Resumes & Cover letters

Cover Letter Guidelines

Not only can cover letters introduce you to potential employers, but they also strengthen your application. They provide more detail on topics covered in resumes and also provide a touch of personality, which can help employers learn more about you beyond your resume and determine whether you’d be a good addition to the team. In this post, we define a cover letter, describe its significance, and provide a list of cover letter guidelines.

What exactly is a cover letter?

A cover letter, which goes with a resume, gives you the chance to show off a greater portion of your personality. Employers can learn about your qualifications and work history from your CV, but a cover letter is the only way they can get to know you better personally. It serves as an introduction to who you are, as well as a call to action, with examples of pertinent accomplishments.

What makes a cover letter crucial?

A cover letter serves as a supplement to a resume. It’s a way to demonstrate your added value to the firm and demonstrate your organizational fit. A cover letter serves as your opportunity to make an excellent first impression and differentiate yourself from other applicants. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to expand on some of your qualifications and expertise or to relate an instance in which you used them.

What should you include in a cover letter?

When reviewing a cover letter, a hiring manager looks for a certain amount of information. The following details should always be included in your cover letter:

  • Your contact details
  • An appropriate greeting
  • An introduction for the recruiting manager
  • Your most significant accomplishments
  • A compelling conclusion that inspires them to act
  • Your signature

Aside from the details mentioned above, your cover letter must only contain the information necessary to convince a hiring manager that you are the best person for the job.

Tips for writing a cover letter that stands out

To provide a better knowledge of how to utilize them, the list that follows describes cover letter guidelines—some of which you should try, others you should avoid.

  • Describe how you can assist.
  • Be less concerned with what the job can accomplish for you.
  • Describe your abilities.
  • Never think about your current position or education.
  • Before composing the cover letter, do some research about the business.
  • Don’t bring up any negative media coverage.
  • Use precise keywords.
  • Avoid using too many keywords.
  • Have someone else look at your cover letter.
  • Never send a cover letter that has not been edited.
  • Your cover letter should contain new material.
  • A resume’s information should not be repeated.

Describe how you can assist.

The first on the list of cover letter guidelines is how you can assist the organization. Explain the qualifications and experience you describe on your résumé. Apply them to the position for which you are applying, and then describe how the new employer will allow you to accomplish the same goals. For instance, if you managed to enhance client retention by 20%, go into depth about how you did it and how you might be able to duplicate the success with your new business.

Be less concerned with what the job can accomplish for you.

The second on the list of cover letter guidelines is to focus on what you can accomplish for the company. Some applicants spend a significant amount of space in their cover letter describing why they believe the position is ideal for them or how long they have desired to work there. Despite the favorable facts, you could want to include useful data that demonstrate your strengths as a worker and what you can offer.

Disclose your skills

The third on the list of cover letter guidelines deals with showcasing your skills. Many resumes merely identify pertinent talents; however, a cover letter allows you to elaborate on how you use those skills. Think about how they were useful in past roles, and if appropriate, offer a brief example of how your abilities improved your performance at work.

Don’t concentrate on your existing position or qualifications.

The fourth on the list of cover letter guidelines entails focusing on your past qualifications. Your career history, including your schooling, is valuable. Instead of repeating it, use the space in your cover letter to explain why it is important. Rather than mentioning your degrees, for instance, describe what you learned and any skills you acquired during the process. Describe how your knowledge and talents are a benefit to the business.

Before drafting the cover letter guidelines, do some research on the business.

The fifth on the list of cover letter guidelines involves researching the company. Look on the website of the company for a page that describes the company’s origins, purpose, and guiding principles. Learn more about the company and use that information in your cover letter guidelines. For instance, if the business routinely contributes to charities, highlight that in your letter coupled with what it means for you. Making this move will make you a stronger candidate by demonstrating that you did more research on the organization and put more work into your application.

Don’t bring up any negative media coverage.

The sixth on the list of cover letter guidelines deal with shunning any negative media coverage about the organization in your cover letter. If you come across any unfavorable news stories or other information, leave it out of your cover letter. Develop a thorough understanding of the business and concentrate on positive details to mention in your message.

