Including a cover letter in any application is essential. The only time it is acceptable to NOT include a cover letter is if the employer specifically tells you not to include one. Cover letters that are written in application of a specific position are referred to as “letters of application,” while letters written to inquire about opportunities within an organization are referred to as “letters of inquiry.” Both types of letters should follow the general guidelines provided below and seek to achieve the following goals:
Convince the employer that you:
- Would be a good match with what they are looking for and will add value to their organization (skills!)
- Have done your research and really feel like this job and this organization are the right fit for you (personality!)
Cover letter tips
Target each and every letter to the specific position and organization. Never send out generic or form letters. Show your individuality, fit, and that you know something about this organization and this position. Make each and every letter count!
Write professionally. Employers will use this as a writing sample. Do not use contractions (don’t, I’ve, etc.). Avoid acronyms and jargon.
Always get a name! Never address a letter “To Whom It May Concern.” Do some research and find a name if it is not readily given. Use LinkedIn, look for employee directories on the website, or talk to a current employee. You can always call and ask to whom to address the letter if necessary.
Focus on what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. Convey how hiring you will benefit the organization.
Make sure it is perfect! Proofread it and have others look it over. There can be no errors!
Keep it to one page and set your type to between 10 and 12pt. Employers see hundreds of letters. They will only read one page.
Use a standard font that matches the font on your résumé, and high-quality paper that also matches your résumé. All of your application materials should look like they belong together. Avoid fonts that are overly unique or difficult to read. You want to keep it professional, but you can also explore options beyond Times New Roman.
Sign your letter. On electronically submitted letters consider signing a blank sheet of paper, scanning it, cropping the image of your signature out and dropping that into the cover letter document. This gives your document a very polished look.
Download the printable Cover Letter Writing handout