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Cover Letter Writing Tips

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a document sent with your resume to provide additional information on your skills and experience.

Employers use cover letters as a way to screen applicants for available jobs and to determine which candidates they would like to interview. Always write a cover letter to go with your application. It personalizes your application and is a chance for you to emphasize your most relevant qualifications for the position.

What Is Included in a Cover Letter?

Cover letters typically provide detailed information on why you are qualified for the job you are applying for. Effective cover letters explain the reasons for your interest in the specific organization and identify your most relevant skills and experiences.

A cover letter supplements a resume and provides additional information on your qualifications.

What to put on your Cover Letter?

Contact information

  • Include your name, address, telephone, e-mail and LinkedIn profile address
  • Keep the format of this section consistent with your resume

Date

  • State the month, day, and year (e.g., May 15, 2015)

Employer’s information

  • Include the name of the contact person, job title, company name, address, and postal code
  • Try to obtain as many of these details as possible through research or by calling the company

Salutation

  • Begin with “Dear” or “To”
  • Address the contact person by the last name starting with “Mr.” or “Ms.”
  • If you don’t know the person’s name, address the person by their job title or address your letter to “Human Resources”
  • Avoid “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam”

Opening paragraph

  • Open with strong sentences that grab the employer’s attention.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the position: say why you are interested, mention two or three strengths that qualify you for the position
  • Mention the position you are applying for and how you learned about the job.
  • Name your referral if relevant, e.g., “Joe Davis, Manager of Customer Service, suggested I write you…”
  • If you are responding to an advertisement, refer to the ad

Follow-up paragraphs

  • Describe specific accomplishments from your past work, volunteer, and academic experiences that show your strengths
  • Target your strengths to the needs and requirements identified in the ad or from your research of the position and /or company.

Next-to-last paragraph

  • Explain why you are interested in working for this employer
  • Do research to show you know something about the organization’s values, culture, or areas of prospective growth
  • Describe how these values are similar and relevant to you and your previous accomplishments

Closing paragraph

  • Mention your interest in an interview or discussion about opportunities
  • Provide information on your availability and how the employer may contact you
  • When appropriate, take a more proactive approach by arranging to call the employer

Tips for writing a successful Cover Letter

  • Do not exceed one page
  • Write to a named person if you possibly can – rather than Dear Sir/Madam.
  • Check your spelling and get someone else to read it over
  • Do not start every sentence with “I”.
  • Give evidence for all your claims
  • Be enthusiastic!
  • Do not repeat your whole resume