I bet when you see a job listing that says “cover letter optional,” you breathe a sigh of relief, happily submit your resume, and move on. But you are truly doing yourself a disservice by not including a cover letter.
When you are writing a resume you are oftentimes confined by space or by keywords. In a cover letter you have an opportunity to craft a narrative that aligns you not only with the position you are applying to but also the company you are applying to.
Whether you are writing a cover letter for a mechanical engineer or marketing manager position, an internship or a senior-level role, a startup or a Fortune 1000 company, you are going to want to tailor it to the role, company, and culture. A strong, customized cover letter will help you explain your value proposition and stand out from the stack of applicants. If there’s a gap in your resume, you have the opportunity to explain why it is there. If you are changing careers, you have the chance to describe why you are making the switch. If your resume’s pretty dull, a cover letter helps you show some personality. And yes, cover letters still get read.
We have got examples of four types of cover letters below: a traditional cover letter, an impact cover letter, a writing sample cover letter, and a career change cover letter. So let us take a look at these examples, why they work, and how you can use them to craft your own.
The Traditional Cover Letter
A traditional cover letter is similar to what you’d come up with using a position-based cover letter template. It moves in reverse chronological order through your career history, highlighting parts of your past jobs that make you well-suited for this position. You might want to use this type of cover letter if:
You are applying to a more formal company (like a law firm or major healthcare company) or a more conventional role (like a lawyer or accountant).
You want to play it safe and conservatively with your application materials.
The Cover Letter Example Here’s an example of a traditional cover letter you could write for this role—keeping things strictly professional but without sounding too boring or jargon-y:
Dear Ms. Jessica Sanchez, In my five-year career as a paralegal, I have honed my legal research and writing skills, and the attorneys I’ve worked with have complimented me on my command of case law and litigation support. Spiegel Law Firm’s 20 years in practice proves that the firm has strong values and excellent attorneys, and I’d be eager to join such a talented team. I currently serve as a paralegal for Chandler, Chandler, and Greene, where I work closely with the partners on a number of high-priority cases. During my time here, I implemented a new calendar system that ensures timely filing of court papers. This system has prevented missed deadlines and allowed for better organization of internal and client meetings. Previously, as a paralegal for the Neuerburg Law Firm, I received praise for my overall support of the legal team and my positive attitude. While working there, I came up with and implemented a plan for digitizing their old files while still ensuring security and privacy. This led to more efficiency when preparing for client meetings and legal proceedings. My further qualifications include a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University, a paralegal certificate, and training in LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Microsoft Office Suite. I would love the opportunity to discuss how I can contribute to your legal team. Thank you in advance for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you. Your sincerely, Dinesh DSouza email@example.com +97155 7435900
The Impact Cover Letter
The impact cover letter puts your accomplishments front and center rather than organizing your paragraphs by past roles. You might use a cover letter like this if:
You are applying for roles where you are expected to deliver on certain goals or results (for example, if the jobs involve sales quotas or marketing metrics).
You haven’t followed a straightforward career path and your past job titles don’t show the extent of your qualifications.
You want your personality to stand out a bit more than it might in a traditional cover letter.
The Cover Letter Example Here’s an example of an impact cover letter where the writer’s hard skills and successes stand out:
Dear Russ Roman, I have a problem. See, my inbox currently (and embarrassingly) hosts 1,500 unread emails—including newsletters from at least 50 different brands. But this problem only fuels my passion for creating emails that are worth opening. Because from my perspective, as someone who can barely get through their own stack of mail, that’s a true win. I’ve been following Vitabe for years, and can proudly say that I open every single email you send to me. I’m a sucker for a good subject line—“Take a Vitamin-ute—We’ll A-B-C You Soon” being my favorite—and the way your email content feels both fun and expert-backed really speaks to me. This is why I’m thrilled to submit my application for a role as email marketing manager at your company. I have over four years of experience working in the email marketing space. In my current role at Westside Bank, I was able to implement new email campaigns centered around reengaging churned clients. By analyzing data around the types of clients who churn and the engagement of our current email subscribers, as well as A/B testing headlines and newsletter layouts, we were able to increase email subscribers by 15% and convert 30% of those subscribers to purchase our product, a significant increase from the previous year. I also launched a “Your Credit Matters” newsletter focused on educating our clients on how they spend and manage their credit—which became our highest-performing campaign in terms of open-rates and click-through to date. Previously, as a member of the marketing team at Dream Diary Mattresses, I collaborated with the sales and product team to understand how I could best support them in hitting their quarterly goals. One specific project involving creating personalized emails for customers drew more people to come back to our site after 30 days than direct paid ad campaigns, leading to a 112% increase in revenue from the last quarter. I take the content I write and the calendars I manage seriously, editing and refining beyond detail-oriented and into meticulous territory, and I feel my experience and drive would greatly help Vitabe further develop their email program for success. Thank you very much for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. Kind Regards Dinesh DSouza firstname.lastname@example.org +97155 7435900
The Writing Sample Cover Letter
For roles where written communication is key, such as PR, copywriting, or journalism jobs, your cover letter will likely be the first writing sample your future employer sees. So it is just as important to show your skill set in action through eloquent writing. You might want to use this type of cover letter if:
Writing or editing is a key component of the role you are applying to.
