A Cover Letter... What's That?

A cover letter is your face to the company. It is addressed to a person at the company when possible and always accompanies your résumé.  It is an opportunity to let your potential employer know more about you than just what is on the résumé.

Use the cover letter to express yourself, your passion for working at the company, and as an example of your writing skills. You want to reflect on how your skills and experiences match the needs and interests of your potential employer, as well as the requirements for the position. Always send a cover letter with your résumé - even if the job description does not specifically say to.

Things to keep in mind as you write a cover letter

  • Research the company of interest.  Find out about the services offered and the logistics of the job so that you can  tailor your letter to that position and company.
  • Focus on what you can do for the employer, not how this job will benefit you as an employee. What makes you stand out from other applicants?
  • The desired length of a cover letter should be one page. You may consider using the same heading on your cover letter as you did on your resume for consistency and style. This can help you stand out in the crowd.
  • Font size should be 10-12 point in Arial or Times New Roman font type consistent with style used on your résumé.
  • Salary Requirements: Visit the Career and Internship Center to review nationwide average salary data for new graduates if you are asked to include this in your cover letter.
  • Print your cover letter on the same bond paper that you used for your résumé.
  • Don't forget to sign your name at the end. Make sure to use either blue or black ink.
  • Neatness counts! Proof well for typing or grammar errors and use only clean copies of your cover letter.

The staff in the Career and Internship Center are happy to provide assistance as you develop your cover letter and provide critical review as needed.  Contact us!

Cover Letter Format Outline

Your Address
City, State, Zip Code


Name of Individual
Title of Individual
Name of Organization
City, State, Zip Code

Dear Ms. / Mr. / Dr.________:

Opening Paragraph: Attract attention.  Clearly state the reason for writing; name the position or type of work you are applying for.  Identify how you heard about the opening, or how the employer’s name was obtained (i.e., Albion College Career and Internship Center; Professor Smith in the English Department at Albion College; etc.).  Introduce your themes.

Second and Third Paragraphs: Outline your strongest qualifications that match the position requirements based on the themes you selected.  As much as possible, provide evidence of your related experiences and accomplishments.  Describe what you can do for the employer, rather than what they can do for you.  Point out your specific achievements and unique qualifications that are relevant to the position.  Try not to state information using the same words you used in the resume.

Fourth Paragraph: Suggest an action plan.  Make reference to your enclosed resume and restate your interest by indicating your availability for a personal interview.  Either suggest a time or state your willingness to come at the convenience of the individual employer.

Fifth Paragraph:  Express appreciation to the reader for his or her time and consideration.



Full Name



Types of Cover Letters

In the course of your job search, you will write two basic types of letters to seek out employment opportunities: letters of application and letters of inquiry.

Letters of Application:

This type of letter is written in response to a specific, advertised job opening. Your purpose is to spur employers to read your resume and set up a job interview. In order to be successful, you must demonstrate that your qualifications match the requirements of the position. If possible, get a copy of the position description and study it carefully. Your letter should be organized as follows:

  • Identify the position for which you are applying and state how you learned about it.
  • Describe your qualifications as they relate to the position requirements, providing evidence of your related experiences and accomplishments.
  • Convince the employer that you have the personal qualifications and motivation to perform well in the position.
  • Indicate your availability for an interview.

Letters of Inquiry:

This letter is written to seek out possible openings and generate, if not a job interview, at least an initial informal interview. Since many positions are not widely advertised, a letter of inquiry is used to familiarize the employer with your qualifications so they will remember you when a position opens. Its structure is similar to the letter of application; but instead of addressing specific position requirements, it focuses on your qualifications and interests in broader, more general terms. Like the letter of application, it will be most effective if it reflects a knowledge of the organization and communicates what you can do to contribute to organizational needs and goals. This type of letter should be organized as follows:

  • Ask for consideration for any existing or anticipated openings suited to your qualifications.
  • State why you are attracted to the organization and indicate the area of the organization that interests you or the type of position you are seeking.
  • Highlight your qualifications as they relate to your stated interest.

Ask for the opportunity to meet with someone to further discuss your interests and qualifications.

