly: always proofread your cover letter. One typo is enough to make a recruiter view you as unprofessional. So edit your cover letter, ask a friend to proofread it with fresh eyes, and then edit it again to make sure it’s perfect.

Effective cover letter example

Now that you know the basics of how to write a good cover letter, here’s an example that demonstrates how to put these lessons into practice:

Example of a cover letter with a bold header, well-written cover letter body paragraphs, and a professional sign off.

Download Cover Letter Example

Why this example works

  • layout is clean and professional, with a header that highlights the candidate’s name and contact information
  • opening paragraph describes the candidate’s interest in the role as well as their main qualifications
  • effectively highlights the applicant’s independent study experience to show how they’re prepared for the responsibilities of a professional role
  • closing paragraph thanks the hiring manager for their time and lets them know how to contact the candidate

Want to see more examples? Check out our cover letter examples that show you how to write a great cover letter no matter your profession or level of experience.

Frequently asked questions about cover letter writing

Below are expert answers to four of the most commonly asked questions about how to write a cover letter:

1. What should a cover letter look like

A cover letter should look like a standard UK business letter, including:

  • a professional header
  • the date (right-aligned)
  • the recipient’s name and contact information
  • a salutation
  • 2–3 body paragraphs
  • a sign-off (signature optional)

Here’s an example:

The Canterbury cover letter template in orange.

Use This Template

2. Should my cover letter match my CV?

Yes, your cover letter should match your CV. So make sure you use the same formatting and contact information as your cover letter when you write your CV. And if you’re using a cover letter template, find one that has a matching CV template.

Unsure how to write a professional CV? Learning how to write an effective curriculum vitae will help you boost your application. Or you can use a good CV maker that uses AI to write and format your CV for you.

3. How do you write a cover letter for beginners?

If you’re writing a cover letter for the first time, here’s how you can get a hiring manager’s attention even without a ton of work experience:

  • express your interest and enthusiasm in the role and discuss what skills you hope to learn and develop (and how those skills contribute to company goals)
  • describe the relevant experiences you do have, such as your education and coursework, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, independent projects, and hobbies
  • frame your experiences in ways that highlight your transferable skills and what you’re capable of achieving (for example, you could discuss an academic project you worked on and what the outcome was)
  • demonstrate your motivation and dedication by discussing how your career goals align with the company mission and vision

4. How long does it take to write a cover letter?

How long it takes to write a cover letter depends on:

  • how comfortable you are with writing
  • if you have experience writing cover letters
  • how much you want the position (you should devote more time to jobs you’re more interested in)

If the deadline to submit your cover letter is soon, you can write a cover letter in as little as 20 minutes, for example, if writing a short cover letter or using AI to write your cover letter.

But to maximise the number of cover letters you send out while making sure each one is well-written and customised, plan to spend roughly 1 hour per cover letter. One way to write a cover letter in 1 hour is to split your time evenly among researching the company, writing the first draft, and editing your cover letter.

Headshot of Corissa Peterson, standing in front of a bush and smiling slightly, with short brown hair.

Corissa is a Career Counsellor and CV Expert at CV Genius, where she loves equipping others with the tools they need to pursue their dreams. She graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Philosophy and a certificate in Peace and Conflict Studies. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer with the PARWCC.