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Cover Letter Guide

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Correspondence is more important than you realize and includes more than just cover letters. The letters you write may single you out of the crowd, but more importantly they communicate a level of effort. Exemplary correspondence will not only show that you are professional, organized, and thorough, but will also demonstrate your level of interest in an employer. An employer will be impressed by the effort you put into organizing your job search.


Every resume that you submit should include a cover letter. An important function of the cover letter is to entice the reader to go on to your resume! If your cover letter does not sell you effectively, then your resume may never be read.

In most cases a cover letter is your introduction to a stranger. Keep that in mind as you are writing. If your letter is sloppy or has that pre-developed, non-personal look, that is what the reader is most likely to remember about you. A well thought-out cover letter allows your personality to come through - your confident manner, strong motivation, or conscientious attitude - something your resume cannot do.

A cover letter is a marketing tool, and like most marketing tools, it should concentrate on what the buyer will be receiving. Hence the letter should not be directed to what you, the seller, will receive. Tell the employer what you can contribute to the organization.

Personalized letters that clearly demonstrate your research effort into the company and industry will have the employer turning the page to examine your qualifications listed on your resume.


Your letter should be no more than one page. It should be printed on the same paper as your resume and both should be sent (no staples) in a matching envelope. Either traditional business format or block format is acceptable, but it should be consistent.

Although you may develop one basic cover letter, avoid sending any letter that seems like a form letter. Personalize each letter for the organization to which you are applying. Avoid using "Dear Sir/Madam" and "To Whom It May Concern." Take the time to find the name of the person who should receive your letter and resume. Employers recognize form letters very quickly. A well written letter can make a difference, especially in fields where writing skills are essential.

After an employer reads your letter there should be no doubt of your interest in the field and their organization. You also need to convey your personality and summarize your related skills and training. However, avoid reiterating everything on your resume. Point out the most relevant pieces of information and make them want to review your resume and meet you in person.


There are two basic types of cover letters. The most common is the application letter where you are aware of an available position and wish to apply. If you are interested in working with an organization but are unsure if they have any current openings, you will need to write a prospecting letter. In a prospecting letter, you establish your interest and qualifications while inquiring about potential opportunities. The structure of these letters is similar and usually consists of three or four paragraphs.


The first or introductory paragraph should briefly state the purpose of your letter. If you are applying for a particular position, identify both the position for which you are applying and the source from which you learned about it. If you are not aware of current openings, indicate the type of position you are seeking, and inquire about similar opportunities within the organization. This is also a good place to show off your knowledge about the organization and point out why you are interested in that particular organization.


This is the main body of your letter. Take your knowledge of the organization and match it with your interests, skills, and experience. In an application letter, explain why/how your qualifications fit the position description. If you are inquiring about possible opportunities, concentrate on your qualifications for the position you desire as well as your interest in the field in general. In both types of letters, extract a couple of examples from your resume to support your statements. Use aspects of your internship experience, volunteer assignments, and class research that would be of interest to this company. Refer the reader to your resume, but do not repeat details from your resume.

Based on your experience and qualifications, briefly state what contribution(s) you can make to the company or what qualities you bring into the workplace, e.g., team player, specific research expertise. Also, provide a couple of specific reasons for your interest in working for this particular organization. Use reasons based in your research of the organization rather than simply stating that you want to work in the field.


Finally, you will want to request an interview and indicate your availability. While many people state that they are looking forward to hearing from the organization, it is a good idea to suggest that you will contact him or her within one or two weeks to set up a time that is convenient. This allows you to be responsible for following up rather than leaving it to the employer.

Cover letters do not have to be difficult. Simply remember to tell your reader four things: who you are, why you are writing, what you have to offer the organization, and who will take the next step.


A thank you letter should be written within 24 hours of an initial interview, regardless of whether it was for a job or just to make contacts and gather information. Most recruiters say that they greatly appreciate thank you letters and that few candidates take the time to write a thank-you letter. Therefore, a good thank you letter will help you stand out.

This short letter should express your appreciation for the interview, reiterate your continued interest in the possibility of employment, and remind the employer of your background and skills. It is a good idea to mention some key point that was discussed during the interview and offer to provide any further information the employer may require. The best thank you letters show appreciation, conscientiousness, and availability to continue in the process.
If you have received an offer of employment by the time you write the thank you letter, you should confirm your receipt of the offer, indicate your appreciation and interest, and inform the employer of the date by which you will reply with your decision.



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