Use precise keywords

The seventh on the list of cover letter guidelines comprises using the specific keywords contained in the job description. Businesses that frequently receive a large number of applications run the résumés and cover letters they receive through specialized software that looks for keywords. The company establishes a list of crucial terms they search for, and the software arranges them accordingly. Resumes that contain a certain quantity of the desired keywords are sorted at the top, while those that contain just a handful of the keywords are ignored. Look for repeated words when you read the job description and advertisement for the position. Once you’ve identified them, make regular use of the words in your cover letter.

Avoid using too many keywords.

The eighth on the list of cover letter guidelines is to avoid too many keywords. Some software detects when a text contains an excessive number of a particular keyword and maybe rates it poorly or discards it. Write your cover letter with well-structured sentences and planned thoughts. Make the details count because a natural person will read your cover letter after it passes the software assessment.

Request that someone proofread your cover letter.

The ninth on the list of cover letter guidelines deal with having someone proofread your letter for you. Once your cover letter is finished, have a reliable friend, mentor, or former coworker give it a once-over. Make sure the person can offer valuable guidance on cover letters for your specific field. Having a second person review your work enhances the likelihood that any grammar errors will be found and corrected.

Never send a cover letter that hasn’t been revised

The tenth on the list of cover letter guidelines is to edit your cover letter before sending it to the organization. Your cover letter serves as your introduction. If there are any spelling or grammar mistakes in your letter, that will be the organization’s initial impression of you. Write several drafts of your cover letter as many times as necessary before choosing the one that will be submitted.

Update your cover letter with fresh information.

The eleventh on the list of cover letter guidelines deal with continuous updates of information. Put extra information about who you are, your qualifications, and your accomplishments in your cover letter. By including more context or details that your resume was unable to offer, you can expand on your resume. Make sure your cover letter presents you to the organization and offers a very different reading experience.

Avoid reiterating material from your resume.

The third on the list of cover letter guidelines is to shun putting the same information on your resume and cover letter. Certain cover letters only restate the resume’s content in writing form. Think about the benefits a cover letter can give to your application. Make sure it contains additional information not found on your resume that also establishes your position as a candidate.

15 Cover Letter Errors to Watch Out For

Your cover letter ought to emphasize your qualifications for the job and persuade the hiring manager to look through your resume and get in touch with you for an interview. Employers anticipate that you will achieve these objectives in three paragraphs or less. Utilizing the space available to you wisely and understanding what to include and exclude while writing a cover letter are essential.

Avoid these mistakes when composing a cover letter.

Here are 15 mistakes to steer clear of when drafting a cover letter, along with advice and ideas for what you should do in their place:

  • Not adhering to directions
  • Using the incorrect format
  • Describing your motivations for trying to find a new job
  • Applying an identical cover letter to every job posting
  • Writing before first studying the organization and position
  • Talking about a lack of expertise or unnecessary work experience
  • Failing to emphasize your best or most pertinent abilities
  • Concentrating on tasks rather than accomplishments
  • Discussing expected salaries
  • Leaving out evidence to back up assertions
  • Not using keywords to optimize your cover letter
  • Using the incorrect tone or approach Repetition of content from your resume
  • Not including a compelling call to action in your last paragraph
  • Failing to check your cover letter before sending it

Not adhering to guidelines

Any directions given by the employer must be heeded. Employers frequently give detailed advice on what ought to be in your cover letter as well as where to submit it. The hiring manager should be able to easily discover any information they need in your cover letter. Use this as a chance to demonstrate to them that you can follow directions and identify key features.

What you should do: thoroughly examine the job description to find any cover letter guidelines from the company. Follow the guidelines for submitting your cover letter while making sure to add whatever details the job posting explicitly requests. Remember to save your file as a PDF, for instance, if the job posting specifies that a PDF is required. Ensure that your letter responds appropriately to any questions that are specified in the instructions.

Using an incorrect format

Your cover letter will be simpler to read for the recruiting manager if you use the appropriate format. Even while you would like your cover letter to stand out, stay away from being overly creative or wordy. It’s simpler for them to scan your letter and identify the most crucial information if you divide long paragraphs into manageable chunks of text. Utilizing visuals and color sparingly helps keep readers’ attention on your primary topics.

What you should do: To ensure you use the right structure, start by using a cover letter template. Then, make any modifications to the template that will make your letter special and make you stick out from the competition. The maximum length of your cover letter ought to be one page, with one-inch margins on all sides and space between paragraphs. Pick a size that is easy to read, and use a straightforward, professional typeface.

