Cover Letter Examples That Will Get You Noticed
Cover LettersResumes & Letters
Posted by Pamela Skillings
A strong resume cover letter can mean the difference between landing a job interview and getting passed over. Read and live by this comprehensive cover letter guide from our resume expert and professional resume writer Kimberly Sarmiento and check out her cover letter examples for inspiration.
You Really Do Need a Strong Cover Letter
You never get a second chance to make a good first impression in the job search. And in most cases, your first impression on a hiring manager begins with your resume and cover letter. If you don’t get the cover letter right, you may never get the opportunity to wow them with your new suit, confident eye contact, and compelling interview stories.
Even if you network your way into that job interview (and even if you got a great referral from one of your advocates), the hiring manager will look at your resume and/or cover letter and use them to form or influence an opinion prior to meeting you. That is why in my 2009 book, “The Complete Guide to Writing Effective Resume Cover Letters: Step by Step Instructions,” I refer to your cover letter as your handshake and your sales pitch all rolled into one.
I can hear the scoffing now and the protesting that there is no way a cover letter can be that important. “Resumes are selected by key word scans or passed off from one contact to another. No one really reads cover letters anymore, right?” Wrong.
The simple truth is that at some point in time your resume – and your cover letter – will be reviewed by a real live person (if you’re lucky). That person will be deciding whether or not you are worth their time to interview and your cover letter can help confirm that your resume goes into the “yes” pile rather than the “file for future opening” pile (or the real or digital garbage can).
Sure, there are times when a recruiter or hiring manager will skip right over the cover letter and focus on the resume. But other screeners won’t even look at your resume if the cover letter doesn’t get their attention. Why take a chance? Write a strong cover letter and you’ll know that you’re doing everything possible to get past the gatekeepers and score an interview.
If you are wondering how to write a compelling cover letter, read on for Kimberly’s advice and examples.
Three Situations When a Great Cover Letter is Even More Critical
1) When you need to include information that should NOT go into the resume
A resume is a formal business document with strict rules that must be followed. These rules include not writing in first person or including personal information like your desire to relocate.
However, there are times when you need to communicate this type of information in order to make the case for your fit for the position:
Example: Your cover letter can be used to communicate your intention to make a transition in your career or move to another city/state. Recruiters receive thousands of unqualified resumes for every position. They will look at your resume and cover letter and immediately trash them if they don’t see a fit — assuming that you are another one of those annoying applicants who applies for every job posted. This is always a challenge for career changers and individuals looking to relocate and a good cover letter can make a big difference.
Example: Your cover letter can also explain away other aspects of your particular career situation that might not be appropriate to include on your resume. For example, if you took some time away from the work force, but have kept your skills and knowledge up-to-date.
Additionally, in some job ads, the company will ask for specific information to be included in your cover letter. This technique is used to make screening easier — if someone can’t follow simple application directions, why waste time on an interview? Pay careful attention to the information they request and be sure to address it.
One problematic area is if they ask for salary requirements to be included in your cover letter. Companies make this request to help them rule out individuals with higher salary requirements than they have budgeted for the position, but it can also lock you into a lower pay range than they might offer you otherwise.
However, ignoring the request could disqualify you as well. Ergo, I suggest you research the average salary for the position you are applying to in the state of the opening and include a range slightly above and below that number.
There are several sites that have compiled census and other data information to give you a decent estimate of salaries by position in specific cities and states (Payscale is a great place to start). So if the average salary of your job is $60K for the location where you live (or want to live), list your salary requirements as $55K to $65K. Again, no salary information should be included in a resume. I typically don’t even include information about bonuses or commissions for sales representatives (just awards like President’s Club or Top 5%).
2) When you want to reference a network connection
There is no right way to include in your resume, “Our mutual associate John Smith referred me to this role and says he thinks I will make a great fit for the job opening.” That is a reference line reserved solely for the opening paragraph of a cover letter. There are multiple ways you can mention a network connection or mutual friend in a cover letter, but such a statement has no place in a resume whatsoever.
