Interview prep

4 Software Engineer Cover Letter Examples

Use these templates to craft the perfect cover letter for your situation.

Whether you’re a junior developer fresh out of college or a senior software engineer leading multimillion-dollar projects, landing your next software development job could hinge on writing a great, professional cover letter. Winning cover letters are personalized; they paraphrase requirements listed in the job description, express enthusiasm for the company culture and make a clear case for why your technical and soft skills make you uniquely suited to the role.

The cover letter is your chance to elaborate on which programming languages you’re proficient in, whether you’re a front-end, back-end, or full-stack programmer, what technology stacks you’ve encountered before, and any domain expertise you’ve acquired. If you’re a fresh grad with limited professional experience, use your cover letter to explain passion projects you started, JavaScript libraries you taught yourself to use and open-source contributions you made on GitHub. 

👉 Read next: 5 essential steps to a perfect GitHub portfolio

A template to get you started

The job search process can be stressful and, when it comes to cover letters, you might not know where to begin. Stand out to recruiters by following this simple template for a software engineer cover letter.

  1. Introduce yourself and your background: Craft an elevator pitch to establish why the hiring manager should pay attention. For example, “I’m a front-end developer with three years of experience building responsive, visually appealing websites for property management firms.”
  2. Explain why you’re the best candidate for the role: Choose three or four bullet points from the job description and talk about how they relate to your background. Provide examples of projects, skills, or other past accomplishments that prove you have relevant experience. If the job description calls for the “ability to deal with ambiguous, undefined problems,” mention that time you worked for a pre-seed startup and created several iterations of a mobile app in response to user feedback. 
  3. Provide detail on why you would fit in with the company: Express enthusiasm for the company. Perhaps you’re a longtime customer/user, you admire the CEO or you’ve read positive reviews of the organization’s professional development opportunities. Personalize your reasoning to suit the company's culture and discuss how your soft skills align with their values. 
  4. Frame your closing statement as a call to action: Inspire the reader to move forward with your application. Reiterate in one line how you plan to add value to the team and close with an invitation to schedule a call/video chat or meet in person. (Example: “I believe my five years of experience in web design, specifically working in the finance industry, will be an excellent match for this job. I would love the chance to further discuss the position and what skills I’d bring to the role.”)

However, this template isn't one-size-fits-all. Cover letter formats vary based on years of experience, skill set and technical expertise. Next, we'll discuss different cover letter templates, writing tips, and points to emphasize based on your experience level. We'll also include software engineer cover letter examples for each career stage. 

If you have little to no experience...

This may apply to college freshmen or sophomores seeking their first internship, or anyone with limited exposure to the industry.

Show the hiring manager you’re dedicated to obtaining practical experience outside of an academic setting. Perhaps you practice coding 10 hours a week (you should!), recently taught yourself a new programming language or have contributed suggestions or bug fixes to several open-source projects. 

Other attributes to emphasize in your cover letter:

  • You know 1-2 programming languages well 
  • You have hands-on experience with HTML/CSS/Javascript in your coursework, with sample projects to prove it
  • You know someone at the company/you have a referral (Eg: “A former classmate, John Smith, suggested I reach out to you about the software developer intern position at Company X.”)
  • Show that you understand the company culture and mission (Eg: “I’m deeply passionate about working with a company that puts their customers first, which is why I was so excited to learn about the internship opening at Company X.”)

👉 Next: learn about one of the most prestigious software engineering internships in the world

Sample cover letter: Software engineer/developer intern

If you’re seeking an entry-level job...

This may apply to recent graduates, from undergraduate, masters, or potentially PhD programs.

While you probably possess the baseline skills a junior developer needs, you may lack experience with production. Writing production-ready code is very different from coding for coursework or a portfolio project. In a production environment, you must deploy the code, test it, monitor its performance and fix the code when it breaks (and it will), while satisfying nonfunctional requirements like scalability and reliability.

When explaining past projects you’ve worked on, show that you’re aware of real-world constraints. For example, say you prototype a vacation planning app for your capstone project. Briefly discuss how you would handle a spike in user traffic during holiday periods.

Other attributes to emphasize in your cover letter:

  • You know 1-2 all-purpose programming languages very well, such as Python or Java, in addition to the standard front-end languages HTML/CSS/JS. 
  • If you have experience with production, mention that, even if it was part of a volunteer project. Otherwise, show you understand the software development life cycle and where non-functional requirements come in.
  • Mention your credentials. Software engineering is a field with a high technical barrier to entry, so you need to prove you have baseline coding skills. 
  • Demonstrate your soft skills, such as the ability to explain technical concepts to non-engineers and collaborate with cross-functional teams.
  • Explain your thought process when giving examples of coursework or passion projects. Engineering is about tradeoffs; hiring managers want to know how you solve problems. 

Sample cover letter: Entry-level software engineer/developer

If you’re a low or mid-level software engineer...

This applies to job seekers with 1-4 years of experience in the field.

Focus on establishing trust in your cover letter. As a junior developer, you’ve probably spent most of your time following instructions from a senior developer and might not have achievements to brag about just yet. Instead, show that you’ve satisfied the baseline requirements for your role -- projects are done on time, you’ve written production-ready code, and your responsibilities have slowly increased over the years (with or without a formal promotion).

Other attributes to emphasize in your cover letter:

  • You have a passion for learning new programming languages and being involved in different phases of the software development life cycle
  • You’re proficient in at least one or two stages of the software development life cycle
  • You have experience fixing bugs (even minor ones), working on internal or “admin-side” tools or features and assisting in initial project planning
  • You demonstrate initiative and can offer several ways for solving a problem
  • You know how to compose testing plans and schedules
  • You’re proficient in programming languages such as HTML, Javascript, CSS and Python

Sample cover letter: Software engineer/developer

If you’re a senior software engineer...

This applies to job seekers with 5-8 years years of experience in the field.

As a seasoned professional, you no longer need to qualify your baseline technical skills in your cover letter. Instead, focus on the positive impact you’ve made to the teams on which you’ve served. Mentoring junior developers, clarifying business requirements, and ensuring a smooth collaboration between the development team and the rest of the organization are just a few examples. Create a sense of upward trajectory in your cover letter: mention promotions (and what you did to deserve them), times where you took the lead on projects and how your contributions impact the bottom line. 

Other attributes to emphasize in your cover letter:

  • Experience reviewing code written by junior developers, leading projects and mentoring others
  • Deep domain expertise -- In addition to your programming skills, you have deep knowledge of a specific industry or field
  • You understand the full scope of the project and can delegate tasks to team members
  • You know how to conduct experiments/tests, validate assumptions and connect the dots to reach a conclusion
  • Your contribution to the bottom line (Eg: mitigating risk, consistently meeting project budgets/timelines)

Sample cover letter: Senior software engineer/developer

👉 To ace the application process, you also need a stellar software engineer resume. Formatting and content play an important role, but like cover letters, the right resume template will vary based on your experience level. For resume examples at every skill level, visit this link.

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