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Cover Letter Guide

Hints On Cover Letter Composition-Career Services, Geneseo

When sending your resume by mail to any employer, make sure you always include some type of "covering" letter.  Employers often receive so many inquiries about positions that they are genuinely impressed when a well-crafted, professional letter accompanies a resume.  Styles and formats vary, but essentially a cover letter is a form of formal business communication, which serves as an introduction of you and your qualifications to a prospective employer.

The three most common types of cover letters are: letters of inquiry in which you are unaware of any specific vacancies, but want to establish your interest in opportunities which may become available with a particular employer; letters of application are written when you are aware that an opening does indeed exist and you wish to address your specific attributes which qualify you; networking letters for those employers you have been referred to through your networking contacts. 

Keep in mind the following points when writing your cover letters:        

  • Your letter must be directed to a specific person and reflect that person's correct title.  If possible, do not use Dear Sir/Madam or Dear Personnel Director salutations.
  • Your letter should always be typewritten or word processed.  If computer generated, be sure to use the best possible printer available (laser or letter-quality).  Appearance is very important when making a first impression.  Use high quality bond paper in the same color as your resume.  Do not use harsh or severe shades.  Boldface, italics, and the use of simple graphics or multiple type fonts/sizes can be utilized but should not be overdone or distracting.
  • Personalize the letter whenever possible.  For example, mention the name of the organization in the body of your letter rather than referring to "your organization".  Careful use of creative techniques such as anecdotes, career-relevant quotes, and the stressing of unusual qualifications can make your letter stand out.  It can help to think about not only what you've done, but how well you've done it.  Use these techniques to avoid simply restating information that you have included on your resume. 
  • Cover letters are not autobiographies.  The goal is to keep your letter short enough to sustain the interest of the reader, and at the same time include enough information about your qualifications to provide the employer with the incentive to invite you for an interview.  Your task is to enlighten the employer about what you know, what you can do, and what you can bring of value to the employer in question.
  • Have someone proofread your letter for errors, awkward phrases, etc.  Your letter must be accurate, attractive and error-free.
  • >Cover letters should always reflect your writing style.  Do not copy anyone else's or any of the examples found in this guide.  If you are having trouble, consult the Career Services Office resource area for additional information.  Office staff would be more than happy to review rough drafts of your cover letter; you can schedule an appointment with a staff member by calling 245-5721 or stopping into our office in Blake A 104.

Sample Cover Letter Outline

YOUR STREET ADDRESS

CITY, STATE, ZIP

DATE

EMPLOYER NAME

TITLE

ORGANIZATION

ADDRESS

SALUTATION:

The first paragraph should establish why the letter is being written.  Are you aware of a specific vacancy?  If so, cite the source where you learned about the opening.  Has someone referred you to this employer?  If so, use their name (with permission).  Perhaps you are just inquiring about the possibility of an opening.  If so, try to write something that will attract the attention of the reader and encourage him/her to want to know more about you.

The second and perhaps third paragraph establishes your qualifications.  You may wish to outline what you think are your unique academic, experiential and personal qualities and how they relate to the position you are seeking.  It's important to demonstrate that you're aware of what you can bring of value to an employer.  It may be a good time to mention information that points out that you've done your "homework."  Ideally, through research, you've developed a certain degree of knowledge about the employing organization.  Provide one or two specific examples that demonstrate your most outstanding career-related characteristics. 

The next paragraph is fairly straightforward.  Offer to provide additional information regarding your qualifications.  You should let the employer know that you would welcome the opportunity for a personal interview and/or that you look forward to hearing their response.  A more assertive approach would involve mentioning that you will follow-up within 1-2 weeks to discuss an interview.  Only say this if you are willing to make the call.  In this paragraph you may also want to mention when you will be in their area or how you can be reached after a certain date.

Thank you for your time and consideration is all you need to say in the last paragraph.

Sincerely,

Signature

Typed Name

Enc. (means enclosure, indicating that your resume is included with cover letter.)