/ Career Development Center

Cover Letters

Writing an effective cover letter is a good way to get your foot in the door.

Your cover letter allows you to specify what you are seeking and why you are the right person for the job. It should consist of five parts: 

  • Create your letterhead by copying and pasting your designed contact information from your résumé.
  • The heading should include your contact information, the date and the contact information of the person you are addressing.
  • Find and use the name of the person who will read your cover letter. If it’s not listed, it is appropriate to call the employer and ask who to address your information to. You can also use LinkedIn to learn who to contact.
  • If you do not have a contact name, you may address the letter: “Dear [Insert Company] Hiring Manager”
  • Use “Dear Mr./Ms./Dr.” to address an individual, followed by a colon (:).
An introduction indicates the specific position you are applying for and how you found out about the position, and it attracts the employer’s attention. If you have any personal contact(s) within the company who helped you find the opening — and you have permission to use his or her name — mention the individual(s). This may also be a good place to mention something that impressed you about the organization, based on your research.
Use this paragraph to relate your skills, knowledge, passions and experiences to the needs of the employer. Use the job description and your research to connect your relevant education, work experience, skills or other characteristics that meet the needs of the employer. Use similar language from the description or from the organization. This is your chance to highlight your qualifications and demonstrate knowledge of the organization. Refer the reader to your résumé. Focus on how you can be an asset to the employer. Use specific examples.
Thank the reader for his or her time and consideration. Indicate when and how you are going to contact the person to discuss your status for this opportunity. Provide a phone number and/or email address where you can be reached. End with a positive statement! For example, indicate that you are looking forward to hearing from them or excited about the possibility to be a part of the organization.
End your cover letter with a salutation (Sincerely, Kind regards, Respectfully, etc). For mailed letters, use a handwritten signature.

Download guidelines and a sample cover letter

Additional information

  • Proofread! Be sure your letter is free of any typographical, spelling or grammatical errors.
  • Tailor your letter for each opportunity, and tell the reader why you’re qualified for the position.
  • Mention something you know about the organization that is related to the position for which you are applying.
  • Write clearly and simply, using industry-specific keywords.
  • Sign your cover letter and include your phone number, email and address, or use electronic PDF signature options.
  • Showcase your written communication skills.
  • Check your layout for adequate margins and white space, and see if it’s centered top to bottom.
  • Ensure the font style matches that of the résumé and is simple and easy to read.
  • Use the same high quality paper on which you print your résumé.
  • Give a summary of your life, values, goals, etc. longer than 50 words.
  • Describe, at length, your admiration for the company’s history.
  • Overuse the pronoun “I” or repeat your resume verbatim.
  • Explain why you left your last job or want to leave your present one.
  • Use a form letter and only change the company name.
  • Include your salary requirements, unless asked to provide this information.
  • Inflate or exaggerate your experience or qualifications.
  • Hint that you are interested in virtually any job within that organization.
  • Use contractions.
  • Overuse flowery language such as “love” and “passion.”
  • Provide links to non-professional social media.
  • Restate bullets from your résumé.
  • Margins are balanced (standard one-inch margins on all sides of the document, or match margins with your résumé).
  • Concise and error-free.
  • The specific job title is stated within the first paragraph.
  • All paragraphs are aligned to the left of the page (paragraphs should not be indented).
  • Uses specific examples to highlight your experiences.
  • Attracts and holds the reader’s attention.
  • Avoids sentences starting with the word “I.”
  • Says thank you.
  • Signed and has three spaces between your closing (such as “Sincerely”) and typed name.
  • Content is centered vertically within the page.

The hiring manager will describe the skills or former job titles that apply to the current job opening, and the human resources individual will query the job applicant database for those same terms or keywords. Applicants are then screened out and/or ranked based on a simple matching algorithm. It’s possible to increase the chance of success by ensuring the right keywords or phrases are included in the body of your electronic documents.

What to Name & How to Send Cover Letters

Too often, people’s résumés and cover letters are given the generic name “resume.doc” or “coverletter.doc.” Step it up a notch and personalize the files by adding your name, e.g. “AnnaSmithResume.pdf” or “AnnaSmithCoverLetter.pdf.”


The body of your email could be used in place of a formal cover letter if you have networked with that person and are sending your résumé to them. This is a less formal option but may be useful in certain situations.