Cover Letters

Image link to Career Spots video with cover letter tips

Purpose and Audience

A cover letter is a 1-page document that introduces you as an applicant to the employer for the specific job you are applying to. Your cover letter should be targeted to a specific organization and position, and updated for each application you submit. The cover letter allows you to succintly introduce yourself and your qualifications, and present your qualifications and past experiences that relate to the position. It is essential that you directly connect your past experience and transferable skills to the position you are applying for. Your cover letter works in conjunction with your resume. It should provide a more narrative description of a few key experiences or skills instead of simply restating information from your resume. 

Format

  • 1-page, containing 3-4 concise paragraphs
  • Utilize consistent formatting throughout your professional documents, including your resume, cover letter and references. Include the same header on all of your documents and keep font style consistent.
  • Be sure to proofread your document multiple times for grammatical and spelling errors

Content

A cover letter typically follows the format below. For detailed information about content and structure, see our PDF icon Cover Letters Handout

  • Paragraph 1: State the job you are applying for, how you heard about the position and mention specific things that interest you about the company based on your research.
  • Paragraphs 2 & 3: Highlight your top two to three qualifications for this specific position and give brief examples to illustrate these skills.
  • Paragraph 4: Summarize why you will be an asset to their organization, if/how you will follow up, and include your contact information.

Review your document utilizing our PDF icon Cover Letter Checklist

Samples

Academic Cover Letters

An academic cover letter often explains your accomplishments in graduate school in a bit more detail including research projects and teaching experience. Therefore, the typical academic cover letter is 1.5 to 2 pages in length. For more information check out the Academic Cover Letters Article.