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Cover Letter Examples
for Every Job Search

A cover letter is a living document that often accompanies a resume. It gives job seekers the opportunity to elaborate on work experience, explain their goals, and show personality. Most of all, cover letters give you a chance to connect your skills to the company's needs.

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Getting started with cover letter examples

A little cover letter trivia to blow your mind: cover letters are rarely read before the resume (as the term implies). While it’s written as an introduction, your cover letter is often read after the hiring manager reviews your resume and decides to learn more about you. That’s right—it’s your resume that will get you in the door and your cover letter that will push you over the top.

So, do you even need a cover letter? That’s a good question. Many hiring managers and recruiters disagree on the answer. It often depends on the type of job you’re applying for. More technical candidates may not benefit from a cover letter as much as those applying to roles that require a lot of communication, customer interaction, or other soft skills.

Bottom line: a custom-tailored cover letter will never hurt your chances of being hired, and it’s a great opportunity to expand on your abilities and explicitly state why you’re the best candidate for the job.

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Types of cover letters

Two types of cover letters commonly accompany a resume: the application cover letter and the career change cover letter. These letters allow job seekers to expand on their resumes and connect their skills and experience directly to the job they are applying for.

In addition to applying to roles, there are two other common uses for cover letters: networking and prospecting. Generally, the structure will remain the same, or at least similar, regardless of your cover letter’s intent. The content of the letter, however, will vary.

Application cover letter

This is the standard cover letter used alongside a resume during a job application. The application letter is geared toward a certain job, and it is tailored to the skills and specifications listed in the job posting.

To emphasize: you must tailor your application cover letter to the job. A generic cover letter could do more harm than good, drawing attention to a lack of effort on your part.

An application cover letter is a tool used to sell yourself as a job candidate. It supplements your resume and expands upon relevant parts of your work history and qualifications.

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Career change cover letter

Changing careers can be challenging, especially if you are well entrenched in your current role. But it is definitely possible, and career change cover letters go a long way to help you communicate how your skills will translate into a new position.

Landing an interview for a role in a new industry or career type is all about convincing recruiters and hiring managers that your skills and experience are transferrable. It can be difficult to accomplish this with your resume alone, so this a case when you should always include a cover letter.

In your career change cover letter, communicate that you’re hoping to move your career in a new direction. Express your interest in the company, then pull several responsibilities from the job description and tell the hiring manager how your skills will uniquely fulfill those responsibilities and add value to the company.

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Prospecting cover letter

Like the application cover letter, a job seeker’s prospecting cover letter is written to a company of interest. However, this type of cover letter inquires about open job positions in general. It is not a response to a specific job posting.

The prospecting cover letter will give a brief description of yourself as a job candidate, explain why this particular company interests you, and a few examples of job tasks that would interest you.

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Networking cover letter

The networking cover letter is the most casual and tends to be the shortest. It still comes from the job seeker, but it is sent out to former colleagues, mentors, friends, and other contacts rather than sent to a company. It informs the recipient of the person’s status as a job seeker and asks them for help in their job search.

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It is appropriate to include a cover letter with your application or send it as an email when attaching your resume or reaching out to a recruiter or hiring manager. When writing a cover letter, make sure you are using the best type of cover letter. Take the time to mold each cover letter to each job you apply for.

See sample cover letter scan

Internship cover letter example

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Writing a cover letter for an internship can be a little trickier than writing an application cover letter since you’re likely applying for the internship with little to no previous experience.

Since your biggest tool when applying for jobs is previous relevant experience, you might think you’re out of luck if you don’t have experience. Not true! Remember, everyone starts with no experience. Volunteer work can be very valuable and should be mentioned in a cover letter if it is relevant. Consider picking up some relevant unpaid work to help you in your search for an internship or job.

Think of your education as your work experience. In the first paragraph, introduce yourself to the hiring manager and tell them about what you are studying and why you are interested in the offered job.

In the next paragraph, explain your goals for the rest of your education and your future career (just the next few years). Make sure the goals you mention are relevant to the job for which you are applying. For example, don’t tell the hiring manager of a marketing agency that your goal is to be a Veterinarian.

In the final paragraph, thank the hiring manager for his or her time and leave your contact information as well as a mention of any attached files. This paragraph is the same as it would be for a paid job.

Emails are today's cover letters

Emails are today's cover letters

Gone are the days when cover letters were included in a brown envelope along with your resume. The goal of the cover letter is to come across as a professional, but with a personal touch. A cover letter allows you to show your personality, which can give you a leg up on other applicants. Nowadays, cover letters are often sent through email, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. We recommend emailing the recruiter or the hiring manager, if you have their contact information, and sending a brief message about your experience.

 

COVER LETTER FAQs

HOW DO I WRITE A COVER LETTER AS A STUDENT?

As a student, you should treat your education and major (if in college), volunteer work, school projects or personal projects as your past experience. Talk about your future goals that are relevant to the job and explain how you will achieve those goals.

HOW DO COVER LETTERS VARY FROM JOB TO JOB?

While the general structure of a cover letter remains pretty much the same among industries, pay attention to what the job posting asks for in a cover letter. Does the hiring manager want it to be just a list of bullet points? Do they want you to include samples of your work or a resume? You should write a new cover letter for every job for which you apply.

HOW DO I WRITE A COVER LETTER FOR A CAREER CHANGE?

Read the job posting carefully and determine any similarities between your past work tasks and accomplishments and those in the posting. Focus on the similarities. Talk about your goals for your career change and what you want to accomplish in your future career.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A COVER LETTER AND A RESUME?

While a resume is a technical, short rundown of your past experience, a cover letter expands on a few of the most relevant pieces from your experience and lets some of your personality come through.

SHOULD I ALWAYS INCLUDE A COVER LETTER WITH MY RESUME?

No. Only include a cover letter when it is asked for by the hiring manager or in the job posting. In fact, most recruiters don’t read cover letters anymore.

SHOULD I MENTION MY SALARY EXPECTATIONS IN A COVER LETTER?

No. Conversations about salary should be reserved for a job interview.

HOW SHOULD I ADDRESS THE READER OF A COVER LETTER?

Always address the hiring manager or recruiter by their name. You can call the company and ask for their name or look it up on the company website or LinkedIn. Never use “To Whom it May Concern” as it is impersonal.

HOW LONG SHOULD MY COVER LETTER BE?

Cover letters should always be short. A few paragraphs or a third of a page is generally a good length. Read the job posting carefully to find out if there is a specific length or format that the hiring manager expects the cover letter to be.