Cover letters serve as a bridge between your resume and the specific job to which you are applying. Therefore, there isn’t a “one size fits all” cover letter.

A cover letter is also a reflection of your writing skills, so take time and care to proofread and review your document. It is always a good idea to have one or more people read your letter before you send it.

You Should Send a Cover Letter When

  • The employer has requested it
  • Responding to a job posting via direct mail or email
  • Sending in a response to a referral from a friend or acquaintance

Guidelines

Your Cover Letter Should Be

  • Formal, polished, and grammatically correct
  • Precise, concise, cordial, and confident
  • Written in the active voice
  • Varied in sentence structure—don’t begin all sentences with “I”
  • Printed on the same type of paper as your resume
  • Targeted to the needs of the company and requirements of the position
  • A way of connecting the job description with your resume and skills

Cover Letters Should be Addressed to a Specific Person

If you do not have a contact name:

  • Investigate the company website and other online resources for contacts and addresses
  • Call the company and request the name of the person responsible for hiring college graduates in your career area
  • If all efforts fail—indicate a specific job title, such as Director of Public Relations and use a proper salutation

 

Additional Tips

  • Your cover letter should not be a repetition of the wording on your resume
  • The font and formatting of your cover letter should match the font and style of your resume
  • When sending a resume via email, you may follow the cover letter format to introduce your attached resume and put the cover letter into the body of the email (formal address and date format not necessary)
  • The subject line for cover letters sent via email should have the position/job title and your full name
  • Use the term “Enclosure” or “Enclosures” only if you are sending hard copies of your documents. The term "attached" should be used for emailed documents.

Content

The First Paragraph – “Why Them?”

  • States WHY you are writing
    • Responding to an advertised opening
    • Inquiring about a possible opening
  • States WHY you are applying to, or are interested in, this employer
    • Company's training program
    • Company's product or service
    • Culture
  • Demonstrate your company research
  • Mention your contact/referral if you have one

The Second Paragraph – “Why You?”

  • States what qualifications you bring to the position
  • Highlights two or three experiences or academic achievements that directly relate to the qualifications the employer is seeking
  • Proves through examples of experiences and activities that you have key skills for the position—i.e. hard-work, communication, problem-solving ability, and analytical skills
  • May close with a summary sentence of your qualifications and a confident statement that you can make a contribution to the organization

The Third Paragraph – “Next Steps”

  • States what you want—an interview or an opportunity to further discuss your qualifications and any employment opportunities the employer may have
  • May reference your enclosed or attached resume
  • Thanks the person and indicates that you look forward to speaking to or meeting with him/her, but indicates flexibility as to time and place
  • Can state that you will call the contact person at a certain time/day to discuss scheduling a meeting or an interview

NEXT: References & Thank Yous