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Cover Letter Tips
Your cover letter is the first thing employers see when you apply for a job. The content in your cover letter can help you stand out amongst other candidates. A cover letter isn't just a summary of your resume – it draws the reader's attention to your strengths. It serves as a personalized introduction to generate further interest in your resume. A cover letter answers the question: What makes YOU the most suitable candidate for the job?
- Your personal data at the top of the page: your name, address, phone number(s), email address
- Recipient's work title, address, and whenever possible, their name (check spelling). If you can't find out the name of the recipient, begin the letter with "Dear Human Resources," or “Dear Hiring Manager” NOT "To whom it may concern".
Primary sections of a cover letter
Let the reader know why this letter has arrived at his or her desk
- Who are you? What led you to write to this particular person or company?
- Why do you want to work for this organization?
- What position are you applying for?
2. Body (highlights of your qualifications)
- Be concise when you state your best skills. They should be relevant to the job you are seeking.
- Include sentences that demonstrate your skills, relate them to the job requirements, and show how they would benefit the company.
3. Request to follow up or meet in person
Clearly ask for the next step in the job search process (the interview) without apology or arrogance.
- Always customize your cover letter – never create a cover letter to send as a mass email. It should be catered to fit each position. Be warned: if the letter reads like junk mail, it may be treated like junk mail!
- Get to the point quickly. Employers often receive hundreds of applications for one job opening, so they may take only 30 seconds to scan each one. It's important to cut to the chase; in other words, Keep It Simple!
- Use a tone that feels natural to you, while keeping it professional and to the point.
- Include action words and phrases. Avoid passive sentences.
- Express interest, concern and enthusiasm for the field.
- Avoid using contractions (like “wouldn’t” or “isn’t”) and personal pronouns.
- A cover letter should fit on one page and include information specifically requested (for example, salary expectations requested in the job posting).
- Watch out for run-on sentences. Don’t start each sentence with “I.”
- Keep it as short as possible without sacrificing any important information (maximum length: one page).
- Use 8 1/2" x 11" good quality paper and print on one side only.
- Keep the format similar to your resume (fonts, size, letterhead, margins, etc.).
- Avoid using illustrated stationery, or other distracting graphics.
- If emailing it to the employer, include an electronic signature.
Check your spelling and follow up!
Even the greatest letter can get buried among a stack of other contenders. If you simply wait for the responses, you may be waiting a long time. Keep track of letters you have sent and follow up with contacts.
Cover letter frequently asked questions
What information is considered unnecessary?
You can leave out headers that say "Cover Letter" or "Letter of Application". Also, information such as reasons for leaving previous jobs, lists of references, and salary expectations (unless requested by the employer) are considered inappropriate.
Are my descriptions too vague?
Try to avoid vague, clichéd phrases. For example, many people state that they have "good interpersonal skills." But that could mean a variety of things, so try and pinpoint your exact strengths. Do you mean that you are particularly good at resolving conflicts, following instructions, motivating a group, making tough sales, etc.?
My cover letter is too long. How can I make it more concise?
If you find that your cover letter is more than one page, you might be repeating yourself. Here are some tips to help you cut down the length without losing important content.
- Remove or merge sentences with the same general ideas.
- Read the letter out loud to yourself. Does it sound anything like you? Sometimes, in an effort to impress the reader, we write in ways we would never usually communicate. If the phrasing is awkward, think to yourself, "In other words…" and jot down, in straightforward terms, what you really mean.
- Are you saying the same thing in your cover letter and resume? There is no need to repeat what is already in your resume; cut repetitive content to avoid wasting the employer’s time.
- Have someone, such as an instructor, or someone in the industry look over the letter for criticism.
- Set up an appointment with Career & Placement Services to edit your resume and cover letter.
- See a sample cover letter
- Book a resume and cover letter critique in GH108
- Cover letter samples and resource books are available in the resource library in GH108
- Hang out or sign out! You are welcome to do your research and work on your cover letter in GH108, or you can sign out materials for up to 2 weeks.
Sample Cover Letters
- Business cover letter
- Early Childhood cover letter
- FCSS cover letter
- Justice Studies cover letter
- Kinesiology cover letter
- Media Studies cover letter
- Psychology cover letter