Your resume shows employers your relevant work experience, skills, and education. But they also want to know about your career, accomplishments, and what motivates you. That’s where your cover letter comes in.
Cover Letter Definition
A cover letter is a one-page document that you include in a job application (along with your resume). Your cover letter should introduce you to an employer, and give them additional information about your qualifications and character.
The goal of a cover letter is to convince employers that you’re interested in and qualified for a job. Your cover letter is also a great place to provide additional details about your work history, skills, or life situation to a prospective employer.
When written well, your cover letter provides important information that your resume isn’t able to communicate.
Still unclear on what a cover letter is, how to write a cover letter, or which types of cover letters exist? Don’t worry — we have a variety of resources to help you learn everything you need to know and put together the perfect cover letter:
Example cover letter for a job application
Not sure what a cover letter is supposed to look like? Here’s a simple cover letter example written by a mid-level candidate:
What should I include in a cover letter for a job?
Here’s a quick look at what to include in a cover letter for a job:
- Contact information – List your name and contact details in your cover letter header, followed by the hiring manager’s name and contact details.
- Salutation – Greet the hiring manager ideally with their preferred honorific (Mr. / Mrs. / Ms. / Dr. / etc.) and their name. Can’t find their name? “Dear Hiring Manager” is acceptable.
- Opening paragraph – In your cover letter’s first paragraph, formally greet the hiring manager. Introduce yourself, and explain how you found the job posting.
- Body paragraph(s) – Provide information about your previous work experience, and how it’s relevant to the job. Also use this space to list details about your professional accomplishments and skills.
- Closing paragraph – In your closing paragraph, restate your interest in the position, and thank the hiring manager for their time.
- Sign-off – End your cover letter with a sign-off like “Sincerely,” and then sign your name below.
To illustrate, here’s an example of a cover letter with each section outlined:
Types of cover letters used in 2023
Your cover letter is the most versatile part of your job application. You can use each section to showcase your personality, argue why you’re the best person for the role, and even explain unique circumstances (if you have any).
The content and style of your cover letter depend on your work history, level of experience, and the kind of job you’re applying for.
While your cover letter can be rewritten to fit any scenario, there are several common types of cover letters. These include:
- General cover letters
- Internal position cover letters
- Career change cover letters
- Scholarship cover letters
- Creative cover letters
1. General cover letter
A general cover letter focuses broadly on your work experience and skills so that you can easily modify it for each job you apply for.
Think of the general cover letter as your default cover letter.
Applying for a range of jobs in a similar industry and already have consistent work experience? A general cover letter is perfect because it presents a straightforward overview of your qualifications and accomplishments and can be quickly modified based on where you’re applying.
2. Cover letter for an internal position
A cover letter for an internal position is what you submit to your employer if you’re applying for a different position within your current organization.
For example, if you’re applying for a promotion or want to transfer departments, you might need to write an internal cover letter to formally apply for the new position.
A cover letter for an internal position differs from a regular cover letter because it doesn’t include a formal introduction (your company already knows you). Instead, it focuses on your commitment to the company you currently work for, and your specific accomplishments while working there.
3. Career change cover letter
Making a major change in your career? You’ll need to write a career change cover letter to communicate your situation to employers and convince them that you’re worth hiring.
A career change cover letter is different from other types of cover letters because it focuses on your transferable skills and your reasons for changing careers rather than your chronological work history.
4. Scholarship cover letter
Many scholarships require you to submit a scholarship cover letter along with your other application materials.
Writing a cover letter for a scholarship gives you the opportunity to highlight your:
- Commitment to your education
The goal of such a cover letter is to ultimately convince scholarship committees that you deserve their assistance.
A scholarship cover letter differs from a standard cover letter because it targets your future ambitions and educational achievements rather than your work experience.
5. Creative cover letter
Need to stand out from other applicants? A creative cover letter can help you grab the attention of employers using humor, design, or a unique detail.
Creative cover letters differ from a general cover letter by featuring some kind of unique joke, a casual writing style, or an interesting design approach. They can be as serious or as casual as is appropriate for the job.
However, you should only use a creative cover letter if you’re applying to a company that you know has a casual work culture and will respond positively to a less traditional job application.
Why including a cover letter with your resume is important
Still wondering “are cover letters even necessary in 2023?”
Including a cover letter in your job application is essential in a variety of situations. For example, you should always write a cover letter if:
- The job advertisement requests that you submit a cover letter
- Someone at the company suggested you include them in your cover letter as a referral
- The job you’re applying for requires writing skills
However, even if the job you want doesn’t require a cover letter, you should still write one when possible.
Including a well-written cover letter in your job application helps you stand out from other candidates. It can even convince an employer that you’re the right person for the job – even if your resume isn’t 100% what they’re looking for.
Finally, your cover letter is the perfect opportunity to explain your unique situation and qualifications. This much-needed context is something that your resume simply can’t communicate on its own.