Writing Cover Letters
What is a cover letter?
To be considered for almost any position, you will need to write a letter of application. Such a letter introduces you, explains your purpose for writing, highlights a few of your experiences or skills, and requests an opportunity to meet personally with the potential employer.
Precisely because this letter is your introduction to an employer and because first impressions count, you should take great care to write an impressive and effective letter. Remember that the letter not only tells of your accomplishments but also reveals how effectively you can communicate.
The appropriate content, format, and tone for application letters vary according to the position and the personality of the applicant. Thus you will want to ask several people (if possible) who have had experience in obtaining jobs or in hiring in your field to critique a draft of your letter and to offer suggestions for revision.
Despite the differences in what constitutes a good application letter, the suggestions on these pages apply generally.
What to include in a cover letter
Try to limit your letter to a single page. Be succinct.
Assess the employer's needs and your skills. Then try to match them in the letter in a way that will appeal to the employer's self-interest.
As much as possible, tailor your letter to each job opportunity. Demonstrate, if possible, some knowledge of the organization to which you are applying.
Write in a style that is mature but clear; avoid long and intricate sentences and paragraphs; avoid jargon. Use action verbs and the active voice; convey confidence, optimism, and enthusiasm coupled with respect and professionalism.
Show some personality, but avoid hard-sell, gimmicky, or unorthodox letters. Start fast; attract interest immediately. For more information see Business Letter Format.
Arrange the points in a logical sequence; organize each paragraph around a main point.
How to organize a cover letter
Below is one possible way to arrange the content of your cover letter.
State why you are writing.
Establish a point of contact (advertisement in a specific place for a specific position; a particular person's suggestion that you write): give some brief idea of who you are (a Senior engineering student at UW; a recent Ph.D. in History).
Highlight a few of the most salient points from your enclosed resume.
Arouse your reader's curiosity by mentioning points that are likely to be important for the position you are seeking.
Show how your education and experience suit the requirements of the position, and, by elaborating on a few points from your resume, explain what you could contribute to the organization.
(Your letter should complement, not restate, your resume.)
Stress action. Politely request an interview at the employer's convenience.
Indicate what supplementary material is being sent under separate cover and offer to provide additional information (a portfolio, a writing sample, a sample publication, a dossier, an audition tape), and explain how it can be obtained.
Thank the reader for his/her consideration and indicate that you are looking forward to hearing from him/her.
Questions to guide your writing
Who is my audience?
What is my objective?
What are the objectives and needs of my audience?
How can I best express my objective in relationship to my audience's objectives and needs?
What specific benefits can I offer to my audience and how can I best express them?
What opening sentence and paragraph will grab the attention of my audience in a positive manner and invite them to read further?
How can I maintain and heighten the interest and desire of the reader throughout the letter?
What evidence can I present of my value to my audience?
If a resume is enclosed with the letter, how can I best make the letter advertise the resume?
What closing sentence or paragraph will best assure the reader of my capabilities and persuade him or her to contact me for further information?
Is the letter my best professional effort?
Have I spent sufficient time drafting, revising, and proofreading the letter?
*From Ronald L. Kraunich, William J. Bauis. High Impact Resumes & Letters. Virginia Beach, VA: Impact Publications, 1982.
How to format a cover letter
Type each letter individually, or use a word processor.
Use good quality bond paper.
Whenever possible, address each employer by name and title.
Each letter should be grammatically correct, properly punctuated, and perfectly spelled. It also should be immaculately clean and free of errors. Proofread carefully!
Use conventional business correspondence form. If you are not certain of how to do this, ask for help at the Writing Center.
For further information on cover letters contact the Career Advising and Planning Services and take a look at our workshp on Writing Resumes and Cover Letters (NB: this course not offered during the summer).
By Mike Simpson
There comes a time in nearly every job seekers life when you plop yourself down in front of the computer and say to yourself…
“Okay, it’s time to find a couple good cover letter examples I can use to help me start writing my cover letter…”
So you do a quick Google search, grab the first three cover letter samples you can find, copy a paragraph from each one, and then you’re off to the races feeling like now all you have to do is “click send” a few times and the interviews will simply start rolling in.
Consider this a gentle wake-up call.
Why Your Cover Letter Is So Important?
In this ultra-competitive job market, it’s just not good enough to “Frankenstein” together a cover letter from the various bits and pieces you find online.
Because hiring managers have “been there, done that.” In other words, they’ve seen it all before.
Not only that, but they want to find candidates that are unique, interesting, and take the time and make the effort to present the best version of themselves.
Your cover letter is your first impression, and therefore, you want to craft the best darn cover letter your hiring manager has ever seen.
