Cover Letter Pointers
A resume might be a great summary of your academic and professional background, but
may not be enough by itself to get you an interview. You need more: a convincing
argument that you are the right person for the position. You need a cover letter.
A cover letter is correspondence used to initiate contact with an organization. There
are two kinds of cover letters:
- A “letter of inquiry” is used when you are contacting an organization to inquire about and apply for possible
openings when you don’t know if any vacancies exist.
- A “letter of application” is used when you are applying for a specific position that you know is available
because you saw it advertised or someone told you about it.
The cover letter has many purposes:
- It makes a persuasive case that you are the right person for the position.
- It connects your background to the position for which you are applying.
- It interprets the highlights of your resume in light of the requirements of the position.
- It gives you a chance to express your enthusiasm, skills and writing ability.
- It demonstrates that you are specifically interested in a particular position at a specific organization.
Because of this, each cover letter should be unique. You may use similar letters for
similar positions, but you must customize every letter to the position and the employer.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
A great cover letter is not about you. Rather, it is about how your background fits
the position and the organization. Like your resume, it is helpful to do some research
and reflection before starting to write a cover letter.
- Obtain a job description and read it carefully. Your letter should address the key
aspects of the position you are seeking. It might help to highlight the key words
in the description that match up well with your background.
- Research the organization. You need to articulate why both the job itself and the
organization interests you.
- Assess your experience. What are three to five aspects of your background or skill
set that best demonstrate your ability to do this job?
- Find a specific person to send it to. If it is not included in the ad, check the organization’s
website, LinkedIn, or any contacts you might have. You can also call the organization
(unless the ad specifically says not to).
- Make your letter look like it goes with your resume – copy and paste your name and
contact information onto the top of your letter, and use the same font.
- Include the date, and the recipient’s name, title, organization, and street address.
- Use block formatting – don’t indent paragraphs, and skip a line between paragraphs.
- In your salutation (Dear ____:) do not use first names even if you are on a first
name basis with the recipient.
- Read the letter aloud when you’re done and see if it sounds natural. Use the ‘active’
voice, not the ‘passive’ voice.
- Use positive-sounding language. Avoid saying “dealt with” or “was required to” when
describing your experiences. Say rather that you “had the opportunity to” or “enjoyed”
or “learned a great deal about” aspects of your experiences.
- Don’t use five words when one is enough. Don’t say “due to the fact that” when “because”
will do. Keep the letter to one page only.
- As on your resume, never exaggerate but always emphasize your strengths and experience.
- Grammar and spelling are every bit as important in your cover letter as they are in
your resume! Proofread your letter carefully, and consider going over it with a counselor
at the CDO.
- Try to avoid starting too many sentences with “I.”
- The tone of the letter should be professional, natural, and positive.
- Some excellent online cover letter resources can be found at www.fredonia.edu/cdo/r-main.asp.