Smart tips to help you format and write a cover letter
Struggling to write a cover letter that will catch an employer's attention? We've got tips to help you show your best self—and a sample you can use to get started.
There's nothing scary about writing a cover letter.
You've found the perfect job, hit the "apply" button, and started the process with your engines revved and ready. But wait! Slam the brakes! They want a cover letter. Oh no.
Don't let this request derail you. Here's everything you need to know to write a letter that truly sells your skills. Plus, scroll down to see a sample cover letter you can use to craft your own.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a one-page document that, along with your resume, is sent with your job application. A cover letter is your chance to tell a potential employer why you’re the perfect person for the position and how your skills and expertise can add value to the company. The letter should be professional but personable, and serve as a sort of introduction.
Do I need to send a cover letter?
A lot of job seekers today wonder if a cover letter is still appropriate to send with your resume—and the answer is yes! Even if an employer doesn’t ask for a cover letter, it couldn’t hurt to send one. In fact, it’s can help you get someone's attention in a different way, and it can be a great way to display your enthusiasm for the job and company.
What are the basic elements of a cover letter?
- Greeting: Address your cover letter to the proper person.
- Opening: Write a personable, inviting opening paragraph that notes how your skills are a perfect fit to the job and displays your enthusiasm.
- Hook: Highlight your past achievements as they relate to the job you're applying for.
- Skills: Emphasize additional relevant skills, such as computer languages or certifications.
- Close: Briefly recap your strengths as a candidate, and include your contact information.
Cover letter tips
1. Parrot the keywords: Just like with your resume, your cover letters should be customized for each job you apply to. Start by reviewing the job description. In it, you will find important keywords that let you know what kind of employee the company is hoping to find. Use these same keywords throughout your cover letter.
2. Adapt for the company: Each version of your cover letter should talk about how your skills will benefit the particular company that you want to work for. You want to target the company’s needs—not your own. Demonstrate how you could help them achieve their goals. Remember: You're selling yourself in a resume and a cover letter, but the employer has to want to buy.
3. Show you "get" them: Your cover letter should demonstrate that you have done some research into what the organization's pain points are. Presenting yourself as a solution to a hiring manager’s problem can help your cover letter take the right tone. If you’re applying to an administrative position, be sure to mention your time-management skills; if you’re an IT professional, include your expertise in improving efficiency. Always ask yourself: How can I help this company?
4. Proofread. Don’t assume spell check will catch every mistake (it won’t). Slowly review your cover letter to make sure everything reads properly. Have someone else read your cover letter for backup.
Need even more confidence before you start your cover letter? Below are some additional cover letter tips you could reference—or keep scrolling for a cover letter sample:
Cover letter mistakes you should avoid: From overusing “I” to being too vague, there are a bunch of pitfalls that can trip you up. Don’t let them!
Cover letter format and advice tips: Learn how to set up your cover letter and what each section should include.
Cover letter tips for new grads: You might lack real-world work experience, but your cover letter can be chock-full of activities that demonstrate your potential to succeed.
Cover letter tips for technology professionals: The ease of applying to online jobs has led many IT professionals to skip sending a cover letter, but that’s a mistake.
Cover letter tips for finance professionals: If you’re searching for a finance job or want to be prepared just in case, you will need a dynamic cover letter to grab the hiring managers’ attention.
Tips for better email cover letters: If you're emailing a resume, your cover letter will deliver the first impression. These eight tips will help you craft a better email cover letter.
Cover letter sample
Check out the sample cover letter below (or download the template as a Word doc) to get some inspiration to craft your own. And we've also got you covered if you're looking for a cover letter in a specific industry.
Once you've finished your cover letter, consider joining Monster—you can upload and store up to five cover letters and resumes, so that you can apply for jobs on our site in a snap!
Ms. Rhonda West
Customer Service Manager
123 Corporate Blvd.
Sometown, CO 50802
Re: Customer Service Representative Opening (Ref. ID: CS300-Denver)
Dear Ms. West:
I was excited to see your opening for a customer service rep, and I hope to be invited for an interview.
My background includes serving as a customer service associate within both call-center and retail environments. Most recently, I worked on the customer service desk for Discount-Mart, where my responsibilities included handling customer merchandise returns, issuing refunds/store credits, flagging damaged merchandise for shipment back to vendors and providing back-up cashiering during busy periods.
