How To Write a Software Engineer Cover Letter [Guide]

Monica J. WhiteMonica J. White | 19 minute read | September 30, 2022
software engineer cover letter

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Whether you’re a new graduate or an experienced engineer, it’s completely understandable to dread writing a cover letter. A cover letter is basically a sales pitch for yourself, which can make it seem daunting to face the kind of rejection that often comes with a job search.  

But even if selling yourself doesn’t come naturally, there are tried and tested strategies for writing cover letters that can help you land the interview for your dream job. 

In this guide, we’ve assembled some tips for what software engineers should include in their cover letters. We’ve also picked out some top-rate examples so you can see what the ideal finished product looks like. Follow this guide, and all you’ll have to do is ace the interview. 

How Important Is a Cover Letter for Software Engineering?

As a software engineer, a cover letter isn’t just important—it’s essential. A cover letter provides recruiters with a personalized introduction to your resume, with the hope that they’ll actually read it. When done right, a cover letter distinguishes you from other applicants and demonstrates your genuine interest in the job. 

What Should You Include in a Software Engineer Cover Letter?

Software Engineer Cover Letter

A software engineering cover letter should use your past experience as evidence that you’re the perfect candidate for the position you’re applying for. Let’s break down what that looks like:

Brief Overview of Your Experience and Qualifications (Don’t Simply Rehash What’s Said in Your Resume Though)

A brief overview of who you are is often the first thing discussed in a cover letter, but it’s also the trickiest to perfect. This section needs to grab the reader’s attention and avoid reading like a generic cover letter. Studies show that 56% of prospective employers prefer candidates who include a cover letter, but reading the same template over and over again is not what they want. 

One effective strategy is to open your cover letter with a hand-picked achievement that matches the requirements of the job, and not with a traditional self-introduction. That way, you can show the hiring manager in the very first line that you have hands-on experience in the exact fields they are looking for.

Making the opening of your cover letter stand out will help encourage hiring managers to click on it and give it a read since they can see straight away that it’s different from most letters they receive. Your cover letter can’t help you if no one reads it, so we highly recommend doing what you can to craft a unique opening line.  

Quantifiable Achievements

To express a quantifiable achievement, you need to include proper context, avoid being vague, and include numbers and facts if at all possible. In other words, you need to make your achievement seem real and believable. 

Remember to tailor your cover letter to the company and the job you’re applying for—if you have a lot of achievements you could choose from, make sure to choose the most relevant ones. To keep your letter brief and clear, it can be a good idea to use bullet points for this section.

Presenting quantifiable achievements in your cover letter helps set you apart from low-quality applicants whose skills and experience don’t seem trustworthy. Anyone can apply for a job and lie about their qualifications, and these lies tend to be written in a vague, generic fashion. Including facts, figures, and tangible details in your cover letter will help you show that your achievements are real.

Programming Languages and Tools You’re Proficient In

Your software engineer resume will list a variety of programming languages and tools you’re proficient in, so there’s no need to include them all in your cover letter as well. Instead, pick out the ones that were mentioned in the job description, and any others that you think will be relevant. Most software engineers are hired to work with specific languages, so make sure not to overwhelm the hiring manager with information that isn’t relevant to them. 

Including relevant languages and tools that you’re proficient in can also help you hit the keywords that recruiters are searching for during their initial round of screening. Recruiters are experts in finding good candidates, not in the job role they’re searching for. To help them do their job, employers will provide lists of languages, tools, libraries, and software relevant to the role they’re hiring for, and recruiters will search for resumes that include these words.

Relevant Skills

Look back over the technical skills listed in the job description to compile a list of your own software engineering skills. This can include both programming skills and soft skills. Relevance is key, as the hiring manager has one very specific role to fill, and you want to convince them that you’re the engineer they’re looking for. 

While adding skills in other areas can demonstrate the breadth of your knowledge, it can also be a telltale sign that you didn’t customize your cover letter for the specific role. Instead, your application will appear more clear and more respectful of the recruiter’s time if you only cover the skills you have that are relevant to the job.