Sample Cover Letters

March 20, 2007

Ms. Nancy Edoff
Human Resources
1461 E. Twelve Mile Rd.
Madison Heights, MI 48071

Dear Ms. Nancy Edoff:

I am writing to apply for the Development Assistant position at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital advertised on the Albion College eRecruiting website. I am highly interested in working in the nonprofit sector, and believe my event planning, fundraising, and communication skills match what you are looking for in a candidate.

In addition to my Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication, I have been an events planning intern at the XYZ Women’s Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My experience at XYZ taught me how to work with vendors, design promotional materials, and organize all aspects of events. I played a major role in organizing the yearly Walk for Women event, from contributing creative ideas to calling contacts and organizing events. This experience makes me well suited to execute development events for St. Jude.

My fundraising experiences also make me well qualified for this position. In addition to learning about the field of development while volunteering at three local nonprofit organizations, I have been the philanthropy chair for my sorority. This year my sorority raised money for a local women’s shelter. My creativity and knowledge helped me to create a fundraising campaign that has brought the most money to the shelter in years. Since fundraising is a significant part of the Development Assistant job, I would be well equipped to continue St. Jude’s fundraising success.

Finally, my communication skills will help me make a contribution to the St. Jude team. As a student assistant in the Albion College Communications Office, I wrote press releases everyday. These skills will allow me to clearly convey to potential donors the importance of supporting St. Jude.

I have enjoyed the nonprofit work I have done and find that it energizes me. I would like to bring my event planning, fundraising, and communication skills to the St. Jude Children’s Research team as the Development Assistant. Enclosed is my resume for your review and I am available at your convenience for an interview.

Thank you for your time in reviewing my materials. I look forward to speaking with you.


Mary A. Albion



Brit Briton
900 Kellogg Center
Albion College
Albion, MI 49224
(517) 629-0000

April 8, 2011

Ms. Katherine Sorrel
Relations Specialist
ABC Corporation
1 Industry Drive
Hartford, CT 06152

Dear Ms. Sorrel:

Please consider my enclosed resume for the XYZ Leadership Development Program. Currently, I am a senior majoring in English at Albion College with a minor in Economics. The qualities I have to offer XYZ in this program include:

Leadership skills: While a student at Albion, I co-founded a student organization aimed at increasing community service involvement campus-wide. Over the past three years, we have been able to generate a 32% increase in student participation and have made valuable contributions to the Albion community. I also served as a Resident Assistant to more than 100 first-year students while achieving a 3.5 GPA in my classes.

Interpersonal skills: While working as an intern at XYZ Company, I was selected for the marketing strategy team that partnered to increase revenue by 41% and customer base by 20%. During the summer months, I volunteered for a local non-profit organization where I worked with clients from different cultures. Based on my contributions and commitment to the organization, I earned recognition as “Volunteer of the Month.”

Analytical and quantitative skills: In a team-based business simulation, I continuously analyzed the market and our competition for a financial services firm throughout the semester. The professor acknowledged our final project as being “an outstanding example for future classes.” Last year, as an intern, I participated in a cross-functional team to assess a proposed business venture expanding customer product offerings.

XYZ is a long-time leader in providing full-service solutions. Through this approach, the company has continued to expand its client base and market position for more than 125 years. Specifically, your mission to help people lead healthier, more secure lives matches my own personal values and interests, as demonstrated through my community service efforts.

I am committed to adding value and contributing to XYZ’s global expansion. I am available at your convenience for an interview. Thank you in advance for your consideration. I look forward to speaking with you.


Brit Briton

Write a Cover Letter

All the time and effort you put into producing a professional/polished résumé should be complemented with a well constructed cover letter. When receiving a letter and résumé, most employers will read the letter first. This means that if you want an employer to give your resume serious consideration, you have to sell yourself in your letter.

Writing effective letters takes considerable thought and effort. You must reflect not only on your personal objectives, but also on the needs and interests of your reader and the requirements of the situation. Ideally your letters should flow from and be linked to the following career development activities:

  • Assessing your abilities, interests, values and motivations
  • Researching and evaluating occupations and employers
  • Defining your work objectives and career goals
  • Writing a professional resume
  • Planning and implementing your job search campaign
  • Interviewing for job opportunities
  • Choosing appropriate employment

Even though letter writing most directly supports the last three tasks, it is important to place this activity in the broader context of career planning and your job search. Should you find yourself struggling with your letters, it may be because you have failed to devote the necessary attention to assessing your strengths, researching occupations and employers, and defining your work objectives and career goals.

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