A cover letter is a document that accompanies your resume and introduces you and your qualifications to a potential employer. A good cover letter makes the hiring manager want to learn more about you, read your resume and possibly invite you for an interview.
The same steps apply for writing a good cover letter as they do for writing a resume. You should always tailor your cover letters for the specific position and company you are interested in. The first step is to do research about the company and the job so you can customize your materials to the employer's needs.
Writing Your First Cover Letter
When you are ready to write your first cover letter, Optimal Cover Letter allows you to write and manage your content on line. You'll also want to become familiar with the parts of a cover letter by reviewing the basic cover letter contents and looking at some sample cover letters, both provided below.
There are many ways you can see if your cover letter is competitive including using the Cover Letter Checklist. You can also bring it to the Center with your resume to have it critiqued and/or you can meet with a coach to discuss the suggestions. It is always helpful if you can bring a job posting with you so the coach can help you customize your cover letter to the posting.
Basic Cover Letter Contents
There are four main sections of a cover letter: Salutation, Introduction, Body, and Closing:
Salutation: Addressing the Right Contact
Although many internship/job postings do not list a contact name, it is very important that you try to identify the specific individual to whom to address your cover letter. Unless the posting indicates "No Phone Calls Please" you should phone the company, explain the purpose of your call, and ask for the name and title of the hiring manager.
If you are unable to contact the company directly you can conduct a Google or LinkedIn search, or ask your family/friends if they know anyone at the organization who can help you uncover the hiring manager's information.
As an absolute last resort, if you are unable to confirm the name of the hiring manager, you can use address your letter simply to "Hiring Manager."
Introduction: State the Purpose of the Letter
- Your introduction must both state the purpose of your letter and grab the attention of the reader.
- State the specific position for which you are applying, or identify the field in which you are seeking employment.
- Grab the reader's attention by stating achievements that the reader would find interesting or by mentioning a mutual acquaintance's/friend's name if appropriate.
Body: Express Interest and Sell Yourself
- Express your motivation for applying or inquiring.
- State your compatibility with the company/job description without simply rehashing your resume.
- Give specifics about what interests you in the job/organization and show how your experiences and skills fit the qualifications requested.
- Identify two or three of your "key selling points" that are related to the opening or organization and that set you apart from other candidates.
Closing: Express Intentions and Thanks
- State when you will make contact concerning an interview.
- Include your phone number and email address.
- Thank the reader for their time and interest.
- Close with "Sincerely," "Cordially," or "Respectfully."
- Include "Enclosure" or "Attachment" [electronic] at the bottom if you are sending any other information, such as your resume.
Cover Letter Samples
Cover letters should be customized for each position that you apply to using the job description and the information you have collected about the company as a guide for how to draft your letter.
Environment & Sustainability Sample
Public Policy Sample
Resident Advisor Sample
Secondary Education Sample