Types of Cover Letters (With Samples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

March 2, 2021

A cover letter is an important tool because it can separate you from the competition during a job search. To write a strong cover letter, you should tell the story of your skills and experience while including the necessary information for your specific job search scenario.

Cover Letter Format

Image description

Cover Letter Format

  1. Date and contact information

  2. Salutation or greeting

  3. Opening paragraph

  4. Middle paragraph(s)

  5. Closing paragraph

  6. Letter ending and signature

In this article, we’ll discuss cover letter types, how to write a cover letter and provide samples.

Why include a cover letter?

Many people include a cover letter when they submit a resume during their job search, or when they are inquiring about potential openings because:

  • Introduction: A cover letter allows you to introduce yourself and your job candidacy to a company, whether through the document itself or via a contact in your network — as with a networking cover letter

  • Demonstration of qualities and skills: It provides you a chance to display your personality while showing key skills and knowledge of the company or person you’re sending it to.

  • Provide context: A strong cover letter provides context for the skills and experiences present on your resume, rather than repeating them. It tells a story about your career objectives and aspirations.

Types of cover letters

There are several types of cover letters you can choose from. Primary among them is the application cover letter, prospecting cover letter and networking cover letter. These three types can be adapted for situational context like email delivery, referrals or to be tailored to a specific industry. Below you’ll learn six types of cover letters, both primary and situational:

Application cover letter

A cover letter used with a resume submission or with a job application is called an application cover letter.

The application cover letter should be custom curated to the job you’re applying for. A tip you can use when writing your cover letter is to use as many of the keywords from the job description as possible to define your skills. This works especially well when companies use an automated HR system that’s programmed to separate resumes with the correct terms for consideration.

Prospecting cover letter

A prospecting cover letter is the primary type you use when inquiring about openings at a company that you aspire to work for. It’s called a prospecting cover letter because you use it when selecting companies to target to fulfill career growth.

To prospect for companies using a cover letter, follow these steps:

  1. Create a prospecting plan to select companies that match your values and objectives.

  2. Try different things to learn the best way to reach the companies on your list — email vs networking vs mail.

  3. Use template examples.

  4. Emphasize the skills and values and bring and what problems they solve for the company

  5. Set aside time each day for prospecting

Networking cover letter

Think about all the people in your network who might assist with your job search, a networking cover letter is the primary type used to ask for help, advice and to inquire about open positions within your network. Even if you are new to the workforce, you probably have people in your professional network who you can rely on.

Consider college professors who teach in industries you are interested in, friends and family with large professional networks and former coworkers and employers who would speak highly of you.

Email cover letter

When delivering any of the above cover letters by email, it may be advisable to put them in a format that is more email-friendly. Not only is this situational cover letter more considerate to the reader, but it reduces the clutter created by conventions that are only necessary for formal letters. Email cover letters are typically brief and incorporate more white space.

Related: Q&A: What’s the Ideal Cover Letter Length?

Industry-specific or career-specific cover letter

An industry- or career-specific cover letter provides a situational context that emphasizes the experience you have in the industry or job you are applying for.

If your career path has been largely in one industry and it’s the same industry you are seeking to advance in, an industry-specific cover letter might be better than a traditional one because it provides clearer insight into why you are a strong candidate based on your specific experience and acknowledges industry or career-related conventions.

Related: Cover Letter Samples by Career

Referral cover letter

A referral cover letter offers an opportunity to introduce yourself but also states the person who referred you to the position. Referrals can be an important resource in your job search if they are trustworthy and have a good relationship with the company to which you’re applying. If you’re applying by way of referral, stating that upfront in the cover letter could give you an advantage by attracting the attention of the hiring manager.

Related: 7 Powerful Ways To Start a Cover Letter (With Examples)

How to write a cover letter

A cover letter has basic core elements and a flexible structure that may vary depending on the type of cover letter you choose or the situation in which you are inquiring. The basic elements to include are:

Introduction

Most times, you start a cover letter with your name and contact information. This should mirror the information on your resume and is usually in the top left corner of formal cover letters.

This is the first thing the reader sees and provides the initial introduction as to who you are. You should also include the date in a traditional cover letter, but it may not be necessary for all types. Including the recipient’s name and address is also typical of formal cover letters.

This introduction is amended if you’re expressing your interest via email. You would put the name of the position you’re applying for and your name in the subject line of the email. instead.

