Smart tips to help you format and write a cover letter
Struggling to write a cover letter that will catch an employer's attention? We've got tips to help you show your best self—and a sample you can use to get started.
There's nothing scary about writing a cover letter.
You've found the perfect job, hit the "apply" button, and started the process with your engines revved and ready. But wait! Slam the brakes! They want a cover letter. Oh no.
Don't let this request derail you. Here's everything you need to know to write a letter that truly sells your skills. Plus, scroll down to see a sample cover letter you can use to craft your own.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a one-page document that, along with your resume, is sent with your job application. A cover letter is your chance to tell a potential employer why you’re the perfect person for the position and how your skills and expertise can add value to the company. The letter should be professional but personable, and serve as a sort of introduction.
Do I need to send a cover letter?
A lot of job seekers today wonder if a cover letter is still appropriate to send with your resume—and the answer is yes! Even if an employer doesn’t ask for a cover letter, it couldn’t hurt to send one. In fact, it’s can help you get someone's attention in a different way, and it can be a great way to display your enthusiasm for the job and company.
What are the basic elements of a cover letter?
- Greeting: Address your cover letter to the proper person.
- Opening: Write a personable, inviting opening paragraph that notes how your skills are a perfect fit to the job and displays your enthusiasm.
- Hook: Highlight your past achievements as they relate to the job you're applying for.
- Skills: Emphasize additional relevant skills, such as computer languages or certifications.
- Close: Briefly recap your strengths as a candidate, and include your contact information.
Cover letter tips
1. Parrot the keywords: Just like with your resume, your cover letters should be customized for each job you apply to. Start by reviewing the job description. In it, you will find important keywords that let you know what kind of employee the company is hoping to find. Use these same keywords throughout your cover letter.
2. Adapt for the company: Each version of your cover letter should talk about how your skills will benefit the particular company that you want to work for. You want to target the company’s needs—not your own. Demonstrate how you could help them achieve their goals. Remember: You're selling yourself in a resume and a cover letter, but the employer has to want to buy.
3. Show you "get" them: Your cover letter should demonstrate that you have done some research into what the organization's pain points are. Presenting yourself as a solution to a hiring manager’s problem can help your cover letter take the right tone. If you’re applying to an administrative position, be sure to mention your time-management skills; if you’re an IT professional, include your expertise in improving efficiency. Always ask yourself: How can I help this company?
4. Proofread. Don’t assume spell check will catch every mistake (it won’t). Slowly review your cover letter to make sure everything reads properly. Have someone else read your cover letter for backup.
Need even more confidence before you start your cover letter? Below are some additional cover letter tips you could reference—or keep scrolling for a cover letter sample:
Cover letter mistakes you should avoid: From overusing “I” to being too vague, there are a bunch of pitfalls that can trip you up. Don’t let them!
Cover letter format and advice tips: Learn how to set up your cover letter and what each section should include.
Cover letter tips for new grads: You might lack real-world work experience, but your cover letter can be chock-full of activities that demonstrate your potential to succeed.
Cover letter tips for technology professionals: The ease of applying to online jobs has led many IT professionals to skip sending a cover letter, but that’s a mistake.
Cover letter tips for finance professionals: If you’re searching for a finance job or want to be prepared just in case, you will need a dynamic cover letter to grab the hiring managers’ attention.
Tips for better email cover letters: If you're emailing a resume, your cover letter will deliver the first impression. These eight tips will help you craft a better email cover letter.
Cover letter sample
Check out the sample cover letter below (or download the template as a Word doc) to get some inspiration to craft your own. And we've also got you covered if you're looking for a cover letter in a specific industry.
Once you've finished your cover letter, consider joining Monster—you can upload and store up to five cover letters and resumes, so that you can apply for jobs on our site in a snap!
Ms. Rhonda West
Customer Service Manager
123 Corporate Blvd.
Sometown, CO 50802
Re: Customer Service Representative Opening (Ref. ID: CS300-Denver)
Dear Ms. West:
I was excited to see your opening for a customer service rep, and I hope to be invited for an interview.
My background includes serving as a customer service associate within both call-center and retail environments. Most recently, I worked on the customer service desk for Discount-Mart, where my responsibilities included handling customer merchandise returns, issuing refunds/store credits, flagging damaged merchandise for shipment back to vendors and providing back-up cashiering during busy periods.
Previously, I worked within two high-volume customer-support call centers for a major telecommunications carrier and a satellite television services provider. In these positions, I demonstrated the ability to resolve a variety of issues and complaints (such as billing disputes, service interruptions or cutoffs, repair technician delays/no-shows and equipment malfunctions). I consistently met my call-volume goals, handling an average of 56 to 60 calls per day.
