The Cover Letter

Writing a strong cover letter to accompany your resume is just as important as having a strong resume. A cover letter is enclosed with every resume, and it introduces you to an employer. Its presentation should be impeccable.

A good cover letter creates an impression of your ability to communicate, a skill that is sought by nearly all employers. You should spend time crafting a letter that will make an employer take notice.

Here are some general rules:

  • Write to a person and not "To Whom it may Concern." It is worth a phone call to learn the manager's name of the department you are interested in. Avoid the personnel office if possible.
  • Be original and keep it brief. The usual length is 3 or 4 paragraphs. Be sure it is typed and that spelling, punctuation and grammar are correct. Have it proofread by more than one person!
  • Address the skills you have. Don't assume an employer can make correlations between your major and your job target. Call attention to significant accomplishments on your resume but vary the wording. Address the stronger skills you developed, and don't apologize for areas that you perceive are shortcomings. Stress the positive; omit the negative!
  • Spend time learning about the company. Show how the information that you learned has spurred your interest. Tailor your cover letter to the specific company and/or position.
  • Follow-up each letter with a phone call. This might seem pushy, but follow-up is critical. It shows initiative and lets you know early on where you stand in the process. Nothing is more frustrating than playing the waiting game. However, even if you sometimes feel like you're playing phone tag you should be persistent.

Example: Cover Letter


Your address

Contact person
Organization name
Organization address

Dear Contact person (no first names!!):

Opening Paragraph
Use catchy or clever opening sentences to arouse interest.
Tell why you are writing; be specific about the position you are applying for.
Give information to show your specific interest in the organization.
Mention the name of the person (if any) who referred you to the position or organization, or state how you learned of the position.

Middle Paragraph
State your knowledge of the skills required in the position
Expand on your background to show why you should be considered.
Refer the reader to your qualifications on your resume or other materials.
Try to make as many connections between your background and the job as possible.

Closing Paragraph
Ask for an interview, suggesting a day or time frame when you will be available. Be sure to enclose a telephone number where you can be reached at the employer's convenience.
Indicate that you plan to follow up by phone. If you say you will follow up, be sure that you do.
Refer to any documents enclosed such as your resume, references, etc.

Sincerely yours,
(Your signature)

Your name typed

Enclosures: list those items enclosed (e.g., resume, reference letters)

If you need further assistance with writing a cover letter, please make an appointment with a career advisor in the Office of Career Services. Our office also houses a number of cover letter examples for you to take a look at, so feel free to stop by and browse our resources.