How to Write a Cover Letter in 2023 + Examples

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After weeks of heavy job search, you’re almost there!

You’ve perfected your resume. 

You’ve short-listed the coolest jobs you want to apply for.

You’ve even had a friend train you for every single interview question out there.

But then, before you can send your application and call it a day, you remember that the job ad requires a cover letter.

Now you’re stuck wondering how to write a cover letter ...

Don’t panic! We’ve got you covered. Writing a cover letter is a lot simpler than you might think. 

In this guide, we’re going to teach you how to write a cover letter that gets you the job you deserve.

  • What’s a cover letter & why it’s important for your job search
  • How to write a convincing cover letter that gets you the job (step-by-step!)
  • How to perfect your cover letter with the Novoresume free checklist
  • What excellent cover letter examples look like

New to cover letter writing? Give our resumes 101 video a watch before diving into the article!

So, let’s get started with the basics!

What is a Cover Letter? (and Why It’s Important)

A cover letter is a one-page document that you submit as part of your job application (alongside your CV or Resume). 

Its purpose is to introduce you and briefly summarize your professional background. On average, your cover letter should be from 250 to 400 words long .

A good cover letter can spark the HR manager’s interest and get them to read your resume. 

A bad cover letter, on the other hand, might mean that your application is going directly to the paper shredder. So, to make sure this doesn’t happen, it’s essential to know how to write a convincing cover letter.

How does a good cover letter look, you might ask. Well, here’s an example:

how to write cover letter

Keep in mind, though, that a cover letter is a supplement to your resume, not a replacement. Meaning, you don’t just repeat whatever is mentioned in your resume.

If you’re writing a cover letter for the first time, writing all this might seem pretty tough. After all, you’re probably not a professional writer.

The thing is, though, you don’t need to be creative, or even any good at writing. All you have to do is follow a tried-and-tested format:

  • Header - Input contact information
  • Greeting the hiring manager
  • Opening paragraph - Grab the reader’s attention with 2-3 of your top achievements
  • Second paragraph - Explain why you’re the perfect candidate for the job
  • Third paragraph - Explain why you’re a good match for the company
  • Formal closing

Or, here’s what this looks like in practice:

structure of a cover letter

How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter (And Get Hired!)

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, we’re going to guide you through the process of writing a cover letter step by step. 

Step #1 - Pick the Right Cover Letter Template

A good cover letter is all about leaving the right first impression.

So, what’s a better way to leave a good impression than a well-formatted, visual template?

cover letter templates

You can simply pick one of our hand-picked cover letter templates , and you’ll be all set in a jiffy!

As a bonus, our AI will even give you suggestions on how to improve your cover letter on the go.

Step #2 - Start the Cover Letter with a Header

As with a resume, it’s important to start your cover letter with a Contact Information section:

contact information on a cover letter

Here, you want to include all essential information, including:

  • Phone Number
  • Name of the hiring manager / their professional title
  • Name of the company you’re applying to

In certain cases, you might also consider adding:

  • Social Media Profiles - Any type of profile that’s relevant to your field. Social Profiles on websites like LinkedIn, GitHub (for developers), Medium (for writers), etc.
  • Personal Website - If you have a personal website that somehow adds value to your application, you can mention it. Let’s say you’re a professional writer. In that case, you’d want to link to your blog.

And here’s what you shouldn’t mention in your header:

  • Your Full Address 
  • Unprofessional Email - Make sure your email is presentable. It’s pretty hard for a hiring manager to take you seriously if your email address is “[email protected].” Whenever applying for jobs, stick to the “[first name] + [last name] @ email provider.com” format.

matching resume and cover letter

Step #3 - Greet the Hiring Manager

Once you’ve properly listed your contact information, you need to start writing the cover letter contents.

The first thing to do here is to address the cover letter to the hiring manager .

That’s right, the hiring manager! Not the overly popular “Dear Sir or Madam.” You want to show your future boss that you did your research and are really passionate about working with their team.

No one wants to hire a job seeker who just spams 20+ companies and hopes to get hired in any of them.

So, how do you find out who’s the hiring manager? There are several ways to do this. 

The simplest option is to look up the head of the relevant department on LinkedIn. Let’s say you’re applying for the position of a Communication Specialist at Novoresume. The hiring manager is probably Head of Communications or Chief Communications Office.

So, you do a quick lookup on LinkedIn:

linkedin search cco

And voila! You have your hiring manager.

Or let’s say you’re applying for the position of a server. In that case, you’d be looking for the “restaurant manager.”

If this doesn’t work, you can also check out the “Team” page on the company website; there’s a good chance you’ll at least find the right person there.

Here are several other greetings you could use:

  • Dear [Department] Hiring Manager
  • Dear Hiring Manager
  • To whom it may concern
  • Dear [Department] Team

Step #4 - Write an Attention-Grabbing Introduction

First impressions matter, especially when it comes to your job search.

Recruiters get hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of applications. Chances are, they’re not going to be reading every single cover letter end-to-end.

So, it’s essential to catch their attention from the very first paragraph .

The #1 problem we see with most cover letter opening paragraphs is that they’re usually extremely generic. Most of them look something like this..

  • Hey, my name is Jonathan and I’d like to work as a Sales Manager at XYZ Inc. I’ve worked as a sales manager at MadeUpCompany Inc. for 5+ years, so I believe that I’d be a good fit for the position.

See the issue here? This opening paragraph doesn’t say pretty much anything except the fact that you’ve worked the job before.

Do you know who else has similar work experience? All the other applicants you’re competing with.

