A cover letter for a resume introduces you to a potential employer and increases your chances of getting a job interview.
Even if you’ve never written a cover letter or have no work experience, you can write a professional cover letter for a resume that you will be proud of.
This guide covers the basics of writing a cover letter for a resume such as formatting i.e., spacing, fonts, and the heading.
Then it walks you through exactly what to write in the body of the cover letter for a resume to showcase your job skills.
Finally, you can download my free Microsoft Word or PDF cover letter template.
What is a Cover Letter for a Resume?
A cover letter for a resume is a one-page letter written to the recruiter, hiring manager or a company’s human resources department that goes with your resume and or job application.
A good cover letter states who you are and persuades the person reading it to look at your resume.
As a rule, a cover letter is not a repeat of your resume.
Writing a cover letter for a resume is more than a formality. It can help you stand out among hundreds of applicants who share many of the same qualifications as you. It also gives the hiring manager a glimpse of your personality and priorities.
Cover Letter Basics
Now that you know the definition of a cover letter for a resume, we can go over cover letter basics including:
- Cover letter format
- The difference between online and paper cover letters
- Cover letter purpose
Cover Letter Format
I like to use Google Docs or Microsoft Word to write resumes and cover letters. It’s a good idea to save a PDF version and a .doc version of documents. You also want to keep graphics, photos and tables out of your cover letter and resume.
A simple letter format is easy to read, both by humans and applicant tracking software bots. Here is a list of how to format your cover letter for a resume.
- Your cover letter for a resume should be single-spaced.
- Use a basic font such as Times New Roman or Arial, 10-12 point size.
- Leave a line of space between each paragraph.
- Three lines of space should be between your closing (i.e. Sincerely,) and your typed name. This is the space where you’ll sign the letter in ink.
- If emailing the letter, leave one space between the closing and your typed name.
- Align all paragraphs flush with the left margin.
- Use standard one-inch margins.
Online vs Paper Cover Letters for a Resume
Back in the day, people would mail or fax their resume and cover letter to the company or hiring manager.
Now emailing and uploading your information is commonplace. But, the format of these electronic documents is virtually the same.
The only difference between online and a paper cover letter is the paper one should have space for your signature.
Emailing a cover letter for a resume does not mean it should be informal. A cover letter for a resume should not sound like something you would send to someone to make lunch plans.
You need to keep your writing professional. Your writing should have a business tone. It also needs to be formatted as listed above. This may seem stodgy, but it’s better to be overly professional than too casual.
Cover Letter Purpose
While a resume sums up your experience, education, and skills with bulleted lists, a cover letter’s purpose is to position you as the right job candidate. This can be done in a letter by:
- Describing how you would solve the company’s problem,
- Proving the claim that you are the solution, and
- Asking the resume reader to act.
The job market is competitive as all get out. Recruiters read a ton of resumes. A great cover letter for a resume can give you an edge over the competition.
There’s no question that if you are a new college grad, you need a way to rise above the crowd.
In the next section, I will show you exactly how to include all three of these statements in a cover letter.
What to Put in a Cover Letter for a Resume
Cover Letter Heading
When you start a cover letter for a resume, you should include a heading. A heading provides the company with your contact information.
You should address the letter to the person who would be your supervisor. With a little detective work, you can usually find the person. Call the human resources department and ask who it is, or search LinkedIn.
A cover letter heading is single-spaced and it is structured like this:
- Your Name
- Next list the address where you get your mail on a regular basis
- Then, your phone number
- E-mail address
- Then, skip a line and write out the full date.Â
- Month XX, 20XX
- Then skip a line and write the contact information for the person you are writing to.
- Full Name of Person including prefix or suffix, as needed.
- Title of that person (if available)
- Finally, list the mailing address of the company
- Keep the opening simple. Use Mr. or Ms. If you are unclear on the gender, include the first and last name.
The 3 Paragraph Cover Letter Template
The cover letter body should be well-organized, easy to skim and present your most relevant accomplishments for the job you are applying to. It should also indirectly show that you are knowledgable about the company.
This can all be done in three paragraphs.
While you can use the same format when you apply to different jobs, do not send the exact cover letter to a bunch of different jobs.
I don’t know about you, but when I sit down to write a cover letter for a resume, I often feel like I don’t know what to say. I’ve written hundreds of cover letters for clients and I still get anxious about starting with a blank screen.
But here’s a secret: Writing a great cover letter for a resume can be done in 3 paragraphs.
Paragraph 1: You are the Solution
With any writing, it’s not about you. Writing is about the reader. Put yourself in the resume reader’s head for a minute.
Imagine scanning through hundreds of cover letters and resumes each day.
Imagine how boring it would be reading the same thing. This cover letter template will get the reader’s attention by demonstrating why you’re the ideal candidate in just three paragraphs.
Your cover letter for a resume is going to use an age-old sales tactic and give them a reason to give you a second look.
You are going to be an answer to their problem.
Stay with me because this works.
Let’s say you are applying for a Graphic Designer position with We Make InfoGraphics Company.
What are their pain points? You can Google news search the company, or if you have been in the field for a while, you might have an insider’s view of what the problems are. This article about how to get a job at Whole Foods gives you an idea of the level of research you can get about a company.
