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Cover Letters

Career Resource Center

Cover Letters

You should always include a cover letter when sending your resume. It is just as important as your resume and should assist you in getting the interview. Your cover letter should be intriguing and compel the hiring manager to read your resume. The cover letter gives insight into your personality, fills them in on qualities about you that you can’t cover in a resume and entices them to review your resume. The objective is to attract the reader’s attention and demonstrate that you are well qualified for the position.

Identify the position you are responding to in the beginning of your letter either with a RE: field in the heading of the letter or by putting the position title in your opening sentence. Also, you will want to state your confidence that the skill set you possess and your career successes will ensure your impact on the company. State the message with specific emphasis on the skills you have that matches the company’s stated needs.

Choose the format you believe will be the most powerful presentation of the information that you wish to include. If the position description is extensive, you should include the most compelling parts of your background. This letter should be one page and it must enable the reader to quickly identify you as a strong match for the position and encourage the reader to review your resume.

Letter format 
This version often has an introductory paragraph then a second paragraph section, often with bullets. It emphasizes your most relevant accomplishments mirroring the position description and ending with the concluding paragraph. Based on the position description, company research and the strength of your successes in each area listed, decide which of the company requirements and your successes you want to include in the cover letter. Typically the top three to five will suffice. The summation should express confidence in your ability to excel in the position and request a meeting [“you look forward to”]. It should discuss, in greater detail, the talent and experience you would bring to the company and your impact on their continued successes. If appropriate, you may indicate you will be calling the person as a follow-up to the letter. Like the resume, you should customize your cover letter to sell yourself and your best qualities.

  • The first paragraph of your letter should state the position you’re interested in and why you’re the perfect match for it. You can make connections to the specialty, the job itself, or even the company’s personality. Use the proactive voice- I can make a contribution or I am looking forward to contributing my talents.
  • The second and third paragraphs should summarize your qualifications, both quantifiable and personal. List specifics, using numbers, percentages and quantifiable accomplishments.
  • The last paragraph summarizes your letter and indicates that you plan to follow up.

5 Ways to open your cover letters with impact

  • Lead with one of your most impressive and relevant successes. “Under my leadership as Director of Annuity Operations at ABC Corporation, there was a there was an 80% improvement in productivity and a 45% decrease in operational costs. I’d like to speak with you about how I can deliver this level of results for your company.”
  • Drop the name of the person who referred you. “At the suggestion of Mr. Jones, I am contacting you to express my interest in the open position of Product Manager at your company.”
  • Refer to a prior conversation with the hiring manager. “Thanks for taking my call last Thursday and discussing the Billing Supervisor position you have available. I am very interested.”
  • Quote your contact directly. If your contact has been interviewed, quote them and show how your philosophy meshes with theirs. “In your recent interview you said, ‘Companies succeed by hiring the right people—people who want to make a difference, not just do a job.” When I read this I knew that ABC Corporation was a great fit for my energy and passion as well as my skills as a Sales Director.”
  • Quote a recent industry statistic or relevant article. This shows that you’ve done your homework and are in tune with the latest developments at your target company. “I was interested to read in Smart Money that ABC Corporation plans to expand its financial services division neighboring cities of X and Y. With seven years of experience launching campaigns in new territories, I can help make this important venture successful for you.”

Cover letter tips

  • Use high quality stationary and envelopes matching your resume
  • Use the same font as your resume
  • Prepare and customize a new letter for each position you are applying for
  • Make the employer want to read further and invite you for an interview by keeping it succinct
  • When possible, address your letter to a specific person
  • Don’t repeat what’s on your resume, enhance and elaborate your selling points
  • Make a strong opening but don’t be too creative
  • Include one sentence about the company that helps establish your familiarity with the goals of the facility and position
  • Focus on what you can do, not what you want to do
  • Avoid jargons and acronyms as well as complex sentences
  • Spark the curiosity of the reader as to how you can meet/exceed their needs
  • Be accurate and honest
  • Use a positive tone to convey self-confidence, enthusiasm and professionalism
  • Three paragraphs and one page is ideal.
  • End on a strong note by closing your cover letter with an action that will be taken in the near future
  • Don’t forget to sign your letter with a legible signature
  • Proofread carefully


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