One of the most common forms of professional correspondence is the cover letter, which employers typically request with your resume when you apply for a position. This page provides guidance on writing a cover letter and introduces other important forms of correspondence.
Types of Letters/Correspondence
- Cover Letter: Accompanies your resume when you apply for a position.
- Acceptance Letter: Written to accept a job offer and confirm the terms of employment.
- Withdrawal Letter: Graciously informs an employer that you are withdrawing from further consideration.
- Informational Interviewing/Networking Letter: Attempts to expand your network and gain insight into a specific job function, industry, or company.
- Thank You Letter: Expresses appreciation to those who helped with your job search. After an interview, it is an opportunity to reinforce your interest or expand on something that you said during the interview.
- Statement of Purpose: If requested, a well-written statement will articulate your intent for applying, future aspirations, and learning objectives; it will also showcase your personality through its writing style.
❗Proofread Carefully – Errors can be “Deal-Breakers”
Cover Letter Samples
OCS has numerous cover letter and correspondence samples that can be downloaded and personalized. Choose the one right for your area of interest!
The Cover Letter: Format & Content
The cover letter is your introduction to a prospective employer that outlines your interest in the position and expresses why you are qualified. While your resume lists your relevant experiences, skills, and accomplishments, the cover letter makes an explicit connection between your most relevant skills and the position.
Each cover letter should be tailored to a specific job description and organization. Demonstrate what you know about the organization/industry and why you are a good fit. Show how you meet the required qualifications for that position by emphasizing your strongest skills. Use confident language, write in an active voice, in most circumstances limit your letter to one page. Before you begin, ask yourself these four questions
- What is the employer looking for in a candidate?
- What skills/attributes do you have that match the skills/attributes that an employer wants?
- Why do you want to work for them?
- Why this position?
Remember, an employer is trying to match the skills they need with the skills you have, so where possible, use keywords from the job/internship description and weave them into your cover letter. A strong cover letter is tailored to the employer and position – it makes a connection.
Cover Letter Framework
Opening Paragraph: Introduce yourself. Who are you (e.g. rising senior at Yale studying Anthropology)? For what internship/job are you applying? Why do you want to work for that employer (e.g. draw a connection between who you are and why you are a good fit with this employer)? End your introduction with a short ‘thesis statement’ that highlights the 2-3 related skills that will enable you to contribute to this position (e.g. My experience conducting statistical analysis combined with my ability to take an initiative make me a strong fit for this position).
Middle Paragraph(s): Start each supporting paragraph with a topic sentence that highlights one of the 2-3 skills you have that relates to the position for which you are applying; use the rest of the paragraph to showcase examples of that skill. Where possible, show how that skill will help you accomplish what is required for the position. Do not simply restate your resume; use the cover letter to expand on your resume and help your prospective employer make sense of your skills.
Concluding Paragraph: Summarize your qualifications and reiterate your interest in the employer. Invite them to speak with you further regarding how your qualifications align with their mission and purpose.
Frequently Asked Correspondence Questions
- How should I address the letter if I don’t have a contact name at the organization?
Always try to address a correspondence to a specific person rather than “To Whom It May Concern.” If you do not have a name, call the organization to try to get one or check out the OCS Employer Directory within the Yale Career Link to see if OCS has a contact name. Be sure you have the person’s full name, correct spelling of their name, and current title.
- How should I address the letter if I’m not sure of the recipient’s gender?
Start each letter with a salutation (i.e., Dear Ms. Employer:). If you are unsure about the recipient’s gender, type out the full time (i.e., Dear Pat Pollen:).
- How much of my contact information should I include?
All letters require your return address, including telephone number and e-mail address, the date, and the full name, title and address of the recipient.
- How long should the letter be?
In general, your letter should contain no more than three to four paragraphs, with double space between paragraphs. The introductory and concluding paragraphs should be between one and three sentences, and the body paragraphs should be between three and five sentences. Vary the sentence length and structure throughout your letter to ensure a smoother flow.
- How should I close the letter?
Close your letter with Sincerely, Yours truly, or Best regards, followed by your name. If you are submitting a hard copy, use resume-quality paper, and sign each letter individually (leave four returned blank lines before your typed name). Make sure the letter looks professional. Align all of your information to the left margin, and use a clear, easy to read font, such as Arial or Times New Roman.