Cover Letters

What is the purpose?

A cover letter is your personal introduction that accompanies your professional resume. It provides more information and is not a restatement of your resume. A potential employer wants to learn more about you and why you're interested. Each cover letter is unique and tailored to the job for which you are applying. Use this one-page letter to market your strengths and prove that you are a good fit for a position.

What is included?

A cover letter is generally three to five paragraphs in length and will include the following:

Header

    • Include your name and address, as well as the intended employer's name and address. Also, include the date.
    • Address the letter to a specific person. Avoid "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir/Madam." This might require a phone call to the company's Human Resources department. If you cannot find a name, begin your letter without a salutation.

Opening Paragraph

    • Introduce yourself and identify the position for which you are applying. 
    • Mention how you learned about this company and/or position. Include names of referral if applicable. 
    • Explain why you are interested and reflect your knowledge of the company and position.

Body of Letter

    • The body should be no longer than 1 or 2 paragraphs. 
    • Identify how your experiences, strengths and skills meet the needs outlined in the position description. 
    • Back up your statements with specific examples, using precise and active language - help the reader step into your shoes. 

Closing Paragraph

    • Express your enthusiasm regarding an interview for the position. 
    • Initiate follow-up. Mention that you will call, specifying a time frame (7-10 days). If appropriate, note that you will be visiting the area and offer to schedule an office visit. Share your phone number and email address. 
    • Thank the reader for his or her time and consideration. Use a proper closing notation two lines below the last paragraph (such as "sincerely" or "gratefully"). 
    • Note "Enclosure" (or "Attachment" for electronic documents) two lines below the typed name if including additional materials, i.e. a resume. 

How do I make my cover letter stand out?

  • Be sure to tailor your cover letter to the specific position for which you are applying. Do not use the same cover letter for every position.
  • Do your research before writing your cover letter.
  • Do not simply repeat your resume in narrative form. Your cover letter serves to draw out themes from your resume. Be engaging. Convey enthusiasm. 
  • Your letter should exhibit your written communication skills. 
  • Check your cover layout layout and format. Is it attractive? Did you use adequate margins and white space? Is it centered top to bottom and left to right? 
  • Review your fonts. Is the style appropriate and easy to read? Does the letter match your resume in fonts and layout style? Is your font size at least 11 point?
  • Make sure your cover letter sparks enough interest to prompt the employer to read your resume.