How to write a great cover letter

Search with Ctrl + F Last updated: 2022-08-14

Why do I need a Cover letter?

Experts say that cover letters are extremely important when evaluating job candidates, therefore it’s important that you send one with your resume when applying for a job. Keep in mind that your cover letter will be the first thing the hiring manager will see when he/she opens the envelope that contains your resume so your cover letter must be constructed in a way that gets the hiring manager’s attention.

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a personal letter from you to the hiring manager introducing yourself and your qualifications. Your goal should be to spark the employers interest and show enthusiasm for the company and the position. Keep in mind that a cover letter is a type of business letter. When you compose your cover letter, you must include all the essential elements of a business letter and decide which letter style to use.

Essential Elements of a Business Letter

  • Date – includes the month, day and year and is positioned 2-6 lines below the letterhead.
  • Address – includes the title, full name, business affiliation, address and is positioned three to eight lines below the date line.
  • Salutation – recipients title. Always address your cover letter to the hiring manager by name (i.e. Dear Ms. Smith:). If you do not know the name of the person advertising the job, address your letter to Hiring Manager. The salutation is positioned 2 lines below the inside address.
  • Message Body – includes paragraphs explaining why you are applying for the job (attention, interest, desire and action.)
  • Closing – begins two lines below the message
  • Signature Block – begins at least 4 blank lines below the complimentary close providing room for the author to sign his/her name.

How to Write your Cover Letter Paragraphs

Cover letters take some thought so following a proven technique for constructing them will help you create a cover letter that will convince a hiring manager to give you an interview. Some experts recommend using a technique called AIDA, which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action for crafting the body of your letter. While originally designed for use in business, AIDA has been proven to be an effective method for creating cover letters.

1. Grab Attention

In the first paragraph of your cover letter, grab the hiring manager’s attention by telling him/her why you are writing. For example:

“I would like to apply for the Administrative Assistant position I saw advertised on Craigslist”

“I am interested in learning more about career opportunities for Administrative staff at your company”

2. Rouse Interest

Rouse the hiring manager’s Interest In the second paragraph of your letter by explaining what makes you uniquely qualified for the position. For example:

  • “I have five years of experience working as an Executive Secretary at a local company.”
  • “I have recently graduated from a local community college with a certificate in Office Administration”

3. Create Desire

State how you are qualified for the position by mentioning three or four of your major accomplishments. Use your Resume Questionnaire as a guideline. For example:

  • “I know how to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations using the latest Microsoft Office software”
  • “I have excellent people skills and am able to communicate clearly and get along well with my coworkers, colleagues, supervisors and clients.
  • I can manage calendars, book travel, and schedule facilities and equipment.
  • I have served as a lead for managing a number of small projects.

4. Action

Don’t be afraid to ask the hiring manager for a job interview. Close your letter with one of the following examples:

  • I would love to interview for your Administrative Assistant position.  You can reach me anytime at 408-555-1212.
  • “I would like to interview for your Receptionist position. I hope you won’t mind if I call in a few days to see that you received my resume and to schedule an interview.”

Sample Cover Letter using AIDA


Cover Letter Styles

    • Block Style:  In the block style letter, all components of the letter begin flush with the left margin.
    • Modified Block Style:  In the modified block style letter, the date line, complimentary close and the signature block begin at the 3.5” mark on the ruler.  The rest of the letter begins at the left margin.
    • Modified Semi Block Style:  You can also apply the first line indent to the paragraphs by indenting in the modified block style letter.  In this format, the first line of each paragraph is indented by one half

Hiring managers are busy people so keeping your cover letter to one page should be sufficient.  For information on Job Search Skills and Career Planning, visit the Job Search Skills section on