So you want to take the time and select the cover letter example that is “tailored” to your situation… in other words, the example cover letter that fits your personality, skills and abilities the best.
Example cover letters are kind of like shoes.
Sure, you might absolutely love that pair of Air Jordan IV’s that are still fresh in the box in your closet from 1989, but you might want to have a second thought before you consider wearing them to a wedding with a tuxedo.
Or perhaps you’ve got a pair of high heels that make you feel like you could walk into a business lunch at the Four Seasons and walk out having sold your company for a billion dollars?
Would you feel the same way if you showed up at the start line for the half marathon you signed up for with those same heels on?
Okay, ridiculous examples aside, I hope you can begin to see my point.
There is not one example cover letter for every situation… no “one-cover-letter-fits-all” solution.
You have to carefully evaluate your situation and decide which cover letter example is going to suit you the most.
What kind of work are you looking for?
Full-time? Or part-time? There’s a cover letter for that.
Are you sending a cover letter in the mail or by email? There’s a cover letter for that too.
There are all kinds of situations that warrant a slightly different cover letter, and it’s imperative that you figure out which one fits you best.
But don’t worry. To help, we’ve compiled a list of 12 of the most common cover letter examples and provided you with an example of a cover letter for each one.
So take a look at the examples and carefully decide which one fits your situation the most.
Before you dive in, a word to the wise…
Don’t just grab the one that fits you best, change the contact information and then start sending it out. As I said before, hiring managers are pretty smart and will be able to tell that you haven’t taken any time to make it your own.
If you want to get job interviews from your cover letter (and at some point, job offers as well!), you need to “tailor” the cover letter to demonstrate your skills, abilities and relevant experience.
Mike's Tip: Once you find a cover letter example that fits your situation, head over to our article How To Write A Cover Letter 101 and use the article to make sure that your cover letter contains all of the important things that hiring managers look for. We'll help you make sure that your cover letter is so irresistible that you'll get an interview from almost every application you submit!
12 Common Cover Letter Examples
Without further ado, here are 12 of the best cover letter examples for nearly every situation you could find yourself in along with a brief description of what makes the style of cover letter unique.
1. Cover Letter Sample For Part-Time Work
If you have no intention of applying for a full-time position, it is very important that you let the hiring manager know this in your cover letter. After all, if you don’t mention this right up front, anything that comes after this will be a total waste of time, and hiring managers value their time more than anything.
On a side note, you should never really be applying for a full-time position when you are only available as a part-time worker. The company has very specific needs, so don’t think they are going to change the entire nature of the position to accommodate your availability.
2. For A New Graduate
Cover letters for new graduates can often be tricky, because generally speaking, new graduates don’t usually have much experience.
So how can you still put yourself forward as a good candidate without experience? You want to focus the cover letter around your skills and abilities, the extra-curricular work you’ve accomplished and your knowledge of the company (and passion for the industry) you’re applying to.
3. When You Have Been Referred
There isn’t anything overly difficult about writing a cover letter when you have been referred by someone else, but the most important thing to know is where you should bring up the referral.
Generally speaking, it is always best to mention your referral in the opening paragraph, because it acts as an attention grabber for the hiring manager.
You’re hoping they’ll think to themselves something along the lines of, “Oh, this person was referred by Jim. I like Jim…he’s a straight shooter. If this person is good enough for Jim, he’s good enough for me. I’m going to bring him in for an interview…”
4. Cold Call Cover Letter Example
The cold call cover letter is appropriate when you are applying to a position that is not necessarily listed on a job board or advertised anywhere. And for that reason, it can be a little tricky.
You really need to blow the hiring manager away in order for them to grant an unsolicited interview request, so there a re a few key things to remember. Most importantly, you really have to do your research and demonstrate that you know the company and position inside out.
After that, it really pays to address the letter to a specific person. Simply writing “To Whom It May Concern” is a great way to have the letter filed under G (for those keeping track that’s the Garbage).
Finally, this letter needs to be all about “pizazz”. Since the reader wasn’t expecting to receive this, you really need to catch their attention and sell yourself, but most importantly, quickly demonstrate how you will add value to their company.
5. For An Email Submission
Please please PLEASE be careful with this one.
Just because a job posting says “submit your cover letter and resume via email”, doesn’t necessarily mean that you can just put these documents in the body of an email.
More often than not, the posting will give further instructions that include attaching your cover letter and resume to an email. Anyone who doesn’t follow this step has a ZERO chance of being brought in for an interview.
Why? Because you can’t follow simple directions.
Now, if there is no stipulation and you determine that using the email body to send your cover letter is okay, then general cover letter writing rules apply.