Special Projects

You should try to keep your cover letter under 500 words, so there isn’t room to list a lot of your own personal projects. But highlighting your side projects is a great way to demonstrate that you are a passionate engineer. For your cover letter, introduce your most relevant special projects, and summarize it with a few bullet points. 

Including personal projects in your cover letter can help your application in multiple ways, as it says a lot about the kind of worker you are. Coding in your free time demonstrates your passion, your willingness to keep learning and improving, and your strong work ethic. Employers always want to hire someone who goes the extra mile, and special projects are a strong sign of a hard worker.

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What Sets You Apart From Other Candidates

This section can also be tricky, as it requires some explicit self-selling. Focus on what you believe you can do for the company and what traits and tech skills you’ll use to achieve this. Although there won’t be much proof of your claims that you can offer at this point, telling the recruiter that you have what they need also shows that you understand their needs. This can set you apart from poor candidates who didn’t bother to customize their application, and under-qualified candidates who don’t understand the job on the same level as you

What Attracts You to the Role and Company

Including a specific section about the role and company is another way to make it very clear that your interest is genuine and that your cover letter is not a template. Show that you’ve done your research and feel passionate about the role or the company culture by offering insight, reasonable praise, and questions about the company you’re applying to. 
Showing interest in the company can also present you as an active employee who would take it upon themselves to get involved in the work community. This is an attractive characteristic to employers, as it is often found in high-aiming individuals who work to become an influential part of the company.

GitHub and Portfolio Link

Lastly, it’s a great idea to take advantage of the fact that cover letters are now sent digitally, and include some convenient links for the hiring manager. After introducing one of your software engineering projects, link to your portfolio or GitHub so they can see more if they wish to. You can also include more than just your portfolio link—blogs, dedicated social media accounts, relevant hobbies, and anything else connected to your identity as a software engineer can be included here. 

By including links at the bottom of a cover letter, you’re not pushing anyone into clicking, but if they do, the information can help continue to develop the reader’s impression of you and your attitude to your work.

Software Engineer Cover Letter Template

Software Engineer Cover Letter Template
Source: Zety

Next, let’s have a look at the kinds of engineering cover letter formats that prospective employers want to see.

Header

The header of your software engineer cover letter should include your information, and the contact info of your recipient, along with the date of composition. Include your name, professional email address, phone number, and potentially your physical address. For remote positions in different cities, your physical address isn’t as important. Next, write the date and then the recipient’s name, job title, and company address.

The format of your cover letter is an important factor in the initial impression it gives the reader – there’s a set way for it to be laid out, and conforming to the rules should be a given. If you fail to format your letter correctly, it could, unfortunately, cause the reader to develop a negative first impression.

Here’s an example of the correct format:

Software Engineer Cover Letter Template-header

Subject Line

When sending your cover letter as an email message, it’s good to make the most of the subject line. Including the basic relevant information about you and the role you’re applying for will maximize the chances of your email getting clicked on and read straight away. We recommend including:

  • The role you’re applying for
  • The company name
  • The job ID (if there is one)

Occasionally, software development job adverts will ask applicants to use a predetermined subject line when sending their application, for instance, “Application for Software Engineer Position – [Name of Applicant].” Make sure to follow this if you see it.  

Greeting

The ideal greeting for a software developer cover letter is “Dear [Hiring manager’s name].” Using the name of the person who will be reading your letter is a great way to demonstrate from the get-go that you’re a perfect candidate, your cover letter is personalized, and you’ve done your research. 

If you can’t find the name, consider calling the company to find out. You want the hiring manager to see you as a person, rather than just an application, so it helps to extend the same courtesy back to them by taking the time to find out who it is you’re corresponding with.

Introductory Paragraph

This is where you need to grab your reader, so try your best to write something interesting, unique, and relevant. Starting with something you achieved during your previous experience is a great way to establish your credentials for the job. It may seem a little sudden or out of context to do so, but you can expand on the topic later on, and your resume will add even more detail. 

As we mentioned before, we really recommend coming up with a unique introduction to your cover letter, because it can help increase the chances that the hiring manager will read it. A good cover letter can add a lot of value to your application, so you should do whatever you can to make sure the first lines don’t seem generic and cause the hiring manager to think it would be a waste of time to read it.

