What A Cover Letter Should Look Like: 5 Things To Include
Remote Job Hunting
Do you know what a cover letter should look like in 2021? See what a winning cover letter should include to land a remote job in this cover letter how-to now.
Do you know what a cover letter should look like in 2021?
Are you even including this mega-important document in your remote job search applications?
Many candidates groan at the thought of creating a cover letter in addition to refining their resume and sometimes filling out an online application.
But if you’re only using your cover letter to reiterate what’s already in those documents, you’re doing it wrong.
A cover letter is your first and best chance to impress hiring teams and pique their interest enough to actually read your resume. Because despite your hard work, many resumes never get read (sorry to break the bad news).
That’s why we’re going to outline exactly what a cover letter should look like if you want to land the remote job of your dreams in today’s guide.
We’ll share a rundown of all the components a successful cover letter should include, then finish with a cover letter example you can follow to build your own.
But let’s first explore why this is all very much worth your time and energy.
Cover Letter How-To: Why This Even Matters
A cover letter, also called an application letter, is a one-page overview of your interest in a position and why you’re the best candidate for the job.
Consider your cover letter the face (or cover) of your job application, since it’s typically sent alongside your resume, CV, or online application.
However, it’s crucial that you don’t confuse the purpose of each of these documents.
- Your cover letter introduces you to hiring teams and provides the chance to show off your skills and personality to make a killer first impression.
- Your resume highlights your qualifications, certifications, and career experience that back up the claims in your cover letter and prove you’re the right fit.
- A curriculum vitae (CV) focuses more on your academic history, coursework, etc., if you’re a student or recent graduate without much work experience.
Even though some job postings include a “cover letter optional” clause, resist the urge to fall into this trap. Research shows a majority of employers (56%) say they still prefer when candidates submit cover letters [*].
See, stats show hiring teams receive an average of 250 applications per posted job. So 90% of employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to separate qualified candidates from those they deem less than perfect.
If you learn how to beat the ATS, your approved application will make its way to a busy hiring manager’s desk. But they must still decide which resumes to read in their entirety and which they’ll simply skim.
So how do they choose this?
By checking out your cover letter first.
A compelling cover letter helps you:
- Put your best foot forward
- Explain why you’re a valuable addition to an employer’s team
- Stand out from the sea of qualified candidates competing for the role
- Build rapport with hiring teams
- Connect the experience on your resume with what an employer’s looking for
- Show off your written communication skills
- Demonstrate you’re genuinely excited for the role/company, not just applying to anything matching your job title
In a candidate-driven job market, a cover letter boosts your chances of your resume being read. And if you know how to write a remote resume, you’ll be even closer to scoring that virtual interview.
What a Cover Letter Should Include: 5 Must-Have Elements
There are five key components to creating a cover letter that commands attention and encourages hiring teams to reach out. So make sure your cover letters include:
1. A Cover Letter Header
A cover letter header sits at the top of your document and contains your contact details and those of the hiring manager. Adding this ensures your letter reaches the right person, and that person knows who you are.
This means your cover letter header should include your:
- Full name and (optional) gender pronouns
- Address. Your resume should contain your full address, so it’s ok to just include your state, country, zip code, or time zone here.
- Phone number, including country code
- Professional email address (first name.last name@email provider.com)
- Professional websites or social accounts, such as your LinkedIn page, GitHub (for developers), or your online portfolio/website.
- Current job title
- Personal branding statement, which is a one-sentence summation of what you’re awesome at, passionate about, or makes you unique.
The second part of your cover letter header focuses on who you’ll be addressing.
Stay away from generic “To Whom It May Concern” greetings or “Dear Sir or Madam.” This shows an immediate and serious lack of effort, which comes across as job application spam (i.e., you’re just sending out applications to anything and everything).
It’s never been easier to find the name of the person you most want reading your job application. Do some sleuthing on LinkedIn or check the company’s team pages on their website for the HR Manager or relevant department heads. You can also shoot over a quick email or social message to simply ask.