Instead, you want to start off with 2-3 of your top achievements to really grab the reader’s attention. Preferably, the achievements should be as relevant as possible to the position.

So now, let’s make our previous example shine:

My name’s Michael and I’d like to help XYZ Inc. hit and exceed their sales goals as a Sales Manager. I’ve worked with Company X, a fin-tech company, for 3+ years. As a Sales Representative, I generated an average of $30,000+ in sales per month (beating the KPIs by around 40%). I believe that my previous industry experience, as well as excellence in sales, makes me the right candidate for the job.

See the difference between the two examples? If you were the hiring manager, which sales manager would you hire, Jonathan or Michael?

Now that we’ve covered the introduction, let’s talk about the body of your cover letter. This part is split into two paragraphs: the first is for explaining why you’re the perfect person for the job, and the latter is for proving that you’re a good fit for the company.

So, let’s get started...

Step #5 - Explain why you’re the perfect person for the job

This is where you show off your professional skills and convince the HR manager that you’re a better fit for the job than all the other applicants.

But first things first - before you even write anything, you need to learn what the most important requirements for the role are. So, open up the job ad and identify which of the responsibilities are the most critical.

For the sake of the example, let’s say you’re applying for the position of a Facebook Advertiser. You scan the job ad and see that the top requirements are:

  • Experience managing a Facebook ad budget of $10,000+ / month
  • Some skills in advertising on other platforms (Google Search + Twitter)
  • Excellent copywriting skills

Now, in this section, you need to discuss how you fulfill these requirements. So, here’s how that would look for our example:

In my previous role as a Facebook Marketing Expert at XYZ Inc. I handled customer acquisition through ads, managing a monthly Facebook ad budget of $20,000+ . As the sole digital marketer at the company, I managed the ad creation & management process end-to-end. Meaning, I created the ad copy , images, picked the targeting, ran optimization trials, and so on.

Other than Facebook advertising, I’ve also delved into other online PPC channels, including:

  • Google Search

Are you a student applying for your first internship? You probably don’t have a lot of work experience to show off in this section. Learn how to write an internship cover letter here.

Step #6 - Explain why you’re a good fit for the company

Once you’ve written the last paragraph, you might be thinking - I’m a shoo-in for the job! What else do I need to write? I’ll just wrap up the cover letter and hit that sweet SEND button.

Well, no. You’re not quite there yet.

The HR manager doesn’t only look at whether you’ll be good at the job or not. They’re looking for someone that’s also a good fit for the company culture.

After all, employees that don’t fit in are bound to quit, sooner or later. This ends up costing the company a ton of money, up to 50% of the employee’s annual salary . 

Meaning, you also need to convince the HR manager that you’re really passionate about working with them.

How do you do this? Well, as a start, you want to do some research about the company. You want to know things like:

  • What’s the company’s business model?
  • What’s the company product or service? Have you used it?
  • What’s the culture like? Will someone micro-manage your work, or will you have autonomy on how you get things done?

So, get to Googling. Chances are, you’ll find all the information you need either on the company website or somewhere around the web.

Then, you need to figure out what you like about the company and turn that into text.

Let’s say, for example, you’re passionate about their product and you like the culture of innovation / independent work in the organization.

You’d write something like:

I’ve personally used the XYZ Smartphone, and I believe that it’s the most innovative tech I’ve used in years. The features such as Made-Up-Feature #1 and Made-Up-Feature #2 were real game changers for the device. 

I really admire how Company XYZ thrives for excellence for all its product lines, creating market-leading tech. As someone that thrives in a self-driven environment, I truly believe that I and Company XYZ will be a great match.

What you don’t want to do here is be super generic for the sake of having something to write. Most job seekers tend to mess this one up. Let’s take a look at a very common example we tend to see (way too often):

I’d love to work for Company XYZ because of its culture of innovation. I believe that since I’m super creative, I’d be a good fit for the company. The company values of integrity and transparency really vibe with me.

See what’s wrong here? The example doesn’t really say anything about the company. “Culture of Innovation” is something most companies claim to have. 

The same goes for “values of integrity and transparency” - the writer just googled what the values for the organization are, and said that they like them.

Any hiring manager that reads this will see through the fluff.

So, make sure to do a lot of research and come up with good reasons why you're applying.

Step #7 - Wrap up with a call to action

Finally, it’s time to finish up your cover letter and write the conclusion.

In the final paragraph, you want to:

  • Wrap up any points you couldn't in the previous paragraphs. Do you have anything left to say? Any other information that could help the hiring manager make their decision? Mention it here.
  • Thank the hiring manager for their time. It never hurts to be courteous, as long as you don’t come off as too needy.
  • Finish the cover letter with a call to action. The very last sentence in your cover letter should be a call to action. You should ask the hiring manager to take some sort of action.

And now, let’s turn this into a practical example:

So to wrap it all up, thanks for looking into my application. I hope I can help Company X make the most out of their Facebook marketing initiatives. I'd love to further discuss how my previous success at XYZ Inc. can help you achieve your facebook marketing goals.

Step #8 - Use the right formal closing

Once you’re done with the final paragraph, all you have to do is write down a formal “goodbye” and you’re good to go.

Feel free to use one of the most popular conclusions to a cover letter:

  • Best Regards,
  • Kind Regards,

And we’re finally done! Before sending off the cover letter, make sure to proofread it with software like Grammarly, or maybe even get a friend to review it for you.

Does your cover letter heading include all essential information?

  • Professional email
  • Relevant Social Media Profiles

Do you address the right person? I.e. hiring manager in the company / your future direct supervisor

Does your introductory paragraph grab the reader's attention?

