Writing Cover Letters
What is a cover letter?
To be considered for almost any position, you will need to write a letter of application. Such a letter introduces you, explains your purpose for writing, highlights a few of your experiences or skills, and requests an opportunity to meet personally with the potential employer.
Precisely because this letter is your introduction to an employer and because first impressions count, you should take great care to write an impressive and effective letter. Remember that the letter not only tells of your accomplishments but also reveals how effectively you can communicate.
The appropriate content, format, and tone for application letters vary according to the position and the personality of the applicant. Thus you will want to ask several people (if possible) who have had experience in obtaining jobs or in hiring in your field to critique a draft of your letter and to offer suggestions for revision.
Despite the differences in what constitutes a good application letter, the suggestions on these pages apply generally.
What to include in a cover letter
Try to limit your letter to a single page. Be succinct.
Assess the employer's needs and your skills. Then try to match them in the letter in a way that will appeal to the employer's self-interest.
As much as possible, tailor your letter to each job opportunity. Demonstrate, if possible, some knowledge of the organization to which you are applying.
Write in a style that is mature but clear; avoid long and intricate sentences and paragraphs; avoid jargon. Use action verbs and the active voice; convey confidence, optimism, and enthusiasm coupled with respect and professionalism.
Show some personality, but avoid hard-sell, gimmicky, or unorthodox letters. Start fast; attract interest immediately. For more information see Business Letter Format.
Arrange the points in a logical sequence; organize each paragraph around a main point.
How to organize a cover letter
Below is one possible way to arrange the content of your cover letter.
State why you are writing.
Establish a point of contact (advertisement in a specific place for a specific position; a particular person's suggestion that you write): give some brief idea of who you are (a Senior engineering student at UW; a recent Ph.D. in History).
Highlight a few of the most salient points from your enclosed resume.
Arouse your reader's curiosity by mentioning points that are likely to be important for the position you are seeking.
Show how your education and experience suit the requirements of the position, and, by elaborating on a few points from your resume, explain what you could contribute to the organization.
(Your letter should complement, not restate, your resume.)
Stress action. Politely request an interview at the employer's convenience.
Indicate what supplementary material is being sent under separate cover and offer to provide additional information (a portfolio, a writing sample, a sample publication, a dossier, an audition tape), and explain how it can be obtained.
Thank the reader for his/her consideration and indicate that you are looking forward to hearing from him/her.
Questions to guide your writing
Who is my audience?
What is my objective?
What are the objectives and needs of my audience?
How can I best express my objective in relationship to my audience's objectives and needs?
What specific benefits can I offer to my audience and how can I best express them?
What opening sentence and paragraph will grab the attention of my audience in a positive manner and invite them to read further?
How can I maintain and heighten the interest and desire of the reader throughout the letter?
What evidence can I present of my value to my audience?
If a resume is enclosed with the letter, how can I best make the letter advertise the resume?
What closing sentence or paragraph will best assure the reader of my capabilities and persuade him or her to contact me for further information?
Is the letter my best professional effort?
Have I spent sufficient time drafting, revising, and proofreading the letter?
*From Ronald L. Kraunich, William J. Bauis. High Impact Resumes & Letters. Virginia Beach, VA: Impact Publications, 1982.
How to format a cover letter
Type each letter individually, or use a word processor.
Use good quality bond paper.
Whenever possible, address each employer by name and title.
Each letter should be grammatically correct, properly punctuated, and perfectly spelled. It also should be immaculately clean and free of errors. Proofread carefully!
Use conventional business correspondence form. If you are not certain of how to do this, ask for help at the Writing Center.
For further information on cover letters contact the Career Advising and Planning Services and take a look at our workshp on Writing Resumes and Cover Letters (NB: this course not offered during the summer).
Entry-Level Cover Letter Examples and Writing Tips
When you are applying for an entry-level position, composing a cover letter can be a challenge because you may not have a lot of work experience. However, it's fine to highlight your non-employment related experience in your cover letter if it's relevant to the job. After all, interviewers for entry-level positions are aware that this may be your first position.
