The purpose of a cover letter

Your cover letter should …

Explain why you are sending a resumé. Don’t send a resumé without a cover letter (unless you are explicitly asked to do so.) Don’t make the reader guess what you are asking for; be specific: Do you want a summer internship opportunity or a permanent position at graduation? Are you inquiring about future employment possibilities?

Tell specifically how you learned about the position or the organization (for example, through a flier posted in your department, a specific directory in the Career Development Center, or a family friend who works at the organization). It is appropriate to mention the name of someone who suggested that you write.

Convince the reader to look at your resumé. The cover letter will be seen first. Therefore, it must be very well written and targeted to that employer.

Call attention to elements of your background—education, leadership, experience—that are all relevant to the position you are seeking. Be as specific as possible, using examples.

Reflect your attitude, personality, motivation, enthusiasm and communication skills.

Provide or refer to any information specifically requested in a job advertisement that isn’t covered in your resumé, such as your availability date or the inclusion of a required writing sample.

Resources for writing a COVER LETTER

Look HERE for an example of how to write a cover letter for an unadvertised job.

Here is an article that discusses cover letters that get you noticed.

This article discuss 31 attention grabbing cover letter examples


Generic cover letter example

City, state, postal code
Phone number
e-mail address


Contact person’s name
City, state, postal code

Dear Mr./Ms.:

Paragraph 1
State the position you are applying for and how you heard about the opening. Immediately explain why your background makes you the best candidate for the position you are applying for. Keep the first paragraph short and hard-hitting.

Paragraph 2
Detail what you could do to contribute to this company, organization or school system. Show how your qualifications will benefit the employer. Point out your unique background and how your experiences make you a qualified candidate for the position. Remember to keep this letter short; few employers will read a cover letter over one page.

Paragraph 3
Describe your interest in the company, organization or school system. Subtly emphasize your knowledge about the employer (from the results of your research) and your familiarity with the industry as a whole. You should present yourself as eager to work for this employer.

Paragraph 4
In the closing paragraph, you should specifically request an interview. Include your phone number and email in this paragraph (even though it is listed above... make it as easy as possible to contact you). 


(Make sure to sign your name in black or blue ink or scan in a signature if
you are uploading or emailing. CDC will assist you.)

Your name (typed as it is on your résumé )

Cover Letter Writing Tips
  • Personalize the letter.  Whenever possible, address your cover letter to the individual responsible for filling the position.  A generic salutation sends the message that you are unfamiliar with the company/employer.
  • Be natural. Use simple, uncomplicated language and sentence structure.  Do not try and sound like someone else, rather write as you would speak.  Say things in a simple straightforward way, and use action words to create dynamic sentences.
  • Be specific and get to the point. Your cover letter must be intriguing enough to get the reader to look at the resume, but should be only an introduction to the resume, not a repeat of it.  Make sure you answer the question, “Why should I hire this person?”
  • Be positive. Don’t complain about your boss or describe your present or previous work experience as “boring.”  Nobody wants to hire somebody with an attitude.  Above all, do not sound like you are begging for a job.
  • Be confident, but not arrogant. Do not be negative or too humble.  Tell them you are qualified for the job, but do not demand it.  Do not profess to know more about the company/employer than you really do.  Explain why you find the company/employer attractive and leave it at that.
  • Be polite and professional. You may be a comedian with your friends, but a potential employer should be treated with respect.
  • Be efficient. Do not waste space on unnecessary details.  Respect the employer’s time.  Make sure every sentence has something to do with explaining your interest in the company, illustrating how you will fill the company’s needs, and how you will contact the company in the near future.
  • Type your letter. Make sure that you change all customized statements if using a similar letter to be sent to numerous companies/employers.  Carefully read each letter before you sign it.
  • Be available. Remember to tell the employer how to reach you.  Give a phone number that will be reliably answered by either a person or an answering machine.  If possible, include an email address.  Do not leave the ball in the employer’s court.  Indicate what reaction you expect from your letter and how you will follow up.
  • Proofread. Check carefully for grammar and spelling mistakes, and then check again.  Typos and grammatical errors say a lot about the kind of work you do.  Do not depend entirely on the spell-check function of your word processor.
  • Sign it. If you forget this, the employer may feel like you have sent a form letter.
  • Package it nicely. Print your resume and cover letter on the same paper stock; the uniformity will look professional.  Use only printers that produce neat, and readable texts.  Avoid using a dot-matrix printer or a manual typewriter.
  • Keep one for yourself. Make a copy of each letter sent, and keep it for future reference.

Cover letter do's and don'ts

Do follow the rules of layout and format for a standard business letter.

Do slant letter toward what you can offer employers, not what you think they should be offering you.

Do address the letter—whenever possible—to an individual, along with their correct title.

Do spell, punctuate and indent paragraphs correctly.

Do write in your own words and in conversational language.

Do hand sign, rather than type your signature.

Do use good-quality paper.

Do be brief, concise and to the point.

Do take advantage of any link to the employer that can put your foot in the door or give you an edge over the competition.

Don’t use stiff language or phrasing.

Don’t be gimmicky in an attempt to be original or clever.

Don’t load letter with constant use of the pronoun “I.”

Don’t be lofty in tone or indicate you will do the employer a great service by “considering” a position.

Don’t be excessively emphatic about your reliability, capacity for hard work or intelligence. This kind of self-appraisal is usually best understated. The appearance and tone of your letter and resumé can say more about you than you can gracefully say about yourself.

Title Description File type
This article discusses the benefit of minimizing the use of "I" in your cover letter.

Your Cover Letter is IMPORTANT!

  • Your cover letter demonstrates your ability to put together a meaningful and complete sentence, or in this case many sentences about what you offer in a new position and how you can add value for a potential employer.
  • Your cover letter serves as your introduction. The cover is your foot in the door. Set the tone of what the reader should expect to see on the resume.
  • Your cover letter is an opportunity for you to highlight certain things that you might not have been able to include in the resume.
  • Your cover letter is part of the resume package. The 'package' is not complete without the cover.  The recruiter will gained a better understanding of the candidate [you] , what underlying skills you possessed and how you might contribute in the organization they  represented.