Changing careers can be challenging, and in fact, in most cases it is. By definition, you are competing with more-experienced candidates, so you need every possible tool to give you an edge—and a great cover letter is no exception. A well-crafted cover letter will convince employers that you are the best possible candidate for a particular position. In this guide, you will learn how to write a compelling career-change cover letter.
Hiring someone with low or even no experience in the industry is a risky move for any employer. In order to maximize your chances of getting a new job in a new field, therefore, you need a compelling career-change cover letter to go along with your resume.
So, let’s get started! Imagine you have a blank sheet of paper (or electronic document) in front of you and don’t know where to start. What should be in your cover letter? How should you formulate the things you want to say?
Don't worry, we have the answers.
Information to Include in Your Career-Change Cover Letter
The good news about writing a career-changing cover letter is that there is a standard winning formula. Let's start with the proper structure, which includes the following components:
- Introduction: This first section includes a welcome and the first paragraph. The introduction should catch the reader’s attention and explain why you are applying for the job. The section consists of a heading, a greeting, and an introductory paragraph.
- Main body: The next section focuses on why you are a perfect candidate. Here you should write two-to-three paragraphs highlighting your relevant skills and experience. Explain how you can solve the company’s problems, show your enthusiasm, and speak about how you will be a positive addition to the team.
- Conclusion/call to action: End your letter with a few concise sentences thanking the recipient for reading the letter and offering them the opportunity to contact you.
Now let’s take a look at each of these sections in more detail.
Cover Letter Introduction
The first step in writing your career-change cover letter is to add a title, an introduction, and an introductory paragraph. At the very top of your document, start with the following:
- Your full name
- The position you are applying for
- A greeting
The greeting is of particular importance. Look up the name of the person who will receive your cover letter and resume. Avoid cliched phrases like “Good day to you.” A stale, worn-out greeting makes your letter look ordinary and hints to the reader that you are probably preparing a hundred copies of the same letter to send to every company with a posted job listing.
Instead, personalize your cover letter right from the start. Better options include:
- Dear Kate,
- Good afternoon, Mike!
But what do you do if you can't find a recruiter's name? Or what if you don't know who will read the letter? In these cases, address the HR department as a whole, reference a title, or use a general greeting. For example:
- Dear Recruiting Manager,
- Dear HR Manager,
- Dear Content Marketing Department,
Now let’s move on to the introductory paragraph. This paragraph should include why you are applying for this position and provide concrete examples backing up your value to the company. The goals of the opening paragraph of your cover letter are to:
- Highlight your best achievements
- Demonstrate that you have what the employer is looking for
- Show enthusiasm for a potential position
Here is an example of a well-written introductory paragraph for a cover letter:
Throughout my career, I have admired the campaigns run by the Be Content Co. content team. When I saw there was a content designer position on your team, I rushed to apply. My skills in finding content that ranks high on search engines will help Be Content Co. as you develop your online sales. I planned and executed a digital content creation strategy for WordWork LLC that resulted in a 245 percent increase in organic traffic to the site and a doubling of the conversion rate—all on a tight budget of $65,000.
Overall, this section of your cover letter introduces the recruiter to your biggest professional achievements, and the recruiter gets the feeling that you are aimed at bringing success to the company.
Now let's move on to the main body of the cover letter.
Cover Letter Main Body
In the main body, explain why you are the ideal candidate for the position in question. Talk about your previous experience, what attracted you to the job opening, and how your skills will be useful to the company.
Here’s what to discuss in this section:
- Your most outstanding achievements
- The skills and specialized knowledge you have that are ideal for this position
- Concrete facts and figures to support your statements
Your task in the main body portion of your cover letter is to:
- Explain how your previous experience will contribute to the potential employer's business development
- Show your motivation
Let's check out what a well-written main body section looks like:
For the past four years, I have been a content manager at WordWorks LLC. My main goal was to increase conversions through organic search traffic and Instagram ads; my budget was $35,000. I managed a team of three freelancers to create illustrations and text for the blog. I oversaw the digital campaign from start to finish and analyzed its success every month.
This experience has made me an expert in these lead generation and conversion monitoring tools:
- Google Search Console
- Screaming Frog
- Google Analytics
I can use the knowledge I have acquired to increase traffic to your site, plan future content, and optimize existing web pages.
These examples and results would impress any employer; the candidate has provided evidence that he is an expert. So think about how your previous experience relates to the plans of your next employer.
Then take what you bring to the table to do the following:
- Explain what you find interesting about the job
- Justify how your skills contribute to achieving the company's goals (for this you’ll need to have previously studied the company!)
Here’s an example of these tips put into action:
I noticed that Be Content is working to make the entire product line available to a wide audience. This suits my skills and interests perfectly, and I also enjoy working with a site that is in the process of being expanded. It would be really exciting to go from working with a small customer base—WordWorks had fewer than 2,000 organic clicks per month in the beginning—to working with a company looking to keep the site at 15,000 clicks and grow its base.
Back up your skills with facts and numbers. Enthusiasm is great, but don't get too carried away with praising yourself or it may seem fake. Be sincere in your praise.
