How to Write a Cover Letter

A cover letter plays a very important role in your job search. If it is done correctly, it can significantly improve your chances of obtaining an interview. It shows employers that you are a serious candidate for the position.

A well-written cover letter will demonstrate your organizational and communication skills and will show that you are a professional who is ready to handle job responsibilities. Along with your resume, your cover letter gives you an opportunity to describe how specific skills and accomplishments qualify you for the job for which you are applying.

Cover Letter Tips

Here are the top tips to follow when you're writing and reviewing your cover letters.  

  • Keep it brief. A cover letter should be no longer than one page and include 3-4 paragraphs. It is often sent in the body of an email, with your resume attached.
  • Type it. Your cover letter should never be handwritten.
  • Use standard format. Use standard business letter format. It should look professional: Don't bold, underline or italicize anything that is not consistent with good English grammar.
  • Be relevant. Focus on what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you. Don't overuse "I." Your cover letter isn"t your autobiography. Incorporate one or two of the most relevant items from your resume, but don't rewrite your resume in your cover letter.
  • Know the company. Do a little research on the company to which you are applying. Try to include something about the company that interests you or that may even have prompted you to apply for the position.
  • Be confident. Avoid such phrases as "I believe" or "I feel." Use stronger phrases such as "I am confident" or "I am positive." Never sound desperate or beg for a job. Do not mention how much you need money to pay off your credit card bills or make your car payment on time.
  • Customize your cover letter. Your cover letter should be specific to the requirements of the position for which you are applying. If you're answering an ad or a job posting, try to tie in some of that wording in your cover letter. Be sure to address the letter to a specific person rather than to a general "to whom it may concern."
  • Avoid personal details. Do not include personal information such as your age, marital status, religion, etc.
  • Market yourself to the employer. A cover letter is your personal marketing tool to sell yourself to a potential employer. Include your best attributes that will complement the employer's company.
  • A cover letter full of typographical errors will not make a good impression. Make an appointment to have your cover letter critiqued by an adviser at the Career and Professional Development Center.
  • Sign it. Be sure to sign your cover letter in ink.
  • Always include a copy of your resume. Your resume should always accompany your cover letter. Both should be on the same type of paper. Indicate "Enclosures" at the bottom of your cover letter if you are also including transcripts or other application material.

Resources and Next Steps

To get the right start to develop an effective cover letter and to view sample cover letters, see the Career Resource Handbook. You also can check out these resources:

For more help, you can schedule an appointment with the Career & Professional Development Center by logging into your Handshake account and clicking on the "Appointments" link under the Career Center tab. You also can stop in for quick tips during drop-in hours from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. every weekday at the Natali Student Center, Suite 138.