Introduction to Cover Letter Writing
A cover letter is a one-page business letter often submitted as part of an internship or job application.
In a cover letter, you introduce yourself to an employer, express your interest in the organization and/or specific opening, and explain your strongest qualification(s) for the opening.
In combination with your resume, a well-written cover letter may incite an employer to invite you to interview for the opening in order to learn more about you and your potential fit with the organization.
While some employers do not request or carefully read cover letters, other employers are very interested in these letters.
A customized, well-written letter can improve your chances of getting an interview.
Cover Letter Strategies
Customize your Letter
- Adjust and update your cover letter for every application you submit.
- Review the position description for a clear outline of requirements and ensure your letter directly addresses the qualifications needed for the position.
- It is not effective to use the same text in your letter to apply for different positions.
- It is important to change your letter to best suit each position and to highlight your skills and qualifications for that specific internship/job and/or employer.
Personalize the Letter
- When possible, address the letter to a specific individual using his/her name, title (Dr., Ms. Mr., etc.) and position with the organization (Director of Human Resources, etc.).
- If a contact person is not listed in the job description and it is difficult to identify the contact via the company website or through networking, do not assume that the hiring manager has a particular gender by opening the letter with “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam.” Instead, “Dear Director of Human Resources” or “Dear Hiring Official” is appropriate.
- Request that several people review and comment on your letter, including a career advisor in Career Planning & Development.
- Review your document until you are confident it is error-free and an honest, accurate reflection of your skills and abilities.
- Remember that spell check may not find a word that is spelled correctly but is misused (there vs. their, for example).
Focus on the Reader
- When writing cover letters, writers often overuse the word “I” and focus on what they want from a company or job. Instead, focus on the reader of the letter.
- Explain to the reader how you can contribute to the organization.
- Reword sentences to eliminate excessive occurrences of “I” by using “my” and “me.” For example, “I have enclosed a copy of my resume” becomes “Enclosed you will find a copy of my resume.”
Create a Theme Throughout your Application Materials
- Connect your cover letter content to other pieces used in the application process. Does your resume introduce the skills and qualifications you will elaborate on further in your cover letter?
- In preparing your application materials, ensure that you unify the message that you want to relay to your prospective employer.
Include Relevant Content: Your letters should contain accurate, specific information relating to your professional qualifications for an internship, job, or graduate school.
Avoid sharing overly personal information in a cover letter.
Use Action Verbs and Adjectives: Keep content action-oriented. Focus on providing the reader with objective, factual evidence of your qualifications.
Recommended Content for Each Paragraph:
First Paragraph: State the reason for the letter. Who are you (academically and professionally) and why are you writing to this company and for this position? State the specific position for which you are applying and indicate where you learned about the position (Handshake/Career Planning & Development, company website, personal contact/networking, etc.). Then, explain why you are interested in the position and why you want to work for this organization.
Second Paragraph: Outline your strongest qualification(s) as they relate to the company and position description. Do not repeat the information on your resume. Instead, draw attention to the most important experience or education you have and provide supporting evidence of your qualifications. You can do this by describing specific accomplishments or highlighting skills you have developed through work experience, coursework, campus or community involvement, or other activities. Make every effort to connect your qualifications to the job requirements.
Optional Third Paragraph: Some writers prefer to introduce their strongest qualification(s) as they relate to the company and position description in the second paragraph and then expound upon them in a third paragraph. If you choose to utilize a third paragraph, use it to provide specific provide supporting evidence (give an example) of your qualification(s).
Final Paragraph: Thank the reader for his or her time. Establish a flow of action that produces a positive response. Suggest what you want the reader to do or what action you plan to take. Repeat your contact information (preferred phone number and e-mail address).
Submitting a Cover Letter
A cover letter may be submitted in multiple ways. Review the tips below for submitting a cover letter as a part of a complete, customized employment application.
- Be sure you read every job description carefully to understand what application materials the employer seeks and in what format.
- When e-mailing an application to an employer, attach a cover letter (along with other requested materials) to your e-mail message. In the body of the e-mail, briefly express interest in the company and the position, and explain what materials are attached to the e-mail.
- Due to the length of cover letters (and the brief, concise nature of e-mail), putting your cover letter in the body of the e-mail message is not recommended. Rather, attach your documents in a PDF format if available.
- When using an online application form, you may be asked to copy and paste your letter into a text box, or allowed to upload documents into the system as part of the application process.
Cover Letter Sample Documents
The cover letter sample documents included in this section have been customized to reflect the desired qualifications and skills of a candidate for each employment position included below.
Marketing & Communications Student Assistant
- Full-time Student at Webster University
- Cumulative GPA of a 3.0 or Greater
- Demonstrate proficiency in using a variety of social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
- Proficiency in the use of Adobe Photoshop and InDesign to create customized digital and print marketing materials
PR and Social Media Intern, St. Louis Blues
- Current college student at Junior or Senior level seeking a degree in public relations, communications, journalism or related degree
- Excellent ability to communicate in person, print, and electronically to variable audiences
- Writing and copy editing experience
- Experience with developing messages for social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
- Ability to stand for an extended period of time
- Ability to complete work in the office located in Downtown St. Louis unless pre-arranged to work remotely
- Complete work during traditional work day (8:30 AM - 5:00 PM) with flexibility to assist with events and media during non-traditional work hours
- Commitment to providing up to 15 hours of assistance per week
To enlarge, click on each document separately.