What Should You Include in Your Cover Letter? [w/ Tips for 2024]

28 May
16 min read
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You’ve spent weeks job hunting, and you’ve found the perfect job.

Your resume is all set, and you’re almost ready to send your application.

There’s just one thing left—you’re writing a cover letter to create a flawless job application.

The only issue? You're not sure what exactly to include in your cover letter.

There’s no need to worry! We’re here to help

In this article, we’re going to cover:

  • What Is a Cover Letter
  • What Elements Should Your Cover Letter Include
  • What You Shouldn’t Include in Your Cover Letter

…and more!

Let’s get started.

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a document that you send as part of your job application, along with your resume or CV.

The cover letter’s purpose is to introduce you and briefly summarize why your professional background makes you the right person for the job.

On average, a cover letter should be between 250 and 400 words long and fit neatly on one page.

A cover letter is one of your first forms of communication with a hiring manager. It’s your opportunity to present yourself in your own words, stand out from other candidates, and get the hiring manager interested in learning more about you.

Let’s take a look at an example of what a cover letter looks like:

what to include in a cover letter

Why Do Cover Letters Matter?

After you’ve spent so long making the perfect resume, you might be wondering why you should even write a cover letter.

The truth is that while not all employers request a cover letter, you should always include one with your job application.

Adding a cover letter to your job application shows the hiring manager you’re willing to go the extra mile for the job, and you’re not just randomly applying and hoping your application sticks.

A cover letter is your opportunity to give the hiring manager more information about you as a candidate. This is your chance to personalize your application and provide additional information on your skills and experiences that align with what the employer is looking for and that you didn’t have space on your resume for.

But your cover letter is also your chance to go beyond your most important skills and experience. You can use it to talk about your passion for the industry or your enthusiasm to join this specific company’s team and show the hiring manager that you’re serious about the role.

If your cover letter is good, it can complement your resume and get you that much closer to an interview.

A badly written cover letter, on the other hand, could undermine even the best resume and lead to your application getting tossed in the ‘no’ pile, so it’s crucial to get this document right.

Need help preparing for an interview? Check out our guide to the most common interview questions and how to answer them!

What Elements Should You Include in a Cover Letter?

There are a few key elements you need to include to write a successful cover letter.

Let’s take a look at them one by one:

#1. A Professional Template

Your cover letter should be easy on the eyes and even easier to navigate.

This means you have to set the right page margins, adjust the line spacing, choose an appropriate font, and set it to the correct size, all while making sure your text never spills onto page two.

But what if there’s an easier way? 

Just use one of our cover letter templates instead.

Our free resume builder comes with built-in resume templates that you can match with a cover letter template for a stylish application.

You can automatically set your font style, size, and even the dimensions of the paper you intend to print it on - standard A4 or US letter format.

cover letter templates

#2. Neatly-Split Paragraphs

A cover letter should be easy to navigate at a glance.

If your cover letter is a huge chunk of text that fully covers the entire page, without paragraphs or ample white space, it’s going to look cramped and leave a bad impression on the hiring manager.

This is where your cover letter’s formatting comes in. You should divide the contents of your cover letter into a header with contact information, and then split the actual text into an opening paragraph, a main body, a conclusion, and a formal closing line.

Be sure to also use line breaks and bullet points to break up your paragraphs to increase your cover letter’s readability.

This can make it seem less of an overwhelming read to the hiring manager and easier for them to skim through it all to find what they’re looking for.

#3. The Date of Writing

The exact date you write your cover letter may seem like a small detail, but it can actually add an extra touch of professionalism to your job application.

This can help the hiring manager keep track of when you’ve applied for the role, and it reflects your attention to detail.

Just keep in mind that the format of the date should align with the standard in the country where you're applying. For example, in the US, the mm-dd-yyyy format (e.g., May 22, 2024) is the go-to, whereas most other countries prefer the dd-mm-yyyy format (e.g., 22 January 2024).

#4. Your Interest in the Company

It’s important to tailor your cover letter for the specific job you’re applying for to show the hiring manager that you’re a serious candidate who’s done their homework about the position.

This is why the body of your letter should always include a paragraph where you clearly explain why you’re interested in the specific company.

Start by doing some research on the employer. You have to show the hiring manager that you understand what makes the company unique and how you align with their values and needs.

Think about what you genuinely like about the company you’re applying for. Whether it’s their remote working conditions, their focus on diversity or sustainability, or something else entirely, be sure to mention it in your cover letter.

