Cover Letters

The purpose of a cover letter is to:

  • Capture the interest of the reader.
  • State what you think you can do for the reader - what is it you think you can contribute specifically to his/her company or institution.
  • Call attention to, highlight, or expand upon information you are including in your resume, letters of recommendation, or other credentials.
  • Direct your resume to the appropriate individual.

Developing and Formatting a Cover Letter

A cover letter should be neat, concise and contain no errors in spelling or grammar. An employer judges you on your ability to communicate and your ability to manage the presentation of information; both of which a cover letter does.

The letter should indicate a special interest in the company or organization. Receiving a "run of the mill" letter and resume gives the impression that the applicant distributed these indiscriminately like baiting a hook that some kind of fish would bite.

Your letter conveys a message about you in its style and its content. It should be personal in two senses:  

  • It should convey a sense of your personality and individual style.
  • It should be individually addressed. You send out dozens of similar letters but each one should be targeted to a specific employer and individual. 

The letter should be not more than one page in length; usually 3 or 4 paragraphs.

Use a standard business letter format.
Write a rough draft of your cover letter, then have another person read and react to it. Written correspondence often can inadvertently sound impersonal, but you will want your finished letter to be warm but businesslike in its approach. Your goal is to sell yourself and your skills!