Writing a cover letter
Be sure to include a cover letter with your résumé when you apply for a job. This page will help you write a strong cover letter and provide you with tips, examples, and templates to help you get closer to the job you’re looking for.
A cover letter is a formal letter that accompanies your résumé. Use it to introduce yourself to potential employers, and to convince them that you’re the right person for the job.
Your cover letter doesn’t simply re-state your résumé—it offers some new information, and it highlights the skills you have that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
The three main objectives of your cover letter are to:
- introduce yourself, identify the position you are applying for, and explain how you found out about the position
- explain how you are qualified for the position and why you would be a great fit for the job
- request an interview and thank the employer
Although the basics of a cover letter remain the same, the information you include in your cover letter may change, depending on whether or not the job is advertised.
In your cover letter for an advertised job, mention how you heard about the position—whether you heard from a job posting, a newspaper article, or from someone in your network of contacts.
Identify the position you’re interested in. If there’s a competition or job number, include it in your cover letter.
Review the qualifications or job description and describe why you would be a good fit for the job, based on your skills and experience.
When writing a cover letter for an unadvertised job, introduce yourself and explain why you are interested in working for the company and how you came to hear about it.
Use your cover letter as an opportunity to pique the employer’s interest in you as a potential interviewee, and to request an opportunity to discuss potential employment opportunities or the possibility of an informational interview.
- Do your homework. Learn what you can about the company or organization you’re applying to, so you can tailor your cover letter and really show the employer that you could be a good fit.
- Follow instructions. Be sure to include any information that was requested in the job posting. If the posting asked for the amount of hours a week you are available to work, be sure to answer that question in the cover letter.
- Don’t just restate your résumé. Use your letter as an opportunity to make a great first impression. Most employers read the cover letter first, so you want to catch their attention by describing your impressive skills. That way, they are more likely to read your full résumé.
- Personalize your letter. When possible, address your cover letter to a specific person. Use their name and title, and make sure the spelling of the name is correct.
- Tailor your letter to the job. Make sure the skills and experience you highlight in your cover letter are clearly connected to the job you’re applying for.
- Presentation counts. Use a font that’s easy to read, like 12-point Times New Roman or Arial. Using 8.5 x 11-inch white paper is usually a smart choice.
- Break it down. Make your cover letter easier to read by breaking the text down into short paragraphs.
- Use a professional tone. Be sure to use professional and respectful language when writing your cover letter.
- Be brief. Your cover letter should be no more than one page long—the best strategy is to keep it short and to the point.
- Proofread. Review your cover letter several times; don’t just rely on spell-check. Ask someone else to proofread it as well.