Main Body

The main body of your cover letter is where you’ll include your quantifiable achievements, programming languages, key skills, and special software projects. You should also outline what sets you apart from other candidates and what attracts you to the role and the company. Make sure to keep it brief, and make good use of bullet points to maximize the amount of information you can include.

Concluding Paragraph With a Call-to-Action

An effective closing statement for your software engineering cover letter is to express your interest and excitement at joining the team, and lastly, include a call-to-action. This could be as simple as mentioning that you’re looking forward to their response and moving on to the next step in the application process. 

You could also include a call-to-action to encourage the reader to click on the link to your portfolio, or even to encourage them to set up an interview with you. A call-to-action might not be within your comfort zone, but they are proven strategies within the marketing and sales industries and also help to conjure an air of confidence.

Email Signature (and Links)

A great way to sign off is to literally sign your letter with a digital signature. If you don’t have one already, they can be made easily online, and they add a personal and professional touch to your letter. You can also add the links to your GitHub, portfolio, LinkedIn, and any other relevant profiles here. 

The end of your cover letter will be the part that sticks in the reader’s mind, so it helps to make sure it has a professional feel. There are also strategies that recommend adding a P.S at the end of your letter to really help you stand out. Alluding to another achievement or teasing knowledge that could benefit the employer can help encourage them to follow up with you to find out more.

Software Engineer Cover Letter Examples

Software Engineer Cover Letter Examples
Source: Resume Now

In this section, we’ll analyze a number of sample cover letters to potential employers for applications to different software engineering roles

Junior Software Engineer Cover Letter

Writing a software engineering cover letter as a new graduate is quite different, as you don’t yet have the professional experience to talk about. Here’s what you need to know.

What To Include

If you haven’t had a software engineer job yet, you need to talk about what you have done instead. You don’t need to worry about not having experience, as you’ll likely be applying for an entry-level software engineering role that doesn’t require it. 

Some good topics to cover are:

  • Your educational achievements
  • Any internship experience 
  • Volunteer/open source experience
  • Freelance projects
  • Personal projects

Junior Software Engineer Cover Letter Example

Here is an excerpt from the main body of a sample cover letter written by a junior software engineer.

Junior Software Engineer Cover Letter Example
Source: Zety

Why We Love It?

Cover letters don’t need to be formal letters. Adding personality to a cover letter is a great way to stand out from the crowd and build an initial rapport with the hiring manager. We also love that this candidate expressed their excitement about starting their new career, as this demonstrates their passion for development.

As pointed out in the screenshot, this candidate directly addresses the company’s needs and offers them something valuable. This shows a good deal of confidence, and also makes it clear that the applicant understands the intricacies of the role and how it affects the company as a whole. 

Senior Software Engineer Cover Letter

As a senior software engineer, you’ll have more relevant experience than you’ll know what to do with. The key to writing a cover letter for a senior position is hand-picking the best and most relevant achievements from your resume.  

What To Include

You don’t need to cover your complete professional history in your cover letter, as your resume will take care of that. Instead, focus on relevant, impressive, and quantifiable achievements you’ve gained throughout your technology career. 

Being highly experienced as a software engineer doesn’t automatically mean that you’re the right person for the job, your experience also needs to be relevant to the role you’re applying for. This means that your cover letter needs to do as much work as anyone else’s, and should be focused and tailored to the job in question.

Senior Software Engineer Cover Letter Example

Here’s an example of a computer science professional with seven years of experience applying to Google.

Source: Zety

Why We Love It?

This cover letter gets straight to the point about their experience. If you have seven years of achievements under your belt, your cover letter is the place to be confident about it. This example also includes quantifiable achievements with exact numbers and details in four separate places, which looks really impressive to just about anyone who reads it. 

Each section of this concise cover letter is aimed directly at Google, the company they’re applying to, leaving no doubt that this applicant has written this cover letter specifically for this role. 