3 Ways to Find the Problem You are Going to Solve
1. Stalk Them on Social Media
This is where you have to go a little Nancy Drew and snoop around. Start with Yelp, Google Reviews and or a Google News search.
Let’s say the fake company We Make InforGraphics has poor customer reviews.
Most of the customers are saying the work comes in late, or there’s little communication between the client and artist.
2. Connect the Dots
Next, its time to analyze the job description. This is a wealth of information that can identify the problem that someone with the skills and qualifications might solve.
For example, you see a line in the job description that says applicants should have attention to detail and stay calm under deadline pressure. The company is a stickler and wants someone who won’t lose their mind when there’s a dumpster fire, which happens a lot.
The solution you could offer them: You have processes in place where you get the work done ahead of time. You trust these processes to catch errors quickly.
Now back to the senior graphic designer cover letter.
Your I-am-the-solution-statement would include the position you are applying for and what a great job it is. The first paragraph of your cover letter would go something like this:
Paragraph 1 Example
I recently saw your posting for a senior graphic designer on your website. It looks like an amazing opportunity where I could use my visual design and client management skills. Client retention can be an ongoing challenge for small graphic design firms. Your next senior graphic designer should understand that consistently exceeding client expectations and effective communication leads to overall increased customer loyalty.
Paragraph 2: Prove You are the Solution
You made your claim in the first paragraph, now it’s time to prove it.
The second paragraph is where you can dig into specific quantitative and or qualitative data that supports your claim.
What does this mean exactly?
You either need numbers to support your claim or you need someone else to tell the potential employer how awesome you are.
Some jobs are more metric-focused than others. Great data includes:
- How many of something you did in a certain amount of time.
- The money you saved or money you made the company.
- How you saved time and money.
- Improvements in efficiency, customer satisfaction, products, processes, etc.
Let’s see this in action.
Here’s the second paragraph of your letter where you offer quantitative proof (numbers) that you are the answer to a problem.
For the most impact, make sure the problem and solution are directly related to the prospective job duties.
Paragraph 2 Quantitative Example
During my eight years in my current role at Acme Graphic Design, I consistently received a 98% customer satisfaction rating. Seventy percent of those clients reported that my work exceeded their expectations based on company surveys. This contributed to a 15% overall increase in repeat customers for the company in 2019 over the previous year.
Alternatively, if you work in a field or at a company where metrics are difficult to get, go with qualitative proof (endorsements) that you rock.
Choose an endorsement from someone who can assess your professionalism. Here’s an example of qualitative proof. It is from a longtime client who gives referrals, that’s business gold right there.
Paragraph 2 Qualitative Example
During my eight years in my current role at Acme Graphic Design, I consistently exceed customer expectations, which leads to increased customer loyalty. “Jon’s work is on-time and exceeds my expectations every time. I have worked with him for the past five years and refer him to my colleagues without hesitation,” said Suzy Cue, owner of We Market Stuff Digital Agency. “Of the new clients I work with, one out of three has been referred to the agency by one of my existing clients. I credit that to Jon’s amazing work.“
Paragraph 3: The Call-to-Action
This is the place to put a link to your work portfolio, mention your attached or enclosed resume, LinkedIn profile, and/or website.
You should also repeat your enthusiasm for the job vacancy and give them your contact information again. Thank them for their time.
If you are in sales or a field where it is appropriate, you can also let them know you will be calling them in a week to follow up. Here is paragraph 3 in action.
Paragraph 3 Example
You can view my latest work at www.portfolio.com. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the opportunity. I can be reached at 512-555-1212 or by e-mail at [email protected] Thank you for your time and consideration.
Cover Letter for a Resume Closing
Finally, the cover letter closing can be as simple as this one below.
Single-spaced with three lines between Sincerely and Your Name, plus a signature in ink, if you are uploading a scan or mailing a hardcopy.
There is one line between Sincerely and your name if the letter is being emailed.
Your signature (hard copy letter)
Final Cover Letter for a Resume Writing Tips
I hope this cover letter for a resume guide will help you feel more confident about writing one.
Be sure to proofread your work and correct any typos.
You can download the Resume & Cover Letter Checklist here to make sure your documents are submit-ready. If you need more writing help, check out these articles:
- Identify Your Strengths in 7 Steps
- Resume Examples Based on Job Titles
- Resume Writing Services and Cost Comparision
- 35 Affirmations for Work
- Resume and Cover Letter Checklist (free download)
Download the Cover Letter Template
Cover Letter Text Version (cut and paste)
City, ST 12345
Month XX, 20XX
Hiring Manager Name, Title
1234 Main Street
City, ST 12345
Mr./Ms. Last Name of Hiring Manager:
PARAGRAPH 1 REMOVE THIS LABEL AFTER WRITING YOUR LETTER
I recently saw your posting for a on . It looks like an opportunity where I could use my skills. can be an ongoing challenge for INDUSTRY OR BUSINESS]. Your next should understand that leads to .
PARAGRAPH 2 REMOVE LABEL THIS AFTER WRITING YOUR LETTER
During my at , I consistently . I also . This led to .
During my at , I consistently . .
PARAGRAPH 3 REMOVE LABEL THIS AFTER WRITING YOUR LETTER
You can view my latest work at I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the opportunity. Thank you for your time and consideration.