How to Write a Cover Letter for a Government Job What to Include in a Cover Letter for a Federal Job Why You Need a Cover Letter for Federal Job How to Write a Cover Letter for a State Job Sample Cover Letter for a Government Job Common Mistakes in Writing a Cover Letter for a Federal Job Conclusions
How to Write a Cover Letter for a Government Job What to Include in a Cover Letter for a Federal Job Why You Need a Cover Letter for Federal Job How to Write a Cover Letter for a State Job Sample Cover Letter for a Government Job Common Mistakes in Writing a Cover Letter for a Federal Job Conclusions
Updated 08/09/2020

How to Write a Cover Letter for a Government Job

Want to improve your chances of getting a government job? Start with a flawless cover letter. In this guide, you will gain valuable insights on how to write it.

Want to improve your chances of getting a government job? Start with a flawless cover letter. In this guide, you will gain valuable insights on how to write it.

The public sector implies decent retirement and medical benefits, a low layoff rate, and flexible public officials’ flexible vacation policies. These factors encourage many specialists to start or continue their careers in one of the federal departments. However, the public sector still lags behind the private one in the number of available vacancies. It marks fierce competition for every position where your successful employment depends not only on your qualifications but also on your ability to prove your professional value against other candidates. In this case, a cover letter for a government job is your first and “must-have” self-presentation tool. To help you make this document flawless, we will discuss its main parts, important requirements, and common mistakes.

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What to Include in a Cover Letter for a Federal Job

A federal cover letter is an application document required for a comprehensive assessment of a candidate by the government hiring committee. Unlike a resume, it has a narrative form that showcases your writing, presentation, and prioritization skills. This paper has a clear structure that consists of 4 main sections.


This part consists of your and the recipient's contact information. Your contact information should include your name, date, address, phone number, and email. Recipient details include their name, the name of the federal agency or department you are applying to, and the city council's address.


Start this section by greeting the recipient. Stick to a formal tone and keep it short. For this purpose, use a general greeting template such as "Dear Mister (Last Name)" or "Dear Mrs or Miss (Last Name)."

In the second part of your intro, make it clear what role you are applying for. Moreover, it is a great place to start your self-presentation. You can indicate how many years you have worked in the industry or mention your professional achievement. It will get the HR manager's attention at the start of the letter.

Main Body

The central piece of your appeal has two paragraphs. It is where you must uncover your strengths and prove yourself as a qualified and promising candidate. The main difference between a federal government cover letter and a similar document for the private sector is the mandatory indication of your work experience. Therefore, use the first paragraph to mention 1-2 previous employers, your contributions to the companies' overall goals, and the skills that helped you succeed in your last position. The second paragraph may be about your potential employer. Tell why you chose a particular federal agency, what attracts you to public service, or how you can benefit citizens.

Final Paragraph

In the final part of your letter, you can thank the recipient for the attention to your candidacy and the time spent on reviewing your application. Also, mention that you have attached a copy of your resume and express your hope for productive cooperation. After that, use one of the business farewell phrases such as "Best regards," or "Sincerely," and leave your name and signature at the very end of the document.

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Why You Need a Cover Letter for Federal Job

Forbes reports that 36% of hiring managers start evaluating candidates with a cover letter, and a whopping 83% see it as a powerful foundation for decision-making. These statistics speak volumes. Nevertheless, we have prepared additional weighty arguments to convince you of the importance of a cover letter.

  1. The city hall's hiring committee receives dozens of resumes, ranging from three to five pages. Given the high flow of candidates, the hiring manager will not look through your entire long-read to discover your strengths. The cover letter for a local government position, in turn, focuses their attention immediately on your main advantages. Therefore, your chances of being noticed and duly appreciated are significantly increased.
  2. While a govt cover letter should demonstrate your experience, it still has more flexible content requirements than a resume. Therefore, you can add any information that you think is valuable to a potential employer and can tilt the balance in your favor. Have you clearly defined your mission as a civil servant? Share it! Do your work style or personality traits make you an effective employee? Mention them. These characteristics set you apart from other candidates, and the cover letter allows you to tell about them.
  3. A resume contains a list of your skills, but a cover letter may explain why they are essential for your chosen role. This way, the federal hiring manager will see that you understand your job’s nature and the factors that affect your success as a professional. Also, correctly selected and presented skills will emphasize your analytical thinking and ability to get priorities right, which will add extra points.
  4. According to the same Forbes article, less than 40% of applicants attach cover letters even if they are mandatory, as in federal job applications. Some of them simply forget about this document, while others still doubt its importance. In this case, the cover letter is your real chance to prove your responsible approach. Rest assured, potential employers and hiring managers always appreciate candidates who follow instructions and go the extra mile. It confirms their genuine interest and commitment, which is vital for any organization.
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How to Write a Cover Letter for a State Job

Despite the clear benefits of a cover letter, you shouldn't think that any text improves your chances by default. Your success in the application process still depends on the quality of its content and format. Therefore, we have collected all the core requirements in one guide.

  1. Length. The required cover letter length is one page or 200-300 words. This volume is enough to state your main strengths and keep the document to the point and not tire the recruiter.
  2. Font. Rest assured, if the recruiter must peer into every word and spend time parsing your text, your cover letter will be tossed aside. To avoid this, use simple fonts like Arial, Georgia, Times New Roman, or Verdana to make your document easy to read. Please note these same fonts are a good choice for your resume. Therefore, feel free to choose one standard for both papers to ensure their integrity.
  3. Design. Some candidates try to grab the hiring committee's attention with an offbeat or fanciful design of their paper. But this is a failed tactic. First, bright colors or intricate patterns distract attention from the essence of your message. Second, overly creative solutions may give the idea that you are trying to compensate for your poor self-presentation. You should prepare an official document where the quality of your content is the best puller. Therefore, stick to a business style in its design.
  4. Customized content. Your entire story should reflect the position you are applying for and the federal agency you want to join. For this purpose, collect as much information as possible about the desired department from available sources. What is its mission? What is their common goal? What projects are they doing right now? You can use the answers to these and other questions in your self-presentation, thereby showing your awareness.

