If it makes the work of creating one slightly less tedious, think of your cover letter as one of the few moments in the early stages of your job search where you get to sound a little more human.
Even if you're not explicitly asked to submit one, you should "err on the side of sending one," says Glassdoor community expert MaryJo Fitzgerald. "It gives you a voice beyond bullet points on a resume, helps to introduce you to the hiring manager, and sets you apart from other candidates who may only be sending a resume or cover letters that aren't as good as yours." That's particularly important if you're applying for a job blind, without an "in" — i.e., someone to speak up on your behalf and fast-track you to the coveted interview stage.
The document doesn't have to be an excruciatingly long one, or boring, either. Most experts say three paragraphs are enough, and despite how formal letter covers letters seem, you can — and should! — eschew the whole "Dear, Sir or Madam" thing. You don't want to be too informal with someone you don't know, but you don't want to sound like a 19th-century butler either.
"From what we've been seeing, 'Dear hiring manager' works if you don't know the person's name," Fitzgerald says. "You can also use their department or title: 'Dear senior marketing analyst hiring manager.'" That might sound a bit unwieldy, but she explains that it shows you haven't copy-pasted a template from Google and put some effort int being specific, warm, and welcoming in your greeting, even if you lack some of the specifics.
After that, plunge in. Scott Dobroski, the director of corporate communications at Glassdoor, suggests moving through your cover letter like so:
First paragraph: Touch on your professional summary and express your interest in the role. "A cover letter should be written with the specific role/company/job you're applying for in mind," Fitzgerald says. "It should not look like a template — that will signal that you haven't done your homework."
Second paragraph: Explain how you would add value to the role (or company/organization/particular workplace), alluding to the specific job duties and responsibilities at hand. You want to show the hiring manager who you are, but also make clear what you can offer them, Fitzgerald notes. Essentially, you should "[talk about] how you can help drive business forward, and layer on top of that what your successes have been that could relate to what the role is looking for."
Third paragraph: Summarize your interest and reiterate all the ways to contact you. ("Feel free to contact me with any questions at [insert email address], or by phone at [insert phone number]."
You already know the rules for a sign off: No "xoxos" or other kinds of cutesiness. There aren't any strict rules, but "Best," "Regards," and "Sincerely" are still perfectly fine.