Front-End Engineer Cover Letter

When applying to a front-end developer job, focus on framing your achievements around the business benefits they brought. You’ll have the chance to talk about your processes in the programming interview, but in your cover letter, the results are what matters. 

What To Include

Numbers and statistics are a great thing to include when writing for a front-end development role, as they help to quantify your achievements and communicate your effectiveness as a developer. Be sure to name websites and software applications you’ve contributed to so the hiring manager can check them out.

Front-End Engineer Cover Letter Example

Here’s an example cover letter from an experienced software engineer for a front-end role.

Source: Zety

Why We Love It?

This cover letter is completely results-driven—the writer knows what their work achieved and how it affected the larger product they were contributing to. This kind of information is exactly what the hiring manager wants to see, because it shows them that you understand what they want and that you can provide it. 

We also like the last line about how the applicant’s experience can lead to “growth for both parties involved.” This offers value to the company without being overly sycophantic and shows that you’re an individual with drive and motivation.

Back-End Engineer Cover Letter

For back-end developers, showing that you’re versatile and familiar with lots of databases and security protocols is an effective strategy. 

What To Include

Companies need back-end developers who are compatible with their needs, so responding directly to the soft skills, languages, and tools listed in the job description is beneficial. It’s also good to show your knowledge of data security protocols and your knowledge of industry trends.

Back-End Engineer Cover Letter Example

Source: Kickresume

Why We Love It?

The writer responds directly to the job requirements posted in the advert and the programs and tools that were listed as well. They also gave a brief summary of their current role, which described the scale of their responsibilities. We also like the brief mention of their amicable separation from their previous role for geographical reasons. 

This sample, along with all the others we’ve shown, makes good use of bullet points, and we highly recommend this style of formatting for cover letters. Bullet points are a great way to draw the reader’s eye to the information you most want them to see, which can be useful since many hiring managers will skim over cover letters quickly.

Full-Stack Engineer Cover Letter

As the name suggests, full-stack developers can do a bit of anything, so their cover letters tend to be more diverse than that of front or back-end devs. 

What To Include

As a jack-of-all-trades position, job adverts for full-stack web development roles can sometimes be a little less specific compared to front-end and back-end. In this situation, it’s good to show off the range of experiences you built up over the years and the results you’ve accomplished together with the teams you’ve collaborated with. 

As a full-stack developer, you may have worked on a high number of projects, and listing each type can be a good way to demonstrate the breadth of your experience. Soft skills are also key for full-stack engineers since they work with so many different teams, so this can be a good point to touch on.

Full-Stack Engineer Cover Letter Example

Here is an example from a full-stack developer with over ten years of experience.

Source: ResumeGenius

Why We Love It?

This cover letter also focuses on results and shows that the writer understands what companies want from a full-stack developer: someone who can oversee, refine, and improve on the project development process. They list significant achievements that any company is likely to want for themselves, which increases their value as a prospective employee. 

The applicant has 10 years of experience, which is impressive, but it is a common problem for applicants to use misleading numbers in these situations. However, in this example, the applicant shows that he has 10 full years of active experience by giving specific details on the high number of projects he has worked on.

Tips on How to Create a Great Software Engineer Cover Letter

  1. Keep It Short and Sweet

  2. Quantify Your Contributions

  3. Tailor Your Cover Letter for Each Job

  4. Include Relevant Keywords From the Job Listing

  5. Ensure You Don’t Rehash Your Resume

  6. Proofread and Edit

To wrap things up, here are some basic tips that can help you write a compelling cover letter: 

Keep It Short and Sweet

It’s good to think of a cover letter as an introduction to your application and resume, and introductions are never very long. The aim is to grab the attention of the reader, establish yourself as a serious and promising candidate, and add any extra context or relevant information that your resume doesn’t include. 

Keeping it short can help increase the chances that your cover letter will be read and avoid wasting the reader’s time. 

Quantify Your Contributions

Quantifying your contributions with facts and figures can help make your achievements both easier to comprehend and easier to trust. If your application is screened by a recruiter before being passed on to a hiring manager, it’s likely that the recruiter won’t have a lot of knowledge in software engineering, so presenting your achievements this way makes it easy for people to understand. 

