How To Write A Cover Letter: A Step-by-Step Guide

How To Write A Cover Letter : A Step-by-Step Guide

Three to five short paragraphs are all you need to create a dynamic cover letter. By making your cover letter as concise as possible, you demonstrate your ability to communicate clearly and effectively. Our guide takes you through each step of the letter-writing process.

Step 1 - The Salutation

Address the letter to a name: "Dear Sir" If you can't obtain the information by calling the company, use a title: "Dear Advertising Manager."

Make sure the company address on your letter matches the one on your envelope.

Step 2 - Introductory Paragraph

Open with a sentence that grabs the reader's attention. For example, explain how your skills uniquely qualify you for the job or that you are enthusiastic about the position or company.

State what position you are applying for and where you learned about the job.

Step 3 - Why I'm the Perfect Person for the Job Paragraph

Be specific without repeating everything that is on your resume.
Briefly explain important career achievements.

Define how you can contribute to the company's success. How do your skills make you stand out?

Step 4 - Additional Background and Skills Paragraph

  • Talk about any additional skills that you have (be brief!).
  • Show you have done research on the company by demonstrating how your background can help you meet current company objectives.
  • State your practical work experience (as it pertains to the job; no one needs to know your entire teenage work history).
  • Use bullet points to highlight your greatest strengths (if you have not already done so).

Step 5 - Executive Level Information Paragraph

If you are applying to a higher-level or executive position (VP, Manager, etc.), you might want to include a fourth paragraph that gives more details of your achievements and background.

For an entry-level job or non-executive position, you probably don't need another "background paragraph."

Step 6 - Closing Paragraph

Don't ignore a request for salary requirements-but be cautious. Give a broad range or write "negotiable."

Thank the employer for reviewing your materials.

Step 7 - Signature

Remember to sign your letter in black or blue ink! Other colors don't look professional.

List your phone number underneath your name. It makes it a lot easier to find.


If you've done your homework, perfected your writing skills and understand how to position yourself against other applicants, you've got nothing to fear. Here's what a cover letter should say about you.

You Write Well

You'll make a good first impression by submitting a cover letter that is well-written and free of mistakes. Be sure to avoid typos, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. As your first contact with the employer, the cover letter really serves as a writing sample and proof (or not!) that you can organize your thoughts and write clearly.

You Understand and Respect the Employer's Busy Schedule

You'll win points immediately if you keep your letter short, sweet and to the point. Open with a solid lead-in statement that grabs the reader's attention. Be sure to avoid extraneous personal information. No one needs to know that in your spare time you also knit, juggle oranges and have won several prestigious hula hoop championships.

You Know How To Sell Yourself

With any sales pitch, the buyer wants to know "what's in it for me?" The same holds true for a cover letter. Use the cover letter to "sell" the employer on how they will benefit from your skills and experience, not how you will benefit working for them. Explain how your skills will help meet company objectives: "In my current job I developed an e-mail newsletter that increased donations by 40%. I am confident this experience would help me assist you in your ongoing fundraising efforts."

You Are Qualified for the Position

Your cover letter should outline the ways you specifically fit the qualifications needed for the position. However, don't just repeat what is on your resume. Offer concrete details demonstrating why you are the perfect person for the position: "My solid marketing background and four years of supervisory experience make me an ideal candidate for your Marketing Manager position.

You're Smart Enough Not to Send a Form Letter

How do you feel about the form letters you receive? Do they bore you? Offend you? Do you consider them junk mail? Human Resources professionals feel the same way. Customize every letter to a specific company and a specific position. Don't waste postage and paper on a pre-written form letter. They can be spotted a mile away.

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