Businesmman at his office in front of his computer holding a cover letter.

Ultimate Guide to Writing Cover Letters

Eric Ciechanowski
By Eric Ciechanowski
Last Updated: March 20, 2023
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The first step to landing your next job is landing the interview. To land the interview, you will of course need a great resume, but you will also need a compelling cover letter. Hiring managers often report that cover letters play an important part in helping job applicants make a strong first impression with a potential employer. Use the resources in this guide or our cover letter examples to make sure that your cover letter gets noticed. You’ll find expert advice, useful tools, and practical guidance to help you write an effective cover letter that will make you stand out from the competition.

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Cover Letter Writing 101

If you’re new to writing cover letters, start here. These are the fundamentals. The resources in this section come from only the most trustworthy sources — respected academic institutions. Learn the foundational principles of building a cover letter, from proper grammar and formatting to what kinds of information you will need to include.

OWL Cover Letter Resources — The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University has long been the go-to resource for anyone in need of sage writing advice. On this page, there are links to some excellent OWL resources, including YouTube videos and an online cover letter workshop.

Resume and Letter Writing — Check out this thorough guide exploring the ins and outs of creating a successful cover letter and resume. This richly informative page comes from the University of California, Berkeley.

Preparing a Resume and Cover Letter — From Rutgers University, this comprehensive guide explores the whys and hows of cover letter writing. Use it to help you write a cover letter that has purpose and substance.

Resumes and Cover Letters — This resource page was created by Stanford University’s Student Affairs Department. It contains links to all kinds of great information and tools for those just starting out with writing a cover letter.

Cover Letter Tips and Tricks

Beyond the basics, these articles delve into what it takes to create a cover letter that catches — and holds — an employer’s interest. Don’t skip over this section because, while it’s important to have a cover letter that meets basic standards, it is even better to have one that stands out in all the right ways. You’ll also learn about the common pitfalls that too many job-seekers fall into when writing their cover letter.

How to Write a Cover Letter — This straightforward article from Forbes cuts right to the heart of what makes a great cover letter. It’s full of helpful hints from experts in the business world to give you the inside scoop on what hiring managers are really thinking.

Cover Letter Tips from Monster — Monster.com keeps a great collection of articles to help you write an awesome cover letter. Topics covered include the most effective attention getters and how to avoid common mistakes.

Cover Letter Writing — This informative piece comes from the Harvard Business Review and offers input from in-the-know experts. Use their valuable advice to give you an edge in the competitive world of job-seeking.

7 Cover Letter Tips — This article from Work Smart harvests wisdom from hiring managers and other experts to help you avoid the worst mistakes and whittle your cover letter down to its best possible form.

Cover Letter Writing Tools and Activities

Make it easy on yourself, and use these tools to help you craft a professional and flawless cover letter. There are sample cover letters to use for inspiration and reference. You’ll also find some worksheets and activities to help you figure out how to translate your skills, experience, and ideas into an eye-catching and effective finished product. If you’re at a loss, try using some of the tools provided to get you primed to pen the perfect cover letter.

Cover Letter Builder — You can use this easy and fun tool from Live Career to create a customized cover letter. Making one is free, but you’ll have to pay a small fee if you want to keep it. Even if you opt not to save the one you created, this can be a good exercise in how to build a great cover letter.

Cover Letter Packet — This packet, published by the University of South Carolina, is a great way to get started on your cover letter. Print out the PDF and use the worksheets to help you organize the information that you want to include.

Cover Letter Resources — This article from the University of Michigan’s Career Center gives a quick but helpful rundown of cover letter writing. There are even some paragraph prompts to help get you through if you’re having trouble figuring out what to write.

The Pain-Free Cover Letter Builder — Try this free downloadable guide from The Muse to help you write an awesome cover letter. You’ll find step-by-step instructions, hints, and tips, and lots of prompts to get you writing now — you can even print it out and use it as a workbook.

Cover Letter Samples and Templates

The following links will lead you to some excellent free resources for more cover letter help. There are pre-made templates you can use — just plug your own information into the existing document. There are also collections of sample cover letters for inspiration and ideas. Look at cover letters created for different career fields to help you get an idea of how you can tailor your own skills and experiences to fit your area of interest.

Cover Letter Examples – Hloom provides this huge collection of sample cover letters created by professional writers. Each one is specific to a particular profession to help you to customize your own cover letter to suit your unique situation and career goals.

Cover Letter Examples from About.com — On this page, you can find several examples of well-executed cover letters, divided into helpful subcategories so you can easily find ones that work for your purposes.

Cover Letter Templates from Total Jobs — On this page, there are several downloadable templates for different types of cover letters. These user-friendly templates cover a range of possible situations, from a recent graduate applying for a first job to someone looking to advance at their current company.