Your cover letter is just as important as your resume. You have written your resume as a document that represents you, and the recruiting manager has written a position description that reflects the organization’s needs. A cover letter ties them together. It’s more specific than a resume and highlights projects or efforts that align with the requirements of the position or program.
You should plan to submit a cover letter along with your resume (or CV) for every position or program you apply for. The only exception is if the internship/job posting specifically notes not to include one.
Since your cover letter will accompany your resume, match the style and formatting. Use the same font and size. Have the same document margins. Include the same header with your name and contact information.
- Alignment: Left aligned, after the header
- Length: 1 page and 3-4 paragraphs at maximum
If possible, address your cover letter to a specific person. Most often, this is the hiring manager or the person who will supervise this positon; sometimes you can figure out who that is with a little detective work on LinkedIn and the organization’s website. It also could be a recruiter you met (such as a career fair) or who is listed in Handshake.
Date, Recipient, Salutation
- Date: This is first after your header. Spell out the month and include the year.
- Recipient: This comes after the date and is usually 3-5 lines. Include the organization’s name, the name and title of the person you are addressing (if you have this information), and the organization’s address or other contact information (if you’re able to find this).
- Salutation or Greeting: If you are addressing a specific person, use their name in the salutation (“Dear Firstname Lastname” or “Dear Mr./Ms. Lastname”). If not, use something generic such as “hiring manager,” “hiring committee,” or “selection committee.”
The body of your cover letter should be a maximum of 3-4 paragraphs and address 3 main points: what you know about the organization, what you are applying for, and what you can do for them.
- Introduction and Interest (paragraph 1): Include what you are applying for, what you know about the organization, and why you are interested
- The Evidence (paragraph 2): Outline what you can do for them, make a case for why you are the candidate to hire
- The Connection (paragraph 2-3): Make the connections between the desired qualifications listed in the posting to your experience and skills.
- The Closing (paragraph 3-4): Reiterate your interest, express gratitude, and note that you look forward to hearing from them. Also, provide contact information if it is not in the header.
Use “Sincerely” followed by your full name on the next line. This is your electronic signature. You can use a script font if you prefer or keep it the same as the rest of the letter.