Note: In professional resume writing, it has become passé to include a list of references on your resume or even the line “references available upon request.” Such information takes up valuable real estate on your resume (which should be 1-2 pages max) and it is best to focus on your achievements and qualifications instead. Besides, the hiring managers know you will give them references when they request them.
Rather than waste space on your resume, prepare a reference sheet with the same header as your resume and give it to the interviewer at the end of your meeting.
This sheet should include the first and last name of your references, their titles and company names, city and state, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses if possible.
You can even be proactive and have letters of recommendation ready to hand the hiring manager at the end of your meeting, but don’t send them prior to that initial interview.
3) When you want to emphasize why you’re interested in the company
One way to distinguish yourself as a job candidate is to research the company you are interviewing with and talk about things you like or ask questions about the work they have coming up. This demonstrates your interest in their particular organization as opposed to them being just another job ad you responded to in your desperate attempt to find employment.
You can use your cover letter to show that you’ve done your homework and see a strong fit with the organization. Within the second or closing paragraphs of your cover letter, you can mention being interested in the specific work the company does, recent grants they have been awarded, a product they recently released, etc.
Again, this is not appropriate for inclusion on your resume, but adding it to your cover letter can help you stand out from the stack of applications the hiring manager is sorting through on the day your resume passes by him/her.
How to Write a Great Cover Letter
Hopefully I have convinced you of the importance of cover letter writing or at least how the letter can prove useful to you in certain circumstances.
But how do you write a cover letter that will open doors for you? And how do you avoid mistakes that can lead to rejection?
Please review these five simple rules for ensuring your cover letter leaves the hiring manager excited about meeting you.
1. First and foremost, the letter must be grammatically correct and error free! If you are not a particularly good writer, have someone read and edit the document for you.
2. If printed, the letter should be one page max. The letter should also be printed on high-quality paper just like your resume. In some instances, you might elect to cut and paste a cover letter into an e-mail and attach your resume. If so, you want the cover letter to be easily read with minimal scrolling. So get to the point and be succinct.
3. The letter should include examples of your qualifications. You can write a cover letter in paragraph or bulleted formats, but either way, you should include examples of your achievements and credentials. While you want to be brief, you also want to encourage the reader to review your resume for greater detail.
The best way to do that is to call out two or three things that you have done professionally to catch their attention and make them want to know more about you. Make sure you customize the letter to highlight the achievements most relevant for each position.
4. Your letter should address a specific person. Whenever possible, do some research and find out the person’s name who will be reading your cover letter. This is a minor detail and some hiring managers won’t care, but it can distinguish you from your competition all the same. More importantly, don’t send an obviously-generic letter that has not been customized for the company/position.
5. Your letter should end with a call to action. When you close your letter, be sure to ask for a meeting. It is obvious that you want an interview when you submit a cover letter and resume, but job hunting is usually helped along with a proactive approach. Therefore, at every point in the application process you should seek to move yourself along to the next stage of consideration.
The cover letter is the first instance of this, so don’t miss an opportunity to encourage a meeting with the hiring manager at the close of your letter. Also be sure to thank them for their time and consideration.
Cover Letter Examples
Check out Kimberly’s cover letter examples to see and learn from the methods that have worked for her resume writing clients.
Cover Letter Example 1: Returning to Work after a Job Gap/Relocation
Dear Principal Townson:
With five years of experience in teaching high school and a master’s degree in Chemistry, I believe I am an ideal candidate to fill the science teaching position you have open with the retirement of Stacy Jones. My teaching experience was at John Smith High School in Smallville, NJ before my husband and I moved here seven years ago. While there, I taught all levels of Chemistry and helped host the science fair each year.
When we moved here, I was pregnant with my oldest. Now that my youngest has started kindergarten, I am eager to return to the workforce. Although I focused on my family these last seven years and have not worked for pay, I kept up with developments in teaching and chemistry by reading literature and attending conferences hosted by the American Association of High School Science Instructors. I have also volunteered my time at the community center, tutoring all level of students in general sciences.
I look forward to raising my children in this community and someday teaching them at Rosewood High School. Please review my attached resume. I will be contacting you next week to schedule an interview. Thank you for your consideration.
