Send a Cover Letter with Your Résumé

November 22, 2016

Always write a cover letter when sending your résumé to a prospective employer. While your résumé shows that you are qualified for a position, a cover letter explains why you are the best fit for the job. It gives you an opportunity to provide specific examples of your abilities.

Cover letters should be brief and to the point. You should explain why you are interested in the job, state your qualifications, and request an interview. You should also rewrite your cover letter for each job you apply for. Potential employers can often tell when a letter is just a copy from another application, and may treat it as junk mail.

Proofread your cover letter very carefully, and have a friend review it as well. Format the letter using a letter template in Word or other computer program. Print your cover letter on the same high quality paper as your résumé.

A cover letter usually consists of the address and content. The content, the actual text of the letter, should be written in three parts: introduction, middle, and closing. Each part should only be one brief paragraph.

Address

Your contact information followed by the date is the first item on the letter, near the top of the page, on the left side. The employer contact information should follow.

Whenever possible, your letters should be addressed to a specific person by name. You may need to contact the employer, search the company's website, or reread the job posting carefully to find the person's name. It may be a hiring manager, the business owner, or the head of the department. You can also call the employer and ask the receptionist or secretary who answers the phone.

Be absolutely sure you have the spelling of the person's name correct, and double check the company's name and address as well. If you aren't sure from the person's name whether they are a man or a woman, be sure to ask. You will want to address the person formally, using Ms. for women and Mr. for men.

Introduction

State the job you are applying for and explain your reasons for applying in this first paragraph. Perhaps you want to further the mission of the organization, or you believe you are the best possible candidate for the position.

If you and the person you are writing to have met before at a job fair or other event, mention that contact in this paragraph as well.

Middle

Use this paragraph to share your main qualifications and accomplishments. Relate these to the job you are applying for, and explain why they make you the best person for the job. Focus on two or three qualifications that set you apart. Your résumé will demonstrate your other qualifications. For each skill, explain where you used it and how it would be helpful to the employer.

Although you are talking about your skills and experience, be sure to focus your writing on the company you are applying to.

Closing

Request an interview in the last paragraph. Restate your interest in the company or organization and the job. Thank them for taking the time to review your application, and express your interest in coming in for an interview.

Source: Excerpted from Oregon Career Information System, ©2016-2017, University of Oregon, All Rights Reserved


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