Why a Cover Letter is Important
Here's a secret: Writing cover letters is hard for nearly all candidates — not just entry-level applicants.
So, don't be disheartened if you're feeling overwhelmed by the process.
To get the hiring manager excited enough to call you in for an interview, you need to convey not only your skills and qualifications, but also your passion for the organization and your aptitude for the specific role. This means writing a cover letter that complements your resume, and not one that merely duplicates that information.
A good cover letter also shows off your communication and writing skills and proves that you know how to tell a compelling story – a bonus in almost every job, even if the job description doesn’t include writing as a requirement. Finally, taking the time to craft a cover letter proves that you know how things are done in a professional environment and that you’re willing to play by the rules. That might sound obvious, but when you’re applying for an entry-level position, it’s important to show the hiring manager that you’re aware of what’s expected and that you won’t need to be trained in the basics of office life.
New to cover letters? Use this guide to familiarize yourself with the format and best practices for writing a cover letter that helps you get the job interview. It includes the different types of cover letters, the information that needs to be included in your letter, and the proper way to format your final draft and send it to the hiring manager.
What to Include in Your Cover Letter
The good news is that it's basically a level playing field when it comes to applying for entry-level jobs. Your competitors likely won’t have a great deal of work experience, either.
Feel free to mention volunteer experiences, internships, related classes, projects, leadership experience, extracurricular activities, and your skills that pertain to the position. Providing these details about related experience helps differentiate your application from the crowd.
Look for ways to draw connections between your non-work experience and the job and industry at hand. For instance, if you are applying for an entry-level position in publishing, you might point out your strong grades in literature classes, volunteer work at the library or in literacy programs, an internship at a publishing house, your involvement with the school newspaper, etc.
Look at the specific skills mentioned in the job description, too, and think about ways to demonstrate that you possess these abilities. For example, if a job posting calls for someone detail-oriented and organized, your experience managing a fundraiser for your academic club is good evidence that you have those abilities.
Tips for Writing an Entry-Level Cover Letter
Match your qualifications to the job. Research the job requirements thoroughly before beginning to compose your letter. Make a list of the key qualities, areas of knowledge, skills, or experience that the employer is seeking. Review descriptions for similar titles on Indeed.com or another job site if the employer hasn’t provided a good list of requirements with the ad.
Get inside information. Contact the career office at your school, if time permits, and request a list of alumni volunteers in your field of interest. Ask them what they would be looking for if they were hiring for the type of entry-level job which you are targeting.
Make a list of your qualifications. Compile a list of your assets that will enable you to meet the job requirements and excel in the job.
Write a perfect opening sentence. Compose an opening sentence that conveys enthusiasm for the job and summarizes why it is a good fit. Name the precise position if one is mentioned in the job announcement. For example, you might say “I am highly interested in consideration for your sales assistant vacancy since it would tap my strong customer service, organizational, and verbal communication skills.”
Describe your skills. Draft a sentence for each one of the assets on your list that will qualify you for the job. Briefly include a reference point in your background such as course project, leadership role, internship, or personal experience that proves that you possess that strength. You can merge more than one asset into each statement. For example, “I utilized strong persuasive skills and leadership ability to recruit and attract new members to our sorority.” Remember that for many entry-level jobs you will be trained on the job, so eagerness to learn and the ability to learn quickly and well are often assets to emphasize.
Quantify your accomplishments. Whenever possible, frame your statements as accomplishments and quantify results. For example, “Attentiveness to detail and editing skills enabled me to reduce publication errors in the yearbook by 15% over the previous year.”
When to mention following up. If you have identified a contact person and the employer has not conveyed how interviews will be arranged, then you might suggest that you will follow up to determine if they need further information and to discuss the possibility of arranging an interview.
End with a professional closing. In closing your cover letter, reaffirm your keen interest in the job and that you are hopeful that you can meet with them to discuss the exciting opportunity further.
Proofread your letter. Carefully review your letter for spelling and grammatical errors. Read it out loud and place your finger on each word. Have a counselor, teacher, writing tutor, or other trusted person critique your draft.
