Writing Your Cover Letter

A cover letter is designed to introduce you to an employer and to highlight key areas of your skills and experiences that fit what they are seeking for their position or program.  It should entice the reviewer to read your resume where he/she will discover more specifics about your skills and experience.

Your cover letter is your first chance to make a good impression. It should be a compliment to your resume. It gives you the opportunity to further expand on your experiences and to sell yourself to the employer.  As with your resume, you will want to demonstrate that you would be an ideal candidate for the position.  Through your cover letter, the employer is able to see your communication skills and passion for the job opportunity. 

Basic Formatting Tips

  • Keep your letter to one page and make sure your resume and envelope have matching paper, if mailing.  White or ivory is best – no colors.
  • Expand on your experiences and qualifications for the job but do not repeat the same material or sentences from your resume.
  • Keep your writing style professional; while your letter should show your enthusiasm for the position it should not include slang or an overly friendly or informal tone.
  • Do not use gimmicky phrases or start paragraphs with questions, such as “Do you want an employee who is as committed to her work as you are?”
  • Your letter should be 3 – 5 paragraphs in length.
  • Research the employer prior to writing your letter.  Is the organization starting any new initiatives?  What are the demographics of the area?  Think about how you might be able to meet these needs.
  • Include all of your contact information on your letter, either in a heading or by placing your address at the top of the letter and including your phone numbers in the closing paragraph.
  • Include the date of your letter and full address information for the employer.  For a blind ad or general online application you can say Dear Sir or Madam/ To Whom It May Concern, but when writing to an organization take the time to look up the contact name and use it instead.
  • Unlike your resume, your letter will include full sentences. 
  • Carefully review your letter for typos, spelling, and grammatical errors.  Have another person review your letter and resume. 

Elements of Your Letter

Paragraph 1

This is your introductory paragraph.  It should say the type of position you are interested in, how you heard about the position and briefly describe why you are interested in the position/employer.  Keep your introductory paragraph to 3 – 4 sentences.  

Paragraph 2

Do not write a paragraph that is 10 sentences in length.  Instead, try organizing this middle section into 2 paragraphs.  This is the section where you will sell your qualifications.  How you structure the paragraph(s) depends on your experiences and your research on the employers needs.  In one paragraph, you could discuss your relevant experiences and in another paragraph you could emphasize your experiences outside of the class. 

Closing Paragraph

This paragraph should encourage some response from the employer or an indication of your next step.  Request an interview and thank the reader for their time.  Indicate you look forward to hearing from them.