You want to show off your creativity.
The Cover Letter Example Have fun with this one, but triple-check for spelling and grammar mistakes, and make sure you are
showing off your best writing:
Dear Tai Chen, Since I could walk, I’ve been dancing. And since I could read, I’ve been glued to Arabesque Weekly. At one point, you featured one of my local heroes—a ballerina who struggled with an injury early in her career and went on to become a principal dancer at Pacific Northwest Ballet—and I plastered the article above my childhood bed. It is still there today. That article—and so many others you’ve published—taught me that dancing was about more than just pirouettes and arabesques and that the right kind of writer can shed light on aspects of the art that make it surprising, impactful, and universal. I can be that writer. As an editorial assistant at TheImprovGroup.com for the past two and a half years, my main responsibility was to get all of our content ready to go live on the site. This included fact-checking, proofreading, adding in HTML where necessary, and finding photos, videos, and GIFs that would complement the content and optimize audience engagement. As I tinkered with each post, I became intimately familiar with our internal CMS. Reviewing every single article we published and following reactions and engagement helped me gain a deep understanding of what makes a piece really land with our audience. But by far my favorite aspect of this role has been writing. Each week, I pitch and write at least one article, from 250-word news items to 900-word advice pieces to even longer profiles, features, and personal essays. I love the challenge of developing pitches that align with the trends we see in the data, reflect with the company’s brand and mission, and allow me to flex my creative muscles. Collaborating with my team to form the best content library we can has been a dream come true. I would be so excited to use my experience to help Arabesque Weekly achieve its goals. And I hope to one day write a story that another little dance lover tapes to their wall forever. It would be an honor to be a part of your editorial team, and I look forward to the possibility of discussing the opportunity with you. Hoping to be your next staff writer, Kind Regards Dinesh DSouza email@example.com +97155 7435900
The Career Change Cover Letter
Cover letters can play a big part in helping career changers prove their qualifications—especially when it is unclear how their skills transfer over to this new field. You might write a career change cover letter if:
You want to highlight the transferable skills you have that relate to the job description.
You want to explain why you are making the switch and what’s driving you toward this specific industry, company, or position.
The Job Description Let’s say you are someone who has experience supporting a sales team as an administrative assistant, and you are now looking to become a sales representative. You come across a job posting that includes:
The Cover Letter Example Here’s how you might translate your past experience over to this new (and exciting) prospect:
Dear Maria Russo, The head of sales at Sunshine Inc. was in a bind. She needed six client meetings scheduled, 18 service transactions processed, and a summary of the team’s new lead generation campaign drafted before getting on a flight to Austin—in three hours. So she turned to her cool-headed, sales-savvy administrative assistant for help. That assistant was me. Not only did I execute everything on her to-do list, I did it all before her plane left the ground. For three years, I worked in lockstep with a busy, growth-oriented sales leader to support the business development team. As the sole administrative assistant in the department, I balanced a swath of competing priorities, ranging from coordinating meetings and inputting data to contacting customers, finalizing transactions, and creating promotional materials. This role helped me develop a comprehensive understanding of the sales cycle, sales strategy, and pipeline growth. Like many others, my career path hasn’t been entirely straightforward. After leaving Crabapple Media, I enrolled in a local coding boot camp. Six months later, I emerged with a certificate in computer programming and a certainty that I did not want to be a coder. But education is never wasted. I’m now an aspiring sales representative with experience supporting a thriving sales team and extensive knowledge of the tech space. Here’s a little bit more about how my experience would translate into this role:
At Crabapple Media, I assisted in coordinating three annual sales strategy rollouts, yielding an average increase in pipeline of 26% YoY.