Where you want to focus your energy is on the subject line. Don’t just write whatever comes to mind as a throwaway and whatever you do, don’t leave it empty! Be clear and concise about what is included in the email and identify the position you are applying for.
6. For A Recruiter
Recruiters are no different than hiring managers, in that they are essentially looking for the same things from your cover letters. What impresses a recruiter the most is when you take the time to tailor your cover letter to a specific posting rather than simply sending them a general letter inquiring about “miscellaneous opportunities”.
7. Someone Changing Careers
Generally speaking, if you are changing careers, you’ll be short on experience. So similarly to the “New Graduate” cover letter, you’ll want to put the focus on your reasons for making the career change along with your relevant skills and abilities and how your experience in your past career will translate to your new career.
And remember, enthusiasm goes a long way. Hiring managers get excited about applicants that really show a desire to succeed in the role and industry they are applying to.
So make sure you do your research and know the position and industry inside out so that you are easily able to show how enthusiastic you are about the opportunity and how determined you are to get started on your new career path.
8. A Great Example of a Cover Letter For An Academic
The trick with an academic cover letter is to avoid rambling on and on and on about everything you’ve accomplished. The reality is, you still need to fall within the “one-page rule” (although some institutions will allow for a second page, you better make darn sure that this is the case!), so the trick is to be clear and concise and highlight your accomplishments without coming across as an encyclopedia.
One other thing to consider is the nature of any research you have done and how you want to convey that in your cover letter.
Quite often people spend too much time talking about what it is they study or plan on studying without ever getting into the “why” of it all.
Be specific about your intentions and don’t assume that the person on the other end of your cover letter is an expert in your field.
9. For An Internship
There really isn’t a huge difference between writing a cover letter for an internship and writing a cover letter for a job opening. You still need to list your qualifications, skills and abilities. You still need to explain how you add value to the company. You still want to sell yourself.
But one thing you want to keep in mind, is even though this internship might be a springboard to YOUR career or education, you don’t want this to be the focus of your cover letter.
The name of the game is still to put the company’s needs ahead of your own.
You’re not their first intern and you won’t be their last, so don’t write your cover letter thinking that their concern is how the internship will help with your placement in your next opportunity.
Add value. Period. This is what they really want to hear from you in your cover letter.
10. Direct Mail
A direct mail cover letter is similar to a cold call cover letter, the main difference being you are not applying to a single company with a single position in mind. Instead, you are “blanketing” as many companies you can at once and therefore trying to send out a general cover letter that can work for them all.
Because of this, we don’t recommend this strategy to our students. It is generally pretty ineffective and a waste of your time or resources.
There is rarely a time when “tailoring” your resume to a specific company and position is not the most effective strategy. However, if you are really short on time (and possibly ambition), here is an example of a direct mail cover letter you can reference.
11. Responding To an Advertisement
The only really distinguishing feature of this type of cover letter is that the opening paragraph generally includes a statement such as “I’m responding to your advertisement I saw in the…”
The rest of the cover letter generally follows the principles of other successful cover letters. However, if you find yourself going through the classifieds in your local newspaper and simply sending off cover letters to whomever has an ad posted, do make sure that you do some research on the company before you send out your cover letter.
Sending one cover letter out for multiple advertisements is a good way to ensure that you won’t be getting too many interviews in the coming days or weeks.
12. When You’re Unemployed
The worst thing you can do when writing an cover letter after you’ve been unemployed for some time is to lie.
Why? Because eventually, the lies you tell in the cover letter will come home to roost at some point in the interview process, meaning you’ll just end up having wasted everyone’s time.
Having said that, if there are some less-than-attractive reasons for your unemployment, don’t make those reasons the focus of your cover letter. You want to keep it positive.
It’s okay to admit fault in certain situations if you can show that you’ve have learned from the tough times and have changed for the better as a result of these struggles.
Transition to focusing on your skills and abilities, and more importantly, your passion and desire for re-entering the workforce. If you have experience from your past that will clearly add value to this new position, than don’t be afraid to clearly demonstrate the connection.
And if you spent your time being unemployed trying to better yourself (for example, taking a class or volunteering), then shift the focus to that.
Putting It All Together
So there you have 12 good cover letter examples for 2017 that will help you get started on crafting a winning cover letter.
Remember that the most important thing for you to accomplish with your cover letter is to demonstrate how you add value to the company you are applying to, and you want to make sure this never gets lost when you get caught up in trying to sell yourself.
And remember, you’re not on your own! Once you’ve chosen your cover letter example you can head over to How to Write a Cover Letter 101 and get great tips on how to right all parts of your cover letter.
Best of luck to you!
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