If you’ve used a product or service that the company provides, say so in your cover letter. On top of that, highlight what specific aspects of the company resonate with your career goals, such as their innovative methods or cutting-edge market strategy, that you want to be a part of.

You can also take the time to explain why you’re excited about the job itself. Talk about how your unique experience and skills make you a suitable candidate and how you’re confident you can contribute to the company’s goals.

Looking to write a cover letter for an internship? Check out our detailed guide!

#5. A Call to Action

Every cover letter should end with a strategic call to action.

Your call to action can be a polite statement prompting the hiring manager to get in touch with you to go over your application or to discuss how you could contribute to their team.

Adding a call to action at the end of your cover letter shows that you’re proactive and eager to move forward with the hiring process. This highlights your enthusiasm for the role and makes it more likely for the hiring manager to get in touch with you after putting down your cover letter.

Here’s an example of a call to action at the end of a cover letter:

Example of a Call to Action:

I am very enthusiastic about the opportunity to discuss how my artwork can contribute to Happy Hippo Book Publisher’s track record as the best children’s storybook provider on the market. Please feel free to contact me at the provided phone number so that we can discuss my application further.

Want to give your cover letter an extra kick? Use these tried and tested cover letter tips!

What Sections Should You Include in a Cover Letter?

When writing your cover letter, you can easily split the process into several key sections.

Let’s break them down:

  • Header with contact details. The top of your cover letter should include a designated header where you can input your contact information, such as your full name, email address, phone number, address, and links to any relevant social media. Make sure these details match your resume and double-check for any typos.
  • Company details. Do your research so you know exactly who to address your cover letter to. Add the hiring manager’s name, department, the company’s name, and the company’s address.
  • Personalized greeting. Skip the cliche and impersonal “To Whom It May Concern” and use a more memorable greeting instead. We recommend using “Ms.” or “Mr.” followed by the hiring manager’s last name.
  • Opening paragraph. Your cover letter should start with a brief and attention-grabbing paragraph. This should include a couple of your top skills, an impressive achievement, or a relevant qualification.
  • Main body. Take the time to explain some of your top achievements or skills in more detail, and cover anything you didn’t have the space to address in your resume.
  • Conclusion. Recap the main points in your cover letter so far, then wrap it up with a polite call to action.
  • Closing line. Choose an appropriate closing line to finish your cover letter with and sign your name underneath.
cover letter structure

What Should You Never Include in a Cover Letter?

A cover letter allows you to personalize your application and provide more details about you to the hiring manager.

But that doesn’t mean everything should make the cut.

Let’s look at what you should never include in your cover letter:

#1. Irrelevant information

Your cover letter should be concise and focus on the most relevant details that make you the right candidate for the job.

Hiring managers don’t have all day to spend on your application, and when they’re reading your cover letter, they want to get to the point quickly. If your cover letter includes too many personal anecdotes or irrelevant experiences, like how you worked as a dog walker at 15, they might get bored and stop reading it altogether.

A cover letter is, first and foremost, a professional document, not a personal essay. This means that focusing too much on yourself, as well as your wants, needs, and opinions, is not a good idea.

Your cover letter should focus on what you can do for the employer, not what they can do for you. If you miss the mark here, you’ll come off as an inattentive candidate and won’t be getting an interview.

#2. Overly Long Paragraphs

A dense, difficult-to-read text can discourage a hiring manager from going through your cover letter.

For example, if the body of your cover letter is contained in a single, thick paragraph, the hiring manager might skim over it and miss your main points.

Long paragraphs can also make your cover letter look poorly organized and make you come across as someone with bad written communication skills. Your essential qualifications and skills can get lost in that sea of words and hide the most important information you want to convey.

Overly long paragraphs also imply a lack of consideration for the hiring manager’s time. Keeping your text concise and easy to follow is just as important as the content itself. Otherwise, your cover letter might not catch the hiring manager’s attention at all.

#3. Salary Expectations

Unless the employer specifically asks you to, it’s considered taboo to include salary expectations in your cover letter, and it can even leave a bad impression on the hiring manager.

Talking about money in your cover letter can make it seem like your primary interest in the job is the paycheck. And, while there’s nothing wrong with wanting a specific salary, this can seriously undermine what you want to convey to the hiring manager about your enthusiasm for joining the company and your professionalism.

You should also keep in mind that talking about salary expectations so early on can even put you at a disadvantage in potential salary negotiations. If you mention a high number too early on, the hiring manager might reject your application before you even make it past the initial screening. But if you go too low, you could undervalue yourself.