Previously, I worked within two high-volume customer-support call centers for a major telecommunications carrier and a satellite television services provider. In these positions, I demonstrated the ability to resolve a variety of issues and complaints (such as billing disputes, service interruptions or cutoffs, repair technician delays/no-shows and equipment malfunctions). I consistently met my call-volume goals, handling an average of 56 to 60 calls per day.
In addition to this experience, I gained considerable customer service skills during my part-time employment as a waitress and restaurant hostess while in high school.
I also bring to the table strong computer proficiencies in MS Word, MS Excel and CRM database applications and a year of college (business major). Please see the accompanying resume for details of my experience and education.
I am confident that I can offer you the customer service, communication and problem-solving skills you are seeking. Feel free to call me at 555-555-5555 (home) or 555-555-5500 (cell) to arrange an interview. Thank you for your time—I look forward to learning more about this opportunity!
It's easy to start a cover letter.
Just stare at a blank computer screen until your forehead bleeds.
You've written "Dear," so many times you've nearly worn the letters off your keyboard.
Worse, you get the sinking feeling you'll bore the hiring manager and she'll skip your resume.
Take heart. You're about to see an engaging cover letter opening you can shape to fit your needs.
This guide will show you:
- How to start a cover letter so it pulls the reader in.
- Several sample cover letter introductions you can really use.
- Which salutation to use: Dear Kate vs Dear Ms. Smith vs Dear Hiring Manager.
- Examples of great cover letter openings that can get you to the interview.
Here's a sample cover letter made with our fast online cover letter tool. It shows the best way to start a cover letter. Want to write your letter fast? Use our cover letter templates and build your version here.
So, there's your perfect cover letter template. Now let me show you several ways to do it right.
How to Start a Cover Letter with the Right First Paragraph
The first sentence of a cover letter is critical. If it doesn't hook the manager, you're sunk.
That's why you should never write a cover letter opening paragraph without the one thing guaranteed to interest any hiring manager. What is that, you ask?
It's the manager herself.
Your cover letter first paragraph can start with any of these facts about the manager:
- Her name.
- Something you like about her company.
- Her company's biggest needs.
- Some facts that prove you'll help her company.
How to Start a Cover Letter Examples
As a longtime fan of Cisco's internal certifications, I was excited to see your project manager opening. With my experience cutting costs 55% for VMware while dropping lead times 35% and boosting quality, I think I can help with Cisco's current challenges as I continue to expand my skill set.
I'm a project manager with 5 years experience, skilled in all aspects of project management. I've worked for and with several big ISO 9000 companies, working with internal and external stakeholders to draw requirements and facilitate project completion. I think I'd make an ideal project manager for your company because of my unique skill set.
The first example of how to begin a cover letter is all about the manager. The second? Me, me, me. Like George Costanza in a revolving door.
Don't know the hiring manager's name? Stick with us. We've got some great tips for "To whom it may concern" cover letters in a bit.
Pro Tip: Don't be afraid to research the hiring manager. The more you learn about her interests, the closer you'll be to finding common ground.
Want to go beyond the "how to start a letter" stage? Need a creative cover letter template? See our guide: "How To Write A Cover Letter [Complete Guide With Examples]"
How to Start a Cover Letter with Exactly what the Manager Wants
"I killed Lord Voldemort."
If you're Harry Potter, that's how you start your cover letter.
You don't do it by talking about your spell-casting skills.
Those are impressive, but they're not the most impressive thing about you.
Look in the job description. Figure out what's most important to the company.
Then, brainstorm your achievements. Find the shiniest one that fits their needs.
Company Needs: Two How to Start a Cover Letter Samples
Check out these two examples of how to begin a cover letter.
They're for a job posting that values marketing ROI.
I am so excited InterExchange needs a marketing director skilled at storytelling and driving ROI for student travel. With my track record of boosting marketing ROI by 55% for InternationalStudent through storytelling and creative leadership, I think I'm a great fit.
Dear Hiring Manager,
I'm a highly skilled marketing manager with 2 years experience in crafting creative marketing programs and leading marketing teams. I think you will agree that my strategy, budgeting, planning, and campaign creation skills make me the ideal candidate.
See that first example of a creative way to start a cover letter for marketing? It grasps the company need. Dale Carnegie would be impressed.
The second is a to whom it may concern cover letter. It's as generic as a can of store-brand peas.
