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Creating a Cover Letter

A cover letter is a powerful way to demonstrate your written communication skills, and showcase information you could not explain in your resume. Though not all employers require cover letters, many still consider it essential to filter potential candidates. A customized cover letter could be the key to getting an interview.

Components of a Cover Letter


Cover Letter Checklist

Use this checklist to review your cover letter before submitting it to an employer. Or view the printable checklist PDF.

Some employers still see cover letters as a powerful way for you to introduce yourself as an ideal candidate
and demonstrate your written communication skills. Since there are many formats and alterations used when
writing cover letters, the guidelines below are general enough to be appropriate for most situations. However,
always remember to tailor your letter to the needs and expectations of each specific audience.

Format

  • Is the front appealing, easy to read, and appropriate for the audience?
  • Have items such as the following been included appropriately for the chosen format and audience?
    • Name and contact information (of applicant and addresses)
    • Date
    • Opening and closing salutations
    • Signature block and enclosure indication
  • Is there consistency in abbreviations, spacing, margins, etc?

Mechanics

  • Are there any spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors?
  • Has the applicant used professional wording that is appropriate to his/her audience?
  • Has the applicant used word variety in the letter?
    • Are there redundancies or over usages of words or phrases? (Avoid over usage of the word "I")
  • Do the sentences flow?
    • Are they easy to read, rather than confusing, ambiguous, and/or cumbersome?
  • Are transitions between paragraphs logical and effective? Or are they choppy/random?

Content

The Introductory Paragraph

  • Explains the purpose of the letter (i.e., the position being sought)
  • Includes a powerful “grabber” that
    • Shows the applicant’s vision, knowledge of the company, and/or how the applicant might fit in OR
    • Is a general statement about how the applicant will help the organization achieve its goals through his/her skills
  • Includes a general/global claim (implicit or explicit) about how qualifications (typically education and work experience) will
    benefit the audience
    • This often serves as a transition sentence to the next paragraph
  • Optional: Explains how the applicant heard about the job the position (include only if it will add value to your letter)

The Body paragraph(s)

  • Shows specifically how the applicant’s skills and experiences can meet the needs of his/her audience. (It should not rehash
    the résumé)
  • Discusses relevant accomplishments in terms that are meaningful to the audience
  • Optional: Includes a non-obvious comment that makes the reader want to review the applicant’s résumé
    • Ex: Point out the THMs* that you would like the reader to draw from your résumé

The Closing Paragraph(s)

  • Reiterates why the applicant wants the position, in terms of what s/he can contribute, without being redundant
  • Thanks the recipient for taking the time to read the application materials (for general audiences and some block audiences)
  • Facilitates the opportunity for an interview
    • States follow-up intentions and details OR requests that the reader contact the applicant
  • Provides signature block and enclosure information