4 full cover letter examples for every stage in your career

Shutterstock

While your resume is a great tool for outlining the chronological story of your career, your cover letter is an important piece that paints the picture of why you are the ideal candidate for the job.

“It’s meant to complement the resume,” said Dana Leavy-Detrick, Managing Director of the Brooklyn Resume Studio.  “The resume itself is a very formal document, and has its own kind of restrictions, but the cover letter is good for building on that.”

Your cover letter is all about explaining your why, according to Kerry Hannon, a career expert, and author.

“Identify what it is that you’re selling, what do you have to bring to their party to make them successful and why?” Hannon said. “These aren’t difficult things, but you have to do that soul searching so that you have your elevator speech put together and can concisely say what it is  you bring and why.”

Key points to remember when writing a cover letter:

  • Make each cover letter specifically for the job you are applying to. Hiring managers are not impressed when all you do is swap out the correct name and title.
  • Use keywords, traits, and skills directly from the job description.
  • Make the letter as specific as possible, telling stories or providing concrete examples of how you have the skills they are looking for, have been successful in the area they are interested in, or fit into the culture they have.
  • Don’t make your cover letter longer than a page- no matter what stage of your career you are at.
  • Cover letters can show more of your personality, goals, and values than your resume can. It can tell a story of your career and include details about why you want to switch to this role, this company, or this industry. Read our story about how to create a career change cover letter for more information on the specifics of that situation.
  • When possible, address the cover letter to the specific hiring manager.

While these super useful tips will help you create the cover letter that will get you noticed, we know writing a cover letter is a hard project to get started on. Have no fear, Ladders put together four examples of cover letters for every stage in your career.

Cover letter example for a recent graduate

“Most employers understand that with an entry-level candidate, it’s less about the experience and more about potential,” Leavy-Detrick said.

As a recent graduate, you want to speak about what you took from your education, internships, and extracurricular activities. If you were a part of an athletic team or volunteer organization, you can speak about how those experiences strengthened skills such as leadership, communication skills, and teamwork.

“Talk about where your career is going…what are the things you want to learn?” Leavy-Detrick said. “But always bring it back to something that’s going to be of value to an employer.”

Additionally, recent graduates should not shy away from discussing course work and the projects you completed during your time at school.

Cover letter example:

[Company Name]
[Company Address]
[Date]

Dear [company] hiring team/[Hiring manager’s title and last name],

I was extremely excited to see that [company] is searching for a [open role title] to join the team. As a recent graduate of [school] with a degree in [your degree] and experience at [internship company name], I believe I can provide the perfect mix of a fresh outlook and industry experience at [company].

Simply reading the job description for the [open role title] excited me about this opportunity. Practically all I do with my free time is research [specific topic], so it thrills me to know that I can build a career out of my obsession, too. As an intern at [previous company], I was able to gain professional experience in the [what’s your industry?] industry. It was thrilling.

In the [open role title], it’s clear that the company is looking for someone who can [what is the company looking for?]. In my role as [previous role] at [previous company], I had experience with just that.

[NOTE: Provide details of your achievements and experiences as an intern. Explain how your past experience has prepared you for this role. Here you can speak about what you learned in your courses and what you are excited to learn out in the workforce. You also want to make sure to prove the value you can provide to the company.] 

As I have already been trained by multiple industry professionals, I believe I am more ready, and excited, than other entry level candidates to enter the workforce. I also understand the pressures and responsibilities that come with producing quality results as a team in the workforce. 

In addition to professional internship experience, I also believe that my experience with [college athletics, volunteer experience, school club experience, etc.] has taught me the necessary communication skills to thrive in a team setting. As the [team captain, group leader, editor-in-chief, etc.] I also gained valuable insight into what it means to organize a group of individuals around a cause as well as learned to give and receive feedback- skills that I predict will be very useful throughout my career.

I believe that at [company] I could offer a fresh perspective and become a very valuable member to the team. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my fit at the company and learning more about this role. Please do not hesitate to reach out should you have any questions. I can be reached at [your phone number] or [your email]. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best,
[Your name]

Cover letter example for someone with three to five years experience

With three to five years of experience, you are moving out of entry-level roles and into midlevel roles. As you have been in the workforce for a number of years, you have stories to tell and hopefully successes to discuss.

In your cover letter, Leavy-Detrick recommends describing those successes. At this point in your career, you have an idea of what your strengths are, so discuss those and provide examples of when you stood out in the office.

“You can really start to focus it around your skillset and experience at this point in your career,” Leavy-Detrick said.

Leavy-Detrick also recommends reflecting on what you want your career to look like over the next five to ten years. If it’s applicable to the role, discuss your career goals and why this job is the right next step for you.

Cover letter example:

[Company Name]
[Company Address]
[Date]

Dear [company] hiring team/[Hiring manager’s title and last name],

I was extremely excited to see that [company] is searching for a [open role title] to join the team. As an experienced [your title], I believe I would be a great asset to the team at [company]. My passion for [what’s your passion?], experience at [where’s your experience?] and [what strength is the company looking for?] make me a perfect fit for the position.