Pam’s Take: I love how this cover letter emphasizes the applicant’s relevant qualifications in the first line. This puts the emphasis on her ability to do the job and not the fact that she’s returning to work after several years as a stay-at-home parent. Later, she briefly explains her break and how she has kept current. Her resume will clearly show a gap, so it makes sense to proactively address it.
Cover Letter Example 2: Transitioning Careers
Dear Ms. Garcia,
Blending a formal background in marketing with proven success in retail sales and customer service roles, I am looking to transition into public relations and believe I would make a great fit for the advertised position of Public Relations Specialist at your company.
Having both used and sold your products, I am already well versed in your brand and both present and past years’ offerings. I have followed with excitement as you launched in European and Asian markets and incorporated an international feel into your product line. I would bring both passion and expertise to championing your company with the press and public.
I am already trained in creating buzz and awareness through social media channels including Twitter and Facebook. When my sales team decided to participate in Walk for a Cure three years ago, we used social media to heighten our sponsorship support and raised more than $20K for the event.
Confident my transferable skills make me a solid candidate for this opening, I respectfully submit my resume for your review and request a meeting to discuss the opportunity further. I will make myself available at your convenience and look forward to your call to arrange a time. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Pam’s Take: This candidate leads off with a strong statement about her career change goal and her fit for the specific position at hand. She uses the rest of the letter to discuss her interest in the company and some of her key transferable skills/experience.
Cover Letter Example 3: Entry Level
Dear Ms. Morris:
I am writing in response to your listing in the Memphis Gazette for a nurse’s aide. Please accept my enclosed resume for consideration.
As a CPR-certified lifeguard and a LPN student at Memphis Community College, I have the formal training necessary for this position. Additionally, with two years of experience in retail sales, I have excellent customer service skills that can translate well to patient relations.
After you have reviewed my resume, I hope to meet with you to discuss how I can be beneficial to your team. I look forward to hearing from you to schedule an interview at your earliest convenience.
Pam’s Take: Nice concise approach for an entry-level candidate. She doesn’t have years of nursing experience to point to, so she highlights her training and how her non-nursing work experience has also helped to prepare her.
Cover Letter Example 4: Professional
Dear Mr. Carter,
As an Accounts Payable & Receivable Specialist, I offer a proven ability to accurately process invoices, payments, reimbursements, and tax reports. I quickly learn and adapt to software changes and updates and help team members resolve issues and problems they are having with data input and processing.
Examples of my accomplishments include:
• Handled biweekly accounts payable processing of checks and ACH payments; reconciled payments made to accounts payable software and addressed any discrepancies that arose.
• Created a spreadsheet that listed bank and routing numbers to expedite processing of expense reports.
• Uploaded and reconciled monthly phone bills for approximately 200 branches and 4 operational centers; total billing amounts were coded for various departments and branches as required.
Confident I will prove valuable to your company, I respectfully submit my resume for your review. I would also like to request a personal meeting to discuss your upcoming goals and how I can help you achieve them. I will make myself available at your convenience and look forward to your call. Thank you for your consideration.
Pam’s Take: For an experienced candidate, a bit more detail is expected. This candidate customized the bullet points to specifically communicate his experience with the position responsibilities listed in the job description.
Cover Letter Example 5: Manager
Dear Ms. Nguyen,
As a Human Resources Manager with a strong customer service background, I offer expertise in employee relations, benefits administration, and generalist duties. I have made significant contributions in succession planning and workforce engagement as well as ensuring compliance with employment and labor requirements.
I am also known for my ability to help identify and implement key technology and process improvements. I am well-versed in Six Sigma methods and have lead projects which produced significant and sustainable savings. Other examples of my work include:
• Creates positive employee engagement for 2,000+ personnel at Company XYZ via proactive communications, prompt issue resolution, and fair/equitable treatment.
• Led Six Sigma project related to FMLA administration and online orientation programs for Lean Belt training.
• Proved instrumental in the deployment of an E-recruitment system that serviced a Fortune 200 company; defined policies, procedures, and communication planning for the project.
