Cover Letter Guide

Cover Letter Guide
What is the purpose of a cover letter or letter of application?
The purpose of the cover letter/letter of application for the job seeker is to create the desire
in employers to read the resume and the urge to talk with the applicant. It can be written
to apply for a vacancy or to inquire about jobs and internships, career fields, or
For the employer, the letter provides clues to an applicant’s written communication skills
and should clearly outline why you are the best candidate for the position.
Tips for writing the best letters
Audience Analysis - The focus of the letter needs to be on what you can do for the employer,
not what the employer can do for you. A cover letter needs to be employer-centered. Use
audience analysis to plan and write your letter. Research your audience and demonstrate
specifically how your background and skills meet the needs of the employer.
Write the Letter Yourself - No Template – Avoid using a template from Word, a Web site, a
magazine article or a letter written by a friend. Generate the content of each part of your
letter on your own. Once you have generated the content, seek assistance in refining it and
making it stronger.
Vary Length of Sentences – Once written, read your letter aloud to evaluate the flow of the
content. Do you have any run-on sentences? Are the sentences too choppy? Are the forms
of the sentences varied enough for the letter to read well? Is there good transition between
Avoid Over Using “I” and “My”
If you read your resume and find several sentences starting with “I,” consider
whether the focus of the letter is on the employer. If it is, rewrite sentences to
eliminate several of the personal pronouns.
Keep Letters to One Page – NEVER exceed one page!
Every Resume You Send by Mail or E-mail Needs to Be Accompanied by a Cover Letter
Always Write Your Letter to a Person – According to Diversity: Career Opportunities & Insights
your letter should be a personal as possible. “Identify the individual who will be in a position to
say, `You’re hired,’ and direct your correspondence to him or her.”
Use Paper and Fonts that Coordinate with Your Resume – Many people recommend sending
your resume and letter in a larger manila envelope. Another option is to use matching envelopes.
NEVER use handwriting to print your letter or envelope.
Proofread Carefully. Look at form, spelling, punctuation, and grammar usage. Ask someone
you trust (faculty, parent, friend, Career Services) to proofread your letter.
Consider Using Bullets in Your Format – Employers need to be able to quickly read a cover
letter. Bulleted statements can enhance readability and draw the reader to the key part of the
Bulleted Text in a Cover Letter
As a Student Gallery Director at Peru State College and an intern at Brownville Lyceum I have
gained extensive experience applying the skills you are looking for in a gallery assistant and
office manager.
In four years of substantial gallery work I have improved the variety and atmosphere of
receptions and reduced costs by keeping a strict inventory of supplies.
As a gallery intern I used ArtSystems GalleryPro extensively and increased efficiency when
updating inventory/slide library, mailing lists, and labeling artwork.
Serving an editorial role on a national award-winning magazine, I effectively scanned and
prepared images for production and improved the method of submission review.
I have exhibited excellent leadership skills and creativity both individually and as part of a
team through involvement in academic, artistic, and social organizations on-campus.
Use Standard Business Letter Format. Make stationary that matches your resume. Include
the components of a good business letter that follow:
Return Address (unless on the stationary)
Inside Address
Include the person’s full name, title, department, name of employer, address, city, state,
and zip code.
Use the formal name and follow it with a colon. (Dear Mr. Smith: or Dear Mrs. Smith:)
Use the person’s first name only when you’ve been personally introduced and have
already referred to the person by first name in conversation.
This is your lead paragraph. Make sure it is brief, but grabs the reader’s attention.
Attention getters might include using the name of someone who has a relationship with
the employer (with his or her permission) or indicating why you are interested in the
employer. The focus must remain on the employer’s needs. Examples follow.
Introductions – Get the attention of the reader!
