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Cover Letters & Other Correspondence

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Cover Letters

Watch this brief video to learn the basics of writing a strong cover letter.

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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 anyone who has helped you in connection with your job search. In the case of a job interview, it is an opportunity to reinforce your interest in the position, clarify something that you said during the interview, or highlight something that you failed to mention.
  • Statement of Purpose:  A statement of purpose is sometimes requested for formal applications. 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.

Tip: Proofread Carefully - Errors can be “Deal-Breakers.”

The Cover Letter: Format & Content

Note: Check out this OCS 2-minute cover letter video for additional cover letter tips

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. While your resume lists your relevant skills and experience, your cover letter expresses your interest and motivation for the position by highlighting your strongest and most relevant assets.

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. 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.

Tip: Before you begin, ask yourself these four 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?

Cover Letter 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

Cover Letter Framework

  • Opening Paragraph: Introduce yourself. Who are you? Why are you writing? Why do you want to work for that employer? Why that position?
  • Middle Paragraph(s): Identify 2-3 relevant experiences from your background and elaborate. Make them brief, and demonstrate your skills and experiences by way of example. Include results whenever possible.
  • Concluding Paragraph: Summarize your qualifications and reiterate your interest in the employer. Invite them to speak further on how your qualifications align with their mission and purpose.

Overall 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

Frequently Asked Correspondence Questions

FAQ: 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.

FAQ: 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:).

FAQ: 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.

FAQ: 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.

FAQ: 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.