Career Center


Career Center
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Career Center Guides

Correspondence Guide

The Cover Letter

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

Sample Cover Letters

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?

When in Doubt, Ask a Counselor

Peer Advisors - Make an appointment with a peer advisor by calling 315-859-4346. The Career Center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Peer advisors also accept walk-ins, depending on availability, and lead cover letter workshops. Check HamNET for our schedule of workshops.

Career Counselors - Appointments must be made at least 24 hours in advance; call 315-859-4346 or stop by the Career Center, located on the 3rd floor of the Bristol Center, to schedule an appointment.

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.

Your present address
City, State Zip Code

Date of Letter

Name of Contact
Title of Contact
Name of Organization
Street Address
City, State Zip Code

Dear Ms./Mr./Dr. (Name): If you do not have the person's name, do your best to get it. Call the organization and inquire to whom you should address you letter. Do not write "Dear Sir or Madam," or "Gentlemen." If necessary, you might address the person by title, "Dear Human Resources Manager" or by organization, "Dear (Name of Organization) Representative." 

Opening Paragraph. This paragraph is intended to express your interest and fit with the position, organization, and/or field. Include a sentence or two summarizing this interest and fit. Stimulate your audience to continue reading. If applicable, tell how you heard of this opening or internship. If a person referred you to the organization, mention the person’s name and connection to the organization. 

Body. This section consists of one or two paragraphs in which you tell the employer why you are a strong candidate for the position. Emphasize the employer’s needs – not your own. Demonstrate your ability and desire to perform the functions of the position by providing examples drawn from your work, academic, and/or extracurricular experiences.

In this section, you may also want to expand on your interest in the position and/or career field drawing from specific academic and work experiences. It is also appropriate in this section to identify a couple of personal qualities that you believe relate to the job and add to your specific skills to make you a strong candidate (i.e., responsible, hard-working, inquisitive). If possible, give specific examples of where these qualities have been demonstrated.

Closing Paragraph. Indicate your desire to arrange a mutually convenient time to interview and state when and how you will contact the employer, as well as how he/she may contact you. Mention any intentions of visiting the city where the organization is located because employers may be more apt to meet with you. Re-emphasize your interest in the position, thank the individual, and mention that you are looking forward to meeting him or her.


Type Your Name



Emailing Your Letter

An increasing number of employers are requesting that applicants 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 U.S. 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.

Tips for Writing Your Cover 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 the 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.

The Networking Letter

This type of letter is to be used as a first contact in setting up ACEP meetings or other informational interviews. Please refer to the Networking and Informational Interviewing Guide for more detailed information on this process.

First Paragraph:

Explain why you wish to meet with this particular person (i.e. you are interested in learning more about his/her field or organization) and mention how you received her/his contact information. You do not need to sell yourself as you would to a potential employer. It is more important to inform the reader how you came to learn of this person’s career field or place of employment and how he/she can be of assistance to you. Remember, this letter and subsequent meeting are NOT to be used for job solicitation purposes; rather, you are asking for information and advice regarding your own career exploration or job search.

Body Paragraph:

Give a brief summary of your background, skills, and career interests as they relate to this person’s employment to provide some more concrete rationale for meeting with this contact. Build a case for your interest so that the contact can better understand why you would like to meet with her/him.

Closing Paragraph:

State that you would like to set up either a phone interview or face-to-face meeting (whichever is more feasible) and that you need less than thirty minutes of this person’s time. Offer a few dates and times that you will be available. You may wish to include your resume so that this person may gain a better understanding of who you are and how your background pertains to what he/she does. If you do choose to send your resume, indicate here that you have enclosed a copy. Mention that you will call to follow up with your letter, but also include your contact information (phone and email address) should she/he choose to get in touch with you. Remember to thank this person for his or her time and consideration.

It is acceptable to email a networking letter. However, it is advised that a business format be used.
Remember, you are asking for a favor; compose the letter with an appreciative tone.

The Thank You Letter

Writing a thank you letter after an employment interview is a must. In fact, some employers think less of those interviewees who fail to follow-up promptly. You should send out your thank you letter within 24 – 48 hours after your interview.

In your letter, be sure to:

  • Thank the employer for his/her time.
  • Mention the position you interviewed for, and the date of the interview.
  • Reaffirm your interest and enthusiasm.
  • Refer back to the interview. Mention a personal connection that you made with the interviewer and/or something discussed during the interview that reaffirmed your interest in the position.
  • Express your willingness to provide additional information.
  • Conclude by mentioning your interest in hearing from the employer soon.

Thank you letters may be emailed, but there are some considerations. It may be advantageous to send via email because it will reach the employer quickly and may impact the hiring decision. If most of your prior correspondence with the employer has been via email, it should be acceptable to email the thank you letter. However, certain industries and employers may not consider an emailed letter appropriate. Base your decision on the organization’s culture and the people you met during your interview. If in doubt, always err on the side of caution and hand write or type the letter in a formal style. When typing a letter, choose high-quality paper with a watermark. If writing by hand, use a simple note card or personal stationery.

The Acceptance Letter

An acceptance letter is a formal notification to an employer that you are accepting a position. It should be sent only after an offer from the employer has been extended to you in writing. In your letter, state that you are accepting the position as outlined in the offer letter you received from the employer.

The Declination Letter

Even if you decline a job offer during a telephone conversation, it is a professional courtesy to decline the offer in writing. These letters can be difficult to write and you need to be careful not to "burn your bridges" for future job opportunities. Always use an appreciative tone and thank the employer for their interest in you. If you have accepted another offer, you may inform the organization of the opportunity you have taken.

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