In addition to this experience, I gained considerable customer service skills during my part-time employment as a waitress and restaurant hostess while in high school.
I also bring to the table strong computer proficiencies in MS Word, MS Excel and CRM database applications and a year of college (business major). Please see the accompanying resume for details of my experience and education.
I am confident that I can offer you the customer service, communication and problem-solving skills you are seeking. Feel free to call me at 555-555-5555 (home) or 555-555-5500 (cell) to arrange an interview. Thank you for your time—I look forward to learning more about this opportunity!
The Shell application form consists largely of yes/no answers and options in dropdown menus, rather than opportunities to give detail about your skills and experience. For this reason, your CV must work extra hard to showcase your unique achievements.
Preparing your graduate CV for Shell
The company provides some general advice on CV preparation on its careers website so be sure to follow the guidance. Shell favours a traditional CV format with education and experience neatly listed in reverse chronological order.
Here are some things you should keep in mind:
- Don't try to include your life story; CVs should be clear and concise, with no waffle. While it's important to cover your full work history, for less relevant experience, you may want to pick out only a few key pieces of information rather than giving an in-depth account of each role.
- Highlight your most relevant experiences and provide details about your role and accomplishments. Your CV is a chance to sell yourself so make sure to highlight your personal contribution (write I, not we) and anything you achieved that you were proud of.
- For your education history, Shell suggests that you include information on any relevant modules or projects. This will help demonstrate your interest in and knowledge of your chosen scheme. Give an overview of what you did and what you learned. It's not necessary to list every module you studied at university. Instead, pick the modules you think are most relevant to Shell and the scheme you've applied for.
- Focus on the skills your degree and work experience helped you develop. So, for example, giving a presentation to your seminar group might have improved your communication skills, while working on a group essay might have developed your ability to work with others.
- Shell highly recommends that you include your achievements and outside interests in your CV. This helps show you're well rounded and injects personality into your CV. Avoid generic interest such as listening to music or socialising with friends – and definitely don't make things up. You need to be prepared to discuss your CV further at interview.
- Good written communication is something that Shell is looking for in its recruits so make sure your CV is well written, easy to understand and proofread thoroughly.
Match your CV to Shell's 'C.A.R.' criteria
It's important to tailor your CV to Shell. The best way to do this is to provide details of how you meet Shell's 'C.A.R' criteria (capacity, achievement and relationship). This can be laid out as bullet points within the sections of your CV; for example, as skills you've used in a particular job or hobby. Be specific and use quantitative details such as sales figures where possible to help illustrate your examples.
To demonstrate your capacity in your CV, you could include examples of times when you've:
- learned something new
- adapted to a new environment quickly
- made an important or difficult decision
- identified a solution to a problem
- discovered a more efficient method of working
To highlight your achievement in your CV, you need to emphasise your drive, enthusiasm and resilience. You could include examples of times when you've:
- worked towards an ambitious goal
- been driven to deliver results
- gone the extra mile
- persevered despite obstacles
- picked yourself up after a setback
To match with Shell's relationship criteria, you could include examples of times when you've:
- worked well in a team
- developed positive relationships with customers, work colleagues or university peers
- needed to communicate with a range of people, whether it was through written correspondence, over the phone or in person.
- adapted your style to suit your audience eg explaining a technical topic to somebody who isn't familiar with it
- dealt with a difficult customer and successfully appeased them
Think about other skills that Shell might value
Shell is looking for graduates who can evolve into its future managers so you should use your CV to highlight any experience you have of leadership positions or times when you've volunteered to take on more responsibility. For example, if you held a supervisory role in a part-time job. Make this clear and emphasise the leadership skills you used such as thinking stategically, making decisions, motivating others, delegating tasks and giving feedback.
Innovation is also important to Shell. It's Gamechanger programme, for example, was founded in 1996 and provides financial and technical support for innovators with promising ideas. So far it's helped develop over 150 ideas. Have you ever had a bright idea or thought of something new? How did you convince people it was a good idea? Did you face any obstacles and how did you overcome them? Maybe you've even been involved in Shell's global competition, Shell Ideas360, which encourages students to think of creative ways to tackle the pressures on the world's energy, food and water resources.
For more inspiration, take a look at the job description of the role you're applying for and Shell's website. For instance, Shell's core values are honesty, integrity and respect for people. Try to highlight examples in your CV that align with these values.