Let’s say, however, that after a lot of thought, you can’t come up with any relevant job history to include in your cover letter. When you need to write a cover letter with no work experience, focus on:
- Academic and other achievements: cite your diploma, awards, merit, scholarships, dissertations, and publications.
- Extracurricular activities: describe part-time jobs, volunteer activities, and how you develop your abilities.
- Self-motivation and goal setting: talk about your goals and explain how the job you’re applying for fits into your plans.
Cover Letter Conclusion
Now we come to the question of how to finish your cover letter. In the conclusion, include your proposal, signature, and contact details. The right closing paragraph will get the recruiter to jump straight into reading your resume. So what does a good cover letter conclusion look like?
Summarize why they should hire you in a single sentence, thank the recruiter for reading your email, and add a call to action. For example, mention that you are happy to meet in person for an in-depth discussion of your knowledge, experience, and what you can bring to the company.
This section of the cover letter should be short and to the point.
Here’s an example of a good conclusion:
I would be happy to work in your agency, and I believe my skills and experience suit you. I am willing to talk over the phone or in person.
After that add a sign-off like:
- Have a good day,
- Best wishes,
Then write your full name (first and last), phone number, and email.
Why a Cover Letter Is So Important for Career Changers
A good cover letter makes a good impression on a recruiter or hiring manager for a number of reasons, including:
- It shows that the candidate is interested enough in the work to do more than just hit the “reply” button.
- It helps the hiring manager to understand the seriousness of the candidate's intentions.
- It gives additional information about the candidate, and not just regarding experience or skills. Often, thanks to a well-written cover letter, a recruiter will see an applicant as "their person" and will overlook a few mistakes or shortcomings in their resume.
- It makes it possible to show creative thinking, which can be a plus.
For these reasons and more, you should always write a cover letter if you want to get the job.
Career-Change Cover Letter Template
In order to help you even more, here is a template for a standard cover letter that you can use when crafting your own:
Standard Cover Letter Template
YOUR NAME HERE
Street Address | City, State, Zip Code | Email | Phone Number
Hiring Manager Name
City, State, Zip Code
My name is , and I am a seasoned professional with over years of experience. I recently came across your posting on , and I’m writing to express my interest in helping achieve .
In my current role as a at , I am responsible for , , and . The professional experience I’ve gained during my time here has helped me to and while improving my overall knowledge.
Prior to this position, I spent years working as a for . In this role, I was tasked with a handful of unique challenges, including and . Over the course of my time there, I was able to overcome and redefine these challenges by , , and .
I’ve attached my resume for further review. Please feel free to reach out via phone or email if you’d like to speak about my experience in more detail: and .
Thank you for your consideration.
Three Tips to Make Your Cover Letter Even Better
These tips will help to improve your cover letter and make your career transition easier:
- Make an attention-grabbing introduction. When hiring managers check cover letters, the first thing they pay attention to is the introduction. The introduction of your cover letter should immediately give hiring managers a reason to consider your application by highlighting any of your relevant qualifications and your passion for a new career and emphasizing your transferable skills. When you're changing careers, it's especially important for your cover letter to communicate that you have the skills needed to do the job. Instead of focusing on your lack of work experience, use your cover letter to showcase the transferable skills you gained from your previous job (or other areas of your life) that will make you a great addition to your new team.
- Explain your career change. Employers know hiring someone in the midst of changing careers can be risky. Your cover letter is a great opportunity to convince them you are the right candidate for the job and that it’s worth the risk of hiring you. To make sure you're fully committed to your new career, be honest about why you're changing industries in your cover letter. Tell the story of how you discovered your passion and highlight any relevant experience you have.
- Show how you can help the company achieve its goals. While employers love candidates who are passionate about their careers, to pass the interview you also need to show them how their company can benefit from your career transition. You'll be dealing with candidates who may have worked in the industry for years, so your cover letter should convince hiring managers that you're a great fit for the job, despite your experience gap. Learn about the company's values, vision and mission, and past projects. When you write a cover letter, speak to these points and how your skills and personal qualities will help you contribute to the future success of the company.
As we wrap up, let's restate the key points of this guide.
- Your cover letter should be short but informative. It should occupy no more than one 8½” x 11” page. Three-to-four paragraphs are enough.
- Your introduction should contain a title and a catchy first paragraph explaining why you want to get this job.
- The main body section of your cover letter should emphasize your best achievements, how you will apply your skills to help the company achieve its goals, and your motivation to become part of the employer's team.
- The final section of the letter should include a call to action encouraging the recruiter to proceed to reviewing your resume. Ideally, you want them to think, “I’d better drop everything and start calling this applicant before someone else does!”
- Do your research about the company and the job opening before you start writing your cover letter.
- Personalize the letter and use the name of a specific person who will read it.
- Select the most suitable experience you have to include in the cover letter based on the real needs of the company. Additionally, your cover letter should include references to the company’s ideals and specific projects that attract you. This will signal to the recruiter that you took the time to learn about the company and have a genuine interest in the job.
- When presenting the results of your work and the problems you have solved, support all statements with facts, figures, and examples.
- Your cover letter should be brief, to the point, and focused on conveying your skills.