Office of Career Services
A cover letter can be an essential part of your correspondence with employers. When the option is available, you should always include a cover letter with your resume. While the resume provides an overview of your background, the cover letter allows you the opportunity to highlight those aspects of your background that are relevant to the position you are seeking.
A good letter can help heighten the employer's incentive to learn more about you by reading your resume and meeting you for an interview. It also gives the employer a sample of your writing skills.
A cover letter is most effective when it is customized to the particular requirements and qualifications of the organization or job description.
- It is best to have the same font and heading as your resume.
- Cover letters should be addressed to an individual, preferably an employment or personnel manager or a supervisor in a department of interest, rather than to "Dear Sir" or "Dear Madam."
- For the most up-to-date and accurate information on contact names, it is beneficial to call the company directly.
- Ask for the appropriate person's name and title, and be sure to obtain the correct spelling.
- This is also a good time to ask for the phone number or e-mail for that person so you can follow up later.
- If you are unable to identify a specific person to whom to address the letter, “Dear Hiring Manager”, “Dear Intern Coordinator”, and “Dear Search Committee” are appropriate salutations.
The first paragraph states why you are writing, names the type of position, mentions how you heard about it (if you have heard about a vacancy), and addresses what interests you about the company or position.
- If a person referred you to this position, mention the person’s name.
- Keep this paragraph short.
- It must attract enough attention to cause the reader to want to read the rest of your letter and your resume.
- This is your chance to show them you have researched the company.
The main body of your letter, which may be one or two paragraphs long, should detail what you could contribute to the company and how your qualifications could benefit the firm.
- Keep in mind that your resume is general enough to use with many employers and that the cover letter links that resume (and you) to a specific employer.
- The body of your letter should further reflect the research you have done on the employer and elaborate on your interests and experience.
- You should be careful not to reiterate everything that is on the resume; however, you might mention a few key aspects of your background and provide more detail about them than is contained in the resume.
- The more you know about the employer through research, the more you can link your qualifications to the specific position.
The closing paragraph must make it clear what action you will take to follow up
- Keep the initiative on your side. Stating that you will wait to hear from the employer more often than not results in just that... waiting.
- Instead, you should request an interview and tell the employer that you will call him or her within a specific period of time.
- However, only include this statement only if you have the means (i.e. phone number) with which to follow-up.
- It is helpful to include your phone number here in case your resume and letter become separated once they reach the employer.
Additional articles on Cover Letters can be found in the Career Resource Library.