Cover Letter Writing

Cover letters are professional statements that accompany your résumé and add personalization!  They indicate interest for a specific job position, illustrate dedication to your work, and explain who you are and what you have to offer.  These are customizable for each job, allowing a potential employer to visualize how you could fit the given criteria.

Cover Letter Example

Appearance and Structure

Formatting Rules

  • Ensure that the cover letter has a neat, clean appearance.  Do not use gaudy lettering, difficult-to-read fonts, or a tacky layout.  Use the same style as your résumé to ensure that the person reviewing it has a seamless reading experience.  (Times New Roman, Cambria, Verdana and Garamond are all good fonts.)
  • Choose the most important points to include.  Your cover letter should be straight to the point and no longer than one page.
  • Follow basic grammar rules and use professional speech throughout the letter.
  • To make a strong impression, find the name of the person reviewing the letter.  This will catch their eye faster than a generic, “To whom it may concern.”
  • There should be three sections for your cover letter:
    • Introduction:
      • This introduces yourself and states that you are interested in a given position and explain why. 
    • Body:
      • This is the most important section of the letter.  This is the portion where you share stories, summarize your strengths, or share important information (that is NOT already in the résumé). Demonstrate warmth and humanity.
    • Conclusion:
      • Here, you summarize important themes throughout the letter and express genuine interest for the position.  Encourage the reader to view and consider your résumé.

Key Points to Remember

  • Avoid saying “I” unless absolutely necessary. 
    • For example, replace “I would love to be considered for this position,” for, “You will find, as you review my résumé, that my experience fits the needs of the position you are seeking.”  This centers the action on the person reviewing your application.
  • Do your research and connect your letter directly to the job. 
    • You should have a different cover letter for each job for which you are applying.  This demonstrates thoughtfulness, attention to detail, and helps you stand out as a potential employee.
Key Points for the Cover Letter

Help the Reviewer Picture You in the Position

  • Use the cover letter to connect your skills to the description of the job for which you are applying.  Explain how past experience, classes, and credentials have prepared you to succeed in the given position.
  • Elaborate on how you see yourself contributing to the job.  Give specific examples on what you would look in that role.

Tell Stories About Your Work Experience

  • Tell positive anecdotes about how you utilized your skills to benefit your previous job.  This demonstrates concrete evidence of workplace strengths.
  • Accept responsibilities for mistakes; use them as learning tools for professional growth.  Explain how your mistake created a positive change.  This shows maturity.
  • Explain gaps or personal circumstances that led to breaks in school, pauses in employment, or any other extenuating circumstances.
    • Do NOT be emotional or share irrelevant information; quickly get to the point.
      • Example: “From 2017-2018, there is a gap in my employment because I was caring for my mother, who was sick with cancer at the time.  After that situation settled, I returned to school in 2019 to complete my education.”
Cover Letter Tips

Avoid Overused Phrases

  • Find creative words that describe you as a professional and make your cover letter stand out.  Use specific experiences to highlight you as a professional.
    1. Instead of, “experienced, team player,” say, “able to collaborate within a team of management in a retail store to ensure successful outcomes.”
    2. Instead of, “strong work ethic,” say, “willing to finish a job to completion with impeccable precision, according to established guidelines.”
    3. Instead of, “great leadership skills,” say, “spearheaded projects and oversaw training of new hires.”

Make Your Résumé Come to Life

  • Remember that you are a person, first and foremost!  Do not be afraid to show your personality and communicate who you are and what you want.  (However, do not get too comfortable or communicate too casually.)
  • Be memorable!  You are only one application out of hundreds seeking the same job.  Find a way to showcase your strengths and apply it to your letter.

Avoid Simple Errors

  • Remember to sign your cover letter with a pen in the closing salutation.
  • Example:        
    • Sincerely,
    • Jane Doe
    • Jane Doe
  • Do not make simple spelling/grammar/formatting mistakes.
  • Ensure that the résumé logically follows the cover letter.  Your experiences listed should strengthen the stories and claims in the letter.
  • Ensure that your cover letter flows.  Do not sound as though you are randomly throwing sentences together, but that you have a well-thought-out, cohesive letter.