  • Did you mention 2-3 of your top achievements?
  • Did you use numbers and facts to back up your experience?

Do you successfully convey that you’re the right pro for the job?

  • Did you identify the core requirements?
  • Did you successfully convey how your experiences help you fit the requirements perfectly?

Do you convince the hiring manager that you’re passionate about the company you’re applying to?

  • Did you identify the top 3 things that you like about the company?
  • Did you avoid generic reasons for explaining your interest in the company?

Did you finalize the conclusion with a call to action?

Did you use the right formal closure for the cover letter?

5+ Cover Letter Examples

Need some inspiration? Read on to learn about some of the best cover letter examples we’ve seen (for different fields).

College Student Cover Letter Example

college or student cover letter example

Middle Management Cover Letter Example

Middle Management Cover Letter

Career Change Cover Letter Example

Career Change Cover Letter

Management Cover Letter Example

Management Cover Letter Example

Senior Executive Cover Letter Example

Senior Executive Cover Letter Example

Want to discover more examples AND learn what makes them stand out? Check out our guide to cover letter examples .

Next Steps in Your Job Search - Creating a Killer Resume

Your cover letter is only as good as your resume. If either one is weak, your entire application is for naught. 

After all, a cover letter is just an introduction. Imagine going through all this effort to leave an amazing first impression, but flopping at the end because of a mediocre resume.

...But don’t you worry, we’ve got you covered on that end, too.

If you want to learn more about Resumes & CVs, we have a dedicated FREE guide for that. Check out our complete guide on how to make a resume , as well as how to write a CV - our experts will teach you everything you need to know in order to land your dream job.

Or, if you’re already an expert, just pick one of our resume templates and get started.

resume examples for cover letter

Key Takeaways

Now that we’ve walked you through all the steps of writing a cover letter, let’s summarize everything we’ve learned:

  • A cover letter is a 250 - 400 word document that convinces the hiring manager of your competence
  • A cover letter goes in your job application alongside your resume
  • Your introduction to the cover letter should grab the hiring manager’s attention and keep it all the way until the conclusion
  • There are 2 main topics you need to include in your cover letter: why you’re the perfect candidate for the job & why you’re passionate about working in the company you’re applying to
  • Most of the content of your cover letter should be factual , without any fluff or generalizations

At Novorésumé, we’re committed to helping you get the job you deserve, every step of the way! Follow our blog to stay up to date with the industry-leading advice. Or, check out some of our top guides…

  • How to Write a Motivational Letter
  • How to Write a Resume with No Work Experience
  • Most Common Interview Questions and Answers

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Cover Letter vs. CV

A CV (curriculum vitae) is different from a cover letter in that a cover letter is more concise and a CV is fairly detailed. While a CV includes detailed information about a person's educational background and work experience, a cover letter is a more concise document expressing interest in the job being applied to.

Comparison chart

Differences between a cv and cover letter.

A cover letter is an introduction to yourself with regard to the job opening you are applying for. Cover letters are generally one page at most in length, divided into a header, introduction, body, and closing.

Curriculum Vitae may include a cover letter along with other details which are important when applying for international jobs, fellowships, grants, research, scientific and academic positions. The CV is used to screen applicants, often followed by an interview, when seeking employment.

A cover letter includes general details about a person like name, contact information, educational and professional qualification, work experience and career goal or what a person is looking for in terms of a job profile. A cover letter should not be confused with a resume as it does not include all the details of a resume. The cover letter should have enough details so that it complements the Curriculum Vitae and also interests the person reading it.

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Difference between CV and Résumé

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What Is a Cover Letter?

Understanding cover letters, types of cover letters, how to write a cover letter, tips for writing a cover letter.

  • Cover Letter FAQs

The Bottom Line

  • Career Advice

What Is a Cover Letter? Types and How To Write One

cv cover letter meaning

A cover letter is a written document commonly submitted with a job application outlining the applicant's credentials and interest in the open position. Since a cover letter is often one of only two documents sent to a potential employer, a well- or poorly-written letter can impact whether the applicant is called for an interview .

Key Takeaways

  • A cover letter is commonly submitted with a job application explaining the applicant's credentials and interest in the position.
  • A good cover letter complements the resume and explains why the candidate is the ideal person for the job.
  • Common cover letter mistakes can sink a job applicant.

Most job postings are done online and no longer require a physical application. Instead, applicants send companies a copy of their resume along with a cover letter either by email or with a hard copy through the mail. A resume offers a glimpse into the professional and academic experience of a potential employee. The cover letter, on the other hand, acts as an introduction written by the candidate to express their interest in the position and what makes them the best fit for the job.

A good cover letter complements a resume by expanding on items relevant to the job. In essence, it's a sales pitch that describes why the applicant is the best person for the position. Career experts advise job seekers to spend time customizing each cover letter for the particular position, rather than using a generic missive. Although this requires extra effort, it can be very helpful in allowing an applicant to stand out above the competition.

The cover letter provides information to the employer about who the candidate is as a professional and as a person. This includes their areas of interest, professional goals, knowledge, skills they've gained over the years, achievements, passions, and aspirations. The cover letter should be a one-page document that provides a clear and concise idea about why the candidate is the best person for the job . It should also highlight the cultural fit.

While there is no set template for a cover letter, the type of letter that you write will depend on the requirements of each individual company or employer. The information that is included in a cover letter will vary depending on the goals and purpose of your application.

