BLOG: Cover Letter Guide


Your cover letter should address three general issues:

  • First Paragraph – Why you are writing
  • Middle Paragraphs – What you have to offer
  • Concluding Paragraph – How you will follow-up

Why You Are Writing

In some cases, you may have been referred to a potential employer by a business acquaintance, a professor or friend. Be sure to mention this mutual contact, by name, up front since it is likely to encourage your reader to keep reading!

  • Jane Smith suggested that I write you concerning a position as a management trainee at your bank.

If you are writing in response to a job posting, indicate where you learned of the position and the title of the position. More importantly, express your enthusiasm and the likely match between your credentials and the position’s qualifications.

  • Please accept my application for the Legal Assistant position you posted on Monster. I am confident that my background and skills will prove to be an effective match for your needs. I am anxious to speak with you about the position and our respective goals.

If you are writing a prospecting letter – a letter in which you inquire about possible job openings – state your specific job objective. Since this type of letter is unsolicited, it is even more important to capture the reader’s attention.

  • I recently read in ABC Trade Publication that your organization was awarded the 123 Federal Grant for environmental field studies. Since I will be graduating from XYZ University in May, I am anxious to continue my own geological field research full-time. I would like to discuss the work I have done and how it complements your projects.

If you are writing a networking letter to approach an individual for information, make your request clear.

  • I am most interested in talking with you about the field of book publishing to learn more about typical entry-level positions, recommended preparation, and necessary qualifications.

What You Have To Offer

  • In responding to an advertisement, refer specifically to the qualifications listed and illustrate how your particular abilities and experiences relate to the position for which you are applying. In a prospecting letter express your potential to fulfill the employer’s needs rather than focus on what the employer can offer you. You can do this by giving evidence that you have researched the organization thoroughly and that you possess skills used within that organization.
  • I am especially interested in working at your school because my student teaching experience in designing and executing a career awareness program fits very appropriately into the pilot career program you instituted last year. Communicate interest, motivation, strengths, and intelligence.

Refer the reader back to your resume, but do not repeat verbatim from the resume. Instead, provide additional details that space did not permit on your resume, and/or put your resume into a certain perspective by labeling your experiences.

  • Evidence of my leadership and organizational skills can be seen in my experiences as Branch Manager, Communications Assistant, and Head Resident of my residence hal. Emphasize your achievements and problem-solving skills.
  • As editor-in-chief of the XXX newspaper, I introduced a more attractive and readable format, developed several new columns to broaden our scope, and improved the quality of writing.

Show how your education and work skills are transferable, and thus relevant, to the position for which you are applying.

  • Your posting indicates that you seek candidates with business degrees and sales experience. My educational background in business and psychology, combined with my fund-raising experience with XXX Development Office are excellent preparation for your Marketing Representative position.

When writing to request an informational meeting, write about your interests, skills or experiences as they relate to the person, organization or field.

How You Will Follow Up
Bid directly for the job interview or informational interview and indicate that you will follow-up with a telephone call to set up an appointment at a mutually convenient time. Be sure to make the call within the time frame indicated.

In some instances, an employer may explicitly prohibit phone calls or you may be responding to a “blind want-ad” which precludes you from this follow-up. Unless this is the case, make your best effort to reach the organization. At the very least, you should confirm that your materials were received and that your application is complete.

If you are applying from outside the employer’s geographic area you may want to indicate if you’ll be in town during a certain time frame (this makes it easier for the employer to agree to meet with you).

In conclusion, you may indicate that your references are available on request. Also, if you have a portfolio or writing samples to support your qualifications, state their availability.