Checklist for a Successful Cover Letter
Is your cover letter…
- No more than one page?
- Formatted correctly?
- Free from grammatical and spelling errors?
- Addressed to a specific person (not “sir,” “madam,” or “To Whom it May Concern”)? Call or research online to find the appropriate name and title.
- Targeted toward a specific employer? Use keywords from the job description or organization’s website or mission statement.
- Specific, citing explicit examples to highlighting your skills?
- Written in active voice?
- Focused on your match with the company and what YOU can bring to THEM (rather than the other way around)?
- Consistent with your resume (i.e. on the same high-quality paper and using the same font and contact information)?
Write a Cover Letter
Rather than just restating your resume, cover letters allow you to introduce yourself, provide specific examples that demonstrate your relevant skills, and show your potential value to the organization and fit within the role. A cover letter always accompanies your resume as part of a job or internship application. This is the first piece of professional writing that an employer will see, so you’ll want to make a good impression. Ultimately, cover letters should entice employers to grant you an interview.
Response to an Ad or Job Posting
This is the most traditional type of cover letter. Follow the content and formatting guidelines below.
Open Inquiry Letter or Letter of Interest
Even if an organization does not have any open positions listed, you may still inquire about potential opportunities. An “open inquiry” or “letter of interest” differs from a traditional cover letter in that you won’t have specific job responsibilities to address. Instead, focus on your fit within the organization/department/field. You may still talk about your skills and experiences and how they relate to the company. Also, be sure to include a clear objective and tell the recipient what you are hoping to achieve. For example, “I am writing to express my interest in interning in the New York Senate.” Or, “I am pursuing a career as a secondary math teacher and believe my philosophy and methods coincide with the mission of Boston Public Schools.” It may be strategic to send cover letters and resumes to different people within the same organization. However, be deliberate when sending materials; don’t mass-email the entire company.
Your cover letter should be formatted as seen below, including the content indicated in each section.
Your Street Address
City, State, Zip Code
Date You Send the Letter
Employer First Name and Last Name
Title and/or Department
Organization Street Address
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Mr./Ms. Employer Last Name:
1st section, 1 paragraph: Explain why you are writing. Name the specific position, field or general area about which you are asking. Share how you heard of the opening or organization. It is important to mention a specific aspect about the organization that especially interests you (your organization research is critical here). Share why you are particularly interested in THIS employer, location, or type of work. Gain the reader’s attention. If a particular person or employee referred you or recommended that you apply, you may mention it here.
2nd section, 1-2 paragraphs: Explain how you are qualified for the job. Give specific examples from your experience that demonstrate the skills needed for the position. If the job description includes required skills, indicate how you have those skills in this section. Consider including descriptions of things you have done that demonstrate a variety of the skills that the employer needs. Illustrate what you’ve done; don’t repeat your resume.
3rd section, 1 paragraph: Make your closing statement positive and specific so that the reader will take action. Reiterate your interest in the position and in having an opportunity to speak with the employer. Include your contact information - phone number and email - in this section if it is not already listed at the top of your letter. Thank the employer for his/ her consideration of your application materials.
(Sign your name here)
Enclosure: Resume (plus any other pieces you are including)
When sending a cover letter electronically, you may include the cover letter as an attachment. You may also use the cover letter as the email. If you do so, please indicate in your final paragraph all attachments to the email and remove the "enclosure" section from your letter (i.e., Please find attached a formal copy of my cover letter and resume.).
Some sites require you to paste text into an online application. If this is the case, you may just begin with “Dear Ms. ____:” and remove the addresses and date.
Employers are eager to learn about your global skills. View the international experience webinar to learn how to include your experiences abroad in your cover letter.