Developing Your Cover Letter: 3 Necessary Components
A professional cover letter generally has three paragraphs:
1. Introductory (Why you are writing)
- Mention the position and how you heard about it.
- If you are writing to inquire about an opening, indicate what type of position you are interested in.
- If you have been referred to the company/organization, mention the name of the individual who referred you.
- This section should about 2-3 sentences.
2. Body (Why you are qualified)
- Most important section! It gives the employer reasons why they should consider you for an interview.
- Include examples of your accomplishments when appropriate. Please see the cover letter examples.
- Includes an overview of your strengths and qualifications as they relate to the target position.
- Demonstrate what you can contribute by illustrating how you achieved relevant accomplishments.
- You may mention your resume and/or reframe resume content but DON’T BE REDUNDANT.
- Set yourself apart from the other candidates by stating how you will add value to their organization.
- This section should be 5-6 sentences.
3. Closing (What you want)
- Indicate an interest in meeting with the employer.
- Thank them for their consideration and include your phone number so they may contact you.
- This section should be about 2-3 sentences.
Cover Letter Musts!
Cover Letter Musts!
- Research the company/organization and learn as much as you can about the position (check organization’s Web site to gain relevant information).
- Target the letter to the specific position and organization.
- Address the cover letter to a specific individual within the organization (example: Dr. John Brown). Always address the company’s Hiring Manager unless application provides different directions.
- Do not list salary requirements in your cover letter unless absolutely necessary (meaning your resume will not be accepted without mentioning your salary history or requirement).
- Make every word count. Use clear, crisp and succinct language.
- PROOFREAD YOUR LETTER BEFORE YOU SEND IT; it should be error free!
Formatting Your Cover Letter
- Use block letter format.
- Margins should be at least 1 inch from top; other three sides a minimum .5 inch and a maximum of 1.25 inches.
- You may follow the name and address with a reference to the position. (For example: Subject: Marketing Assistant Position).
- Single space paragraphs; double space between each paragraph.
- At the signature closing, be sure your name is typed and a handwritten signature is above. Use black or blue ink for signature, no colored ink. If submitting electronically, you can choose a font that looks like cursive instead of including your original signature.
- Times New Roman, Arial or Courier font suggested. Be consistent: use the same font as resume.
- Use 10 or 12 size font.
Email Cover Letter
An e-mail cover letter has the same purpose of a regular cover letter with the exception of some key content and format rules. Please see the information below.
- Keep it short: Don’t get too lengthy or wordy. It should be direct and to the point.
- Include a formal salutation and closing similar to the one in the traditional cover letter.
- Highlight your relevant experiences only...remember you want your attached resume opened!
- Capture the attention of the reader in the subject line (ex: Jill Armstrong, Web Design Intern, #12345)
- Use spell check and proofread your correspondence.
Sample Cover Letter
Download an Example
To Get You Started
Additional Forms of Business Correspondence
The prospecting letter is very much like the cover letter except that it is being sent to an organization that HAS NOT announced specific job openings. Same rules apply as stated previously in the cover letter section.
A research statement might be requested as a part of your academic job search. This is an opportunity for you to outline your research accomplishments and future direction.
A teaching philosophy might be a part of your job search in academia. It should be one to two pages long and include information about why, what, and how you teach. You would also describe how you measure your effectiveness. Here are some resources to get you started.
Other documents might also be requested as a part of your application. Common materials requested might be: course evaluations, sample syllabi, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and writing samples.
As a professional courtesy, thank-you emails or handwritten thank-you cards should follow every interview 24-48 hours after the event. This will further distinguish you from other candidates. The goals of thank-you letters:
- To express genuine appreciation for the employer’s time and consideration.
- To reaffirm your interest in the position and cite additional qualifications you may not have mentioned during the interview.
- To clarify your understanding of the next step in the application process.
- To include your expense statement and any other detail of your visit (if previously arranged with the employer).
While you will initially speak with the employer directly to accept a position, you will also want to send an acceptance letter as a follow-up. The acceptance letter should be addressed to the person who made you the offer and should be typed in a standard business letter format. In the letter, you should include: appreciation of the offer, acceptance of the position, title of the position or department, and an overview of the hiring terms discussed (ie: start date, who to report to on the first day, etc.)
Withdrawal and Rejection Letters
As part of managing your professional image, you are expected to communicate with employers regarding your candidacy. After you have accepted a position, you should send a formal business letter to the appropriate companies to withdraw your candidacy from any of the other positions for which you have applied. Additionally, you should prepare a courteous and thoughtful letter to decline employment offers that do not fit into your current career goals. Be sure to thank the employer for his or her offer and consideration and that you hope to communicate with him or her in the future regarding opportunities.