  • An application cover letter is the most familiar type of cover letter. This is generally written in response to a vacancy that is posted on a company's website or a job board. In addition to answering any specific questions posted in the job ad, it may also highlight any experience or skills that are suitable for the position.
  • A referral cover letter is similar to an application letter, but it includes the name of a colleague or employee who recommended the applicant for the open position. A strong referral can help you stand out against other applicants.
  • A prospecting cover letter , also known as a letter of interest, is written by a job seeker and addressed to a company where they would like to work. However, it is not aimed at a specific role or vacancy. Instead, this type of letter inquires about open positions in general and may highlight any special skills that make the writer suitable for the company.

When employers post a job ad that requires a cover letter, they may specify certain requirements for the cover letter to address. For example, they may require applicants to answer certain questions, or to respect a certain word limit. It is important to follow these requirements, as they reflect on the applicant's ability to understand and follow directions.

If the employer does not set any expectations, a typical cover letter should be about a page or less, and may include a formal greeting, contact information, and links to the applicant's portfolio or work. It should highlight any special skills, and explain why you would be a good fit for the position. This is your chance to impress the employer: Even if your resume does not have everything an employer wants, a well-written cover letter can make the applicant stand out from the crowd.

However, it is possible to include too much information. Most employers will simply glance at the majority of their cover letters, and a long-winded essay might end up at the bottom of the pile. A few short paragraphs explaining your skills, and why you chose that specific employer, should be enough to put your best foot forward.

Writing a cover letter doesn't have to be tedious—even though it may seem like it's a chore. Here are a few simple tips you may want to consider when composing your cover letter:

  • Personalize your letter for each role. Never use a generic cover letter. This means you have to write a new one for each position. Be sure to include your strengths and skills, and explain why you’re the perfect candidate.
  • Include contact information. If the posting doesn't include the hiring manager's name, call the company , or check its website. Including this person's name gives your letter a proper greeting and also shows you have initiative. And don't forget to add your contact information, too. This is important if your resume gets separated from your cover letter.
  • Simplify your letter. Communicate clearly and concisely. Using complex words and sentences would most certainly fail to convey your intentions with the company and the person reading the letter probably won't bother with the rest of your application.
  • Be specific when needed. Don't rehash your resume, so be sure to quantify your accomplishments. For instance, expand on your marketing experience in your cover letter by saying you brought in 200 additional clients each month and increased revenue to $10,000. This can set you apart from candidates with vague personal details.
  • Proofread. After you’ve written the letter, go over it a few times to ensure there are no errors. Then ask someone else to do a once-over and recommend any changes you may need to make.

A simple, focused cover letter without any typos or grammatical errors will get you noticed by potential employers.

A perfect resume can often be sabotaged by a poorly thought-out cover letter or one that is laden with mistakes. Whether you include the letter as per required submission guidelines, or you simply want to emphasize your interest in the job, make sure you avoid making these blunders.

  • Names matter. This includes the name of the hiring manager, the company, and yes, even yours. Make sure you have the right names and the correct spelling. And don't forget to change the names if you're using the same cover letter for multiple jobs.
  • Restating your resume. Since the cover letter is used to identify your skills and explain how your previous experience is applicable to the desired position, don't restate the stuff on your resume. Remember, the cover letter should complement your resume, not just summarize it.
  • Keep your letter tight. Recruiters often go through hundreds of applications and don't have time to read through a three-page missive. The absolute maximum length for a cover letter should be one page, with a few concise paragraphs.
  • Omit unnecessary details. Stay on topic. There's no need to mention your graphic-design skills if you're applying for an accounting position. It's a good idea to leave out personal things like your IQ, recreational accomplishments, interests, and hobbies. That is unless they relate to the job or company.
  • Avoid sounding arrogant. Ensure your cover letter does not make you appear arrogant . While the cover letter is about you and your accomplishments, find a way of saying "I'm the best" without actually saying it. Avoid overusing words like "I," "me," or "my."
  • Remember that spelling counts. Typos and grammatical errors can show you didn't bother to proofread your own letter. And make sure to be consistent—don't convey a dash with "--" in one place and "—" in another.
  • Design matters : with the proliferation of publishing, design trends, and software, candidates have become creative in making their cover letter stand out from a design perspective. Make sure your cover letter projects your personality in terms of design while remaining professional. That is personal signature and branding.

How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?

According to Indeed , a leading job-seeking site, a typical cover letter should be about three or four paragraphs long and highlight any special experience or achievements that make the applicant exceptionally well-suited to the position.

How Do You Start a Cover Letter?

A cover letter should start with a formal greeting, preferably addressed to the hiring manager. If you do not know who will be reading your cover letter, a generic "to whom it may concern" is an acceptable, albeit old-fashioned, way to address a cover letter. It is also acceptable to address the letter to a title, such as "Dear Hiring Manager," or "Dear Talent Acquisition Team."

What Should a Cover Letter Contain?

An effective cover letter should highlight the applicant's skills, experience, and any achievements that make them a good fit for their prospective employer. It is also a good chance to mention anything that is not included in the resume: For example, if an applicant is drawn to a certain employer because they love a certain product, the cover letter is a great place to mention it. Make sure your cover letter also includes your name and contact information.

In a competitive jobs market, an effective cover letter is one way to make a job application stand out. This is a chance for an applicant to demonstrate why they think they would be a good fit. However, a poorly-written or meandering cover letter can hurt an application more than it helps.

Harvard Extension School. " Resources and Cover Letters: An Extension School Resource ," Pages 3 and 5.

Harvard Extension School. " Resources and Cover Letters: An Extension School Resource ," Page 5.

Jobscan. " Cover Letter Formats ."