Tailor Your Cover Letter for Each Job

The purpose of a cover letter is to convince the reader that you’re right for the job, and that’s much harder to do if you haven’t written the letter specifically for that role. Writing a new letter for every application may sound like a lot of work, but we recommend at least doing it for the roles you’re particularly interested in as it shows the hiring manager you’re actually interested in their job, rather than just any job. 

Include Relevant Keywords From the Job Listing

This is a good strategy to help you make it through the first round of screening that is usually done by a recruiter. Since recruiters aren’t trained software engineers, they’re often given keywords such as certain programming languages or tools that the employers want, and search for these in resumes and cover letters.

Including plenty of relevant keywords from the job listing will help prevent your application from getting missed by the recruiter. 

Ensure You Don’t Rehash Your Resume

We mentioned before that a good cover letter doesn’t waste the reader’s time. Simply rewriting your resume in letter form doesn’t add any extra value and could easily be considered a waste of time to read, so we recommend avoiding this as much as possible. 

You can, however, provide some extra context or information about a qualification, certification, or achievement on your resume if you feel that it’s relevant. 

Proofread and Edit

Proofreading your work is essential, as errors and typos can make your application look rushed and lacking in thought. If you’re not confident in your writing, you can also reach out to colleagues and friends to help proofread your letter and ensure that it succeeds in expressing what you intended.

Where To Find Software Engineer Cover Letter Templates

Here are three great websites with hundreds of sample software engineer cover letters, resume templates, and guides.

Zety

software engineer cover letter- Zety

Zety is a resume and cover letter-building platform with simple tools and professional templates. Their easy-to-use services will help you create high-quality resumes for your job hunt. 

With a scoring system that rates your resume in real-time, you can get better results in less time and follow expert advice if you get stuck. 

Novoresume

software engineer cover letter- Novoresume

Novoresume focuses on allowing users to make professional-level resumes fast. There’s nothing to download, no mandatory membership or long tutorials, so users can start crafting their CVs straight away. 

Templates, patterns, colors, and fonts are all fully customizable to give you the freedom you need. We also like their use of icons and graphs to convey information such as language proficiency and hobbies. 

Jofibo

software engineer cover letter- Jofibo

Jofibo offers a varied set of resume templates that can help job hunters stand out in the crowd no matter their technical or design experience. Not everyone can make professional-looking resumes from scratch, so we love how simple Jofibo makes the process for all types of users. 

Software Engineer Cover Letter FAQs

Let’s finish up with some FAQs on software developer cover letters and how to write them.

How Long Should a Software Engineer Cover Letter Be?

The ideal length for a cover letter is 250-500 words. The letter serves as an introduction and sneak peek into the details of your software engineering resume, as well as expressing your interest in the job and company you’re applying for.

All of these objectives can be hit in under 500 words, and doing so will make sure you don’t waste the hiring manager’s time.

Should You Submit a Cover Letter for a Software Engineering Role if It Is Optional?

Yes, we recommend still submitting a cover letter if it’s optional, or even if it’s not mentioned at all. It’s not a guarantee that it will be read, but if it is, it will set you apart from other applicants and make it clear that you’re an ideal candidate with a genuine interest in the role. 

Do You Need To Customize Your Software Engineer Cover Letter for Each Job?

Yes. The personalized aspect of cover letters is what allows them to grab the attention of hiring managers and demonstrate your genuine interest in the role. We recommend always customizing your cover letters for each job because it instantly singles you out as an excellent candidate who properly read the job advert, researched the company, and put thought into their application.

Should You Include a Portfolio Link in a Cover Letter?

If you have a portfolio link to share, then it’s a great idea to include it in your cover letter. It may also be on your resume, but including it in more places increases the likelihood that someone will click on it. Since you are likely to mention projects in your cover letter, it makes sense to provide the reader with instant access should they wish to view them directly.

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Monica J. White

About Monica J. White

Monica is a journalist with a lifelong interest in technology, from PC hardware to software and programming. She first started writing over ten years ago and has made a career out of it. Now, her focus is centered around technology and explaining complex concepts to a broader audience.