    Also, re-read the job description and write down the basic requirements for candidates, be it work experience, hard and soft skills, etc. It is these points that will form the basis of your cover letter. The customized text shows that you prepared a document for a specific position and did not send it to every available vacancy.
  5. Accurate data and numbers. Numbers and data grab attention against the straight text and increase the credibility of your message. You can use them when presenting your achievements such as "Reduced department expenses by 15%" and when describing your duties in a previous position such as "Managed a team of 25 people."
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Sample Cover Letter for a Government Job

To solidify the gained knowledge, we have prepared federal cover letter templates for you. They will help you trace the structure of the document and the features of building a job-winning message.

Anna May
August 18, 2020
88 Central Street, Washington, DC

Jordan Bruno
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
177 Global Street, Washington, DC

Dear Mr. Bruno,

My master's degree and 6 years of experience in public relations have shown me the strength of words and the importance of being honest with the audience. And now, I want to join the Department of Homeland Security as a public affairs specialist to serve the American people.

I worked for 2 years at S&S Inc. During this time, I was able to increase loyalty to the company by 40%, according to internal research. Despite the successful collaboration, I decided to focus my activities on non-profit organizations. Therefore, I joined the You Can community, where I worked until the beginning of this year. I am proud to have raised public awareness of its ideas by organizing 15 charity events and launching a community newspaper circulated in over 100 cities.

Your noble mission to keep America safe requires a well-coordinated human resource. And I want to become the very person who will take on the establishment of direct contact between the secret services and the public, monitoring negative and positive government news in the media, and delivering reliable data to the audience. Rest assured, my advanced oral and writing communication skills will help shape a competent and persuasive message. My analytical thinking will allow me to set short and long term goals for your digital strategy.

I have attached my resume with detailed information on my qualifications and work history. Thank you in advance for considering my candidacy.

Best regards,
Colin Douglas
July 22, 2020
111 Park Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia

Michael Lee
The Department of Defense Education Activity
77 Main Street, Alexandria, Virginia

Dear Mr. Lee,

My two years of experience in the education sector and a passion for mentoring and inspiring the younger generation qualifies me for the role of a substitute teacher at Fort Rucker Elementary School. I admire the student-centered approach of The Department of Defense Education Activity and strive to follow it in my daily activities.

For two years, I have been holding a similar position at St. Patrick's School. This experience allowed me to apply my knowledge and skills in 7 grades and build trusting relationships with more than 100 students. During this time, I have mastered a set of critical skills for my profession. Communication skills help me win students' favor and achieve productive learning, even in their teacher’s absence. Through an innovative approach, I find effective methods for getting involved in the educational process. My flipped class practice resulted in a 20% improvement in overall performance.

I know that all schools under your leadership open their doors to students from different religions and backgrounds. I believe this is precisely the approach that promotes equality in society and instills it in the young generation from an early age. And I would be glad to become a worthy representative of your values.

Thanks for reviewing my application. I hope for any feedback.

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Common Mistakes in Writing a Cover Letter for a Federal Job

Given the high competition for every federal job, your cover letter's mistakes can be a compelling reason to weed out your candidacy. So check the top failures and avoid them when creating your copy.

  • Focus on each previous post. Your paper really should reveal your industry experience. But it is equally essential to apply common sense when implementing this idea. You should not list all the positions you have held to show your career path. It repeats your resume, and therefore the recruiter may think that you are wasting their time. Also, it takes up a lot of space on a one-page document. Thus, you are depriving yourself of the opportunity to discuss your other strengths that the recruiter will not find on your resume.
  • List your responsibilities. The list of duties does not prove your expertise, much less your success as a specialist. Therefore, when describing your experience, focus on your achievements. You may have advanced to a leadership position in a short time frame, exceeded performance indicators, or formed a strong team. All this proves that you did not just fulfill your duties, but knew your stuff and did your job well.
  • Self-absorption. Every employer wants to know that you aim to reveal your potential in their particular team and contribute to their specific organization. Therefore, if you just list your merits, it does not explain the reasons for your application and does not show how you can benefit the department and society in general. To put things right, devote one paragraph to the federal agency, its mission, goals, and values, and thereby prove your commitment.
  • Speak in generalities. "I am a highly qualified employee," "I am a strong team player," or "I have achieved great results in this field." These and similar statements sound unfounded if concrete facts and figures do not support them. In this case, the employer sees only your self-assessment of your activities, which does not encourage them to invite you for an interview.
  • Touch on the inappropriate themes. A cover letter is not the best place to reveal the reasons for your dismissal from your previous post, financial expectations, and personal circumstances that prompted you to change jobs. You will have the opportunity to discuss these topics in an interview. But first, you still need to get it. Therefore, focus only on the most useful and beneficial information about yourself.


Selecting candidates is no less complicated than finding a job. The hiring committee must review hundreds of similar resumes and find the one right person. In this regard, a federal cover letter is incredibly valuable as it demonstrates your unique personality, priorities, and motives. Thus, it helps you promote your candidacy and the recruiter to make the right choice and hire an employee worthy of a civil servant’s title. Now you know how to make this document perfect. Your current task is to put this knowledge into practice and help the recruiter to notice you.

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