Confident I will make a positive impact on your organization, I respectfully submit my résumé for your review. I would also like to request a personal meeting to discuss your goals for this position and my potential contributions. I will be available at your convenience and look forward to your call to arrange a time. Thank you for your consideration.
Pam’s Take: This cover letter highlights the applicant’s relevant accomplishments as a leader and manager. It goes beyond stating familiarity with the required job duties and emphasizes results in key projects. Remember that you don’t want to copy and paste your whole resume into the cover letter. Think about the key selling points that you want to feature prominently. The goal is to make them excited to learn more about you.
Cover Letter Example 6: Senior-Level Executive
As a Senior-Level Finance & Operations Executive, I offer proven success in maximizing productivity and improving profit margins. My work spans companies and business units at various stages of growth, including start-up, established, and turnaround settings.
Believing profitability requires strong revenue generation and cost controls, I monitor budgets and sales performance closely to identify areas for improvement. I am known for enhancing overall performance through technology upgrades, advanced employee training, and implementation of best practices.
Examples of my work include:
• Drove successful launch of start-up company by hiring a talent team, defining product development plans, and leading go-to-market strategies to achieve $35M+ revenue and 50% margins within two years.
• Managed daily operations of a $150M subsidiary that provided a complete suite of manufacturing solutions in the US and Canada; improved profit margins on overall product line 10%.
• Proved vital to reorganization leadership that cumulated in a 10% productivity improvement in the sales and service organization and a 20% improvement in support organizations.
As CPA and MBA, I am confident I will prove valuable to your company and respectfully submit my resume for your review. I would also like to request a personal meeting to discuss your upcoming goals and how I can help you achieve them. I will make myself available at your convenience and look forward to your call. Thank you for your consideration.
Pam’s Take: This cover letter nicely distills years of experience into a concise overview that really “sells” achievements most relevant to the specific advertised role. Each bullet presents a compelling high-level overview of a specific position, complete with impressive data points. It’s hard to be this concise when talking about a long career! However, a concise letter is always more effective — make the most exciting information jump out of the letter and grab the recruiter’s attention.
Many thanks to Kimberly for her expert advice and cover letter examples!
Have other thoughts on what would make a great cover letter? Leave a comment below.
Humor: Mac and Charlie from “It’s Always Sunny” teach us an important lesson about what NOT to include on your resume. Enjoy!
Main Photo Credit: Arslan
Pamela Skillings is co-founder of Big Interview. As an interview coach, she has helped her clients land dream jobs at companies including Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase. She also has more than 15 years of experience training and advising managers at organizations from American Express to the City of New York. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and an instructor at the American Management Association.
Traditional cover letter wisdom tells you to start a cover letter with something to the effect of:
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am writing to apply for the position of Marketing Manager with the Thomas Company.
We say: The days of cookie cutter cover letter intros are long gone.
Here’s the thing: Your cover letter is the best way to introduce to the hiring manager who you are, what you have to offer, and why you want the job—but you have an extremely limited amount of time to do all of those things. So, if you really want to get noticed, you’ve got to start right off the bat with something that grabs your reader’s attention.
What do we mean? Well, we won’t just tell you, we’ll show you—with 31 examples of original cover letter introductions. We don’t recommend copying and pasting them because, well, your cover letter should be unique to your stories, background, and interests, but you can most definitely use them to get inspired for your next application.
Don't worry—we've got you covered.
Career Coach to the rescue!
Start With a Passion
Many companies say that they’re looking for people who not only have the skills to do the job, but who are truly passionate about what they’re spending their time on every day. If that’s what your dream company is really looking for (hint: read the job description), try an intro that shows off why you’re so excited to be part of the team.
- If truly loving data is wrong, I don’t want to be right. It seems like the rest of the team at Chartbeat feels the same way—and that’s just one of the reasons why I think I’d be the perfect next hire for your sales team.
I’ve been giving my friends and family free style advice since I was 10, and recently decided it’s time I get paid for it. That’s why I couldn’t believe it when I found a personal stylist position at J. Hilburn.
