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. Be persuasive and point to direct examples, work or school related, that show the qualities you want to highlight about yourself.