Cover Letter Tips

A cover letter is both a sales pitch and an opportunity. As a sales pitch it capitalizes on your academic and personal achievements. It introduces you and what you are seeking, so tailor the information for the job you are applying for. A cover letter is also your first opportunity to demonstrate your communication skills, which is very important because it lays the groundwork for your resume.


  1. Attract Favorable Attention - Make your written first impression count by giving your cover letter a professional look and feel that will make a potential employer want to read on.
    • Stationary - The quality and style of paper is important in providing a professional look from the start.
      • Good quality, 100 percent cotton paper
      • Stick to neutral colors or white
      • Match to resume and reference page
    • Addressing your letter - when done correctly, in itself, shows a certain professionalism that you should want to convey.
      • Address it to a specific person
      • Make sure all information is correct
      • Include the organization's name and addressee's title (if unsure, call and ask a receptionist or administrative assistant)
    • Employ the YOU Attitude - this will inform a company what you can do for them if hired, which is what they really want to know. Answer these questions:
      • What can I do for YOU?
      • How can I contribute to YOUR organization?
      • How will my skills fit YOUR company?
    • Follow the Four C's
      • Be Clear about your purpose
      • Be Concise and limit your cover letter to one page
      • Be Concrete and specify your objectives
      • Be Complete in the presentation of your thoughts and views
  2. Be Sure to Include the Correct Content - do this in three to four paragraphs
    • Paragraph one - your introduction
      • State your present status (student, intern, etc.)
      • State position you are interested in at the organization (use the company's name)
      • State who referred you to the position (or how you learned about the opening)
    • Paragraph Two (two and three) - this is your sales pitch
      • Explain why you want to work for the organization
      • Demonstrate that you have taken the time to research something about the company
      • Think about the skills that are needed for the position and give examples of those skills in jobs or positions you have held in the past (transferring skills)
      • Do not repeat your resume, but set the stage
      • Keep sentences direct and concise
      • End with what you hope to gain from working at the company
    • Paragraph Three (or four) - your conclusion
      • Thank the reader for reviewing your materials
      • Request a response (an interview)
      • Mention when you will check back
    • Keep in Mind - throughout the whole writing process that you are targeting your cover letter to the person who is actually hiring
      • Demonstrate why are you special.
      • Let the reader draw the conclusions you would like them to draw, by giving them examples.
      • Show that you have researched the company and understand the skills needed for the position for which you are applying.
  3. Remember
    • Keep your cover letter versatile enough to change it slightly for each organization
    • Keep copies of everything you send
    • Mark your calendar when you plan to follow up with a phone call