After about three years of trying out different roles at early-stage startups around San Francisco, watching more “find your passion” keynotes than I’d like to admit, and assuring my parents that, yes, I really do have a real job, I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I’m only really good at two things: writing great content and getting it out into the world.
When I was growing up, all I wanted to be was one of those people who pretend to be statues on the street. Thankfully, my career goals have become a little more aspirational over the years, but I love to draw a crowd and entertain the masses—passions that make me the perfect community manager.
When I graduated from Ohio State last May, my career counselor gave me what I consider to be some pretty bad advice: “Just get any job, and figure the rest out later.” While I think I could have gained good transferrable skills and on-the-job experience anywhere, I wanted to make sure my first step gave me opportunities for professional development, mentorship, and rotations through different departments. Enter: Verizon.
The other day, I took a career assessment, which told me I should be a maritime merchant. I’m not quite sure what that is, but it did get me thinking: A role that combines my skills in business development with my lifelong passion for the ocean would be my absolute dream. Which is how I found this role at Royal Caribbean.
Start With Your Love for the Company
Similarly, many companies want to hire people who already know, love, eat, and sleep their brand. And in these cases, what better to kick off your cover letter than a little flattery? Bonus points if you can tell a story—studies show that stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts alone.
Of course, remember when you’re telling a company why you love it to be specific and genuine. Because, um, no one likes an overly crazed fangirl.
- I pretty much spent my childhood in the cheap seats at Cubs games, snacking on popcorn and cheering on the team with my grandfather. It’s that passion that’s shaped my career—from helping to establish the sports marketing major at my university to leading a college baseball team to an undefeated season as assistant coach—and what led me to apply for this position at the Chicago Cubs.
Most candidates are drawn to startups for the free food, bean bag chairs, and loose dress code. And while all of those things sound awesome coming from my all-too-corporate cubicle, what really attracted me to Factual is the collaborative, international team.
It was Rudy, my Golden Retriever, who first found the operations assistant opening (he’s really excited about the prospect of coming to work with me every day). But as I learned more about Zoosk and what it is doing to transform the mobile dating space, I couldn’t help but get excited to be part of the team, too.
When I was seven, I wanted to be the GEICO gecko when I grew up. I eventually realized that wasn’t an option, but you can imagine my excitement when I came across the events manager position, which would have me working side by side with my favorite company mascot.
When I attended Austin Film Festival for the first time last month, I didn’t want to leave. So I decided I shouldn’t—and immediately went to check out job openings at the company.
If I could make the NYC apartment rental process better for just one person, I would feel like the horrors of my recent search would all be worth it. So, a customer service role at RentHop, where I could do it every day? I can’t think of anything more fulfilling.
Having grown up with the Cincinnati Zoo (literally) in my backyard, I understand firsthand how you’ve earned your reputation as one of the most family-friendly venues in the State of Ohio. For 20 years, I’ve been impressed as your customer; now I want to impress visitors in the same way your team has so graciously done for me. (Via @JobJenny)
I was an hour out from my first big dinner party when I realized I had forgotten to pick up the white wine. In a panic, I started Googling grocery delivery services, and that’s when I first stumbled across Instacart. I’ve been hooked ever since, so I couldn’t help but get excited by the idea of bringing the amazingness of Instacart to shoddy planners like me as your next social media and community manager.
Though I’m happily employed as a marketing manager for OHC, seeing the job description for Warby Parker’s PR director stopped me in my tracks. I’ve been a Warby glasses wearer for many years, and have always been impressed by the way the company treats its customers, employees, and the community at large.
Start With an Attribute or Accomplishment
The unfortunate reality of the job hunting process is that, for any given job, you’re going to be competing with a lot of other people—presumably, a lot of other similarly qualified people. So, a great way to stand out in your cover letter is to highlight something about yourself—a character trait, an accomplishment, a really impressive skill—that’ll quickly show how you stand out among other applications.
- My last boss once told me that my phone manner could probably diffuse an international hostage situation. I’ve always had a knack for communicating with people—the easygoing and the difficult alike—and I’d love to bring that skill to the office manager position at Shutterstock.