Indeed. " What Is a Cover Letter? "

Indeed. " How to Address a Cover Letter (With Examples). "

cv cover letter meaning

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What is a Cover Letter? Definition, Structure, Purpose, Types & Meaning

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What is a cover letter?

What is the purpose of a cover letter in a job application, what to include in a cover letter, cover letter format and layout, should you use a cover letter template or example, what is a cover letter - takeaways.

Asking yourself, “What is a cover letter?”

In this article, we break down for you the basics about cover letters, their purpose, and what to include in yours.

When you’re applying for a job, a cover letter is just as important as your resume in a lot of ways.  You always want to include a cover letter when you’re submitting your resume, to personalize the facts about your work history and to tailor your application to the job.

But if you haven’t written a cover letter before, it can be intimidating to figure out what to include. Don’t worry, this expert guide boils it all down into a quick read that gives you an overview and points you in the right direction to find everything you need to know about them.

In this post, we’re going to cover:

  • What is a Cover Letter?
  • What is the Purpose of a Cover Letter in a Job Application?
  • What to Include in A Cover Letter

We also describe how you can lay out your cover letter to amp its impact, and we’ve even made it dead simple for you by including some perfect cover letter examples for you to check out.

A cover letter is a one-page document that you include with your resume as part of your application for a job. A good cover letter grabs a Hiring Manager’s attention and gets you to the next step of the hiring process.

While every job you apply for will have either a specific application form or will ask for a resume, not every one will ask for a cover letter.  But you should always include one – it’s a game changer.

The upshot is that a resume is a summary of your work and education experience, while your cover letter adds relevant context to that experience for the specific job.

A cover letter is tailored to a specific job you’re applying for, and it highlights what your qualifications are and how they relate to that role and company. You can use it to give examples of how your experiences relate to the role and show how you’re the best person for the job.

Just as its name implies, a cover letter is written in a letter format, including a greeting, three or four body paragraphs, and a closing. Unlike a resume, your cover letter should be written in full sentences, and you want to use the first-person – “I’m writing to you today to…”.

You don’t want to just rhyme off the same things that are in your resume, though.  Use your cover letter to give real life examples of how your experience, skills, or interests make you perfect for the job.

Head to our full article on the differences between a resume and a cover letter to learn more on this.

Put simply, it’s your chance to make a great first impression. It’s a tool you use to grab a hiring manager’s attention long enough that they look over your resume a bit closer and call you in for an interview.

A cover letter may not be something a job posting asks you to include, but don’t think that means you shouldn’t.  A good cover letter is always a good idea, here’s why:

  • You can tell a story in a cover letter that dives deeper into your qualifications,
  • experience, and interests to show why you’re the best candidate for the job.
  • A lot of candidates skip writing a cover letter, so by including one you immediately put yourself ahead of the competition!
  • You can introduce yourself in a more personalized way and tailor your application specifically for the job.
  • You can add a bit of flair or personality that gets a hiring manager to ask you in for an interview
  • It shows that you put effort into your application, which again, puts you ahead of most of the competition.

This is just a snapshot of how a cover letter can help you. We’ve got a great article for you to look over if you want to know more about the purpose of a cover letter .

Should you send a cover letter for a job?

There is no question, yes, you should absolutely include a cover letter with your application.

We’ve done our homework on this and can tell you: a majority of hiring managers need or expect a cover letter, even if it’s not specified in the job posting.

Not only are they expected, but they’re a great tool for you too:

  • Explain the reasons for any work gaps
  • Clarify how the experience you have from other jobs applies
  • Show how you fit their company culture
  • Let them know why you’re changing jobs or fields

So, while a cover letter may not absolutely be necessary, they’re extremely useful, and always something you should take the time to write and include with your application.

Cover letters should usually include some of the same basic elements. We’ve put together a quick list below, but head over to our complete guide on what to include in your cover letter for a full explanation.

  • A header – This is where you’re going to include all the contact info the hiring manager is going to expect to see.  You want to be sure to give them what theyère looking for.
  • Opening statement – You can get right to it here and make sure this is an attention grabber.  Summarize your skills or experience and give them one good reason why it’s important for the job you’re applying to.
  • Body – This paragraph should give some more details about you personally.  Employers often hire someone for who they are, not what they know; this is your time to show them you’d be a great fit on their team.
  • Closing and Call to Action – You want to close your cover letter with a thanks for the time they’ve taken and a professional sign-off.  You should also let them know you’re eager to hear from them, and let them know to contact you to follow up.

Try to end with a great impression. It’s key that you know how to close your cover letter well to hit all the right notes.

A hiring manager takes about 7.4 seconds to look at each resume that comes across their desk, and there may be hundreds of those. A strong cover letter design can grab their attention long enough for them to set you into the callback pile instead of in the recycling bin.

We’ve put together the details on how you can really grab a recruiter’s attention with your cover letter design , but here’s the basics:

  • Font - Always use a standard, easy-to-read font like Times New Roman or Arial. It should be 12pt or slightly bigger.
  • Heading – Always use a professional format of heading, which includes your name and contact info, the date of writing, and the contact info for the person you’re writing to.
  • Spacing – You want to single space the body of your cover letter, but leave spaces between the heading, the greeting, each paragraph, and your sign-off.
  • Length – We know that it’s tempting to try to fit in as much as possible in the cover letter, but this is definitely a case of less is more.  You want the content to be about half a page, so shoot for between 250-400 words.

Keeping your cover letter lean can be hard the first few times you write one. Check out our article on ideal cover letter length to get more tips on how to hit the sweet spot.

