Effective Cover Letters

Cover letters serve as an introduction to accompany your résumé. Not all companies will request that you submit a cover letter, and cover letters are not necessary for Career Fairs, on Handshake or, in many cases, if your résumé is submitted online, unless specifically requested. A well-written cover letter is often the first opportunity you have to communicate with a potential employer and is sometimes used as a screening device. Take time to carefully prepare and proofread your cover letter and customize it for the job you are applying to.


Your cover letter should have a proper business header and three main sections or paragraphs in the body:

First Paragraph. In your initial paragraph, state the reason for the letter, the specific position or type of work for which you are applying and indicate from which resource you learned of the opening.

Second Paragraph. Indicate why you are interested in the position, the company, its products or services. Explain how your background makes you a qualified candidate for the position. If you had some practical work experience (e.g. internships, class projects), point out the specific achievements or unique qualifications. Be specific.

Final Paragraph. In the closing paragraph, refer the reader to the enclosed résumé or application form, which summarizes your qualification, training, and experiences. Further, indicate your desire for a personal interview. Finally, close your letter with a statement that will encourage a response.

See a sample.

General Tips

Customize. Make sure your cover letter is tailored to the position you are applying for.

Be Positive. Tell the employer about the experiences you have had that match the requirements of the position, don’t highlight the qualifications you don’t have.

Be Concise. Limit the cover letter to one page.

Be Honest. Don’t embellish the accomplishments, skills or qualifications you have.

Proofread. Many employers consider the cover letter to be a writing sample. Make sure you review your cover letter for spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors.

Email. If emailing your application, the cover letter should be the body of the message while the résumé is attached in pdf format.