Addressing the reasons for your job search

No justification for your job search should be included in your cover letter. This is particularly important if your search for a new job is motivated by a tense relationship with or experience with your current position.

What you should do: Emphasize why you have an interest in the particular position and firm you are applying for, as well as how you would contribute if hired. Keep your cover letter upbeat and future-oriented throughout. Only include your past when it is essential to describe your abilities, talents, qualities, and successes.

Applying an identical cover letter to every job posting

The substance of your cover letter must be unique and pertinent to the individual who is reading it, even if you utilize a template to get the right format. You must customize the letter’s body to the particular needs and specifications of the job and business you are interested in applying to by writing a fantastic cover letter. Every time you wish to send in your cover letter for a new position, you should improve it.

What you should do: Address the recruiting manager by name at the outset of your letter. Make sure to provide the precise title of the post you are submitting an application for in your cover letter. Describe how the organization may benefit from your skills and abilities as well as how your values fit with the organization’s culture, mission, and vision.

Writing before first studying the organization and position

It takes study to create a cover letter that is appropriate for the job and the business. You can decide which details to include by researching the firm and learning what matters most to them. When drafting a cover letter that resonates with the recruiting manager and demonstrates why you are the greatest candidate for their organization, thorough research is frequently the most crucial component.

What you should do: Study the job description and seek any details the employer emphasizes as crucial to the particular position or about themselves. Read the organization’s mission and vision statements after that, and then browse its website for details on its background, objectives, and culture. Finally, for more information, consult external sources like news organizations, job forums, and company reviews.

Talking about a lack of expertise or unnecessary work experience

Another frequent mistake is attempting to justify your lack of appropriate expertise in your cover letter. While you might want to allay any worries the recruiting manager may have about your experience—or lack thereof—you also don’t want to overtly state that it doesn’t matter.

What you should do: Put a strong emphasis on highlighting how your experiences have served to make you the greatest possible candidate for the job. Talk about the lessons you’ve learned from your experience and how it helped you land the job you’re looking for. Make sure to explain how you intend to apply the abilities and knowledge you gained from the experience to benefit the business and be successful in your new position.

Failing to emphasize your best or most pertinent abilities

You can also want to utilize your cover letter to clarify why specific talents that the hiring manager mentioned in their job description aren’t on your CV. Like with unnecessary experience, you don’t want to draw attention to a flaw or missing talent. Ensure that your cover letter draws attention to the abilities that are both your best assets and those most pertinent to the position you seek.

What you should do: Start by reading the job description and identifying the skills that are required that align with your strongest attributes. Then, consider your experiences and achievements that you can utilize to demonstrate that these talents are an advantage for you. Avoid discussing irrelevant abilities that are not going to help you thrive in your position, even if they constitute a strength.

Concentrating on tasks rather than accomplishments

The responsibilities and tasks you undertook in each of your prior roles will be listed on your resume. Your cover letter must elaborate on these responsibilities by outlining your professional accomplishments or how you exceeded your role’s objectives.

What you should do: Mention any awards or any particular accolades you may have received for your professional accomplishments. If you have several professional accomplishments during your career, pick the achievements that are both most outstanding and most applicable to the job you are going for.

Discussing expected salaries

Unless the company specifically requests it, you should not include your current income or salary aspirations in your cover letter. You may be more concerned about the perks the position can offer you rather than how you can help the business if you discuss compensation expectations too soon.

What you should do: Describe in your cover letter the value you can contribute to the organization and the position. Rather than selecting a precise amount, utilize a broad range that you’re sure you would feel comfortable with if the company asked you to give pay expectations.

Leaving out evidence to back up assertions

Any assertions you make about your knowledge, prowess, or accomplishments must be backed up by evidence. By doing this, you may demonstrate to the recruiting manager why your assertions are valid and why they make you a strong applicant.

What you should do: When feasible, back claims with figures, facts, and statistics. As an illustration, it is more powerful to say “helped my organization save over $6,000 annually and improve office efficiency by 20% by switching to an e-filing system” rather than “helped my organization save funds and improve office efficiency with an e-filing system.” The phrase “continuously attained a 96% or more quality assurance rating” demonstrates your dedication to quality and conveys to the hiring supervisor the value of your talents.

Using insufficient keywords in your cover letter

Another crucial method for enhancing the effect of your cover letter is the use of keywords. Applications, including cover letters, are scanned by applicant tracking systems to identify appropriate applicants for the hiring manager’s attention. The hiring manager will be more likely to take note of your cover letter if they find keywords and phrases that are pertinent to the job and business.