If you’re already a pro, maybe you can go it on your own and write a killer cover letter.  But if this is your first cover letter, or you have any doubts, use our Cover Letter Examples to get some great ideas on how to write and format yours – we’ve got a few samples below.

Our examples cover different industries and positions, so you can fine tune the fit of your letter for exactly the job you’re applying to without trying to reinvent the wheel!  Plus, these are cover letters that work to get interviews, so you can be sure you’ve got a great start.

If you want a real head start, we’ve even got a Cover Letter Templates page where you can head to get all the basics covered for you. Head there, input your specifics, and you’ll have a winning cover letter, easy-peasy.

  • A cover letter is a one-pager you include with a job application to dive deeper into exactly why you are the best fit for the job.
  • You always want to include a cover letter, even if it’s not specified in the job posting.
  • Hiring managers get hundreds of resumes, and they fly through them - your cover letter can and should be designed to grab their attention.
  • Personalize your cover letter and tailor it to the specific job you’re sending it in to, this includes relating specific skills, letting your personality shine, and getting the hiring manager’s name.
  • Make sure it’s in perfect shape to get great results.  Use our Cover Letter Checklist to make sure you’ve covered all the bases and haven’t overlooked any little mistakes that could cost you the job.

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  • CV and Cover Letter
  • The difference between CVs...

The difference between CVs and cover letters

10 min read · Updated on November 14, 2023

Elizabeth Openshaw

Is a CV a cover letter? While a CV and a cover letter share a purpose, they are different

So you're wondering, is a CV a cover letter? It's not surprising if you believe them to be similar - both documents share the purpose of showing that you're a good match for a vacancy by highlighting your experience and achievements. However, whilst they share the same aim and strongly complement each other, they are different in both format and content.

For many employers, a CV is an absolutely essential piece of kit when applying for a job, but cover letters can be optional. That said, including a cover letter with your application can dramatically strengthen your chances of success in securing an interview. According to a recent LinkedIn survey , “ 49% of hiring managers admitted that a strong cover letter convinced them to interview a candidate who had submitted a relatively weak CV.” And with “only 6% of hiring managers thinking that a cover letter is unnecessary for a job application,” in the same survey, it might be time to rethink your approach to job applications.

This CV versus cover letter article, which covers the question, “Is a CV a cover letter?” will go over all the points you should look out for when developing each. Empower yourself by using the following information, so that you can write your CV and create an impactful cover letter for use during your job search. 

Is a CV a cover letter?

The short answer to this is “no.” While they may seem similar, knowing the difference between a curriculum vitae (CV) and a cover letter is crucial in order to get the best results while you're navigating your journey of finding a new position.

To put it succinctly, your CV is a summary of your qualifications, skills, and experience from the last 10 to 15 years. It offers a short-yet-targeted overview of your career highlights that prove you're a great candidate for the job you're applying for. To do this, each piece of information on your CV should be tailored to that particular role.

CVs are commonly split into distinct sections: a professional profile, your skills, a summary of your career, and a section on your education and qualifications. Details are usually presented in snappy bullet points, led by powerful verbs, and bolstered with concrete statistics, to show off your skill set and talent.

CVs can be directly compared to the American resume. They contain the same information and serve the same function of introducing you to the HR Manager.

Cover letters are a bit different. They are primarily used to expand on your CV, to add more context, and to further explain your value. Ultimately, your cover letter is sweet-talking the HR Manager as you supply them with further evidence that proves you're an applicant who's worthy of an interview.

It also serves as an introduction. If a hiring manager reads, and likes, your cover letter, they will be more inclined to follow up by reading your CV. If your cover letter is sloppily written, doesn't offer much context, or isn't bringing anything to the table in order to encourage someone to read further, then the likelihood is that those who matter in recruitment are probably not going to seek out your CV for further investigation. This could end up being disastrous, leaving you languishing in the “no” pile before you've even got started or been given a fighting chance.

What does a CV include?

Your CV should cover four main sections, including:

Name, professional title, and contact information 

It's essential that these details are accurate and properly formatted, to ensure that the HR Manager can identify you easily and get in touch. Learn more here about how to add contact information to your CV in this article .

Personal profile

Your personal profile , located just under the contact details and at the top of the first page of your CV, should detail who you are, what you can offer the company, and your career goals, all in one tidy paragraph of about four or five sentences. CVs are written in the third person, without pronouns. This might sound a bit odd at first, writing about yourself in the third person, but it avoids the constant, “I did this,” and “I performed this” way of writing.

For example, you could write, “A versatile, tenacious, and confident Store Manager who flourishes with increased responsibility while engaging with customers at all levels.”

Experience and employment history

Your work experience should explain what you've done in your current role and your previous roles, going back to cover the last 10 to 12 years. Most importantly, it should then be expanded to feature any key accomplishments, demonstrating the value you could bring to your new role.

Education and qualifications

Your education and qualifications section simply adds finer details to prove that you're a qualified expert in certain areas, all adding up to an impressive professional skill set.

We have seen that CVs are formatted with clear headings and bullet points to keep them concise and easy to read for time-poor recruiters, who are typically swamped with hundreds of applications at a time.

What does a cover letter include?

A cover letter is different. Usually, it's a one page document, running to three or four paragraphs, that complements your CV. It normally focuses on four key elements:

What position are you applying for and why?

What are your most impressive, relevant skills, and experiences?

How will these skills benefit your prospective employer or a hiring manager?

A request for an interview

It's formatted similarly to a traditional letter, with a salutation , paragraphs, maybe some bullet points to break up the paragraphs, and a closing sentence.

