Cover Letter Examples: Understanding The 4 Different Types

Cover Letter Examples: Understanding The 4 Different Types

September 3, 2018

You are starting your job hunt, and you know a cover letter will help your chances – if done right. But who knew there were four major types of cover letters? Below you will learn when to use each type of cover letter and what is included in each one. Here is how to nail it.

Application Cover Letter

An application cover letter is written to apply for a certain job. You will send this to the recruitment professional or hiring manager along with your resume as part of your application package. In fact, your “cover letter” may be the email to which the resume is attached. Some recruitment professionals argue the cover letter is dead, but others expect it. In other words, unless you are told to skip it, take the time to compose a strong cover letter. Moreover, if you do it creatively and intelligently, it will only increase your chances of landing an interview. It should verbalize your experience in a way a resume cannot. It should tell a compelling story about your passion. Lastly, it should highlight your strengths (because a study showed recruiters only glance at your resume for six seconds before determining if you are a worthy candidate, so sum it up for them). Think of the application cover letter as a value proposition for why you are the best candidate for the job.

Check out to see a great list of cover letter examples by industry.

Referral Cover Letter

A referral cover letter mentions the name of the person who referred you to the job. This will quickly gain the attention of the employer, especially if they’re known by the recipient. For this reason, including the referral’s name within the first few lines of the cover letter. Start with something like this:

“Dear [recruiter/hiring manager],

Jane Doe, vice president of marketing with GQR, suggested that I contact you directly regarding my interest in a marketing specialist position with your organization.”


“Dear [recruiter/hiring manager],

I am writing to you regarding the open accounting specialist position at your company. I worked alongside Joe Smith for over a decade in the finance department at GQR, and he suggested I contact you.”

Take the time to include all pertinent information (as you would in the application cover letter) after your introduction. Just because you name-dropped does not mean you can slack in showing why you are the ideal candidate.

Networking Cover Letter

A networking cover letter’s purpose is to put yourself out there by asking for job search advice or open position referrals. You would use this letter to reach out to contacts you have gained through previous jobs, industry conferences, professional social media platforms, continuing education and networking events. Here is an example:

“Dear [former classmate],

First, congratulations on completing your MBA this year. What an accomplishment! I just finished mine this summer and am starting to look for a new opportunity.

As a highly regarded professional in the technology space, I thought you might know if any of the companies you do business with are hiring IT managers. If so, would you be able to provide me with their contact information or introduce me?

I look forward to hearing from you, and I would love to meet for coffee or lunch soon too. Please let me know when you are available, so we can find time to reconnect.


Bob Jones”

Prospecting Cover Letter

A prospecting cover letter is one you would send to a company you would like to work for. Maybe their culture seems like a perfect match for what you are seeking, or they are top-rated by employees and have glowing reviews on Glassdoor. You will want to make specific connections and show that you know something about the company to stand out. It is worth the effort, even if the company does not have any current open positions. They will add you to their talent community, so you hear about the organization’s opportunities first. This prospecting cover letter could also be used to reach out to recruiters you know are working for several clients. It would be similar in nature, except make connections to the recruiters’ specialization/industry if you are not aware of who their clients are specifically. Here are a couple of examples of introductions:

“Dear [hiring manager],

After reading an industry trade publication last week and seeing mention of your organization, I was interested in learning more about your company culture. I was impressed to discover your focus on innovation and your belief that empowering employees to be entrepreneurial is what leads to continued growth.

In my most recent position, I designed a new way of processing invoices that maximized efficiency in the department.”


“Dear [recruiter],

I enjoyed reading the article about networking you published on LinkedIn last week. I never thought about looking at for potential networking events, so thank you for that tip.

In learning more about you, I noticed you recruit in the life sciences sector. With a background in the life sciences industry, specifically pharmaceuticals, I would love the opportunity to talk with you about the industry’s employment outlook.”

Position yourself for a spot on top of your recruiter’s list of potential candidates by following these cover letter tips and templates. Good luck with the rest of your application process!


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