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How to Write a Cover Letter

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A solid cover letter is critical to landing a professional job. Before you can convince managers to hire you, you must convince them with your cover letter to meet you for an interview. With so much on the line, every word of the cover letter counts. Use this writing guide on how to write a cover letter to hook employers with a flawless cover letter that makes an impact. Similar to writing an essay or research paper, crafting an original cover letter takes time, preparation, and a certain methodology of thought that this guide will teach.

The Anatomy of a Cover Letter

Here is a basic cover letter layout and structure.

Cover Letter Layout and Structure

Header #1 (Personal Contact Information)


Header #2 (Person Being Addressed)




Opening Paragraph


Body Paragraph


Closing Paragraph




In most cases, a cover letter is not more than 1 page in length. Job applicants must master the art of brevity to make the most of a very small amount of space to summarize their skills, qualifications, and ambitions. This is where breaking down the parts of the cover letter helps. In this guide on how to write a cover letter, it is useful to know what information is being expressed in each section. The following components can be found in any cover letter:

The Headers

These components are located at the top right-hand and top left-hand corner of the letter. The header at the top left-hand corner identifies your personal contact information. The header at the top right-hand corner of the letter identified the contact information of the employer.

The Salutation

This part of the letter includes the name of the person whom the letter is addressed to.

The Opening Paragraph

The first paragraph is where the applicant has the opportunity to hook the reader. This paragraph introduces the applicant and explains his or her interest in applying for the job.

Body Paragraphs

The cover letter contains at least one additional body paragraph. The body paragraphs detail the qualifications of the candidate and other relevant experiences.

The Closing Paragraph

The final paragraph tells the employer how to contact the applicant. The applicant uses this paragraph to express interest in receiving contact from the employer and describe how he or she can be reached.

The Closure

The closure simply includes a closing phrase and your name. This is perhaps the easiest part of writing a cover letter

Each part of the cover letter serves a very specific function. Learning to write an effective letter requires applicants to masterfully fulfill the purpose of each letter component.

Writing the Headers and Salutation

There are two different headers that are included at the top corners of the cover letter. The first header is located at the top right-hand corner of the letter and provides your contact information. The header will include your name, your address, your phone number, and your email address.

Though it sounds simple, it is possible to make errors in the header. Consider the following example of a bad header. 

Bad Header Example #1

“Skillz” Connor

1245 Maple Ln




So what is wrong with this example? Several things. First, the header should always include your full legal name. Avoid using nicknames or other abbreviations that will confuse the reader. If you have a nickname that you insist on being called by, it is better to bring it up in the interview.

The contact information also needs to be improved. Full terms such as “road” or “lane” should be used to references street addresses. A second line should be added below the street address to identify the city, state, and zip code of the address. While “ilovepurpleicecream” is a certainly a clever email address, it is too informal to use as a business contact. Create a formal email account that uses your first and last name in the email address. 

The following example fixes the errors in the bad example and shows what a good header will look like. 

Good Header Example #1

Warren T. Connor

12245 Maple Lane

Denver, Colorado 80235

(555) 709-8457



After adding two line spaces beneath the first header, set the document justification to the left in your word processor to write the second header in the upper left-hand corner of the letter. The second header includes the contact information of the employer, including the name of the person who will read the letter, the name of the company, and the address of the company. The following example demonstrates what to avoid when writing the employer’s contact information on a header.

Bad Header Example #2

Hiring Manager

Hudson Tennis Acdmy

5019 Mercury Drive


This example demonstrates that it takes real effort on part of the applicant to write an effective cover letter. Before you write your letter, you should make every effort to find the name of the person who will be reading your cover letter. Many times the person reading it will be in human resources, but other times the actual departmental manager or supervisor will actually read the letter. Calling the human resources department is the quickest way to determine who should be addressed in the header. The caveat: some organizations request not to be contacted in the job posting. In this case, try to look at the company website to find the name of the human resources or department manager. If you cannot find a specific name, it is acceptable to simply write “Hiring Manager” at the top of the header.

Also, write the full name of the company and the full address in the second header. The name of the organization should spell out all abbreviations, such as “Inc.” or “Corp.” The address should be fully written and include the city, state, and zip code. The following example fixes these errors to show what a good second header will look like.

Good Header Example #2

Sam McEnroe

Hudson Tennis Academy

5019 Mercury Drive

Aurora, Colorado 80017


As a final step, is to add one space below the second heading and add a salutation. In the salutation, you greet the person you are addressing. The following example demonstrates what the header will look like once it is correctly formatted.

