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Cover Letter Tips

Cover letters are a funny thing. Some employers never read them. Others read every word. However, omitting one is often seen as breaching "job application etiquette" and can cost you an interview. The bottom line: Provide a well-written, one-page cover letter with every application.

Sections To Include

I Contact Information. Place your contact information at the top of the page. It should match the information at the top of your resume. Use the same font, formatting, and content.

II Date. Spell out the full date, for example, February 1, 2019.

III Employer's Address. It’s best to address the letter exactly as the employer instructs. If you have a person's name and title, use that.

IV Salutation. Avoid outdated terms such as Dear Sir, Dear Madam and To Whom It May Concern. If possible, use a person's name such as Dear Ms. Jones. If a person has a title, include it: Dear Professor Hernandez. Otherwise, use To the Hiring Manager or To the Hiring Committee.

V Introductory Paragraph. Begin your letter by stating the exact job title and where and when you learned of the position. If someone referred you, name your source (be sure your referral agrees to be identified.) If you're sending your letter by email or hard copy, write that your resume is included. Identify any other required items you're sending (don't provide added items the employer hasn't requested.)

VI Paragraphs About Your Qualifications

  • How Much Should You Write? Depending on your career level, provide one to three paragraphs about your qualifications. Avoid excessive detail and/or restating what's on your resume.
  • How Can You Decide What to Include? Review the posting for what the employer seems to value most and focus on that. For example, list a few of your most relevant skills, the most relevant experience, required licenses, and certificates.
  • What Can Make You Stand Out? If you have relevant accomplishments, describe and quantify them with dollars, percentages, or other numbers.

VII Closing

State your enthusiasm for the work, company, product, etc., request and restate your contact information.

VIII Signature

If you're submitting your resume through a website, leave one space between “Sincerely” and your first and last name. If you're submitting a hard copy, leave four spaces between “Sincerely” and your first and last name. Always sign your name on hard copies.

Sending A Letter

Email: Attach a PDF of your letter and resume. In your email, briefly state the job title and that your resume and cover letter are attached.

Websites: Applications submitted through websites are screened by special "applicant tracking software". Read employers' instructions to be sure you're using a format they'll accept and keep things simple! Avoid templates, text boxes, tables, symbols, hyperlinks, and columns.

Print: Most employers ask you to apply online or by email. However, you should still have a hard copy resume available for interviews, networking events, and that rare occasion when your resume must be mailed. Use traditional resume paper and envelopes in conservative colors (white, cream, gray).

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