Cover Letter Pointers
A resume might be a great summary of your academic and professional background, but isn’t always enough to get you an interview. You need more: a convincing argument that you are the right person for the position. You need a cover letter.
A cover letter is correspondence used to initiate contact with an organization. There are two kinds of cover letters:
- A “letter of inquiry” is used to inquire about and apply for possible openings when you don’t know if any vacancies exist.
- A “letter of application” is used to apply for a specific position that you know is available because you saw it advertised or someone told you about it.
The cover letter can
- persuade employers that you are the right person for the position,
- connect your background to the position for which you’re applying,
- interpret the highlights of your resume in light of the position’s requirements,
- give you a chance to express your enthusiasm, skills and writing ability,
- and demonstrate that you are specifically interested in a particular position at a specific organization.
Because of this, each cover letter should be unique. You may use similar letters for similar positions, but you must customize every letter to the position and the employer.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
A great cover letter is not just about you; it’s about how your background fits the position and the organization. Like your resume, it’s helpful to do some research and reflection before starting to write a cover letter.
- Obtain a job description and read it carefully. Your letter should address the key aspects of the position you seek. It might help to highlight the key words in the description that match up well with your background.
- Research the organization. You need to articulate why both the job itself and the organization interests you.
- Assess your experience. What are three to five aspects of your background or skill set that best demonstrate your ability to do this job?
- Find a specific person to send it to. If it is not included in the ad, check the organization’s website, LinkedIn, or any contacts you might have. You can also call the organization (unless the ad specifically says not to).
- Make your letter look like it goes with your resume – copy and paste your name and contact information onto the top of your letter and use the same font.
- Include the date and the recipient’s name, title, organization, and street address.
- Use block formatting – don’t indent paragraphs and skip a line between paragraphs.
- In your salutation (Dear ____:) do not use first names even if you are on a first name basis with the recipient.
- Read the letter aloud when you’re done and see if it sounds natural. Use the active voice, not the passive voice.
- Use positive-sounding language. Avoid saying “dealt with” or “was required to” when describing your experiences. Instead, say you “had the opportunity to” or “enjoyed” or “learned a great deal about” aspects of your experiences.
- Don’t use five words when one is enough. For instance, don’t say “due to the fact that” when “because” will do. Keep the letter to one page.
- As on your resume, never exaggerate but always emphasize your strengths and experience.
- Grammar and spelling are important! Carefully proofread your letter and consider going over it with a CDO counselor.
- Try to avoid starting too many sentences with “I.”
- The tone of the letter should be professional, natural, and positive.