Cover Letter Writing
The cover letter is a valuable, often crucial, part of your job search process. This letter, along with your résumé, serves to introduce you to a potential employer and to develop sufficient interest in you to warrant a personal interview. Therefore, when sending your résumé to a potential employer, always include a cover letter (for help with writing résumés, please see the Résumé Writing handout). The letter should be short and to the point, highlighting your skills and special features of your education and experience that qualify you for a particular position or organization.
OVERVIEW OF STRUCTURE
An effective cover letter will state why you are writing, how you can meet the company's needs, and a follow-up course of action. Write the letter in a business letter format and always address it to a specific person in the organization.
A cover letter usually consists of the following:
Introduction (First paragraph)
Capture the employer's interest! Identify the position for which you are applying, how you heard of the opening and describe your interest in that particular position.
Specifics (Middle paragraph's)
Show that you understand the nature of the position and explain how your qualifications make you a good candidate for the job. Include any information from your academic or work experience that illustrates specific job skills or personal traits that would make you a desirable employee. Be concrete and specific. Try not to repeat your résumé but amplify the achievement aspects of your background - quantify if possible.
Closing (Last paragraph)
The last paragraph expresses the action you want taken. Specifically, you would like to meet with the person you have written to in order to discuss your background in a personal interview. State that you will follow-up with a phone call during a specified time, instead of waiting for a return call that may never come. Also, thank your reader.
- Follow a traditional business letter format (use the examples as guides). Have other people review the letter to check for errors or suggest improvements.
- Pay close attention to grammar, spelling and style. Your cover letter is a direct reflection of you and demonstrates your written communication skills to employers.
- Keep your letter to one page and try not to overuse the word "I."
- Address your cover letter to a particular person by name. Use the name listed as the contact on the job posting. If a name is not readily available, call the company/organization with which you wish to interview and find out the name (correct spelling), title and address of the individual in charge of the department you would like to work for. Do not say you are looking for a job. Instead say that you have some information to send and you want to be sure it gets to the right person.
- Communicate something personal. In your opening lines, write something uniquely associated with the organization, division or person that will signal to the reader you invested the time to research the position, company, etc.
- Use their language. Write your letter in the terminology associated with the position/organization you seek. Review the job posting or other information to find out what types of "buzz" words are used - see the résumé Writing handout, Transferable Skills section for more information.
- Answer the question "Why should I see you?" Take time to research what the employer needs and then explain how you can fill those needs. Explain how you would be valuable to the company and why you would be an asset to the