This is why it’s recommended that you discuss salary expectations during an interview once you already understand the full scope of the role and have more context.

Are you just getting started on the job market? Check out our guide to writing an entry-level cover letter!

#4. Excessive Flattery

Writing a cover letter doesn’t mean writing a love letter to the company you’re applying for.

You don’t need to shower the employer with compliments to get the hiring manager to like you. In fact, if you use too many compliments or describe the company in the exact words they use on its website, you’re going to be severely disappointed.

For example, most companies you apply to may describe themselves as “innovative” or “team-focused.” If that’s all you can say about them in your cover letter, it tells the hiring manager that you never researched the employer or paid much attention to what they do.

If you genuinely hold the company’s values, mission, or culture close to your heart, there’s no harm in mentioning how they inspire you. Just remember to keep it professional and related to how you can enthusiastically contribute to their work.

#5. False Information

This should go without saying but lying on your cover letter is just as bad as lying on your resumevery bad.

We get it; you want to impress the hiring manager. But exaggerating or falsifying information to make yourself look like the coolest candidate ever can easily backfire.

On one hand, the hiring manager is probably going to catch onto you while reading your cover letter. They’re going to notice the inconsistencies you didn’t pay attention to, and they simply won’t call you.

But it could be even worse. You could land an interview, only to have the hiring manager discover the truth face to face. Your professional reputation could suffer some serious damage, beyond just an awkward interaction during the interview.

Trust us – lying isn’t worth it. You’re capable of writing a standout cover letter without exaggerating anything you can’t back up.

#6. Grammatical Mistakes

You should always proofread your cover letter before submitting it with your job application.

Even when you’re absolutely sure there are no mistakes, sometimes you might miss something that the hiring manager will notice immediately.

This is why we always recommend you do several rounds of proofreading and editing before finalizing your job application.

Start by carefully reading your cover letter out loud. It might sound a little weird, but it helps you notice any awkward phrases or words that are out of place.

Then, run it through a spell-checking tool like QuillBot or Grammarly. They can help you spot any errors you might have missed.

Finally, ask a friend or family member for help. A fresh pair of eyes can read your cover letter and notice mistakes that both you and your robot sidekick might have skipped over.

#7. Complaints About Employers

As a general rule, you should never badmouth your previous place of employment.

If you were unjustly fired or passed over for a promotion for personal reasons, these are best explained during an interview.

It’s important to always maintain professionalism when your past employer or coworkers are brought up, especially in your cover letter.

For example, instead of saying you had enough of a chaotic work environment, you could say you’re “looking forward to joining a team that values structure and accountability.”

Check out these more common cover letter mistakes and keep an eye out while writing your cover letter!

29 Cover Letter Examples

Looking for inspiration? Check out these perfect cover letter examples for different professions.

#1. Customer Service Cover Letter

Customer Service Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a customer service cover letter here.

#2. Marketing Executive Cover Letter

Marketing Executive Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a marketing executive cover letter here.

#3. Medical Assistant Cover Letter

Medical Assistant Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a medical assistant cover letter here.

#4. Consultant Cover Letter

Consultant Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a consultant cover letter here.

#5. College Student Cover Letter

College Student Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a college student cover letter here.

#6. Retail Cover Letter

Retail Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a retail cover letter here.

#7. Team Leader Cover Letter

Team Leader Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a team leader cover letter here.

#8. Actor Cover Letter

Actor Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing an actor cover letter here.

#9. Digital Marketing Cover Letter

Digital Marketing Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a digital marketing cover letter here.

#10. Executive Assistant Cover Letter

Executive Assistant Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing an executive assistant cover letter here.

#11. Finance Cover Letter

Finance Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a finance cover letter here.

#12. Graphic Designer Cover Letter

Graphic Designer Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a graphic designer cover letter here.

#13. IT Cover Letter

IT Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing an IT cover letter here.

#14. Project Manager Cover Letter

Project Manager Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a project manager cover letter here.

#15. Sales Cover Letter

Sales Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a sales cover letter here.

#16. Accounting Cover Letter

Accounting Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing an accounting cover letter here.

#17. Business Cover Letter

Business Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a business cover letter here.

#18. Dental Assistant Cover Letter

Dental Assistant Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a dental assistant cover letter here.

#19. Human Resources Cover Letter

Human Resources Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a human resources cover letter here.