At Sunshine Inc., I supported 12 independent team members in their lead-generation efforts. I also assisted in processing an average of 300 sales transactions every quarter.
I thrive in busy, ever-changing environments that require me to communicate clearly and concisely. Supporting a high-volume team and a busy executive helped me to hone these skills—I typically sent more than 200 emails a day!
I would, of course, love to schedule a time for us to discuss this role and my experience, and I truly want to thank you for considering me.
Kind Regards Dinesh DSouza firstname.lastname@example.org +97155 7435900
Let’s break down one of our example cover letters real quick
Check out this handy infographic that breaks down our impact cover letter.
The 3 basic elements of a cover letter
Cover letters are a little like puzzles. When you put each component in its proper place (and remove any parts that don’t fit), you create a complete picture. But even though that picture is always different (as you saw above) a lot of the types of pieces are the same.
In other words, every great cover letter includes the following elements: 1. An Engaging Opener By opener, we primarily mean your first paragraph: How you start a cover letter is everything. Your opening lines influence whether someone keeps reading—and you want them to, right? Starting with something that immediately connects you to the company is essential—something that tells the company that this is not a generic cover letter. You have to say something that tells the employer, ‘I wrote this just for you.’” It can be a childhood memory tying you back to the company’s mission. It can be a story about the time you fell in love with the company’s product. It can be an anecdote from another job or experience showing how hard of a worker you are. Whatever you decide to open with, make it memorable. 2. A Clear Pitch Use the next few paragraphs of your cover letter to hit them with the strongest results you have that are aligned with the opportunity. In other words, the part where you are “selling yourself for the position and why you are qualified for it.” If you are someone who’s transitioning careers, and you need to explain that transition, you do it there. This section should have a balance of soft and hard skills. Talk about your experience using Salesforce or doing SEO work, but also highlight your ability to lead teams and communicate effectively. Companies are embracing authenticity, they’re embracing humanity, and they are looking for people who are going to fit their culture. These values should be as much a part of your cover letter as the super specialized hard skills. 3. A Great Closing Line Your closing line could include your next steps, such as “I welcome the opportunity to speak with you more about how I can contribute to [team],” or, “I would love to schedule a time for us to discuss this role and my experience.” But more importantly, You want to make sure that you are gracious and thanking them. While seemingly cliché, it never hurts to end with a simple, “Thank you for your consideration.”
A few more cover letter tips
Here are a few more tips to help the cover letter process:
Start with a “brain dump”: If you are staring at a blank page, start by getting all your ideas on the page without paying attention to length. Then ask yourself how you can cut half of it. You’ll likely find that repeated information and very generic phrases are the first to go.
Don’t just repeat your resume: You only have so much space to get your point across, so focus on the information that isn’t stated elsewhere rather than simply regurgitating your resume.
Focus on quality over quantity. Target the jobs you are most closely drawn to and qualified for and give them all your energy, rather than trying to churn out hundreds of cover letters. You may not be able to apply to as many jobs, but you’ll have a better response rate.
Remember the ATS: Much like your resume, applicant tracking systems, or ATSs, will be sifting through your cover letter. So you’ll want to scatter relevant keywords from the job description throughout your cover letter where it makes sense.
Don’t stress over formatting: You may see flashy cover letter examples across the internet, but for the most part, it just isn’t necessary. ATSs can’t read text that has been formatted beyond using bold, italics, underline, and color, so keep your font and layout simple—especially if you are submitting your cover letter through an online portal.
Include your contact information, including your name, phone number, and email. Imagine you come across a cover letter and you print it out with a bunch of applications to review and it doesn’t have the person’s contact information on it. You never want to put yourself in a situation where you are the right person and they can’t find you.
Edit! Here’s everything you should double-check before pressing submit.
Hopefully these cover letter examples help as you go to tackle your own. Remember: This is just one small step in the process! Take your time, but learn to move on when you’ve given it your all.