Cover letters

A resume’s best friend

A cover letter (also called a letter of introduction or letter of application) is used in response to an advertised position. It’s another way to introduce yourself to a future employer while highlighting your relevant skills, abilities, and experience. A strong cover letter can be the difference between standing out during the application process or missing a potential opportunity.

You can use this template [PDF] to get you started.

General format

Introduction paragraph

Introduce yourself and inform the reader why you are writing, how you learned of the position, and of any personal contacts you may have with the organization. Mention aspects of the organization that interest you based on your research.

Second and third paragraphs

Clearly express why you want this position and how you are a good fit for the position and/or company. Inform the reader(s) of your skills and qualifications and how they can benefit the company. Focus on 2-3 specific qualifications and provide examples of how you’ve demonstrated the skills they are looking for. Use your voice to help bring life and personality to your application.

Final/closing paragraph

Summarize and reiterate how your skills and qualifications can match their needs. Request a specific follow up (generally an interview) and give the employer one or two good ways to contact you. Thank the reader for his/her/their time and let them know a specific date, generally within a week, that you will follow up with them.

Additional types of letters

In addition to the cover letter, there are three other types of letters commonly used in the job search.

  • Letters of inquiry: used to ask about available or anticipated positions
  • Follow-up: used to announce any follow-up correspondence (e.g., forwarding a transcript, references, checking on application status)
  • Thank you: used to show appreciation to anyone who has helped you in your job search

Cover letter tips

  • Keep to 1 page in length
  • Tailor a cover letter for each position you apply for
  • Be sure to focus on adding specific examples of the skills you have to offer. This is the biggest part of the cover letter and what makes it different from your resume.
  • Remove words or phrases that add length, not substance
  • Address your letter to the hiring manager directly instead of using "To Whom it May Concern:"
  • Make sure there are no grammatical or punctuation mistakes
  • Use the same font style in your cover letter that is used in your resume
  • Focus on specific skills and how you are an ideal candidate for the position and organization