However, in this digital age that we live in, where many CVs are sent directly to employers via email, the rules for cover letters are changing. If you're emailing your CV, treat the message in your email as your cover letter, rather than attaching it separately.

Email cover letters are typically more concise and can be anywhere from between 100 to 400 words long. They still tap into the four main talking points mentioned above though.

The similarities between a CV and a cover letter

We've taken a look at the differences in whether a CV is a cover letter, so let's look at the similarities.

Just like strawberries and cream or fish and chips, a CV and cover letter go well together. They detail out your achievements and experience, with the CV listing them in an easy-to-read way and the cover letter embellishing on key points, drawing attention to your brilliance. Overall, it creates a holistic view of the type of worker you are and how you might fit into the business that you're keen to get into.

Top tip: When applying for a role, make sure your CV and cover letter are two separate documents. It's not a good idea to have them running into each other within one document.

Hints on how to write a covering letter

If it's time for you to apply yourself to compiling an informative cover letter for an application, take a look at some TopCV tips on how to go about it.

Identify who to send the letter to

Writing “Dear Sir / Madam,” is so old school. Leave that where it should be… in the classroom. It shows you're proactive and willing to go that little bit further if you've found out the name of the person you need to address the letter to. OK, so it might be easy and staring out at you in black and white if the name appears on the job advert. But if it doesn't, seek out the name by either ringing the company and explaining what you're after, or tracking them down on the company website or LinkedIn.

Draft a compelling introduction paragraph

We all know that first impressions count .

Don't let a great CV be let down by a poorly written cover letter. This means you've got to wow the reader from the start. Detail how the job you're applying for fits in with your ethos, or how eager you are to work for the organisation.

Highlight specifics within your CV

Drawing attention to great results and achievements within your CV will encourage the recruitment manager to reach for that document. The beauty of a cover letter is that you can go into more detail about something, without being restricted by the writing style of a CV. You can use your own voice to convey how well you fit the role.

Match up your skills with those in the job advert

Make it clear how well your strengths and experience marry perfectly with the position in hand. Honing in on a particular detail, and relating it to your own experience, will definitely get you brownie points - and hopefully a call for an interview!

Stuff the letter full of facts and figures

Nothing pops off the page quite like a large number or a piece of tangible data, as it shows concrete evidence that you've got what it takes to fly high.

Use cover letters to demonstrate subjective, personable details

A CV is used to state the facts, giving a succinct overview of your relevant experience and achievements. A cover letter, on the other hand, provides the opportunity to elaborate on your selling points and explain your qualities and potential in more detail. It gives you that little bit of freedom, where CVs can be more narrow.

For example, if you have information you want to impart that doesn't fit into any of the sections of a CV, then you can use the cover letter to perform that duty. This could include information on your work status, when you're available to start, or if you want to disclose personal information that you feel needs to be talked about, such as if you have a disability .

But it doesn't stop there. Your cover letter offers the chance for recruiters to get to know you. Subjective details such as your writing style, your tone of voice, interest in the position, and your own values and motivations add colour to your application and help recruiters warm up to the real you.

Cover letters aren't always listed as an essential requirement on a job application. However, with a CV that proves your talent and ability, plus a cover letter that supports and sells your story, you will greatly increase your chances of impressing a prospective employer. 

The writers at TopCV certainly know their way around both CVs and cover letters. Learn more about working with an expert writer to find more success with your job-search documents, or undertake a free CV review to see how your CV stacks up. This article was originally written by Laura Slingo and has been updated by Elizabeth Openshaw.

Recommended reading:

7 common cover letter mistakes to avoid at all costs

How long should a CV be?

CV tricks that are actually traps

Related Articles:

What File Format Is Best for Your CV? Pros + Cons

How to create the perfect CV header (2024 guide and examples)

How to write a CV

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Cover letters

It's important to get your cover letter right. It's your one opportunity to sell your skills and experience to potential employers. Find out how to write and format a cover letter and take ideas and inspiration from our cover letter templates

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a document sent alongside your CV when applying for jobs. It acts as a personal introduction and helps to sell your application.

Cover letters are necessary as they give you the chance to explain to an employer why you're the best candidate for the job. You do this by highlighting relevant skills and experience; therefore, you should always write your cover letter with the position you're applying for in mind.

Not to be confused with  personal statements for your CV , cover letters should complement your CV but not duplicate it. The consensus among recruiters when it comes to the length of these documents is the shorter the better. Typically, three to five short paragraphs, cover letters should not exceed one A4 page.

If sending electronically, put the text in the body of the email rather than as an attachment, to avoid it being detected by spam filters.

Applications should always include a cover letter unless the job advert instructs you differently.

How do I write a good cover letter?

Before writing your cover letter it's important that you do your research. While reading the job description thoroughly is essential, it's not enough on its own. To help you craft a successful cover letter you’ll need to find out more about:

  • who will be reading your cover letter
  • the organisation and its culture
  • the industry it operates in and any relevant news
  • company competitors and market position.
  • the organisations goals over the next five years.

When writing your cover letter keep it brief, while making sure it emphasises your suitability for the job. Cover letters can be broken down into the following sections:

  • First paragraph  - The opening statement should set out why you're writing the letter. Begin by stating the position you're applying for, where you saw it advertised and when you are available to start.
  • Second paragraph  - Highlight relevant experience and demonstrate how your skills match the specific requirements of the job description. Summarise any additional strengths and explain how these could benefit the company.
  • Third paragraph  - Cover why you're suitable for the job, what attracted you to this type of work, why you're interested in working for the company and what you can offer the organisation. This is a good opportunity to show off your knowledge of the company.
  • Last paragraph  - Use the closing paragraph to round up your letter. Reiterate your interest in the role and indicate your desire for an  interview. Now is the time to mention any unavailable dates.

