Career Services

Cover Letters

Cover letters serve as an introduction to accompany your resume. A well-written cover letter is often the first opportunity you have to communicate with a potential employer and is sometimes used as a screening device. Take time to carefully prepare and proofread your cover letter and customize it for the job you are applying to.

Even if a cover letter isn't specifically required in the job application process, it's typically a good idea to write one when you're applying for jobs. Why? Many recruiters use the cover letter as a screening tool (i.e., they are looking for reasons why they should consider your application!) and you may even be eliminated from consideration if you haven't submitted a cover letter.

Sample Cover Letter

Format and Content

How to Address a Cover Letter

Sometimes a job posting lists the name of the hiring manager, and in that case, you should address your letter to him or her.   If you are unsure whether the hiring manage is a male or female and/or do not know their preferred gender pronouns,  you can address it to their first name and last name (Dear Jordan Smith).  In cases where a name isn’t listed, you should make an effort to find out the right person to whom to address your letter.  If you can’t find his or her name by reviewing the company's corporate website,  you may use the address of the company and an alternative salutation, such as “Dear Hiring Manager."

First Paragraph

In the first paragraph of your cover letter, express your interest in both the job and the employer, mentioning the company by name. Cite the source where you discovered the job announcement. If you have a connection at the company who you know would support your candidacy, include their name as well.  (For example, "Barb White, Accounting Manager in your Chicago Office, speaks highly of your organization and has encouraged me to apply for this position.").   While you should definitely mention the name of your college and your major (especially if this is directly related to the job), your first paragraph shouldn’t be a biography of your academic history.

Second and Third Paragraphs

Use one or two short paragraphs in the body of your cover letter to “sell” your candidacy to the employer. Try to persuasively demonstrate how your college studies, internships, temporary / seasonal work experiences, and / or extracurricular experiences have given you the primary qualifications listed on the employer’s job posting.

  • Use keywords. Take a careful look at the job description, noting any skills or experiences that the description indicates. Try to include some of those keywords in your cover letter. This will show the employer a connection between your experiences and the job.
  • Focus on activities and responsibilities. In the body of your cover letter, emphasize the skills and experiences that make you a good candidate. Avoid focusing on your GPA or grades, or other metrics related to college. Instead, focus on activities you did, and the responsibilities you held. Maybe you had an internship or were a leader in a school organization. These examples go beyond showing that you were a good student. They show you have what it takes to be a good employee.
  • Sell yourself. Avoid talking about how much you want the job; instead, focus on how you will help out the company. Emphasize ways that you can add value at the company, and why you are a good fit for them.
  • Show your knowledge of the company. Research the company before writing the cover letter. If possible, explain what you know about the company (or the department the job is in). Perhaps you’ve read an article about the company’s recent successes, or you’ve read and believed in the company’s mission statement.

Final Paragraph

In the closing paragraph, refer the reader to the enclosed resume or application form, which summarizes your qualification, training, and experiences. Further, indicate your desire for a personal interview. Finally, close your letter with a statement that will encourage a response.

How to Send an Email Cover Letter

If the employer does not accept attachments—or they do not specify how to send your cover letter—it’s best to simply copy and paste your cover letter into the body of the email. This way, the hiring manager will see your cover letter as soon as they open your email, instead of having to download an attachment to view it.

Once you’ve pasted your cover letter into the email body, remove the date and contact information from the top left-hand corner. Double check that your email displays properly since sometimes copying and pasting content from a Word or PDF document can skew email formatting. Use the default font and styling of your email program.

Don’t forget to add the proper email signature to close your email and make it easy for the hiring manager to get in touch with you. Your email signature might look something like this:

First Name Last Name

Email address

Phone number

Tips

Customize

Make sure your cover letter is tailored to the position you are applying for.

Be Positive

Tell the employer about the experiences you have had that match the requirements of the position, don’t highlight the qualifications you don’t have.

Be Concise

Limit the cover letter to one page.

Be Honest

Don’t embellish the accomplishments, skills or qualifications you have.

Proofread

Many employers consider the cover letter to be a writing sample. Make sure you review your cover letter for spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors.

Email

If emailing your application, the cover letter should be the body of the message while the résumé is attached in pdf format.