At [company you work for now], I focus specifically on [what do you focus on? Include details]. In the [open role title], it’s clear that the company is looking for someone who can [what is the company looking for?]. In my current role, I have been responsible for creating [what did you create?] and managing [what did you manage?]

Throughout my [how many years have you been at the company?], I have recognized my strengths of [strength #1] and [strength #2]. [Strength #1] was extremely useful when [here is when you want to tell the concrete story of what happened at your company and how you used this strength.]

[NOTE: In the above paragraph, it’s important to get specific. Ideally, your strengths line up with the skills and traits that they mention in the job description. Make sure to tell strong stories about how this strength has solved an issue for an employer in the past.]

While I have enjoyed my experience as a [what was your role?] over the last [number of years], I have realized through my experience that, given my strengths, I would be much better suited as a [what role do you want to tackle next?] I would love to join the team to explore this role and learn more about this aspect of the industry.

Through my experiences at various companies, I have learned that quality results are produced through my own individual hard work as well as collaboration with my team, and I am excited by the possibility of joining the [team name] at [company]. Please let me know what else you might need on my end or if you have any questions. I can be reached at [your phone number] or [your email]. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best,
[Your name]

Cover letter example for someone moving into a managerial role

If you are looking to move into a managerial role, but have never been a direct manager, your cover letter is a great place to explain times when you have acted like a manager.

“Talk about opportunities where you’ve either managed projects or indirectly managed other team members, whether that’s providing them with direction, feedback, or skills that speak to leadership capabilities,” Leavy-Detrick said. “Even if you haven’t had the direct experience, the question on their mind is, ‘will this person be able to cut it in the role?’ So you really want to speak to your potential to be able to move into that role seamlessly.”

Providing concrete examples of your leadership abilities is the best way to convince a hiring manager that you’ll be able to fill the shoes of a leader. Even if you don’t manage a team on a daily basis, was there a project that you were in charge of? Have you provided impactful feedback to your teammates or superiors? Tell the story of those times in your cover letter.

Cover letter example:

[Company Name]
[Company Address]
[Date]

Dear [company] hiring team/[Hiring manager’s title and last name],

I was thrilled to see that [company] is looking for a manager in the [name of department]. As an industry expert, with over 10 years of professional experience, I believe I could bring the insight, expertise, and direction that will lead the [department] team to even greater heights.

At [company you work for now], I focus specifically on [what do you focus on? Include details]. In the [open role title], it’s clear that the company is looking for someone who can [what is the company looking for?]. In my current role, I have been responsible for creating [what did you create?] and managing [what did you manage?]. Throughout my [how many years have you been at the company?], I have recognized my strengths of [strength #1] and [strength #2]. [Strength #1] was extremely useful when [here is when you want to tell the concrete story of what happened at your company and how you used this strength.]

Though I have yet to have any direct managerial experience, my time on the [company and department names] team has allowed me to hone my leadership abilities greatly. [Here is where you want to describe a project that you took charge of. Make sure to include details of how your instruction led to success. Additionally, provide details of situations in with you mentored coworkers provided advice that leads to successful results.]

The opportunity to join a brand I have long admired excites me greatly, and I look forward to further discussing why I might be a fit for this position. Please let me know what else you might need on my end or if you have any questions. I can be reached at [your phone number] or [your email]. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best,
[Your name]

Cover letter example for an executive

Executives might not write cover letters, per se, but instead can create introductorily or pitch letters.

“At that level, oftentimes they’re not going directly through HR..those roles are few and far between so oftentimes somebody like that might craft their letter in terms of an introductory letter,” Leavy-Detrick said.

The introductory letter introduces the professional to the leadership team, possibly asking if there’s an opportunity to work together, and outlines what the executive can bring to the organization.

At this level, you will be discussing the many successes you have had over your career. Think about what the main highlights were, in addition to your achievements and the results of your efforts.

Cover letter example:

[Company Name]
[Company Address]
[Date]

Attention leadership team:

My background expands over 20 years with experience in [list different areas of expertise]. I am extremely confident that I will be able to add value to [company] in a leadership position.

Previously, I spent 10 years working for [previous company], developing the company’s [what did you develop?] strategy and training my direct reports to create outputs in line with the company’s values. 

At [previous company], I led the [specific team] through rounds of technological, managerial, and industry changes. When [this happened in the industry], I pivoted my team’s strategy in order to meet the changing demands of customers.

NOTE: It’s important to detail the specifics of what you did as a leader. What were the specific circumstances in which you stood out? What were the end results?

I’m confident that with my experience, I can offer [what can you provide the company? Success building high-functional teams? Brand recognition growth? The ability to leverage data and deliver strategic results?]. I believe that the collaboration skills I have developed over the years would allow me to work seamlessly with my team and other team leaders.

I look forward to discussing the company’s current needs, and how I might be able to deliver on those aspects. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best,
[Your name]