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The Importance of Cover Letters and How to Write One That Gets Noticed

When applying for a job, sending a thoughtful cover letter along with your résumé allows you to introduce yourself to an organization and helps the recruiter or hiring manager understand why you’d be a great fit. The goal is to showcase your achievements, skills, and personality — and intrigue them enough that they want to talk to you.

Do I really need a cover letter?

They’re called “cover” letters because, in the olden days of applying for jobs via snail mail, you would include the letter on top of your résumé to explain what job you were applying to. 

So, in today’s digital world, are cover letters even relevant anymore? 

Yes, they absolutely are.

In fact, many recruiters and hiring managers will actually throw out applications that don’t include a cover letter. You could be the perfect candidate with a fantastic résumé that a company will never even look at simply because you didn’t take the time to include a cover letter.

The cover letter goes beyond a résumé or LinkedIn profile 

Think of it this way: Your résumé lists your qualifications, while a cover letter allows you to provide context. You can explain why those skills and experiences make you a great candidate for a particular role and share why you’re so motivated to join the company. 

Your resume provides the facts, while your cover letter shows your personality and allows you to make a memorable impression on the person reading it, which can make or break whether or not you get called back.

Depending on how desirable a particular company or open position is, the recruiter may get hundreds or even thousands of applications to sift through. Even sending a mediocre cover letter can give you an advantage by ensuring your application isn’t immediately thrown out. A great cover letter can help you stand out from the crowd and make it to the top of the interview list.

Need résumé writing tips? Check out this blog >

What to include in your cover letter

There is no official right or wrong way to write or format a cover letter, but there are a few things that are proven to be helpful to include, such as:

  • A strong and memorable introduction
  • Specific examples of your accomplishments (relevant to the job)
  • An explanation of how your skills meet the job requirements
  • An honest explanation of why you want to work at the organization 
  • A clear call to action (be sure all your contact information is included!)

When you write your cover letter, it should sound professional but also conversational — like how you would talk to the hiring manager in person. You should also consider the company you’re applying to and its culture, to appropriately cater the tone of your letter.

For example, if you’re applying to a law firm, you probably want your tone to be more formal. For a tech startup, you may want to use more positive and “high-energy” language.

Here are a few additional tips for writing your cover letter:

  • Use the requirements listed in the job description to shape the experiences and accomplishments you choose to include.
  • Keep your cover letter scannable and concise; limit it to one page if possible.
  • Write original content — don’t just copy and paste things over from your résumé or LinkedIn profile. 
  • Proofread your cover letter and have a friend or family member proofread it too. Both your cover letter and résumé should have ZERO typos or grammatical errors. (Tools like Grammarly can also be used to check for mistakes and can even help you improve the quality of your writing.)

Customize your cover letter for each job you apply to

While copying and pasting the same cover letter for each job you apply to saves a lot of time, sending a generic cover letter can hurt your chances of getting an interview. 

You may be able to reuse or repurpose some of your content, especially if you’re applying to very similar jobs and companies. But it’s important to take the time to really customize each cover letter to the individual company and role, to show that you’re truly interested in working there (and not just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks).

Research the companies you’re applying to and learn about their market, competitors, and any recent news. Look on LinkedIn to see what kinds of things a company and its employees post about to get a feel for the culture. You can even reference some of these nuggets in your cover letter. 

For example, if the company was recently named a “best place to work,” you can mention that that made you even more excited to join the team.

Tell stories that hiring managers will remember

People don’t remember bullet points on a résumé, but they do remember stories. Using storytelling to explain pivotal career moments or relevant experiences will help you stand out in a hiring manager’s mind. Your cover letter is the best (and often only) place to tell your story.

Again, remember to reference the job description and your company research when deciding which stories to tell, and use those stories to illustrate your skills, competencies, and how you handle difficult situations.

Where to find cover letter examples and templates

There are many examples and templates available online that you can follow or use for inspiration when crafting your cover letter. 

Editable templates are provided within the content creation software you’re probably already using, like Google Docs and Microsoft Word. Online platforms like Canva also offer some great cover letter templates that you can customize with different images and styles, and many are free when you create a free account. 

This example includes a few minimal design elements to add interest and a photo (which is optional to include in your cover letter). Juliana used bullets to highlight her skills and achievements, making it easier for a recruiter or hiring manager to scan.

Cover letter template from

What if I don’t have much work experience to talk about?

If you’re a recent graduate with minimal relevant work experience, you can still highlight your transferable skills and interest in the job in your cover letter. In her article for The Muse, Meredith Pepin offers some helpful tips on writing a cover letter as a recent grad: 

“Having recently graduated, you may be applying to your very first full-time job or trying to get your foot in the door in a role or field you don’t have direct experience in. That’s OK! College classes, internships, research experiences, part-time jobs, work-study programs, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and personal projects can all be used as examples to back up and show your value to the employer.”

(If you’re an Alpha Kappa Psi alum, don’t forget to include some examples of your experience as a member and how it helped shape who you are as a professional!)

Get ready for those interviews

Now that you know how to write a great cover letter, you’re sure to start hearing back from potential future employers. Check out these blogs to help you knock their socks off at the interview:

So, You Got the Job Interview? Here’s How to Prepare

7 Proven Tips For Nailing Your Next Job Interview