Cover Letters

When submitting a resume, you must have a cover letter that introduces you, states the job you are applying for, and adds depth and a personality to the qualifications on your resume. Your task in writing this letter is to convince your reader that you are an outstanding candidate for that specific position. The goal of the letter is to get an interview.

Even if you are a modest person, your must show why that company will benefit from hiring you. Hows else can the company know unless you tell them? You should demonstrate that you have all the for the job. Don't overlook any of the job duties and required qualifications mentioned in the job listing. They are put there for a reason. Address them directly and, if possible, in list format.

Your letter must be proofread carefully. Guaranteed: Candidates who submit a letter or resume with a single grammatical or mechanical mistake will be the first to hit the round file.

Opening Section of the Letter
If you have had personal contact with someone in the company or if you have been invited to apply, mention that in the opening sentence or two.

Indicate the title of the specific job you are applying for and the source of your information. Did you see the job listed on at a job fair or in the newspaper?

Summarize your qualifications and state clearly what you can offer this company.

Middle Section of the Letter
Here you make strong, point-by-point connections between your qualifications and the job description.

Expand on your experience, education, and qualifications, and add background that enhances your appeal as an employee but that isn't evident in the résumé. For example, if leadership or supervision skills are important and you indicate that you held an elected office in a volunteer group, note that you won by a wide majority in a large field of candidates. Doing so will show that you are liked by people, seen as a leader, and stand out in a crowd.

Closing Section of the Letter
Conclude with an action step. What do you want your reader to do? Contact you? If so, how can you be contacted? Are you available to come for an interview? When?

Thank the reader for considering your resume.

Indicate below your signature that the resume is enclosed. At the left border/margin, under your name, note an enclosure.

Your Street Address
, State Zip Code
Telephone Number
Email Address

Month, Day, Year

Mr./Ms./Dr. FirstName LastName
Name of Organization
or P. O. Box Address
, State Zip Code

Dear Mr./Ms./Dr. LastName:

Opening paragraph: State why you are writing; how you learned of the organization or position, and a summary of your qualifications.

2nd paragraph: Tell why you are interested in the employer or type of work the employer does (Simply stating that you are interested does not tell why). Demonstrate that you know enough about the employer or position to relate your background to the employer or position. If possible, use a bullet list to mention specific qualifications which make you a good fit for the job requirements listed in the job description. Refer to the fact that your resume is enclosed. Mention other enclosures if such are required to apply for a position.

3rd paragraph: Indicate that you would like the opportunity to interview for a position or to talk with the employer to learn more about their opportunities or hiring plans. State what you will do to follow up, such as telephone the employer within two weeks. If you will be in the employer’s location and could offer to schedule a visit, indicate when. State that you would be glad to provide the employer with any additional information needed. Thank the employer for her/his consideration.


(Your handwritten signature)

Your name typed

Enclosure(s) (refers to resume, etc.)

(Note: the contents of your letter might best be arranged into three sections. Consider what you need to say and use good writing style. See the following examples for variations in organization and layout.)

Cover Letters: Types and Samples  

The guidelines here apply to both hard copy correspondence and email. (To decide which to use, see email in your job search.) The main difference between email and hard copy correspondence is format: your signature block (address, etc.) goes below your name in email, while it goes at the top of the page on hard copy. Of course you won't have a handwritten signature on email, but don't forget this on hard copy.    

 All cover letters should:  

O Explain why you are sending a resume:  Don't send a resume without a cover letter.  Don't make the reader guess what you are asking for; be specific: Do you want a summer internship opportunity, or a permanent position at graduation; are you inquiring about future employment possibilities?  

O Tell specifically how you learned about the position or the organization: A flyer posted in your department, a web site, a family friend who works at the organization. It is appropriate to mention the name of someone who suggested that you write.  

O Convince the reader to look at your resume: The cover letter will be seen first. Therefore, it must be very well written and targeted to that employer.  

O Call attention to elements of your background: Education, leadership, experience that are relevant to a position you are seeking. Be as specific as possible, using examples.  

O Reflect your attitude, personality, motivation, enthusiasm, and communication skills.  

O Provide or refer to any information specifically requested in a job advertisement that might not be covered in your resume, such as availability date, or reference to an attached writing sample.

O Indicate what you will do to follow-up:

In a letter of application — applying for an advertised opening — applicants often say something like "I look forward to hearing from you." However, it is better to take the initiative to follow-up, saying something like, "I will contact you in the next two weeks to see if you require any additional information regarding my qualifications."

In a letter of inquiry — asking about the possibility of an opening — don't assume the employer will contact you. You should say something like, "I will contact you in two weeks to learn more about upcoming employment opportunities with (name of organization)."  Then mark your calendar to make the call.

1000 Terrace View Apts.
Blacksburg, VA 24060
(540) 555-4523

March 25, 2003

Mr. John Wilson
Personnel Director
Anderson Construction Company
3507 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20895

Dear Mr. Wilson:

I read in the March 24th Washington Post classified section of your need for a Technical Writer for one of your Washington, DC, area sites. I will be returning to the Washington area after graduation in May and believe that I have the necessary credentials and experience for the project.

I have worked at various levels in the construction industry every summer since the 8th grade. As you can see from my resume, I worked several summers as a general laborer, gradually moved up to a carpenter, and last summer I worked as assistant construction manager on a 100 million dollar job.

In addition to this practical experience, I will complete requirements for my Technical Communications degree in May.  As you may know, Virginia Tech is one of the few universities in the country that offers such a specialized degree for the construction industry. I am confident that my communications degree, along with my years of construction industry experience, make me an excellent candidate for your job.

The Anderson Construction Company projects are familiar to me, and my aspiration is to work for a company that has your excellent reputation.  I would welcome the opportunity to interview with you. I will be in the Washington area during the week of April 12th and would be available to speak with you at that time. In the next week to ten days I will contact you to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you for your consideration.

(handwritten signature) 
Steve Mason

Enclosure: Resume

Assignment: See attached sample cover letters. Submit a cover letter to accompany the resume you submitted in the thread above.