Review Entry-Level Cover Letter Examples
Review these sample cover letters for entry-level candidates for employment to get ideas for your own letter. You'll find both general examples, as well as sample cover letters for specific fields and positions. Do not copy the text exactly, but rather, use the samples for inspiration when writing your own personalized cover letter.
Basic Entry-Level Cover Letters Examples
College Senior Cover Letter
It can be challenging to write a cover letter when you haven’t graduated yet. Include both your academic accomplishments and work experience, if you have it. Here’s advice on how to structure your letter, what to include to get it to stand out from the crowd of entry-level applicants, as well as a sample to review.
Recent College Graduate Cover Letter
The best way to show an employer you’re well qualified for a job, tips for writing a cover letter when you’re a recent graduate, and a sample letter to review.
Career Office Referral Cover Letter
When you apply for a job that has been listed through your university career center, mention that in the first paragraph of your letter. Review what to write, and examples.
Email Cover Letter
What to include in an email cover letter, an example of an email message sent to a hiring manager, and how to format and send an email applying for a job.
An inquiry letter is sent to an employer who may be hiring, but hasn’t advertised job openings. Review an example, and tips for writing inquiry letters.
Entry-Level Cover Letters Listed by Job
Business Analyst Cover Letter
When you’re applying for an analyst position, focus on the technical business skills you have acquired in college, during internships, or in prior positions.
Cover Letters for Teachers
If you’re looking for an entry-level teaching position, review this guide on how to write a cover letter for a teaching job, with advice on how to prepare your application, and letter examples. Also review the information required to apply for a teaching job, including documents, certifications, and transcripts the employer will request.
Editorial Assistant Cover Letter
When you don’t have a lot of related experience, include information on your college major, relevant volunteer experience, writing and editing you did while a student, and internship experience.
Education Cover Letter
For education-related jobs, learn as much as you can about the school or organization you’ll be working for. Then take the time to match your qualifications to the job description.
Information Technology (IT) Cover Letters
IT jobs are competitive and so you need to be detailed and specific when writing a cover letter for one. It's important to show the employer you have the skills, technologies, and certifications listed in the job posting. The closer a match you are to the ideal candidate, the better your chances of getting selected to interview.
Marketing Cover Letter
In your cover letter, share examples of your related internship or job experience and describe the marketing skills you have acquired through academics or experience. Use examples to highlight the skills and attributes you have that qualify you for the job.
Scientific Research Technician Cover Letter
When applying for a research job, focus on your analytical, research, and writing skills. Also share examples of any laboratory experience you’ve gained, research you've been a part of, and technical research tools you have used.
Summer Assistant Cover Letter
Showcase your related academic experiences along with work experience, if you have it, when writing a cover letter for a summer position.
This cover letter example focuses on the applicant’s academic achievements, as well as the candidate’s skills that are a strong match for the job requirements.
Start Your Cover Letter With a Template
A cover letter template is a helpful way to format and organize your letter. In general, applying for a job is a ritualized process. Some of the cover letter requirements may seem old-fashioned, but it's important to adhere to the expected cover letter style, from the greeting all the way through to your closing sign-off.
Use these templates to help you establish a framework for your cover letter so that you know what information to include and where, but be sure to personalize your letter so it reflects your qualifications and attributes.
Cover Letter Format
How to format a cover letter for a job, font, paragraph and styles choices, guidelines for what to include in each paragraph, and information about how to address and sign the letter, with examples.
Cover Letter Template
A template can make cover letter writing easier, because you simply personalize the template with your own information. Do be sure to customize it though, so you show the employer how you are qualified for the position.
Email Cover Letter Template
The format of an email cover letter is different from a cover letter that you upload or send as an attachment. Review how to format and send a cover letter by email.
Online Template Resources: Google Docs has a variety of templates you can use to write a cover letter or a resume. When you use a template, be sure to change the file name to your name (janedoecoverletter.doc, for example). Double-check to be sure you’ve written over the standard information and changed the date.
If you are Microsoft Office user, you can download Word cover letter templates to use as a starting point for writing your own cover letter
Read More: Top 10 Cover Letter Writing Tips | What to Include in a Cover Letter