Pro Tip: The job offer will be packed with company needs. As you read it, highlight them all. The best cover letters start with the most important.
Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write your cover letter in our resume builder here. Here's what it may look like:
See more templates and create your resume and cover letter here.
All set with how to start off a cover letter? Need to move on to the ending? See this guide: "How to End a Cover Letter: Sample & Complete Guide [+20 Examples]"
How to Open a Cover Letter with a Company Fact
The hiring manager (we'll call her Alice) just read your resume with great interest.
Your letter connected in all the right ways.
You made it about her.
Begin your cover letter with a little digging.
To find good cover letter openers, look for facts you like about the company.
Browse their website. Look at their careers page. Read news items online.
Company Facts: Two How to Start a Cover Letter Examples
Look at the difference in these cover letter opening lines:
The Boston Consulting Group's emphasis on employee development is why I'm so excited about this position. My 98% client satisfaction rate at Deloitte owes a lot to my commitment to constant skills improvement. I'm excited to see where I could take your client KPIs within such a well-constructed system.
Hi Mrs. Tillotson,
I've been a consultant for four years and I've achieved some amazing things, including cutting client costs. I'm highly skilled at communication, sales, and strategy creation.
That first example of how to start a cover letter uses a great fact about the company. The second is as self-centered as Gordon Gekko.
Pro Tip: Be honest. Find a company fact you really do like. Even better if it shows you're perfect for the job.
After you know how to start your letter, you'll need to know how to format the entire thing. See our guide: "Cover Letter Formats: A Complete How-To Guide [10+ Examples]"
When to Start Your Cover Letter Introduction with Name Dropping
You're sweating bullets.
You've got some great accomplishments, but nothing world-shaking.
You need to know how to start a cover letter without a lot of cred.
But. You just happen to be friends with Wonder Woman.
If the most impressive thing is who you know, start there.
Name-Dropping Samples for How to Begin a Cover Letter
Check out these two very different introduction paragraph examples.
Candace Peters suggested I apply to this position because she knows: 1. My software solutions achieved 97% performance-to-goals at Uber, and 2. You're looking for a developer with speed and efficiency, which my resume demonstrates.
To whom it may concern,
I'm a software engineer with 5 years experience. I'm highly skilled in Java, Python, C, Ruby, C#, PHP, Objective-C, and SQL. Candace Peters said I should apply.
Which one will wake a bored hiring manager?
If you picked the first example of how to open a cover letter for a software engineer, you're on the right track.
If you picked the to whom it may concern cover letter, think again.
The name dropping trick works even better with a letter of introduction.
Pro Tip: Don't have a name to drop? Network. Meeting people in the company can get you the job faster than learning how to begin a cover letter.
Writing a letter of introduction for an internship? See this guide: "How to Write a Cover Letter For an Internship [+20 Examples]"
How to Write a Cover Letter Intro Based on Passion
Okay, so you haven't recently destroyed the Death Star. Also, you're not best buds with Chris Hemsworth.
The shiniest fact about you? Passion. You shimmer like someone dipped you in a vat of yellowcake uranium.
If that sounds like you, you've found your opening lines.
A Cover Letter Opening Statement Based on Passion
Look at these two examples of how to start a cover letter with excitement.
When faced with the CPA exam in school, I told my mentor, "I want to blow this test out of the water," and I did. Beyond my 98 average score across all four sections, a passion for finance has always been the guiding factor in my life. That's why I'm so excited at the chance to work for Signature Consultants.
I'm a financial analyst with over 3 years experience developing financial models and analyses, coordinating information collection, and developing reports.
That first example of how to open a cover letter for financial analysts will get the interview.
Here's another example, this time for a graphic design cover letter.
Graphic design for jewelry shows has always been a passion of mine. My panel talk on jewelry graphics at the AIGA Design Conference was put on YouTube and retweeted 1,500 times.
I'm a graphic designer with 3+ years experience at creating exciting design. I've never held a position yet that specifically handles graphic design of jewelry shows, but I am quite interested in jewelry graphic design.
The first example of how to start a cover letter for graphic designers shows passion and competence.
It's guaranteed to make the hiring manager stop daydreaming about turducken.
Pro Tip: Even small details can show your passion. Statements like, "I've always loved," or "I'm fascinated by," can help you nail your how to begin a cover letter goal.
