Also called a "Letter of Interest", "Letter of Intent", and "Letter of Application", a cover letter is what accompanies your resume when applying for a position. It is an important document and can make you stand out as a candidate if well-written.
Basic Rules about Format
- All lines are left-margin justified. This is standard business letter format.
- Double space between paragraphs.
- Do not abbreviate: standard abbreviations, such as Mr. and Apt. are acceptable. Spell out "Street", "Road", "Avenue", etc.
- No contractions: Example: "I am", "I did not", "It is not" . . .
- Use the same font type as your résumé: Example: Times New Roman, Arial, etc.
Basic Rules about Content
- Your return address: street, city, state and zip code only - NO name, phone or email.
- Date: Spell out the month.
- Inside address: name, title, organization, street address, city, state, and zip code.
(Research name and title if that information is unknown.)
- Salutation: Name, if known. Generic, if no name.
- Opening paragraph: Why are you contacting them? How did you learn about the position? You need to use this opportunity to grab their attention and draw them into the letter. Keep it interesting! If you do not know about a specific opening, explain why you are interested in their organization. Ideally, this paragraph should be 2-3 sentences.
- Body: Convince them that you are the right person for the job. Draw parallels between what they are looking for and what you have to offer. Use education, experiences, as well as geographical and philosophical fit. Address the requirements stated in their job description. Focus on the positive. Refer to your résumé. In addition, the more you know about the company, the more convincing your letter will be.**This can be worked into the body or used in the opening paragraph.
- Closing paragraph: Do you leave the ball in their court or yours? If the ad states: "closing date 6/1/10" then indicate you will wait to hear from them after their closing date. If not, show initiative! You may also want to consider a "hook" to get them to make the next move. Always thank them for their time and consideration.
- Closing: Salutation plus typed name. Include the word "Enclosure" to indicate that there is something else in the envelope besides your cover letter.
SAMPLE COVER LETTERS