How to open and close your cover letter
On a cover letter, formality is rarely a bad thing.
Write your cover letter opening and closing with these tips.
In a tight job market flooded with resumes and cover letters, it’s a given that your documents and messages need to be error-free. So how else can you distinguish your communications? Appropriate openings and closings that convey professionalism and polish.
Use our tips below on how to start your cover letter with a proper greeting and sign off with a polished signature. And if you need additional writing tips, join Monster today, so the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service can help you impress employers with a high-impact resume and cover letter.
Cover letter openings
Write a formal greeting, such as Dear Ms. Alvis or Dear Mr. Yang. If you're unsure of the person’s gender and can’t find out, write the full name, as in Dear Chu Li or Dear Chris Beltran.
While it is increasingly common to see greetings without the "Dear" in business, it is less formal. When applying for a job, sometimes you want to start off formally, even though you may take a less formal tone in subsequent written exchanges.
If you’re unfamiliar with someone’s name, be sure you don’t confuse the first name with the family name, which can easily happen in today’s global business environment, depending in part on the languages you know. For example, the CEO of Lenovo is Yang Yuanqing. His surname is Yang and his first name is Yuanqing (in Mandarin, the family name is written first), so if you are addressing him, you would write Dear Mr. Yang and not Dear Mr. Yuanqing.
A final comment on people’s names: be sure to spell them correctly. That is one typo no recipient will miss.
What if you cannot track down a contact name for your cover email? Use a generic salutation, such as Dear Hiring Manager, Dear Recruiting Manager or Dear Human Resources Professional. (Avoid To Whom It May Concern; it is antiquated.) Another option is to write Greetings, which is somewhat informal but polite. You could also dispense with the opening greeting altogether and start with your first sentence, although some recipients might find that approach to be abrupt.
In all openings, be sure to capitalize the first letter of every noun and follow your greeting with punctuation. Use either a colon (Dear Mr. Yang:) or a comma (Dear Recruiting Manager,).
Cover letter closings
End your message with a formal closing, such as Sincerely, Regards or Best regards. If your closing contains more than one word, capitalize only the first word, as in Best regards or Sincerely yours. And be sure to put a comma after your closing. A common error in business communications is the omission of that comma.
Your full name goes on the next line. No need for the extra space that used to go on letters for the signature. Write your telephone number and email address on separate lines after your name. Although this contact information is on your resume (and your email address is on your email), including it with your cover message makes life easier for the recipient.
This post is by Helen Cunningham and Brenda Greene, authors of The Business Style Handbook, An A-to-Z Guide for Effective Writing on the Job
Many job seekers spend a considerable amount of time perfecting their resume to best reflect their experience and show off their accomplishments. Yet too often, job seekers neglect a key element in the job application process: the cover letter. Think cover letters are irrelevant today? Think again. Cover letters can be the one element that gets the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager and compels them to review your resume.
Bottom line: make your cover letters amazing by avoiding the following mistakes:
1. No cover letter – Don’t send your resume without a cover letter. In the era of digital communications, cover letters can take the form of a document, an email, or an online application form. Whatever the media, a cover letter is like a quick and to-the-point sales pitch about you. It’s your chance to show some personality, express your interest in a specific company, and increase your chances of getting noticed by a potential employer.
2. Impersonal greeting – Don’t begin a cover letter with a “Hello” or “Dear Sir/Madam.” That’s like writing a letter that is addressed to nobody in particular. Personalizing the greeting increases your chances of getting the reader’s attention. Address the hiring manager or recruiter by his/her name (if you don’t know it, research it). The formal and traditional greeting is a “Dear Mr.” or “Ms.” followed by the person’s last name (surname), e.g., “Dear Mr. Smith.” If you can’t determine the person’s gender, use their full name without a title prefix, e.g., “Dear Alex Smith.” Finally, if you can’t find the person’s name, use a gender-neutral title such as “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Vice President of Marketing.”
3. Generic cover letter – Don’t send the same generic cover letter to every employer. Generic cover letters are very obvious and suggest you don’t know anything about the company or position for which you are applying. Create or follow a template cover letter that you can customize for each employer. Pick out two or three aspects of the job description and describe why you are a good fit. Additionally, talk about the hiring company and why you would like to work there in particular. Specific cover letters convey that you’ve taken the time to research the company and that you’re genuinely interested in joining.
4. Lengthy cover letter – Don’t write a lengthy cover letter because recruiters and hiring managers won’t read it. They will likely skim the letter or avoid it altogether when they notice all that text. As a general rule, a good cover letter length is two to three short paragraphs. Focus on high-impact details that depict how your skills and experience are a good fit for the role and the company.
5. Summary of resume — Earth to all jobseekers: the cover letter is not supposed to be a paragraph summary of your resume. The cover letter should be a compelling “invitation” for the hiring manager or recruiter to learn more about you. Certainly, mention accomplishments that are relevant to the targeted job. But in general, omit the resume details from the cover letter. Focus instead on your skills and experience, and how you will benefit the company.
6. It’s all about you – Don’t talk only about yourself. While it’s important to show off all of your awesome skills and experience, the cover letter should equally be about you and the employer. Remember the points above about customizing with details about the job and the company. Show how you can benefit the company if they hire you.
7. Getting too personal — Don’t include really personal details about your life situation. This is not the place for information about divorce, childhood, being misunderstood, feeling desperate, how your current employer mistreats you, etc. Keep the cover letter upbeat and professional.
8. Missing contact information – Don’t omit your contact information, e.g., phone number and email address, from the cover letter. Resumes and cover letters can easily become separated, so make sure to include your contact information on both documents. You want to be easy to contact should the employer be interested.
9. Grammatical errors – Don’t submit a cover letter with typos or grammatical errors. This will leave a negative impression. Spell-check and proofread your cover letter again and again. Ask two or three additional people to proofread for you.
10. Failure to follow directions – If the employer has asked that you address a certain question in your cover letter or send it in a particular format, make sure you follow these directions. Employers often base their decisions on information they ask you to include and sometimes include application instructions—such as including the cover letter in the body of the email—as a way to test how well candidates can follow directions. If you can’t follow their instructions, it’s an easy way to eliminate you from consideration.
Bonus: Missing hyperlinks – Don’t make references to online work, then omit the hyperlinks. We live in a digital world, y’all! If you refer to your guest post on Mashable or your first-place win at the hackathon, include a referring link in your cover letter. You’ll save the reader from having to Google the information, and it’s an impressive display of proof!
Cover letters are a way to introduce yourself to an employer and show how you are the best candidate, so use it to your advantage! It’s worth it to spend the extra time creating a great cover letter if it helps you land the job!