Once you know how to begin a cover letter, you'll need a resume. We've got a guide for that: "How to Make a Resume: A Step-by-Step Guide (+30 Examples)"
How to Start a Cover Letter with Current Events
Let's snoop some more on our HR director, Alice.
She's reading through a bunch of cover letters, but she's bored.
Then she hits your letter.
It's all about the award her company just won. Finally, someone gets her.
That's how to start a cover letter based on recent news.
Introductory Paragraph Examples that Use the News
I love, love, love that Wegmans Food Markets is #2 on Fortune Magazine's list of top companies to work for in 2017. Google is #1, but I cut spoilage 38% for the Hannaford store I managed, whereas I don't even know what "algorithm" means.
I've got 5 years of experience as a grocery store manager. In that capacity, I handled tasks including ordering, scheduling, hiring, firing, and training.
See the difference? The first one is about the company. The second sample of starting a cover letter is as self-involved as Angelica from Rugrats.
Pro Tip: The best current events to use in a strong cover letter opening paragraph are big chunks of good news. Even better if they involve the hiring manager herself.
Now you know how to begin a cover letter that links to the job description. Do the same thing with your resume. See our guide: "6 Tips on How to Tailor Your Resume to a Job Description (Examples)"
Who Should I Address My Cover Letter To?
You listen to a lecturer drone on about macroeconomics for two hours. You're almost asleep.
Then suddenly, she says your name. You sit bolt upright and your eyes snap open.
Sadly, we're all pretty self-absorbed.
Happily, this makes it easy to know how to start a cover letter.
Begin your cover letter introduction with the hiring manager's name.
Don't know it? Look in the job offer, on the company website, and on LinkedIn. If that fails, try calling the receptionist.
How to Start a Cover Letter [Examples]
Any of these make good cover letter introductions:
- Dear Jim,
- Dear Mr. Ramirez,
- Dear Susan,
- Dear Mrs. Kelftree,
- Dear Ms. Allen,
Pro tip: Don't use "Miss" or "Mrs." unless you know the manager prefers it. "Ms." works great and doesn't comment on marital status.
Also, if the manager has a title like Dr. or Professor, she worked hard for it, so use it.
But what if you can't find a name?
How to Start a To Whom It May Concern Cover Letter
Did your name search fail? Don't fret. You haven't flunked your cover letter opening paragraph just yet.
You can ditch the salutation and start with the first line of the letter. Or use any of the following:
- Dear Software Team Hiring Manager,
- Dear Hiring Manager,
- Dear Recruiter,
- To Whom it May Concern,
- Dear [Company Name] Recruiter,
Those all work for how to address a cover letter without a name. That said, "Dear XYZ Team Hiring Manager," is best. Why?
It's specific, and it shows you know what goes on inside a company.
Pro Tip: Don't sweat the salutation. Do your best, then move on. That's How to Open a Cover Letter 101.
Does starting a cover letter really matter when so many managers don't read them? See our guide: "Are Cover Letters Necessary If Most Recruiters Don't Read Them?"
How to Write an Address on a Cover Letter
Knowing how to start a cover letter is hard.
Knowing how to write an address? Easy.
If you're asking how to address a letter, it's just Dear + [FIRST NAME],
If you're searching how to write an address in general, do this:
Put the your address at the top of the letter.
Add a line space, the date, two more blank lines, then the recruiter's address.
24 Wamp Rat Drive
Tatooine, Arizona 01138
1142 Sith Way
Darklord, Nebraska 02812
Dear Darth Vader,
What about the "Dear recruiter" salutation?
Isn't that a bit old fashioned?
Starting a cover letter Dear ______, is fine.
Job applicants have been doing it for years. By now, recruiters are used to it.
Pro Tip: Writing an email? You don't need your full mailing address. Your web URL, email address, and phone number are enough.
Already know how to start a cover letter first paragraph? Just need to know how to write an address? See our guide: "How to Address a Cover Letter: Sample & Guide [20+ Examples]"
Learning how to start a cover letter isn't easy. Remember this advice:
The best tip for how to begin a cover letter? Make it all about the hiring manager. Use her name. If you don't know it, take the time to learn it.
Include some big accomplishments that fit the company's needs. See our application letter examples for more help.
Add other attention grabbing facts, such as things you like about the company, or recent company achievements.
Want to know more about how to write a cover letter? Not sure what the opening paragraph of your cover letter should be about? Perhaps you found the best way to start a cover letter? Give us a shout in the comments! We love to help!