When you send a resume to a potential employer, you will almost always want to send an accompanying cover letter. A good cover letter will communicate interest, motivation and self-confidence, as well as some understanding of the position. Below are tips to help you craft a well-written letter.
Format with Professionalism
1. Adhere to business standards for letters and email.
- Be concise. Your cover letter should be one page and follow business-letter format, which generally includes 1" margins, a standard font between 10–12 point and correct grammar and spelling.
- Address to impress. For hard copies, print letters on good quality paper that matches your resume. For email, use an appropriate subject line.
- Know email etiquette. For email applications, you can either write a brief email that introduces your full, attached cover letter and resume, or write a modified cover letter as the body of the email, with only the resume attached. Both are equally acceptable. If the cover letter is in the body of your email, you do not have to include your mailing address, the date or the recipient's mailing address.
2. Address your letter to a specific person, if possible.
Use the TigerNet Alumni Directory or CareerSearch to find this information for select organizations. You can also call organizations directly and ask for the name of the appropriate contact. If a name is not available, use “Hiring Manager” or “Internship Coordinator” in lieu of “To Whom It May Concern” or “Sir/Madam.”
Target Your Message
3. Tailor your letter to each position or organization.
- Show strengths. Make clear reference to the skills or experience the organization is seeking.
- Demonstrate enthusiasm. Mention the aspects of the organization that appeal to you.
- Be sincere. Avoid generic or trite expressions in talking about your interest or qualifications.
- Sell yourself. Focus more on what you have to offer, rather than what they have to offer you.
4. Allow your personality to come through in your writing.
Keep your language and tone professional, but don’t write in a way that seems unnatural. This will make it harder for an employer to gauge your interest and enthusiasm. You should, however, be concise.
Check Your Work
5. Proofread your letters and have them critiqued.
- Search for issues. Read your letters out loud to catch any typos or awkward phrasing.
- Scan for detail. Double-check that you have not left in details pertaining to another position.
- Strive for eloquence. A cover letter is often the first piece of written text that an employer receives from you, so make the effort to put forth your best writing.
- Let Career Services help. Make an appointment to have your letter critiqued by a career adviser.
6. Keep track of your letters.
Create a file that holds copies of all your cover letters, and make notes outlining further correspondence between you and the employer. It can be confusing and embarrassing to receive a reply from an organization (particularly a request for an interview) and not be certain of what you sent them.
7. Use the cover letter format if an employer requests a statement of interest.
Sometimes employers will ask for a statement of interest to be included on a job or internship application, in which case a well-tailored cover letter is appropriate.