A cover letter is a professional document that communicates a personalized message to the employer. It should answer the question "why should I hire you?" and it should always accompany a resume - unless the employer specified otherwise.
- Winning Resumes and Cover Letters workshop
- Employment Peer Coaching Resume & Cover Letter Critique
- UTM Career Centre cover letter toolkit
- Application Samples: Resumes and Cover Letters
- Cover Letter links
What to include in a Cover Letter
Since a cover letter is a professional document, it should follow standard business conventions and be customized for the job that you are applying for.
Standard Letter Heading
Your letter should start with your address, the date, and the employer's name and address.
State the name of the position you are applying to and where you saw the position advertised or how you heard about it. If you are not applying for an advertised position, state the type of work you are seeking. Explain briefly why the employer should consider your application - articulate what makes you unique.
Middle Paragraphs (usually 1-3 paragraphs long)
Provide examples of how your skills and experiences relate to the position. Support your statements with examples from your work, school, volunteer, or extra-curricular activities. Focus on the contributions you can make to the organization; elaborate on your courses, field work, thesis topic and technical or specific knowledge that relates to the position. Make sure your statements show that you have researched the organization and the position. Explain why you are interested in the position and the organization.
Thank the employer for his/her consideration of your application. State the best way to contact you. You should always try to make yourself easily available for an employer to contact you, but let them know if you will be out of town or unreachable at any particular time if need be.
Sample Cover Letter
The introductory paragraph should state why you are writing. Specify the advertised position or outline the type of work you are seeking, and explain why the employer would have an interest in you. You may also mention how you heard of the opening (such as advertised position, trade magazine, family friend, or professor).
The middle paragraph(s), at most two or three, should explain why you are interested in this position and this organization, highlighting your strengths and abilities. Most importantly, try to provide examples of your skills and experience and demonstrate how they relate to the position you are seeking. For example, you can feature related work or volunteer experience, extracurricular activities, interests, education, or training, or any other qualifications you may have for this type of work. Moreover, focus on what contributions you can make to the organization rather than how you would benefit from the experience if you are hired. When appropriate, you can elaborate on your courses, thesis topic (if applicable), or fieldwork. Make sure your statements indicate that you have researched the organization and understand the nature of the work it does.
The final paragraph should thank the employer for his or her consideration of your application (resume and covering letter), and pave the way for an interview by suggesting that you will follow up with a phone call.
Cover Letter Tips
Tailor your cover letter to each position. Show your interest and enthusiasm by analyzing and addressing the employer's specific needs. Start by analyzing the posting and researching the company.
- What 3 key skills do you have that the employer wants?
- Order your assets based on the posting. If customer service is the key qualification, start your second paragraph with that experience.
- Make reference to the position you are applying for.
- Employers want people with energy and enthusiasm. Use action verbs to emphasize relevant skills demonstrated in your previous experiences.
- Support all your skills and claims with examples of related experiences.
- Give both concise and adequate information. The cover letter should not surpass one page in length.
- Don't stand out for the wrong reasons. Spelling and grammar are important!
- Showcase both your experiences and personality in your cover letter. Use a flowing, non-regimented writing style in the active voice.