University of Vermont

How to Write a Cover Letter

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a business correspondence that should accompany each resume you send to a prospective employer. The cover letter is:

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  • An introduction and marketing tool, explaining who you are and why you are sending your resume.
  • Also referred to as a letter of application or inquiry, a well-written cover letter will enhance your resume by providing a more detailed description of skills and experiences that relate to the organization or position you seek.
  • Stronger if it is written individually to target a particular organization or position. Some of the content of your cover letter will not change from application to application, but you should personalize each letter and address, how you meet the employer's needs and job requirements.

How to address your cover letter?

Whenever possible, address your letter to an individual within the organization rather than "To Whom it May Concern." Researching names of individuals and job titles can be done by searching online or making a phone call to the organization/company to obtain the name and position title of the contact. If you use these resources and still cannot find the information, addressing your letter to the "Search Committee" or "HR Director" is another option.

Cover Letter Tips...
  • Tailor your letter to each application.
  • Indicate the position in which you are interested in the introduction paragraph.
  • Discuss your strengths as they relate to the position.
  • Use clear and articulate writing.
  • Use proper grammar and proofread.
  • Thank the employer for considering your application.
  • Sign your cover letter.

What should I highlight in my letter?

Before you write your cover letter, you must first identify key points. Review the position descriptoin and job qualifications. Review your own experience and skills. List examples that match the employer's desired qualifications. Answer the following questions to develop your talking points.

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  • What are the "must have" job qualifications for this position?
  • What direct or indirect experience do I have?
  • How do my values and goals align with those of the company/organization?
  • What unique skills do I have to offer?

How do I begin to draft my cover letter?

Part 1: Introduction Paragraph

The first paragraph introduces you, identifies main areas of your qualifications, sets the stage to discuss in greater detail your skills and qualifications (2-4 sentences).

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  • Name the position you would like to apply for and how you learned about the position or company.
  • Why do you want this position?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • Why are you uniquely suited for the position?

Part 2: Body Paragraph

The body of the letter discusses your experience as it relates to the position and describes how you are qualified (5-10 sentences, perhaps 2 paragraphs).

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  • Describe your unique skills.
  • Discuss what qualifies you for this position using specific examples.
  • Tailor your experiences to the position.
  • Promote yourself, your experience, your understanding of the position and your desire to work for this company. One way to do this is to connect to the company's mission statement.

Part 3: Closing Paragraph

Reiterate your interest in a position with this company. Provide contact information where they can reach you. State when you are available.

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  • Ask for a further contact.
  • Thank them for their time and consideration.
  • Sign your name in pen above your typed name (if you are sending a paper document).
  • Add enclosure for your resume or attach resume to e-mail.

What should the letter's tone, style and length be?

A cover letter is the first piece of information a potential employer sees about you. If effective, it should arouse interest and encourage the employer to move on to your resume. The tone of the letter should emphasize ways you can fulfill their needs.

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  • Emphasize how you can fulfill their needs
  • Write clearly and concisely
  • Watch grammar, typing and spelling
  • Limit letter to one page
  • Use high quality paper that matches resume
  • Cover letters and resumes are submitted together. Haven't put together your resume yet? It's essential that you do so. Let the previous section, "Build a Resume," help.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread.

Last modified November 24 2014 11:28 AM