What to Include in a Cover Letter

Let your resume set 'em up and your cover letter knock 'em down.

What to Include in a Cover Letter

What should a cover letter include?

Many jobs ask you to file a cover letter along with your other application materials, but even if a cover letter is optional, you might take the opportunity to send one along. To make the effort worth your while, you need to know what to include in a cover letter. The goal is to express your knowledge, applicable skills, and passion for the job in question. But you only have one page to work with, so you need to be smart when choosing what to say.

Before you submit a cover letter, first make sure each one is tailored to the job you’re applying for and references the position. Second, make sure each cover letter you write includes these three elements.

This Is What to Include in a Cover Letter

1. Proof That You’ve Done Your Homework

Recruiters and hiring managers want to see that you know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s important in the early sections of your cover letter that you refer to these essentials:

  • the job (example: copywriting)
  • its title (example: assistant healthcare copywriter)
  • the company (example: Company ABC)

And don’t be afraid to do a little flattering. Impress your potential future boss with an acknowledgement of a major company success. Bonus points if that success relates to the team you’d be joining.

Here's an example for how you’d sneak this info into your cover letter narrative:

I’m impressed by the way Company ABC makes climate change issues accessible to everyday people (particularly in commercials for your EFG Product, which have resonated with me often), and I would be grateful for the opportunity to be part of such meaningful work.

The writing is informal, flattering, and shows the job applicant knows the ropes.

2. An Explanation of How Your Skills Relate to the Job

If you're not sure what should be included in a cover letter, look at how your skills align with the job for which you're applying. Connect the dots for the reader by explaining in the letter what exactly it is you can do for this company and this role based on your previous experience.

One of the best indications of what to include in a cover letter is right in the job ad. Take a piece of paper and make two columns. In one column, pull sentences from the job ad that express what the company is looking for. Then in the next column, add a sentence that explains how your skills match those requirements. It’s a smart, organized way you untangle an unruly ball of qualifications and pick out the most appropriate things to include in a cover letter.

Of course, you can also do this in a more traditional way—simply stating how your skills connect to the job.

3. Your Excitement About the Position

Here’s an exercise: Think about yourself in the job you’re applying for. What do you feel? You’re probably pretty pumped, huh? Now harness some of that excitement and put it down on paper.

For example, if you were applying to a web design or UX job, you could write

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in how the digital world works and how users interact with websites. Website design is not only my career, it’s my passion, which is why I hope you’ll consider me for this great role on your team.

This has feeling and emotion; a far cry from the dry form letter you thought you had to write.

As we said, HR staff and hiring managers have limited time and a lot of resumes to sort through. Don’t put them to sleep. Create something they’ll remember you by. It just might be the difference between your application ending up in the trash or the inbox of the boss.

Now, About Your Resume...

Great, you know what to include in a cover letter! But while that piece of paper might be optional, your resume most definitely is not. Resumes are still a tried-and-true requirement that hiring managers use to screen potential candidates. Need some help with that? Get a free resume assessment today from Monster. It's quick and simple and can improve your chances of hearing back from employers.