When you capture this intel, add their contact information below your own, including the:
- Full name of the hiring manager, department head, or whoever will be reading your application
- Company address
- Company phone number
- Hiring manager’s email address (or whoever is accepting your application)
Taking this step shows you’re interested in the company and that you’ve done your homework. Hiring managers love seeing candidates who put forth the effort to establish a personal connection with their team.
2. A Memorable, Captivating Introduction
Grab a reader’s attention with an entertaining, thoughtful first paragraph, and they’ll naturally keep reading to see where you take them.
According to the experts at HubSpot, there are 12+ ways to start a cover letter that impresses employers. These examples range from using humor or excitement about the company to surprising readers with something they don’t know.
Whatever you choose, make sure your introduction includes:
- A compelling “hook” to interest readers
- The position to which you’re applying
- How you learned of the job opening
- The #1 reason your application should be considered
Stay employer-focused here. What’s in it for the company to hire you? What’s most important for someone to achieve in this role? What’s your most impressive achievement?
Once you learn how to decode the secret language of remote job descriptions, you’ll know exactly how to show them you can deliver what they’re looking for based on your experience.
3. Why You’re The Perfect Candidate For The Job
In our guide on How to Tailor Your Resume To Your Dream Remote Job, we talked about how to mine job ads for valuable keywords. These are typically mentioned more than once because they rank high on the company’s priorities.
Candidates who use these keywords in their cover letter and resume show hiring teams they have the goods they’re looking for. So use your cover letter’s second paragraph to describe how you’ll help the company achieve these goals based on your experience doing so.
Here’s your chance to show off your most impressive achievements and prove your unique value. Make connections between how your past wins set you up to crush goals in this new role, and hiring teams will see you as a must-interview candidate with a track record of success.
Go ahead and use bullet points to spotlight your quantifiable accomplishments and impressive stats. Use numbers here to demonstrate your impact and what you could bring to a potential employer.
- Decreased costs-per-click by 40% while increasing conversions by 65%, accounting for a $15,000 boost in monthly profits.
- Trained and managed a team of 10 developers in six countries with a 98% on-time delivery rate.
Don’t have stats like these at the ready?
Tip: Keep a Running List of Your Professional Achievements and Wins
When you find a remote job you’re excited about, the last thing you want is a brainfart when it’s time to spruce up your resume and cover letter. To avoid this, get in the habit of recording all your professional victories as they occur.
Anytime you achieve something fantastic, receive a professional compliment, win an award, etc., add it to the list. Then you can open this doc of earned boasts whenever you need to show them off.
4. What Makes You A Good Company Culture Fit
While your resume explains your qualifications, hiring teams often use cover letters to see whether a candidate’s personality and values align with company culture.
So that’s what the next paragraph of your cover letter should prove.
When you research the top signs a remote company is right for you, you’ll discover what makes an organization tick, such as its:
- Mission statement
- Business model
- Current and future goals
- Recent/newsworthy accomplishments
- Product/service lineup
- Volunteering outreach
So do you share the same passion, values, and causes? Are you an avid user of their products? Have you admired their journey from startup to Fortune 500 company from afar?
Most hiring teams now add this intel to their job ads. Show them why you’re interested in their company and mission, not just any job matching your title.
5. A Call to Action and Strong Closing
The final paragraph of your cover letter should contain three things:
#1. Your final wrap-up. Now’s the time to mention any points you couldn’t fit in elsewhere that would give hiring teams more reason to consider your application.
#2. A call to action (CTA), which is a sentence or statement that encourages someone to follow through on your idea or prompt.
CTAs are most often used in marketing, which fits here because, ultimately, your cover letter will be used to sell potential employers on why you’re the best choice.
So be courteous and thank readers for their time, then gently nudge them to learn more about you via your resume or online portfolio. Express your hope to discuss everything over a virtual interview or call.
Make this the last sentence in your cover letter.
#3. A formal closing. Sign off your cover letter with a professional salutation and your name. A few popular options include:
- Thank you
- Best regards
- Kind regards
- Take care
So now that you have all the building blocks of what a professional cover letter should include, let’s start putting the pieces together.
What a Cover Letter Should Look Like
Some of the top sites for free resume templates also include matching cover letter templates, which are a dream come true. You’ll have a cohesive, aesthetically-pleasing application package to woo potential employers -- and zero headaches when it comes to formatting or design.
