Writing cover letters is tough. It can also feel confusing—extremely confusing.

What are you supposed to say to someone you’ve never met? How are you supposed to “sell” yourself and your abilities? Is there a way to “sell” yourself while still sounding humble and likable?

As a job searcher, cover letters can make or break your chances of taking that next step. But if that white piece of paper (metaphorically) staring back at you causes anxiety, then you aren’t alone.

That’s why this post will answer your question, “What do you put in a cover letter?”

The Basics

Let’s start with the basics. Cover letters are comprised of five sections:

The contact information. Make sure to include your full name, address, phone number, and area code.

The greeting. If possible, learn the name of the hiring manager, so you can use it in your greeting. This will show that you did your research and personalized your cover letter.

The opening. Try your best to learn the name of the hiring manager. Including this will show that you’ve done your research and put some time into customizing your cover letter.

The body. This section should answer questions about why you’re writing, what you’re offering, and what you know about the company.

The closing. Thank the hiring manager for their time and direct their attention to any attachments, such as a portfolio. 

You can learn more about the basics in our Cover Letter Writing Guide or get instant feedback with Jobscan’s cover letter checker.

Three Essential Details to Put in Your Cover Letter

Now let’s dive deeper. What specifics are hiring managers looking for? Measurable results, knowledge of the company, and what you can uniquely bring to the organization and the role.

Measurable results

When it comes to cover letters, it’s not enough to say that you did something. Remember, the average role receives around 250 resumes, so you need to stand out. The best way to do this is to make sure your results are measurable. 

By including measurable results, you aren’t just telling the hiring manager that you achieved specific goals. Instead, you are showing them exactly what you achieved and the extent of your accomplishments.

Examples:

Generic (okay):

“I led the marketing team in reaching new audiences with increased social media engagement, including the post with the most engagement in company history.”

Specific (better):

“With an average of 1200 engagements per organic social post, I led the marketing team to reach new audiences. In fact, my post about vacationing in Mexico [LINK TO POST] received the highest engagement in company history, with 7000 post engagements.”

Knowledge of the company

This should go without saying, but you need to prove that you know your stuff about the company where you are applying. What attracted you to it? Why does it stand out to you? Again, be specific. 

The more you can demonstrate that you’ve done your homework, the better. It will show them the effort you will bring to their company as well as your level of interest. 

Examples:

Generic (okay):

“I want to work for an innovative company such as Travel Agency ABC.”

Specific (better):

“After reading in Forbes about your CEO John Smith’s approach to brainstorming and encouraging innovation, I knew I had to apply to Travel Agency ABC.”

Your unique offering

This is probably the most important part of your cover letter. It’s not enough to list out your achievements or hard and soft skills. You need to tie that all into what you will bring to the company. 

Your resume will most likely highlight much of this information, but your cover letter is where you actually explain it. If your resume says you are a “team player,” then elaborate on that in your cover letter. Were there any projects where your teamwork led to success? Stay brief, but highlight that a bit.

Hiring managers most likely have specific needs that come with this open role, so make sure you try to read between the lines of the job description. That’s also why it’s important to include keywords from the specific job description while creating your cover letter. Beyond that, try to address this need in your cover letter and explain why your past experience will help you fill this need.

For example, if you see the company is looking for a content writer, take a look at their content. Do you think they are targeting every audience segment interested in their industry? Are there additional topics you would pitch?

Specific example:

“I noticed in your blog that you aren’t targeting stay-at-home moms with your content. As someone who has worked extensively to expand audience targets in my previous positions, I can propose specific ways to reach this important audience with your content.”

In other words, when it comes to the job search, help them, help you.

If you’re still asking the question, “What do you put in a cover letter?” make sure to check out our cover letter templates

And if you’re looking to create a resume, head over to our free resume builder. All you need to do is choose your ATS-friendly template, fill out your information using our simple forms, print (or download), and submit!

What goes best with a tailored cover letter? A tailored resume!

Don’t forget to customize your resume for each job you apply to. Be specific and prioritize your skills and unique experience that directly apply to the role. Use Jobscan’s resume optimization tool to discover important keywords and tips for every role you apply to.