Sample #1 - I’m writing you at the suggestion of Robert Roy, who felt that you might have a
need in your department for someone with my background and qualifications. (using a contact
Sample #2 - I read with great interest your recent advertisement in the Journal Star, and in light
of the work your organization is beginning to do in cardiovascular conditioning, I thought I
might be able to contribute my experience in fitness and conditioning in a research position with
XYZ Company. (personal interest)
Sample #3 - John Ward, Manager for Chief Industries, suggested that I contact you about the
Public Information Officer position. He indicated that you are seeking a professional with a
background in marketing, communications and public service. I am very interested in this
position as my experience, training, and history of community involvement would allow me to
succeed as the Public Information Officer for the City of Grand Island. (using a contact name)
Sample #4 - I am motivated to apply for your secondary English position after reading about
your national award for excellence in teaching literature on your Web site. English at Hastings
High School in Nebraska is heavy with literature and has prepared me through student teaching
to contribute to your strong program. (creative)
Sample #5 - Please accept the enclosed resume for the position of fourth grade teacher at the
Braintree Elementary School. I learned about this opportunity in the most recent edition of the
World Herald and am excited to learn more about the position. (simple)
CONTENT TIP! Expand on transferable
skills, often developed through study in the
liberal arts, to support your qualifications.
According to employers surveyed by the
National Association of Colleges and
Employers’ Job Outlook, the top five skills
employers seek are:
1. Communication skills (written and verbal)
2. Honesty/integrity
3. Teamwork skills
4. Interpersonal skills
5. Motivation / initiative
 Body of the letter
Your challenge is to succinctly connect your qualifications with the needs of the employer.
Specify one or two qualifications of interest to the employer and relate them to what the
employer is seeking in a candidate. Point out special training and experience. Highlight
achievements and qualifications.
The Body – Prove you deserve an interview!
Sample #1 - As president of a collegiate organization for two years, I gained leadership experience, initiated new
service projects and conducted chapter meetings. Memberships in several musical ensembles as well as solo
performances demonstrate my ability to work well with others and to perform under pressure while remaining calm
and composed. In addition, working as a bank teller allowed me to work with people of diverse backgrounds, meet
clients’ needs and learn a new software program. When combined with my intelligence and persistence,
demonstrated in my academic standing, these experiences and qualities will allow me to meet and exceed any
performance expectations for the position.
Sample #2 - Last summer, I was one of four interns at the Lincoln, Nebraska location of Wells Fargo Bank. As an
assistant in Investment Management and Sales I gained a working familiarity with investment practices and also
developed skills that are important to this position when preparing call reports, drafting bond yield reports and
generating movement data for money market funds. I became proficient using both Bloomberg and Phase Three
investments software.
The Wells Fargo program challenges interns to use their communication skills. At the end of the summer I
presented results of my independent research project to management. Experiences as a teller at a local bank and an
academic program in business administration that emphasizes finance, policy, and the economics of banking solidify
my qualifications.
Sample #3 – I maintain high standards of excellence in everything I attempt. My strong academic record and
diverse academic interests have included economics, political science, communications, business, and mathematics.
I have excelled at many academic endeavors that contribute to my understanding of economics and my potential for
success in a research position, including:
Two independent research projects analyzing workforce participation and
political participation in Northern Ireland,
Numerous econometric studies using SPSS, Microfit, Maple and Excel,
An in depth corporate financial analysis, of Six Flags Corporation, and
A preliminary policy analysis of utilities in Nebraska.
Sample #4 - While student teaching at Auburn Middle School I taught five sections of seventh grade English. In
these classes lessons focused on standard grammar. In addition to grammar, I designed and incorporated a poetry
unit using portfolio assessment to measure student performance. The second half of my student teaching at Auburn
High School required preparation and teaching for three unique levels of students each day. I also cooperated in a
team setting teaching novels and short stories with my cooperating teacher.
Exposure to this variety, in format, age-level, and methodology, prepares me well for the small school
setting at YOURGREAT school district. Multiple preparations directed to middle school through high school
students will be challenging, but I know I can excel in your English department.
Sample #5 - While student teaching, I have been involved with both elementary and secondary students at a variety
of developmental levels, including students with English as a second language, physical challenges and learning
disabilities. This experience has helped me realize that all students are unique. With the use of multi-intelligences
and adaptations all students can learn successfully. Giving instructions and demonstrations in a variety of learning
styles is vital in physical education.