Once you’ve provided the basic information stating who you are, you use an introduction to provide context to that. Use a standard greeting like “Hello,” or “Good afternoon.” Addressing the hiring manager by name is typically a better option than being vague in your greeting.

Open by mentioning the position

In your first paragraph, mention the position and show enthusiasm for the role. If you’ve been referred to the company, you will use this section to highlight your mutual connection. The first paragraph of your cover letter is important, so consider a well-constructed sentence in twenty words or fewer that grabs the reader’s attention. To provide exciting context to this first paragraph, you can add something newsworthy or an accomplishment or even ask a rhetorical question of your reader.

Tell the story of your skills, experience. achievements and qualifications

In the next two paragraphs, you’ll be focused on storytelling geared at revealing the information you want your potential employer to know about you. Start with your skills, experience and notable achievements in one body paragraph and tie them into how you are uniquely qualified in the other.

Carefully choose which experiences make the most sense in this section. The key is to be clear and brief. You should be selective of which skills and achievements you choose because it’s better to tailor your cover letter to the needs of the position than it is to include everything that’s in your resume.

At this point, carefully review the job description for the job you want to secure with this letter. If any keywords get your attention, work those into your skills and experience where there is overlap. As you move along to paragraph three, think about how the experience you selected in paragraph two makes you a qualified candidate and tell that story in the third paragraph.

Use a call to action when you close

Your closing should take place in just a few sentences. These include a very condensed summary of why you are a good fit and a call to action.

End with a signature line

It’s recommended in all types of cover letters that you include a closing salutation and sign your name, either physically or digitally, depending on the format.

Cover letter examples

Here is an example of a cover letter written in two distinctly different ways. One in traditional application cover letter format and one in email format:

Application cover letter example

Marta Singer
marta.singer@email.com
555 Monopoly Lane
Jackson, MI
(555) 833-5555

Sept. 29, 2019

Stewart Zippe
Zipco Inc.
123 Fallgren Drive
Jackson, MI

Greetings, Stewart Zippe,

How do I know I’m a good fit for Zipco Inc.'s open court reporter position? It might be because I’ve been a transcriptionist for 14 years, or maybe it’s because I can type 82 words per minute? Either way, I’m excited to learn more about the opportunity with Zipco Inc.

I began my career in 2005 when I took a job as a transcriptionist at a doctor’s office. I learned quickly how to be an accurate and detail-oriented stenographer. Since then, technology has changed how transcriptionists operate. To keep up with the changes, I earned a stenographer certificate in 2017. At the time, I left the doctor’s office and began a freelancing business. As a successful business owner, I am focused on assuring quality and am a reliable freelancer to my transcription clients in industries like medical, news media and law.

I’ve built a career in transcription and stenography that spans more than a decade, but possibly my most unique and compelling qualification for this role is I’ve worked independently as a stenographer for attorneys and legal professionals over the past three years. Additionally, my experience as a medical transcriptionist means that I understand confidentiality and the important role it plays in business.

In closing, I am submitting my resume for the court reporter position at Zipco Inc. because my long career in stenography speaks for itself. My recent work with attorneys has taught me important aspects of legal transcription and being a medical transcriptionist helped me develop discretion for client affairs. I look forward to hearing from you soon, or I will follow up in two days.

All the best,
Marta Singer

Email cover letter example

*Subject: Court Reporter – Marta Singer*

Greeting Stewart Zippe,

How do I know I’m a good fit for Zipco Inc.’s open court reporter position?

It might be because I’ve been a transcriptionist for 14 years, or maybe it’s because I can type 82 words per minute? Either way, I’m excited to learn more about the opportunity with Zipco Inc.

I began my career in 2005when I took a job as a transcriptionist at a doctor’s office. Since then, I earned a stenographer certificate. Today, I am focused on assuring quality and am a reliable freelancer to my transcription clients in industries like medical, news media and law.

My most unique and compelling qualification for this role is having worked independently as a stenographer for attorneys and legal professionals over the past three years. Additionally, my experience as a medical transcriptionist means that I understand confidentiality and the important role it plays in business.

In closing, I am submitting my resume for the court reporter position at Zipco Inc. because my long career in stenography speaks for itself. My recent work with attorneys has taught me important aspects of legal transcription and being a medical transcriptionist helped me develop discretion for client affairs.

I look forward to hearing from you soon, or I will follow up in two days.

All the best,
Marta Singer

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