When you submit a resume, do you always include a cover letter? In almost all cases, it is appropriate and wise. The letter allows you to introduce yourself, show your interest in the company, address points that do not belong on a resume, and make yourself stand out.

If you need a little assistance, here's how to write a cover letter, along with tips and templates to help get you started.

1. Customize Your Cover Letter

One of the first things to remember about writing a cover letter is that you should tailor it to the specific position. While using a template does help, you should always customize it for the job and company.

The template should be your starting point, not the end result, with only minor tweaks.

According to Glassdoor:

"When starting to write any cover letter, it is always best to plan the content of your letter based on the requirements of the job you're applying for."

If you plan to use a template, you also want to choose the correct one for the letter. For example, some include salary requirements, while others work better in the creative field.

2. Have a Solid Opening

Woman in front of Computer

Some sources say that if you start a cover letter by saying that you are applying for X job that you saw in X advertisement, it is a waste of text. Of course, you must state the position you are applying for.

The opening should cover why you are writing and provide a brief idea of who you are. But be sure to stand out to employers when you say why you want the job and why you are the right fit for it.

As Money.com writer Kristen Bahler writes:

"To grab a recruiter’s attention, a good narrative—with a killer opening line—is everything."

You should think through your opening carefully and show your personality, but avoid corny humor. Be clear, concise, and confident.

3. Know the Company

Take the time to research the company you are applying to so that you can express how your experience can help. Plus, having knowledge of the company is ideal for when you land a job interview.

As Harvard Business Review puts it:

"Hiring managers are looking for people who can help them solve problems. Drawing on the research you did earlier, show that you know what the company does and some of the challenges it faces."

When you have information about the company and its needs, you can then highlight your relevant skills and achievements to show why you are the person for the job.

4. End With Enthusiasm

woman smiles while typing on laptop

In your final paragraph, include your contact information, express your enthusiasm, and state if you plan to follow up. Monster.com offers this advice for the closing:

"In your closing paragraph, express your enthusiasm for the position and an interview and include a plan of action. State what the next steps will be. If you will wait for the company’s reply, tell them that. If you will be following up, tell them when they can expect to hear from you."

If you are including additional material with your cover letter and resume, such as a portfolio or sample of your work, be sure to mention this as well. And of course, thank the reader for their consideration.

While your opening should grab their attention, your closing should also be strong and clear.

Helpful Tips to Write a Cover Letter

Here are additional tips to keep in mind when crafting your cover letter:

  • Always try to address the letter to a person, don't use "Sir" or "Madam" in your greeting. If necessary, do your research for the proper contact.
  • Try to limit the letter to one page. Be succinct and get to the point.
  • Do not repeat your resume. Your cover letter should enhance it, not duplicate it.
  • Do not point out the skills that you lack. Emphasize and highlight those you have that apply to the position.
  • Check and double-check your spelling and grammar.
  • Mention your expertise in the software tools the company uses.
  • Express how you think the company's values align with yours.
  • Point out if someone from the company referred you for the role.

How to Write a Cover Letter With a Template

A screenshot from cover letter building on an online tool LiveCareer

Along with knowing how to write a cover letter that targets the job you want, is the appearance of it. This is another important part of creating your letter so that it has a clean and professional appearance.

1. Keep It Simple

Microsoft has one of the nicest selections of cover letter templates for you to choose from. Just swap out the text on the template with your own.

2. Add Some Color

You might also want to consider adding a little splash of color to your cover letter to make it visually appealing. Remember, a small amount of color is fine as long as you do not overdo it.

3. Include Salary Requirements

You can also find cover letter templates that include salary requirements, but you can and should adjust it based on your needs and preferences, of course.

However, note that some employers do not appreciate this, so it's wise to include salary requirements in your cover letter only if you're specifically asked for it.

4. Be Creative

If you are applying for a position that involves design or another creative field, you may prefer a cover letter to match, especially if you believe the hiring manager expects it. But, again, remember not to go overboard here.

5. Use a Style

Maybe you are looking for a particular style of cover letter. For instance, an entry-level cover letter is for those lacking experience while a professional one is suitable for those with management experience. Each has different formatting to accompany the highlights of the style.

You can check out different cover letter examples at Resume Genuis. You can download an entire pack from each design with various color options that include helpful prompts.

6. Find Your Industry

When what you really need is a template plus a sample with helpful text for that specific position, review these options on Template. You can download cover letter templates for jobs in nursing, education, retail, technology, business development, and other fields.

The sample text is provided to help you, but remember that you can change it easily to suit your skills and experience.

How Not to Write a Cover Letter

Woman staring seriously at her laptop

Knowing how to write a cover letter for a job is essential. But just as important is how not to write a cover letter. Here are a handful of things you should leave out when composing your letter:

  • Overused phrases like self-starter, detail-oriented, and team player.
  • Unnecessary details such as activities you enjoy, personal history, and information unrelated to the job.
  • Negative comments about current or previous employers and companies.
  • Untruths about your skills, qualifications, and experience.
  • Salary requirements or expectations unless specifically requested.

Ready, Set, Write

Now that you know how to write a cover letter, the additional tips and templates will help you on your way to a great letter that leads to an interview. Just remember to use the cover letter to tell your story, briefly but with confidence.