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Cover Letters

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Employers typically request that you submit a cover letter with your resume when you apply for a position. The cover letter is your personal introduction to a prospective employer outlining your interest in the position and the organization, and expressing why you are qualified for the position. A cover letter is not a summary of your resume; rather, it is a "teaser" that hopefully entices a potential employer to read your resume.

Each cover letter should be tailored to a specific job description and organization. Show how you meet the required qualifications for that particular job by emphasizing the two or three strongest reasons why you are a compelling candidate (something more than: “I could do that job.”).  Demonstrate what you know about the organization/industry, and why you are a good fit. Use confident language, write in an active voice, and, except in rare circumstances, limit your letter to one page. 

Point:  Before you begin writing your cover letter, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the employer looking for in a candidate?
  • What skills/attributes do you want to highlight?
  • Why do you want to work for them?   
  • Why this position?

The cover letter is your opportunity to present your professional narrative in a way that persuades the reader that you are a terrific fit for the position, and that it is a natural next step in your career path. While your resume lists your relevant skills and experience, your cover letter can play a complementary role by expressing your interest and motivation for the position and by highlighting your strongest and most relevant assets.

General Format

  • Same font as your resume, sized within 1pt (larger, not smaller)
  • One page in length, left justified, margins ideally 1”
  • Top of letter: date, employer name, contact information
  • Formal salutation (person's name, if possible)
  • End of the letter:  your name and contact information

Framework

Opening Paragraph: Introduce yourself.  Who are you? Why are you writing?  Connect yourself to that particular employer.  Why do you want to work for that employer?  Why that position?

Middle Paragraph(s): Identify 2-3 relevant experiences from your background to elaborate on.  Make them brief, and demonstrate your skills and experiences by way of example.  Include results.

Concluding Paragraph: Summarize qualifications.  Reiterate interest in the employer.  Invite them to speak further on how your qualifications align with their mission and purpose.

Elements of a Strong Cover Letter

  • Is concise yet thorough
  • Uses specific examples rather than a string of generalities
  • Varies sentence structure, is well-written, keeps the reader’s attention and flows well
  • Focuses on strengths and transferable skills
  • Is tailored to the employer and position – makes a connection
  • Has genuine tone, demonstrating style and personality
  • Is confident, not cocky
  • Complements, instead of repeats, the resume

Sample Cover Letter