Cover letters are an essential part of your marketing package.
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The Purpose of a Cover Letter
A well-written cover letter will get your resume read and generate interviews. It adds a personal touch to your application and serves as a writing sample as well. When accompanied by your resume, cover letters demonstrate that you are a serious, professional candidate who is sincerely interested in the position available.
Sample Cover Letters
For samples and resources, please visit the Resources section of your Handshake profile.
Cover Letter Basics
- Font size should be 10, 11, or 12 pt.
- Use a font that is easy to read (Times New Roman, Helvetica or Arial)
- If you are emailing your letter, a signature is not required
- Use the same quality paper as your resume
- Keep it short; the aim of the letter is to get your potential employer to read your resume.
Cover Letter Tips
Tip #1 - Customize
Make sure you take the time to customize your cover letter to fit the employer’s requirements. Before you start the writing process, review the criteria for the position and make a list of the skills and keywords the employer wants. This list might include specific areas of expertise, years of experience, technical knowledge, transferable skills, and personality traits. Then incorporate these items into your letter, demonstrating by example that you have the desired qualifications. Finally, direct your letter to a specific individual. If necessary, call the company to find out who will be receiving the letter. If there is no way to find a person’s name, ‘Dear Sir/Madam,’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern:’ are appropriate as a last resort.
Tip #2 - Meet Their Needs
Write the cover letter with the employers’ needs in mind - not your own. Don’t describe what YOU want, but explain what you can do for the employer. Don’t assume that the employers will read between the lines of your resume and dig out the relevant information. They won’t. To get their attention, you have to describe how you can meet their needs.
Tip #3 - Actively Sell Yourself
Tell them WHY they should hire you. Be assertive about your qualifications without being egotistical. The tone of your letter should be professional, but sound as if a real person wrote it. One way to judge your letter is to read it out loud. Do you trip over the words? If so, work on it until it flows naturally and has a conversational tone.
Dear Ms./Mr. (Employer’s Last Name):
The opening paragraph should present your qualifications for this position in a clear, concise manner. State the position you are applying for and how you heard about the opening. This paragraph should be written in response to the specific needs outlined by the employer in the job description. Let the company know why you have chosen to apply by emphasizing what you have to offer to meet their needs.
Your middle paragraph(s) should provide details about the qualifications you listed above. Use this section of your letter to demonstrate how your skills and experiences match the needs of the employer and requirements of this position. Be specific, select examples from both academic and work experiences that directly relate to the organization or position. Avoid vague or generic statements; always be direct and specific when describing your skills. Do not simply restate what is already written on your resume. Instead choose one or two areas or skills that you want the employer to notice on your resume. Using specific examples, describe why you would enjoy this type of work and this company (presumably because this position would leverage your skill set).
In the final paragraph, thank the employer for his/her consideration and reiterate your enthusiasm and interest in this position. Tell the employer you are available for an interview at his/her convenience and encourage the employer to contact you with questions (provide your telephone number or email).