Good Header and Salutation Example #3

Warren T. Connor

12245 Maple Lane

Denver, Colorado 80235

(555) 709-8457



Sam McEnroe

Hudson Tennis Academy

5019 Mercury Drive

Aurora, Colorado 80017 


Dear Mr. McEnroe,


This is what the top of your letter will look like. The headers are a formality in letter writing and are essential to creating a professional look for your draft.

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Mastering the Opening Paragraph

The opening paragraph is the first opportunity to introduce yourself to employers. Crafting the perfect cover letter is more of an art than science, but a few quick steps enable anyone to write a masterful introduction. First, name the position you are applying for and tell the manager where you found the job advertisement. Next, identify your experiences and express why you are a good candidate for the job. Look at the following example for the wrong way to write an opening paragraph.

Bad Opening Paragraph Example 

My name is Warren T. Connor, and I would like a position with your company. I worked as a dishwasher at Joe’s Café, a professional dog walker, and a dolphin trainer at Sea World. I also own my own beauty and nail care products business. I enjoy hiking, skiing, and scuba diving when I’m not working or operating my business. I believe have a lot of experiences that would be great for your organization.


The first problem with this example is that the applicant begins by immediately identifying himself. His name is located in the header and doesn’t need to be repeated in the opening paragraph. Though the applicant lists his experience, his examples are random and are not tailored to the position. Instead, discuss how your experience makes you a good candidate for the job opening. The following example describes how the candidate’s background will aid the employer.

Good Opening Paragraph Example 

I am submitting my resume in response to the Head Tennis Instructor position advertised in Tennis Weekly on November 8, 2014. As a USTA certified teaching professional, I have five years of experience coaching high school players at Gilbert County High School. As a recipient of the National Tennis Association Tennis Coach of the Year award for two consecutive years, I bring the dedication and experience that is needed to contribute to the growth of your organization.


This opening paragraph is much stronger because it identifies the position the writer is applying for and lists his relevant experience. The applicant also describes certifications and achievements that distinguish him from other candidates. Being specific about your work experience is the key to writing a captivating first paragraph in a cover letter. Leading with concrete examples will make your cover letter stand out among a pile of cover letters from other applicants.

Writing Substantive Body Paragraphs

After grabbing the manager’s attention in the introduction, it is time to show why you are the perfect candidate for the job. A cover letter typically has one or two body paragraphs following the introduction. The body of the paragraph should include specific examples of work that has been performed and the results of this work. The following examples demonstrate the wrong and right way to write an effective body paragraph.

Bad Body Paragraph Example 

As a tennis coach, I taught lessons, helped students improve their performance, and helped coordinate local and regional tournaments. I’ve worked with many students and am familiar with best practices in coaching.


The problem with this paragraph is it is too vague. Any applicant for this position can each lessons, help students improve their performance, and coordinate tournaments. What makes this candidate different from other tennis coaches who have performed the same tasks?

Good Body Paragraph Example 

Skill development is central to my approach as a coach. During my tenure at Gilbert County High School, I have coached five state champions and helped students at all levels improve their skills to place in tournaments. My innovative system of drills in volleying, serving and returning, and forehand and backhand shots, has resulted in 25 percent annual increase in tournament wins for the team. My coaching philosophy focuses on building the confidence and resilience so players can perform at their best.


As a rule of thumb, keep each body paragraphs focused and brief. Some professions or careers expect cover letters to consist of two pages rather than one page. Take note of the cover letter length that is expected in your profession before deciding on the number of body paragraphs to include in the letter.

Writing a Compelling Closing Paragraph

The closing paragraph lets the reader know how you can be contacted. The closing paragraph should be brief, and the contact information in the paragraph should be easy to find.

Bad Closing Paragraph Example 

I really would like an interview and can be called at my cell phone number listed at the top of this letter or my email. I believe that I am the right candidate for the job and can’t wait to hear from you soon.


Don’t make the reader scan to the top of the page for your phone number or email number. Make it easier for the reader to retrieve your contact information from the closing paragraph.

Good Closing Paragraph Example 

I look forward to meeting you to further discuss the position and my qualifications. You can contact me by phone at: (555) 709-8457 or by email at: warren.connor(@)doodle.com.


Giving employers two places to find your information invites them to contact you for an interview.

Finishing with the Closure

Once you tell employers how to contact you, add one space below the final paragraph and end the letter with the closure. At the bottom of the closure, type your full name in print. Be sure to leave two spaces between the closure and your name for room to sign your name by hand.

Good Closure Example 


(Sign Name Here)

Warren T. Connor


After completing your letter, have a trusted friend or family member proofread your letter. You don’t want spelling or grammar errors to ruin your hard work. Once you have proofread your cover letter, it is ready to impress employers and land you the job of your dreams. 

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