Cover Letter Writing Tips

The Purpose:

Occasionally, a recruiter will request that no cover letter be sent, but as a general rule, send a one-page cover letter every time you submit a resume.  Customize the cover letter for each specific job for which you applying. Cover letters should intrigue employers into reviewing your resume more carefully (as opposed to the typical 6-8 second review most resumes receive) and offering an interview for the position. Many job searchers make the mistake of using a cover letter to write about their interests. Recruiters want to know how the organization will benefit by hiring you. A cover letter should accompany your resume every time you apply for a job!

Types of Cover Letters:

  • Letter of Inquiry: Sent to an employer to “inquire” as to the possibility of available positions, or to ask for information about the employer’s organization
  • Letter of Application: Sent to “apply” for a position that actually exists and the employer is seeking to fill.


Headings:  Use the same heading you have on your resume–center it.  Left justify the rest of the letter – date, salutation, paragraphs, and closing.

Inside Address:  The full name, title, and address of the person who will review your resume.  Take the time to research the name of the person who is the hiring manager. However, it is appropriate to use “Dear Hiring Manager” if research is unsuccessful

Dates: Dates should be placed on the right hand side of the page.

Salutation:  Call the company for the name of the person and correct salutation, if not known. Use “Dear Dr., Ms. or Mr.” and the last name of the individual to address your letter. End with the salutation with a colon (:)  Do NOT use “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Madam” or “Dear Sir” – those are outdated greetings.  It will appear you don’t care enough to find out the name of the person.

Opening paragraph:  Set yourself apart from the typical opening: “I am writing to apply for…”. Begin with your skills and qualifications and how they match the need of the company.   For example, “With significant experience as a community health educator, I have precisely the qualifications you are seeking in a …” After, you can restate the name of the specific position for which you are applying.  Mention how you heard about the position – especially if you have a contact inside the organization. Avoid beginning sentences with “I”. Finally, end with a few sentences the detail “why them or this position.”

Middle paragraphs:  Point out your more relevant skills, qualifications or accomplishments, highlighting your value to the organization.  Be concise.  You are not rewriting your resume, just mentioning the skills, accomplishments, and qualifications of interest for the position, providing specific example(s).

Closing paragraph:  Suggest some type of action you would like to happen, for example…Say you would welcome the chance to meet in person to further discuss how your background and skills would allow you to bring value to the organization immediately.  If you are willing to follow through, you could say that you will call in 4 or 5 working days to schedule a time to meet (caution: some recruiters may find that off-putting.)

Salutations: End the letter with “Sincerely” and your signature in blue ink (if you will be sending a hard copy). Note: You may also choose to insert a picture of your signature underneath your closing paragraph for electronic cover letters.

Final Tips:

Keep it brief!  Write no more than three or four paragraphs and use 11 point font or larger.

Additional Resources:

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