Career Center: Cover Letter Writing
Once your resume has been assembled, laid out, and printed to your satisfaction, the next and final step before distribution is to write your cover letter. Though there may be instances where you deliver your resume in person, most often you will be sending it through the mail. Resumes sent through the mail always need an accompanying letter that briefly introduces you and your resume. A well-written resume will allow you to apply for employment opportunities with confidence. The cover letter however, will hopefully convince the reader to place your resume in the "to be interviewed" pile. Use the cover letter as your marketing tool and sell yourself to the reader. How well you do this can be measured by how many calls you receive for interviews. Spend as much time as necessary to produce a top-notch cover letter. A selection of sample cover letters can be found here.
Like your resume, your cover letter should be neat, clean and direct. A cover letter usually includes the following information:
- Your name and address.
- The date.
- The name and address of the person and company to whom you are sending your resume.
- The salutation ("Dear Mr." Or "Dear Ms." Followed by the person's last name, or "To Whom It May Concern" if you are answering a blind ad).
- An opening paragraph explaining why you are writing (in response to an ad, the result of a previous meeting, at the suggestion of someone you both know) and indicating that you are interested in whatever job is being offered.
- One or two more paragraphs that tell why you want to work for the company and what qualification and experience you can bring to that company.
- A final paragraph that closes the letter and requests that you be contacted for an interview. You may mention here that your references are available upon request.
- The closing ("Sincerely," or "Yours Truly," followed by your signature with your name typed under it).
Your cover letter, including all of the information above, should be no more than one page in length. The language used should be polite, businesslike, and to the point. Do not attempt to tell your life story in the cover letter. A long and cluttered letter will only serve to put off the reader. Remember that you only need to mention a few of your accomplishments and skills in the cover letter. The rest of your information is in your resume. Each and every achievement should not be mentioned twice. If your cover letter is a success, your resume will be read and all pertinent information reviewed by your prospective employer.
Producing the Cover Letter
Cover letters should always be typed individually, since they are always written to particular individuals and companies. Never use a form letter for your cover letter. Cover letters cannot be copied or reproduced like resumes. Each one should be as personal as possible. Of course, once you have written and rewritten your first cover letter to the point where you are satisfied with it, you certainly can use similar wording in subsequent letters.
After you have typed your cover letter on quality bond paper, be sure to proofread it as thoroughly as you did your resume. Again, spelling errors are a sure sign of carelessness, and you don't want that to be a part of your first impression on a prospective employer. Make sure to handle the letter and resume carefully to avoid any smudges, then mail both your cover letter and resume in an appropriate sized envelope. Be sure to keep an accurate record of all the resumes you send out.