What you should do: To choose the most pertinent keywords to put in your cover letter, read the job advertisement and conduct research on the business and the sector. Then, to make claims about your worth stand out, link those keywords to assertions about your abilities, qualities, and accomplishments.

Repetition of resume information

Your resume’s information should be complemented and supported by the details in your cover letter. Make careful to include information in your cover letter that the recruiting manager can’t locate in your CV without contradicting those statements.

What you should do: Use your cover letter to elaborate on what’s on your resume to make the content in your cover letter complementary but distinct from that in your resume. Use your cover letter, for instance, to talk about a particular accomplishment that showcases some of the qualities you included in your CV.

Using the incorrect tone or manner

To use the proper tone and style, formality and flexibility must be carefully balanced. It should be informal enough to demonstrate that the information is original while also remaining professional. A tone that is too official could turn the reader off, but one that is too informal could give the impression that you don’t take the application procedure seriously.

What you should do: Adopt the organization’s tone and style by using the information you’ve learned about it. Address the reader by name rather than “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Recruiting Manager” to make the letter more personal. Avoid slang, superfluous jargon, and casual or vulgar speech to keep it professional.

Not including a compelling call to action in your final paragraph

Your cover letter should convince the hiring manager of your worth as a candidate. Your ending should contain a call for the recruiting manager to take action as the specifics about your skills and strengths are your sales pitch.

What you should do: Compose a conclusion paragraph that implores or encourages the recruiting manager to pursue a particular course of action. The phrase “I am looking forward to seeing you for a job interview and collaborating on developing an innovative training program” conveys to the hiring manager that you want them to reach out to you for an interview and also that you are prepared to assist the business in achieving its objectives.

Submitting a cover letter without proofreading it

Any writing process must include proofreading. If you don’t take the time to carefully proofread your cover letter before submitting it, you can miss minute things like grammatical or spelling mistakes, incorrect punctuation, erroneous information, and omitted information.

What you should do: Reading your cover letter aloud can help you understand the tone you are aiming for and how the hiring manager will interpret it. As you read the letter, make modifications and edits. Once you are done making modifications, repeat the process. Think about inviting a friend or family member to revise it as well and get their feedback. Sometimes those who are familiar with us well can point out something we might have overlooked.


In conclusion, following guidelines for cover letters is crucial for creating a compelling document. By adhering to these guidelines, you can increase your chances of capturing the attention of potential employers or admissions committees. Remember to tailor your cover letter to the specific position or program, highlighting your most relevant qualifications and experiences. Use a professional and confident tone, supported by specific examples and achievements. Research the company, organization, or program to customize your letter and demonstrate your genuine interest. Finally, proofread your cover letter for clarity, conciseness, and accuracy. By applying these guidelines, you can create a standout cover letter that showcases your unique skills, qualifications, and potential contributions, ultimately increasing your chances of success.

Frequently Asked Questions about cover letter guidelines

  • What is the purpose of a cover letter?

The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce yourself to potential employers or admissions committees and explain why you are a strong candidate for a job or academic program. It allows you to highlight your qualifications, skills, and experiences in a personalized and persuasive manner.

  • How long should a cover letter be?

A cover letter should be concise and typically limited to one page. It should provide enough information to showcase your qualifications and interest in the position or program without being too lengthy or overwhelming for the reader.

  • Should I customize my cover letter for each application?

Yes, it is highly recommended to customize your cover letter for each application. Tailoring your cover letter allows you to align your qualifications and experiences with the specific requirements and needs of the employer or institution, increasing your chances of standing out and demonstrating your genuine interest.

  • What information should I include in a cover letter?

A cover letter should include your contact information, a professional greeting, an introduction that captures the reader’s attention, a clear and concise statement of your interest and qualifications, specific examples and achievements that demonstrate your skills and experiences, and a professional closing with your contact information.

  • How can I make my cover letter stand out?

To make your cover letter stand out, it’s important to research the company, organization, or program and customize your letter accordingly. Focus on showcasing your unique qualifications, skills, and experiences that align with your needs. Use a professional and confident tone, supported by specific examples and achievements. Additionally, pay attention to the formatting, grammar, and overall presentation of your letter to make it visually appealing and easy to read.

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