What Is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter introduces you and your resume to potential employers or organizations you seek to join (non-profits, educational institutions, etc). It is the first document an employer sees, so it is often the first impression you will make. Take advantage of this important first impression and prepare the reader for your application, stating why you are writing, why you are a good match for the job and the organization, and when you will contact him or her.
Cover letters do more than introduce your resume, though. A cover letter's importance also includes its ability to:
- Explain your experiences in a story-like format that works with the information provided in your resume
- Allow you to go in-depth about important experiences/skills and relate them to job requirements
- Show the employer that you are individualizing (tailoring) this job application
- Provide a sample of your written communication skills
The following resources are a compilation of tips and strategies to guide you throughout the writing of your cover letter. Please refer to the sample cover letters for a picture of the finished product.
Good luck writing!
Job seekers at Purdue University may find value in the Purdue career Wiki here.
The following are additional Purdue OWL resources to help you write your cover letter:
- Purdue OWL YouTube Channel: Cover Letters
- Cover Letter Workshop- Formatting and Organization
- Example Employment Documents
- Cover Letters 2: Preparing to Write a Cover Letter
- Cover Letters 3: Writing Your Cover Letter
- Cover Letter Presentation
- Job Search Documents for Working Class Positions
Quick Content Tips for Cover Letters
If you want a short guide to writing cover letters, this is it! Be sure to examine the "Quick Formatting Tips for Cover Letters" for helpful information about your cover letter's page design. Please refer to the more in-depth cover letter handouts and the cover letter online workshop for explanations and more ideas.
There are four basic parts to a cover letter: heading, introduction, argument/body, and a closing. Here are some tips on what to include in each section:
- Provide your contact information.
- Include the date you are writing the letter.
- Include the address of the company.
- Greet the specific person with whom you are corresponding.
- State the position you are applying for and where you heard about it.
- Name drop if you have a good connection.
- State why you believe you are a good match for the position and the organization, including 2-3 key qualifications that you will address in the rest of the letter (these items should match up with your resume).
- Tailor cover letter for each job application.
- Focus each paragraph on one qualification that shows you are a good match for the job and organization.
- Give specific examples to prove where you got these skills and how you have used them before.
- Tell a story; do not just list your skills.
- Refer to your resume; do not repeat it.
- Do not use contractions.
- Close with a strong reminder of why you are a good match for the job and the organization.
- Request an interview in some way.
- Provide contact information.
- Thank the person for reading your material.
- Sign your name and print it underneath.
Quick Formatting Tips for Cover Letters
Remember that the basic format of a cover letter follows that of a business letter. As you design the page, think about the following:
- Keep to one page.
- Write one paragraph of introduction, one-three paragraphs to highlight your skills, and one paragraph to conclude.
- Single-space your cover letter.
- Leave a space between addresses and dates in the heading.
- Leave a space between your heading (contact info) and greeting ("Dear...:").
- Leave a space between each paragraph.
- Leave at least three spaces between your complimentary close ("Sincerely,") and typed name.
- Sign your name in ink between your complimentary close and typed name.
Margins and Alignment
- Use standard margins (one-inch margins, usually).
- Can use smaller margins (to about 0.7-inch) as long as you are consistent on all sides.
- Align all paragraphs to the left of the page. (You can also indent the first line of each paragraph, but that is not used as often.)
Should I show off my knowledge of the company?
While it is important to use your knowledge of a company to show how you are a good match, you do not want to talk just about them. The cover letter should focus on your ability to meet a company's needs. For example:
American Advertising is committed to providing their clients with superior customer satisfaction and one-on-one collaboration. My experience shows I can work with people from different backgrounds and cultures: I know how to put customer satisfaction first
What should I do before sending off my cover letter?
In order to provide the most professional image of yourself to potential employers, you want to have polished documents with no mistakes. Here are some final tips to get this professional look:
- Proofread the cover letter after a few hours or days (improve sentences, grammar, typos).
- Give your cover letter to friends, professors, and/or colleagues for proofreading and suggestions.
- Go to the Purdue University Writing Lab in Heavilon 226 for a free cover letter tutorial (if you are affiliated with Purdue).