Additional qualities that make me a capable educator include being creative and flexible in lesson design,
modification, and activities. Introducing students to lessons that include variety, from basic skills to non-traditional
activities, helps spark their interests and motivates them to explore their own physical fitness. As a teacher, I
display a patient, easily approachable, energetic, enthusiastic and highly motivated personality.
 Closing paragraph
Conclude the letter with an active, courteous closing paragraph. State your desired
response and request an interview. Write a follow up burden that makes you the doer!
Avoid passive closings.
Closing - Take action to gain an interview
Don’t write a passive close - As this letter, my resume and Mr. Jones’s recommendation
indicate, I am very dedicated and interested in a position at XYZ Company. He has convinced
me that this is the job for me. I am excited about learning more about the position and look
forward to hearing from you.
Active sample #1 - My resume is enclosed for consideration. I will call during the week of
March 15th to discuss employment possibilities. Should you need to reach me, please call me at
(402) 461-7516.
Active sample #2 - Please refer to the included resume for further details on my qualifications. I
would like to interview for this position. I will be in Omaha next week and will call Friday,
March 10 to attempt to coordinate an interview during that week. Thank you for your
Active sample #3 - I am very interested in combining my strengths and experience as a teacher
for your school and would appreciate the opportunity to interview with you. I will call you next
week to check that you have received this letter and resume. I know I can play an important role
in your school district.
 Closing
Using an appropriate closing, such as Sincerely or Respectfully.
 Name
Space down four lines and type your full name, return, and type your telephone
number if it is not included in the final paragraph.
Many job search situations require that you email a resume, leaving
you to consider whether you should paste your cover letter into the
body of the email and attach the resume as a Word document, or
attach the cover letter along with the resume to the email. The
following advice from Katherine Hansen, a former speechwriter and
college instructor who provides content on the Web site
Quintessential Careers, would serve you well.
Send letter (shorter than a print version) in text format in the body of
the e-mail.
Send resume in ASCII-text form pasted into the body of the e-mail.
Send resume as a Word attachment, BUT ONLY if the employer has
specified attachments as the preferred way to send resumes. Hansen
reasons that employers are specific about how they want you to receive
materials. Following their exact instructions is extremely important.
Outline for a Cover Letter
548 Dundee Street
Omaha, NE 68102
January 1, 20XX
Susan Thompson, President
ConAgra Drive
Omaha, NE 68102
Dear Ms. Thompson:
FIRST PARAGRAPH – Use the first paragraph to get the reader’s interest and
encourage him to read on. State the reason for the letter, the specific position or type of
work for which you are applying and indicate how you learned of the opening, such as
through a professional in the organization, Career Services, news media, friend,
employment service. Keep this paragraph brief.
SECOND PARAGRAPH – Indicate why you are interested in the position, the
company, its products or services. However, don’t let this become the focus of your
letter. Use content that is employer-centered, telling them what you can do for the
organization. If you are a recent graduate, explain how your academic background
makes you a qualified candidate for the position. If you have practical experience, point
out specific achievements or unique qualifications. Give 2-3 examples of your
accomplishments or abilities to make your case stronger. Be specific and brief. Try not
to repeat the same information the reader will find in the resume. Appeal to the
employer’s interest immediately.
THIRD PARAGRAPH – Refer the reader to the enclosed resume or application, which
summarizes your qualifications, training, experience, or whatever media you may be
using to present yourself.
FINAL PARAGRAPH – In the closing paragraph, indicate your desire for a personal
interview and your flexibility as to the time and place. Repeat your phone number in the
letter and offer any assistance to help in a speedy response. Finally, close the letter with
a statement or question calculated to encourage a response. For example, state that you
will be in the city where the company is located on a certain date, and that you would like
to set up an interview during that timeframe. State that you will call on a certain date to
set up an interview or ask if the company will be recruiting in your area. Find out if
additional information or references are required.
Sincerely yours,
(your written name)
Jonathan Apple