Cover Letters

Tell your story but spin it so it's relevant to an employer.

What is the purpose of a cover letter?

  • “Letter of intent” or “letter of interest”
  • An introduction to the rest of your job application material
  • Don't simply repeat the bullet points on your resume but expand upon your experiences and connect your specific skills and knowledge to the position
  • Quickly summarize why you are applying to an organization or for a particular position
  • Communicate what skills and knowledge you bring that make you the most suitable candidate for that position
  • What new skills did you develop and what new knowledge did you gain? How does this connect to the position you are applying for?

Before You Write a Cover Letter

  • Know your own skills relative to the position / of value to companies and how you have demonstrated them
  • Know something about the company, industry, and function you are targeting  
  • If the letter is in response to a posting, outline how your skills address the specific qualifications listed in the posting

Create Your Top 10 Reasons to Hire Me List

Category Reasons to Hire Me! Supporting Evidence
Career interest & choice of college major e.g. Passion in this field  
Specific courses that support career goals e.g. Relevant knowledge learned through a course  
Personality characteristics e.g. An easygoing team player
Skills e.g. Programming skills such as Python  
Work ethic strenghs e.g. Self-discipline  
Professional development activities e.g. Internship experience in this profession  

Anatomy of a Cover Letter

Date of your Cover Letter

Hiring Manager's Name
Title
Organization
Street Address
City, State, Zip Code

Dear Hiring Manager,

Introduction Paragraph

  • Share your general demographics (name, degree, and concentration if applicable
  • Enthusiastically state the position of interest
  • State why you are interested in the opportunity/company; Here are some options:
    • Reference connection or experience with the company (if applicable)
    • Share where you found the position
  • Summarize your top 3 skills/strengths/abilities/qualities related to the position
    • Share your technical skills and interpersonal skills
  • Be sure to answer the following questions: Why is this position right for me? Why do I want to work for this specific organization?

Body Paragraphs (2-3 paragraphs)

  • Dedicate one paragraph to briefly expand on each skill you previewed in Paragraph 1
    • Restate the skill
    • Provide on or two practical examples of how you've used the skill
    • NOTE: Avoid excessive details and context about the experience in which you used the skill
  • Do NOT repeat every experience on your resume
  • Look at the required skills section of the job posting and think about Top 10 Reasons to Hire You for ideas of what to highlight
  • Be sure to answer the following question: Why am I right for this position?

Closing Paragraph

  • Summarize your qualifications and reiterate why you are a good fit
  • State that you are interested in speaking with someone in an interview
  • Provide contact information
  • Be sure to answer the following questions: Does the recruiter know how to contact me ? Does the recruiter understand the type of position I am seeking?

Sincerely,

Your name

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a cover letter necessary?

Submit a cover letter when the position requires one or if you are really interested in the position. A good cover letter takes time but will stand you out from a pool of candidates. Use your time strategically to maximize your chances of getting an interview.

What are the biggest cover letter mistakes?

Telling the employer what the company can do for you instead of what you can do for the company. In most cases, employers are in business to make a profit. They want to know what you can do for their bottom line, not what they can do to fulfill your career dreams.

Can I use the same cover letter for all of my job or internship applications?

Nothing turns off an employer faster than getting a letter that looks like the same one everyone else is getting. Why bother doing a cover letter if you don’t tailor it to the company and position you want?

How long should the letter be?

Only in the rarest of circumstances should your letter be longer than a page. About four paragraphs should do the trick.