Always include a cover letter when you e-mail or mail your resume to explain why you are sending the resume. Employers report that an impressive cover letter is often more important than the resume when making a decision on whether to interview a candidate or not. So don't ignore the value of a well-written letter.
The purpose of the cover letter and resume package is to motivate the employer to take action and invite you for an interview. When delivered together the two documents should complement each other.
The most important aspect of the cover letter is your focus on the employer. In the letter you should highlight your qualifications for the specific position you seek, referencing your interest and qualifications based upon the employer's needs.
Always target your cover letter! While the resume can be used for a variety of positions, each cover letter needs to be individualized to the company. You want to convey that you care enough about their organization to learn about them or their needs.
Generally speaking, your letter should be 3-4 paragraphs and only one page in length. While there is no 'perfect formula' you want to gain their interest so they will invite you in to learn more. There are three main parts:
The Introduction – The first paragraph states why you are writing, names the type of position and how you heard about it and why you are a good fit for the position. If a person referred you, mention the person's name. Keep this paragraph short. It should make the reader want to finish reading the rest of the letter and the resume.
The Body – The main body of your letter, which may be one or two paragraphs long, should detail what you can contribute to the company and how your qualifications can benefit the firm. The body should also reflect the research you have done on the employer and elaborate on your experience. Be careful not to reiterate everything that is on the resume. Choose a few select aspects and provide more detail about them. The more you know about the employer from your research, the more you can link your qualifications to the position.
The Closing Paragraph – This last paragraph must make clear what action you will take to follow up. You should request an interview and tell the employer you will call them within a specific period of time. It is helpful to include your phone number here in case your resume and letter become separated once they reach the employer.
- Starting every sentence with I or my. You're a college graduate you should be able to write at that level.
- Extraneous words and wordy phrases
- Confusing and complex language
- Long run-on sentences and paragraphs
- Non-descript verbs – use action verbs whenever possible
Professional Writing Samples and Resources - This collection of handouts will provide you with information about various aspects of business, technical, and professional writing including resumes, employment letters, academic applications and more.