Writing a Cover Letter

Cover Letter Format

Heading: Your address belongs at the top of the cover letter. Include your phone number in the heading of the letter or just below your signature.

Inside Address: Following the date, include the name of the recipient, position title, company name and mailing address.

The Opening: The first few lines are important in gaining the recipient’s attention. Most cover letters start out with very predictable and boring introductions. Possible opening lines include following up a previous phone conversation with the recipient, mentioning a personal referral, or commenting on a recent news item. Choose the opening that will work best for you.

Introduction: (1st Paragraph): State the reason why you are contacting the recipient. Initiate and state why you are specifically interested in the potential employer. Include information about some of the employer’s major business activities, product lines/services, or current events to demonstrate that you are well informed about the organization.

Body: (2-3 sales paragraphs): Focus on why the recipient should be interested in speaking with you further. Use the information that you obtained from your research, networking contacts with the company or job description in the classified ad to determine the qualifications sought by the employer. Try to relate your skills, talents, education preparation, knowledge and experiences to the requirements and needs of the position. Highlight your accomplishments which further demonstrate your qualifications. Omit information not directly related to the position or organization.

Conclusion: Stress your desire to have a meeting or interview with recipient, even if they are not hiring. The paragraph may include phrases such as discuss this further, explore the potential for mutual interest, conversation, discussion or brief meeting. Encourage the recipient to call you or to accept your phone call.  Schedule your follow-up call close to the letter’s arrival (2-5 days.)

Closing: Use “Sincerely” or other appropriate salutation. If appropriate, use the following notations:

  • Enclosure: Resume
  • Sent via fax; hard copy to follow
  • Cc: Jane Smith, Director of Human Resources
  • Salary: Negotiable​

View a cover letter template here.

Avoid These Common Cover Letter Mistakes

  • Cover letter is poorly organized, confusing, unclear and choppy.
  • Cover letter focuses on what the candidate is looking for (i.e., salary, geographic preference, advancement, etc) and not on how the candidate can benefit from the employer.
  • Cover letter states unrelated career goals.
  • Cover letter includes information that calls attention to candidate’s weaknesses. Avoid using statements such as ‘Although I have no related experience,…’
  • Cover letter is a general form letter sent to a large number of employers.
  • Cover letter includes erroneous information about the organization (i.e. misquotes about recent events or information about wrong products.) Be sure to verify the accuracy of any company information that you mention in your letter.
  • Cover letter includes personal photographs or personal information such as age, weight, height, marital status, race, or religion. Cover letter lists personal interests and hobbies. Include personal information only if it directly relates to the type of job you are seeking
  • Cover letter uses words like believe, hope, feel, should, know, which may indicate a lack of self-confidence.

View a sample cover letter here.