CATS Career Development - Cover Letter Essentials

Also known as a letter of application, the cover letter provides a cover for an enclosure ? your resume. Cover letters that make a good first impression will convince employers to review your resume, which creates the possibility of landing an interview.

Anytime you send a resume to an employer through the mail, by fax or over the internet. They are not needed when handing resumes to employers at career fairs. COMPONENTS OF A COVER LETTER

  • WRITER?S RETURN ADDRESS: your address is a must so that employers have no difficulty in determining how to contact you. Including your email address is an additional option.
  • DATE: the day, month and year should always be listed.
  • EMPLOYER?S NAME & ADDRESS: make sure the names of the person and company are spelled correctly. Also, use the correct title for the person to whom the letter is addressed.
  • SALUTATION: for females, use Ms. unless you know that the person you are addressing prefers Miss or Mrs. For males, use Mr. Keep in mind, it is best to use Dr. or another professional title if it is appropriate. If you are unsure about gender, try to find out if the addressee is male or female. This can be done with a simple phone call to a receptionist, switchboard operator or company personnel office. If you do not know the name of the recipient it is acceptable to use Dear Personnel Director, Dear Search Committee or Dear Human Resources Manager.
  • BODY: should be 3-4 paragraphs in length. This is where you must make an impact. Effectively advertise the qualities that you are promoting in your resume. Capture the reader?s attention, stress your potential value and invite an in-depth reading of your resume.
    • The 1st paragraph should identify your interest in applying for a specific job and, if appropriate, how you heard about the job.
    • The 2nd paragraph generates reader interest in you by referring to the enclosed resume and including additional information on your qualifications as they apply to the desired position.
    • The 3rd paragraph makes a specific request to the employer for an interview (which you will normally need to schedule with a follow-up call). This paragraph should be short, positive and ask for action without being overly aggressive or pushy in tone. Tell the employer when you will call to arrange a meeting.
  • COMPLIMENTARY CLOSING: this is an opportunity to end your letter on a courteous note. Phrases such as Sincerely yours, Sincerely and Cordially may be used. Be sure to use lowercase letters for all but the first letter of the initial word in the phrase.
  • WRITER?S NAME & SIGNATURE: your typed name should accompany your signature.
  • NOTATION: by typing Enclosure at the bottom of the page you are indicating that a resume or other application materials are included with the cover letter.
    • Use standard 8 ?- x-11-inch paper.
    • Use quality paper. It is a good idea to use the same paper that is used for your resume. White, gray and tan are generally acceptable.
    • Use a laser printer to obtain neat and clean letters.
    • Proofread and correct all spelling and grammatical mistakes. Do not rely on spell-check to catch typos!
    • Use a laser printer to print the return and mailing addresses on the envelope. A standard legal-sized envelope is acceptable. It is also an option to use a 9-x-12-inch envelope so that your application materials are flat instead of folded before mailing. Do not send handwritten envelopes.
    • Keep an organized file of your correspondence to and from each employer. This will make it easier to follow-up on job prospects and interviews.
    • Have the Career and Personal Development Coordinator or a counselor at the Career Center review your letter or assist you in getting your thoughts on paper.
    For additional samples of cover letters check out the many resources in the Career and Lifeskills Resource Center and the Career Center.


    Writing a thank you note after an employment interview is a must. In fact, some employers think less of those interviewees who fail to follow-up promptly. Plan to send out your thank you letters as soon as possible (preferably within twenty-four hours, no later than a week) after your interview.

    Like any piece of writing, it is best to keep your audience in mind. Address their issues and concerns. In general, typed letters are recommended. Consider the "personality" of the organization and the rapport you felt during your interviews. If your interview was a fairly informal process and/or you achieved an immediate rapport with your interviewer, a handwritten note might be fine.

    In addition to thanking the person you talked with, the thank you note reinforces the fact that you want the job. Note: Even if you do not want the job, write a thank you note respectfully withdrawing your application, because you never know what the future holds so why burn your bridges?

    You may also view the thank you as a follow-up "sales" letter. In other words, you can restate why you want the job, what your qualifications are, how you might make significant contributions, and so on. This letter is also the perfect opportunity to discuss anything of importance that your interviewer neglected to ask or that you neglected to answer as thoroughly, or as well, as you would have liked.

    What if you spent an entire day being interviewed (and taken to lunch) with several people? Are individual notes appropriate or should you write a "group" letter? Choose your approach based on what you think will be most in keeping with the "personality" of the organization. Also, consider whether the interviews had very much in common with one another. If there was a great deal of similarity (i.e., shared concerns mutually voiced by your interviewers), perhaps a "group" letter will suffice. If so, address all the people on a master letter, have the letter reproduced on your own stationery and add a personal note to each.

    What if you suffer from writer?s cramp? Time takes precedence - get a simple, appreciative note in the mail or send a thank you by email without delay; save your creative efforts for another time. If you're not sure what to write, review a .

    Remember to proofread: check spelling, grammar, typos, etc. If in doubt about the correct names, spellings or titles of your interviewers, call the office or switchboard. Your efforts will be worth it!