Among my colleagues, I’m known as the one who can pick up the pieces, no matter what amount of you-know-what hits the fan. Which is why I think there’s no one better to fill Birchbox’s customer service leader position.
Last December, I ousted our company’s top salesperson from his spot—and he hasn’t seen it since. Which means, I’m ready for my next big challenge, and the sales manager role at LivingSocial just might be it.
After spending three years managing the internal communications for a 2,000-person company, I could plan a quarterly town hall or draft an inter-office memo in my sleep. What I want to do next? Put that experience to work consulting executives on their communications strategy.
While you won’t find the title “community manager” listed on my resume, I’ve actually been bringing people together online and off for three years while running my own blog and series of Meetups.
If you’re looking for someone who can follow orders to the T and doesn’t like to rock the boat, I’m probably not the right candidate. But if you need someone who can dig in to data, see what’s working (and what’s not), and challenge the status quo, let’s talk.
Ever since my first job at Dairy Queen (yes, they DO let you eat the ice cream!) I’ve been career-focused. I completed my first internship with a professional football team while I was still in college. I was hired full-time as soon as I graduated, and within six months I was promoted into a brand new department. I thought I knew it all. But as I’ve progressed in my career, I finally realized…I absolutely do not. Shocker, right? Enter The Muse. (Via @Kararuns729).
You might be wondering what a 15-year veteran of the accounting world is doing applying to an operations role at a food startup like ZeroCater. While I agree the shift is a little strange, I know you’re looking for someone who’s equal parts foodie and financial guru, and I think that means I’m your guy.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve built my career on one simple principle: Work smarter. I’m the person who looks for inefficient procedures, finds ways to streamline them, and consistently strives to boost the productivity of everyone around me. It’s what’s earned me three promotions in the supply chain department at my current company, and it’s what I know I can do as the new operations analyst for SevOne.
Start With Humor or Creativity
OK, before you read any of these, we feel we have to stamp them with a big disclaimer: Do your homework before trying anything like this—learning everything you can about the company, the hiring manager, and whether or not they’ll appreciate some sass or snark. If they do, it’s a great way to make them smile (then call you). If they don’t? Well, better luck next time.
- I’m interested in the freelance writer position. But before I blow you away with all the reasons I’m going to be your next writer, I would like to tell you a little about myself: I didn’t grow hair until I was about five years old, which made everyone who crossed my stroller’s path believe me to be a boy (my name is Casey, which definitely didn’t help). Hope I got your attention. (Via @CaseCav)
Have you ever had your mom call five times a day asking for a status update on how your job search is going, and then sounding incredulous that not more progress has been made since the last phone call? That’s my life right now. But I’m hoping that soon my life will revolve around being your full-time social media manager. The good news is, I bring more to the table than just an overbearing mom. Let me tell you more.
Thank you so much for offering me the marketing manager position at Airbnb! I wholeheartedly accept. OK, I know we’re not quite there yet. But if we were, here are just a few ideas of what I would do once in the role.
You’ve slept on it. You’ve made lists of pros and cons. You’ve talked to your life coach, your hairdresser, and every barista on your block. So why haven’t you made your decision yet? When you’re looking for advice, what you need is not more, but better. If you’re constantly plagued with tough career decisions and presentation-day butterflies, you need an advocate, a listener, and sometimes, a kick in the pants. You need Rachel Elizabeth Maley. (Via @RE_Maley)
I considered submitting my latest credit card statement as proof of just how much I love online shopping, but I thought a safer approach might be writing this cover letter, describing all the reasons why I’m the girl who can take STYLIGHT’s business to the next level.
I never thought that accidentally dropping my iPhone out of a second story window would change my life (it’s a funny story—ask me about it). But thanks to my misfortune, I discovered iCracked—and found my dream job as an expansion associate.
If we were playing “Two Truths and a Lie,” I’d say the following: I’ve exceeded my sales quotas by at least 20% every quarter this year, I once won an international pie-eating contest, and I have an amazing job at Yext. The last, of course, is the lie. For now.
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