However, if you’re creating a cover letter from scratch:
First, Get the Formatting Right
When you browse cover letter examples and cover letter templates online, you’ll quickly notice they follow a few basic formatting rules. You’ll be wise to follow these standards to keep your cover letter easy to read and scan (a major boost for busy hiring teams).
Cover letter best practices say you should:
- Use 1-inch (2.5 cm) margins all around to give your cover letter whitespace and breathing room.
- Stick to size 12 pt font and a professional font family, such as Arial, Helvetica, Calibri, Times New Roman, etc.
- Write short, succinct sentences with lots of action verbs, which are more exciting to read over passive voice. Get right to the point and let your numbers speak for themselves.
- Chunk information into 3 to 5 small paragraphs. Giant walls of text are a chore for readers. Break up your paragraphs into easily digestible bites like we did in today’s guide.
- Try to stay between 300 and 400 words, max. Surveys show hiring teams prefer when cover letters err on the shorter side.
You can create your own cover letter template using these formatting rules and the following ones…
Next, Just Fill In the Blanks
Here’s a cover letter template that includes all five components we discussed today:
[Your address] [Your phone number] [Your email address] [Your LinkedIn/professional portfolio/website]
[Hiring manager’s name]
[Hiring manager’s email address]
[Company phone number]
Dear [hiring manager’s name],
[FIRST PARAGRAPH: Lead with a compelling opening sentence and follow through with your experience, the job title, how you found out about the position, why you’re interested in it, etc.]
[SECOND PARAGRAPH: Use quantifiable stats and numbers to show off your skills and most significant accomplishments relative to the position. Prove why you’re the best candidate for the role. Make sure you answer how you’ll help the company achieve specific results.]
[BULLET POINTS: Highlight 3 to 5 of the most impressive, relevant achievements or experience you’ve gained. List in order of importance. Make them impactful and easy to scan, so they stand out to readers.]
[FOURTH PARAGRAPH: Express your interest in the company and why you’ll mesh with the company culture.]
[CLOSING PARAGRAPH: Restate the value you bring and conclude with a CTA that prompts readers to check your website, read your resume, contact you, etc.]
Check Out This Cover Letter Example
Wilderland | +1 (555) 123-4567 | firstname.lastname@example.org | LinkedIn | Website
Top-performing full-stack Shopify developer who thrives on launching eCommerce brands to market domination
123 Mountain Valley Pass, ME
Dear Jenny Rivendell,
When my friends used to hang out at the local mall, I was building my first website (to sell/trade Pokemon cards). As soon as I came across your Senior Shopify Developer position on We Work Remotely, I knew the opportunity to create high-converting eCommerce experiences for your clients was more valuable than a Gold Pikachu.
- Blasting average website speeds by 35% and shrinking bounce rates by 50% to engage shoppers across desktop and Android and Apple mobile devices.
- Integrating high-converting cart abandonment email flows that allow brands to recoup an estimated $10,000 in extra revenue per week that would have been left on the table.
- Delivering an average 40% increase in conversion rate optimization while keeping a team of five on schedule to meet deadlines.
Secure, scalable, high-performing code is my jam, and this aligns with your company’s mission to help every brand achieve eCommerce success. You can see a few examples of my collaborations with global brands and testimonials about my work ethic on my website linked above.
Thank you for hearing why I’m the best person to help your clients boost their eCommerce profitability. I’ll be happy to gush about my previous projects and what I hope to achieve as your next Senior Shopify Developer over a video call soon.
Now That You Know What a Cover Letter Should Look Like…
It’s time to start working on yours!
Writing a customized cover letter and resume for each remote position you apply to may seem like an unnecessary chore. But it’s the best way to show hiring teams you’re serious about the position and have the chops to succeed in the role.
So use today’s guide to create a cover letter template that helps you score more interviews and compete for your dream role. Check out this guide on How To Overcome the Hardest Parts of Landing a Remote Jobnext!
Want more remote career advice? Head over to the WWR Learning Portal, where you’ll find resume and cover letter templates, job interview prep questions, and more!
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