#20. Nurse Practitioner Cover Letter

Nurse Practitioner Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a nurse practitioner cover letter here.

#21. Receptionist Cover Letter

Receptionist Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a receptionist cover letter here.

#22. Architect Cover Letter

Architect Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing an architect cover letter here.

#23. Management Cover Letter

Management Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a management cover letter here.

#24. Physician Cover Letter

Physician Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a physician cover letter here.

#25. Substitute Teacher Cover Letter

Substitute Teacher Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a substitute teacher cover letter here.

#26. Software Engineer Cover Letter

Software Engineer Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a software engineer cover letter here.

#27. Administrative Assistant Cover Letter

Administrative Assistant Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing an administrative assistant cover letter here.

#28. Mechanical Engineering Cover Letter

Mechanical Engineering Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a mechanical engineering cover letter here.

#29. Attorney Cover Letter

Attorney Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing an attorney cover letter here.

FAQs About What to Include in a Cover Letter

Do you still have some questions about what to include in a cover letter? Check out the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the topic!

Q — 

#1. What is a good example of a cover letter?

There are plenty of great cover letter examples for different professions that you can look at.

Overall, a cover letter that’s well done starts with your contact information in a designated header at the top. Next, you have to add the hiring manager’s contact details and include a personalized greeting.

Write a strong opening paragraph that references the job you're applying for and includes a standout achievement or relevant experience that makes you a strong candidate.

Use the body of your cover letter to expand on your key skills and experiences that match what the employer is looking for. Give specific examples to illustrate your greatest accomplishments and how you gained your most impressive skills.

Wrap up your cover letter by recapping your key selling points and including a call to action that invites the hiring manager to reach out to you. Lastly, add a professional closing line and sign your name underneath.

Q — 

#2. How do you start a cover letter?

The opening to your cover letter should be brief and attention-grabbing.

Your first few sentences should be something that makes the hiring manager want to learn more about you. You don’t want to give them too many details—just enough to pique their interest.

Explain why you’re writing and why you’re interested in the specific role. We recommend including keywords from the job ad, especially ones that match your most relevant skills, experiences, or impressive achievements.

Q — 

#3. How do you write a unique cover letter?

Your cover letter is your chance to give the hiring manager a unique insight into you as a candidate. It’s your opportunity to stand out from the crowd using your own words.

The best way to write a unique cover letter is to start by researching the company and referencing anything you find attention-grabbing about it. You should be able to easily identify what you like about the specific employer, such as their contributions to the industry, their values, and reputation, and mention it in your cover letter.

Use a polite but conversational tone to convey both your professionalism and personality. Instead of using passive language to explain that you “managed” this or were “responsible for” that, take advantage of action verbs and power words to make your experiences stand out.

Avoid using generic phrases like how you’re a “team player” or have “leadership skills” alone, and instead provide concrete examples that back up the skills and experience that make you the right candidate for the job.

Q — 

#4. Should a cover letter be fancy?

Since a cover letter is a formal document, you might be tempted to make it fancy.

There’s no need to go over the top with your cover letter. Adding too much decoration or creative flair can detract from the information you want to convey to the hiring manager.

Your focus should always be on writing a clear, concise, and well-organized text that gets your point across.

More traditional industries, like law or finance, should stick to minimalistic cover letter templates with a clean and simple layout.

For professionals aiming for creative industries like illustration or graphic design, a bit of color can make your application pop. Even then, it’s important to strike a balance between creativity and professionalism, so your cover letter’s text remains the hiring manager’s primary focus.

Key Takeaways

And that’s all there is to what you should include in your cover letter!

Hopefully, after reaching the end of our article, you feel confident that your cover letter covers all the necessary bases. Good luck on your job hunt!

But before we say goodbye, let’s briefly recap what we've covered so far:

  • Your cover letter should be concise and avoid any irrelevant information. The hiring manager is interested in what you can do for the company, not in any personal information that doesn’t relate to the job.
  • Overly long paragraphs and a messy layout can leave a bad impression. Instead of trying to format everything yourself, use an online cover letter builder.
  • Our online resume builder offers resume templates and matching cover letter templates that you can use to create a stylish and professional job application in minutes.
  • Dedicate a portion of your cover letter’s main body to express your genuine interest in the company and the specific role. Do some research beforehand so you can identify several things you genuinely like about the company and position you’re applying for.
  • End your cover letter with a strategic call to action. This shows the hiring manager you’re eager to make it to the next step of the hiring process, and it makes it more likely for them to reach out to you.