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What should be included in a Software Engineer cover letter?

After you've developed the skills you'll need for a career as a Software Engineer, you'll need to start thinking about the steps and documents required to apply for jobs. A Software Engineer resume is a must. Practicing for a technical interview will help you demonstrate your skills. And finally, a cover letter will help introduce you to prospective employers.

In this article, we'll explain why you need a Software Engineer cover letter, what it's used for, what to include in it, and how to prepare for your new job.

What's the purpose of a cover letter?

A cover letter is a preview of what you'll bring to the position you're applying for. You'll submit it along with your resume, so it shouldn't be a copy of what your resume contains. But, it should catch the attention of the hiring manager by telling them three things:

  • What position you're applying for
  • Why you're excited to apply for this specific position
  • What skills you'd bring to their team (your unique selling proposition)

Do you really need a Software Engineer cover letter?

If the company you're applying to uses recruiting software that tags the cover letter as an optional upload (or doesn't even let you upload one), then it begs the question: Do we still need to write Software Engineer cover letters?

In short, yes. It may be a formality of the hiring process, but it shows you've put some time and care into your application. It also allows you to add a detail or two about yourself that didn't fit on your resume.

Say you were referred to the company by a current employee or heard about them in the news and knew you wanted to work there. These are details you'd include in your cover letter but not in your resume.

Even if the software doesn't allow you to upload your cover letter, keep it handy. It's a concise summary of why you're the right Software Engineer for the job. You can even bring it to your interview to review before you walk into the room to help you remember your talking points.

What to include in a Software Engineer cover letter

Be sure to start with a formal letter template in whatever word processor you prefer. Word, Google Docs, and Pages all have professional letter (and even cover letter) templates. If you know the hiring manager's name, you'll want to personalize your letter to them, rather than using the "To Whom It May Concern" salutation. Also, be sure to add your address and contact details at the top.

The very first sentence of your Software Engineer cover letter should grab the reader's attention. You want to communicate to them that you're pumped to apply for this job, and you've put in the hard work to learn the required skills. But, you also want to set yourself apart from the crowd, so try not to use the words "I'm excited to apply for the … position." Instead, try something like the following:

  • I've been preparing for the Software Engineer position every evening and weekend for two years so that I would be ready to work for a company like ABC.
  • When Anne Appleby emailed me to recommend the Software Engineer opening at your company, I knew it would be the perfect match for my technical skills.
  • When the Lead Software Engineer job opening was picked up by my Google alert for ABC company, I immediately rescheduled my appointments for the day so that I could apply for this dream job.

The first paragraph of your Software Engineer cover letter should expand upon your opening sentence and lead into a summary of why you have the skills for the job. The second paragraph can provide proof for why you're ready to take on this position. This is where you show the recruiter that you've read the job posting in detail and matched your skills to their needs. You could even have a three-bullet list to draw their attention to it. Here's an example:

"I know I'd be a valued addition to your team because I have:

  • A decade of experience managing teams from diverse backgrounds.
  • The required JavaScript and Python programming knowledge.
  • The tenacity to learn new skills and the dedication to iterate on designs, as evidenced in my website and portfolio."

This section allows you to pull the most important skills you have and highlight them for the job. Without a cover letter, these skills might be lost amongst all the other experience and skills listed on your resume.

Lastly, you'll want to close out your Software Engineer cover letter by letting the recruiter know you're serious about this job, and you look forward to hearing from them.

How to prepare for a position as a Software Engineer

The field of software engineering is broad, so make sure the skills you set out to learn to match the ones needed for your dream job. If you want to work for Google, check out some of their postings or read their blog to ensure you learn the right programming languages.

Once you've figured out which languages you need to know, you can learn how to use them with our online programming courses. That's the best part about learning now versus years ago. You don't need to go back to college to learn how to be a Software Engineer. You can learn in the comfort of your own home and on a schedule that works for you.

If you're starting at square one, you can even set out on a dedicated Career Path, such as a Full-Stack Engineer. Included in our Paths are helpful resources on how to prepare for a technical interview and build a professional portfolio as you build the skills you'll need for your future career.

Get more practice, more projects, and more guidance.

Kattie Thorndyke

Kattie Thorndyke

Kattie Thorndyke is a professional engineer who worked exclusively in motorsport and automotive engineering utilizing OpenFOAM open source CFD software to optimize full-vehicle aerodynamics.

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What should be included in a Software Engineer cover letter?
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