Guide to Cover Letter Writing includes sample cover letters and tips.
Purpose of the Cover Letter
The cover letter is a formal letter of application. The letter informs the employer of the exact position you are apply for and demonstrates that you meet the basic qualifications for the job. Additionally, the cover letter is an opportunity for you to explain any gaps in your employment history or unique experiences that you would like to highlight from your resume.
A cover letter should be in either a block or modified block letter format. In either case, for most fields (and definitely entry level positions) one page is sufficient. Each cover letter should include at least three paragraphs. The font used in your cover letter should be the same style and size as the font in your resume.
Each cover letter should be an original. This doesn't mean you have to start from scratch each time, but it does mean that the cover letter should be personalized to the position and organization you are submitting the application to. Keep in mind that employers are looking for individuals that know something about their organziation. Do your homework!
Always address the letter to a specific person. If the person's name is not included in the employment ad, check the website or even call the organization to see to whom the letter should be addressed to. Never send a letter stating "To Whom It May Concern."
Parts of the Cover Letter
Opening (one paragraph): State your reason for writing. Be sure to include the name of the position in which you are applying to and where you learned of the position. If you were referred by a specific person (or Career Services) include that here. Also, indicate something personal regarding your application such you just completed your degree.
Body of Letter (one –two paragraphs): This is your sales pitch! Be original—employers know when someone has copied and pasted a generic cover letter. Take this opportunity to connect your experiences to the position. Use words from the employment add in describing your work. Additionally, in this section you can explain any gaps in your resume or employment history.
Closing (one paragraph): Confirm when you’ll follow-up. Inform the employer that you would like the opportunity to interview for the position; also, indicate that you will follow up with the employer within two weeks. Express your appreciation for their consideration of your application.