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Cover Letter & Correspondence Guide

A cover letter introduces you to a prospective employer and explains why you are sending your resume. Your cover letter should also convey your knowledge and enthusiasm for the industry or organization, serve as a good example of your writing ability, and demonstrate how your education and experience qualify you for the opportunity.

Writing Your Cover Letter
Begin by answering the following questions to outline the content of each paragraph:

Opening Paragraph:

  • Why are you interested in this field?
  • Why are you interested in this organization and position?
  • What is the objective of your letter (e.g.,to apply for a full-time position or an internship)?
  • How did you discover the opening and/or the organization (e.g., a personal referral, or an ad)?

Body of your letter:

  • What skills do you possess relative to the position?
  • What experiences illustrate how and where you acquired these skills?
  • What are your personal traits relevant to the position and how can you apply them to the needs of the organization?

Closing Paragraph:

  • When and how will you follow up? Employers look favorably upon a proactive attitude.
  • How and where can you be contacted?

Business Letter Format
Use of a business letter format is imperative for a professional letter. The following styles are acceptable:

  • Block Style - justify every line along the left-hand margin (recommended)
  • Modified Block - justify the employer’s address and the letter along the left-hand margin, but align your return address, the date and your signature off to the right
  • Semi-Block – Indent only the first sentence of each paragraph within the letter, all other content is left-justified

Using any of the above styles, you may also choose to use the same header that you have on your resume.

Tips for Writing Your Letter

  • Put yourself in the employer’s shoes – if you were hiring for the position, what skills, interests, and experiences might you be looking for in the cover letter?
  • Look carefully at the qualifications and responsibilities in the job description; be sure to highlight experiences that you have had that best match the position.
  • Communicate your enthusiasm, but keep sentences short and clear. Use active, not passive, verbs. For example, use “arranged”, “devised”, “evaluated”  instead of “was responsible for arranging, devising, or evaluating” (see the Resume Guide for an extensive list of action verbs).
  • Begin the second paragraph with a topic sentence. Consider the main points you wish to make and then create a sentence that introduces those ideas.
  • Avoid starting every sentence with “I.” Turn some of your sentences around to spice up the letter. For example, say “At the Audubon Society, my effective communication skills were tested _____.”
  • Don’t copy another person’s letter. Your letter should reflect who you are and your writing ability. The samples in this guide reflect a variety of writing styles; use them only as a starting point. There is no “right way” or specific writing style for a cover letter.
  •  ALWAYS have someone proofread your letter to ensure that it is error free. One typo or misspelled word may be the only excuse needed to disregard your application.

Emailing Your Letter

  • Many employers prefer applicants to submit their job application materials via email. It is not always clear how this should best be done.
  • Include your postal address and the date of the correspondence as you would in a letter sent via US Mail.
  • Either type your cover letter directly into the body of the email and include your resume (and any other documents such as references or writing samples) as attachments or compose a short email directing the employer to read the attached cover letter and then attach the letter.
  • All attachments should be labeled with your name for easy identification. For example, your resume should be JaneDoeResume.doc, rather than Resume12.doc. Also include your name and the position you are applying for in the subject line of the email.
  • You will not be able to sign any email correspondence, so simply insert 2 lines between your closing and your typed name.
  • Always justify everything on the left-hand margin when emailing a letter (Block Style). Formatting errors are less likely to occur upon receipt.
  • If sending your materials via US Mail, print your cover letter and resume on high-quality paper with a watermark and a weight between 16 lbs. and 25 lbs., using a laser printer or the College’s Print Shop. Be sure to sign your letter; leave 3 spaces between your closing and your typed name to do so. Enclose all documents in a matching envelope for a professional look.