Once finished read through the document and cut out any unnecessary words and sentences. Don't fill up space by repeating what's already covered in your CV. As a rule, only mention your current salary or salary expectations if the employer has specifically asked you to. If you're asked to include this information, put it between the third and last paragraphs.

Unless the job advert states differently (for example, it may ask you to provide your CV and cover letter as a Word document) save with a .PDF file extension to make sure it can be opened and read on any machine. Windows PCs and Macs don't always work in harmony - Windows use a .docx file extension and Macs .pages but if the recruiter uses the opposite system, they may not be able to open your file. Using a .PDF file extension should solve this.

If you need help with your CV take a look at  how to write a CV .

How should I address a cover letter?

Always try and address your cover letter directly to the person who will be reading it. Bear in mind that you're more likely to receive a reply if you send it to the right person.

If you're struggling to find a named contact, you can use a general greeting such as:

  • Dear Sir/Madam
  • Dear Hiring manager
  • Dear Human resources director.

However, general greetings should only be used once you have exhausted methods of finding a named contact.

How do I sign off?

How you sign off your cover letter depends on how you addressed it. If you include a named contact, sign off 'Yours sincerely'. If you use a general greeting, finish with 'Yours faithfully'.

Example cover letters

  • Sample cover letter  - Used to highlight your skills and experience and to express your suitability and passion for the job, cover letters are used to encourage recruiters to look at your CV. Attention to detail is crucial and spelling, grammar and formatting needs to be spot on. Take a look at our sample cover letter for inspiration.
  • Speculative cover letter  - These can sometimes be an effective method of creating an opportunity. To ensure that speculative cover letters are successful you'll need to do your research on the company you're applying to. Using our cover letter template, discover what to include in speculative applications.
  • Cover letter by a Masters graduate  - You probably embarked on a Masters to expand your subject knowledge, gain industry contacts and improve your job prospects but to really make it work you need to know how to sell your postgraduate qualification to employers.
  • Cover letter for a jobseeker with no experience  - It can be tough applying for a job with no experience, but our example cover letter shows you how to promote yourself to an employer if you haven't got any directly related work experience.
  • Explaining a gap in your CV  - Knowing how to navigate around gaps in your CV can be tricky but it's a mistake to try and gloss over them. Your cover letter is the perfect place to explain these gaps in your employment history to potential employers. Take a look at our sample cover letter to find out how to go about it.
  • Cover letter for changing career  - Find out how to explain a change of direction in our example cover letter for career changers. You'll need to briefly cover why you want to change career and relate your past experience and wealth of skills to the industry/job you’re applying to.
  • Cover letter by an international graduate  - If you'd like to expand your horizons by working abroad, take a look at our cover letter of an international student applying for a job in the UK. You’ll need to do your research if you apply for a job in another country, as application rules may differ.
  • Disclosing a disability  - Just like your gender, marital status and dependants your disability doesn't affect your ability to do a job and you're not legally required to disclose it on your CV or in your cover letter. However, if you would like to disclose a disability to outline any adjustments you may need, this sample cover letter will show you how.
  • Internship cover letter - To set yourself above the competition you need to successfully sell your relevant skills and experience while conveying your passion for the role. As well as explaining to employers what the opportunity could do for you, you'll need to communicate what you could do for the company. Discover how to craft the perfect application for a formal internship with our internship cover letter template.
  • Apprenticeship cover letter - Apprenticeships are an increasingly popular route into work, as well as a great alternative to university. Find out how to apply for these roles with our apprenticeship cover letter example.

For inspiration and guidance on crafting a CV see example CVs .

When should I follow up my application?

It's always a good idea to follow up on a job application if you don't hear back. If two weeks have passed and you've had no response, send an email to the hiring manager to check that your application has been received. Use this opportunity to reiterate your interest in the role and why you think you'd be an asset to the company.

Keep this email brief. It shouldn't act as a second cover letter or attempt to replace or repeat the original.

What are some top tips for writing a cover letter?

With employers often receiving lots of applications for each vacancy, you need to ensure that your cover letter makes a lasting impression for the right reasons. These tips will increase your chances of success:

  • Tailor to the organisation  - You should rewrite your cover letter every time you apply for a position in order to target the company. Sending out a generic letter for all applications rarely yields positive results and recruiters can spot your lack of time and effort from a mile away.
  • Format  - Presentation is important so you'll need to format your cover letter properly. Make sure the document is as uncluttered as possible, use the same font and size as you use in your CV and if you're sending it through the post or handing it in use good quality plain white paper to print it on.
  • Use keywords that appear in the job advert - This lets the employer know that you’ve read and understood the job description. It also demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to tailor your application to the job.
  • Identify your USPs  - They're your unique selling points. Be positive about what you have to offer and clearly outline how your skills and experience meet those requested in the job description. Demonstrate why you're the perfect candidate.
  • Include examples  - Back up the claims in your cover letter with real evidence or examples that show how and when you've used your skills and experience.
  • Save a copy - If you’re invited to interview you might need to refer back to it.

If you're a student or recent graduate, you can make an appointment with your university's careers and employability service to access further help when writing your cover letter. You'll be able to talk with specially-trained advisers, get advice on what to include and have a professional eye look over your application before sending.

To make sure you don’t trip up read about the  5 things to avoid when writing a cover letter .

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