Formatting

Business letter – Traditionally your cover letter is a business letter and should be formatted with the date, employers name and contact information, salutation (Dear ________,) several paragraphs stating the position you are applying for: how you found out about it, and the skills you can bring to the position (paragraph 1);  two or three of the skills or qualifications the employer seeks most – prove you have them through sharing a couple of professional stories providing situation or context, the action you took, and the result (paragraph 2); your interest in the organization keeping in mind the company’s mission, values, goals, culture, projects, clients, and recent accolades – make a connection between you and the company (paragraph 3); Restate your interest in the position and thank the reader for their time (paragraph 4).

Since most cover letters are now submitted online, many applicants adjust their cover letter formatting so there is consistency in branding (the header of the cover letter matches the header of the resume). To find out which format is best for you, talk to a career advisor or ask professionals during informational interviews.

Sample cover letter

Cover Letter Quick Guide

General Information

Keep it short – just one page.

Address your cover letter to a person – if you can’t find out who, call the HR office and ask for the hiring manager’s name.

Do your research – write a new cover letter for each application/company to avoid being generic. Read the job description thoroughly, research the company beforehand, and make sure that you reference specific qualifications that you have that fit with the company’s needs.

Show your interest in the opportunity – be confident in your skills, be passionate about the job opening and the company, and make sure to state that you are excited about the opportunity.

Don’t restate your resume – make sure that what you are writing about in your cover letter adds value to what you list on your resume. For example, if you list that you were president of a student organization, give an example about how leading recruitment efforts gave you experience leading a team, working with different audiences, and managing a budget.

Connect the dots – provide specific examples about your skills; experiences and interests. Write about a time that you led a collaborative initiative, worked under pressure, or successfully handled a crisis; companies want to know how your education and skills transfer to a work environment and address organizational needs.

Proofread – grammar and spelling mistakes are the most frequently cited reason for a cover letter being discarded by an employer.

Name your documents carefully – when submitting your cover letter online, submit it as a PDF and title it with your first name, last name, and position, if applicable (i.e. John Smith Recruitment Coordinator Cover Letter)

Be yourself – while it is very important to be formal and professional, try not to be robotic in your delivery. Incorporating your voice into your cover letter allows the potential employer to get a better feel for who you are as a candidate.

Sample cover letter

Cover Letter Quick Guide