How To Write A Cover Letter (Definitive Guide 2019 + Template)

By Mike Simpson

So you want to learn how to write a cover letter…

But let me ask you this:

Have you ever been on a blind date?

It can be overwhelmingly nerve wracking.

There you are, all dressed up in your finest, ready to sit down across the table from someone you know absolutely nothing about, and hopefully survive the meeting without too much trouble.

At the absolute best, you two hit it off.

Things are great and you discover through your first awkward meeting that you’re perfect for each other and destined for years of happy togetherness.

At the worst, you’re forced to sit across from someone you have absolutely nothing in common with. 

You spend the entire date suffering through what can feel like absolute eternity, stumbling through awkward starts and stops in the conversation..

But what if you each had a cheat sheet?

A sort of pre-blind date rundown of who you’re going to meet?

A cheat sheet that includes all sorts of vital information like who you are and what you can bring to the relationship. It would make things so much easier, right?

Of course!

Now, what if you not only had this cheat sheet, but you got to look at it and decide if you even wanted to go on that date in the first place?  Even better, right?

FREE BONUS PDF CHEAT SHEET: Get our "Perfect Cover Letter" Cheat Sheet that gives you a Step-by-Step Process that will help you produce a perfect cover letter.

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR CHEAT SHEET

In the business world, interviews are a lot like blind dates.

Employers sit down with potential employees and over the course of the meeting, both parties try to learn enough about each other to decide if working together is  good idea or a bad idea…just without the awkward hug/kiss thing at the end…hopefully.

See…not so far off from our blind date scenario from earlier…but there is ONE big difference. 

Did you know that companies do have those little cheat sheets on potential employees and that they do ‘pre-screenings’ before the offer to interview is even considered?

That’s right! They do.

Every single piece of information you send a company you’re applying to is going to be thoroughly looked at to determine your potential for compatibility, starting with your cover letter.

“But wait,” you say, “what’s a cover letter, and more importantly, why do I need to send one along with my resume?”

Don’t worry, we’re going to explain exactly what it is…and so much more. 

In fact, over the course of this article, we’re going to discuss a number of things you’ll need to know in order to make your cover letter not only right for who you are and what you bring to the table…but tailor it so it’s absolutely perfect for your first blind date…er, we mean…the job you’re applying for.

What Is A Cover Letter Anyway?

Before you learn how to write a cover letter, you first need to understand what it is!

A professional cover letter is a short, single page letter you should include with every application and/or resume you send out.  

It’s a quick way for you to introduce yourself to an employer and gives them a taste of you…not just your skills (which they will get by looking at your resume.) 

Not only does it act as an introduction, it will also let whoever is reading it (hiring managers) know exactly why you are sending them your information as well as potentially help open the door to future meetings…and interviews! 

Remember, first impressions count…even when they’re on paper, so let’s make sure yours is as perfect as possible. You should start by downloading our “Perfect Cover Letter Cheat Sheet”, which will show you how to build your cover letter in quick, step-by-step format. Click here to download the cheat sheet now.

Why Do I Need One?

Okay, so I get what a cover letter is, but why do I have to write one?  Shouldn’t my resume be strong enough on its own?    

Ideally, yes, you want to make sure the resume you are submitting is as strong as possible and perfectly tailored to the job you’re applying for (more on tailoring in a bit) but simply sending it in without including a cover letter can work against you. 

As we outlined in our article How to Make a Resume 101,” a resume is a document that summarizes your skills, abilities and accomplishments.  A well made one should clearly spell out what you can do…but does little to explain who you are. 

That’s where a cover letter comes in. 

A good cover letter serves a multitude of purposes beyond simply letting the hiring manager know the proper way to spell your name.   

It gives potential employers information about you that they wouldn’t get just from looking at your resume alone. 

To bring it back to our dating analogy from earlier…a well written cover letter is a little bit like a friend meeting with your date and telling them all the best things about you before you even get there. 

It’s an opportunity for you to reach out as an individual, not just as an applicant. 

It should highlight your qualifications as well as demonstrate how you stand out from the rest of the hundreds (or thousands) of other qualified job seekers. 

It should also showcase why you’re the right choice for the position…what makes you the “Perfect Candidate”…and all this is accomplished before you’re invited to the date, er…I mean interview…

But what if I’m applying for a job that just asks me to send in my resume…do I still need to send in a cover letter? 

Absolutely! 

Sending in a resume without a cover letter is a missed opportunity you can’t afford to take in this competitive job market. 

Not only does a good cover introduce you and all your best qualities, it’s also an opportunity to help explain away any concerns a prospective employer might have about your ability to do the job they’re hiring for. 

The last thing you want to do is turn in a resume or application for a job you’re perfect for and have it get tossed before you even make it to the interview stage because there was something that made an employer question your abilities. 

Have a gap in employment on your resume?  – Use your cover letter as an opportunity to explain it: 

In the middle of switching careers and finding that your skills, while applicable to the job you’re applying for aren’t traditionally considered to be a match? Use your cover letter to detail why you should be considered anyway. 

These days submitting a cover letter is just good form! 

Many times employers expect cover letters even if they don’t explicitly ask for one. 

A job seeker who sends in a resume without a cover letter is essentially letting an employer know they’re happy doing just the bare minimum…and that’s just not the way we like to do things!

By writing a solid cover letter, even when not asked for one, you’re taking that extra step as a job seeker and reinforcing that you’re not only enthusiastic about the opportunity but that you’re also motivated to do what it takes to get in the door for that face to face meeting.

**A WORD OF WARNING…if a company specifically asks you NOT to send a cover letter…then don’t.  Always follow the instructions as outlined by a potential employer.