Cover Letter Basics

A cover letter introduces you and your resume to a potential employer, explaining both your reasons for writing and your qualifications for a specific position.

Cover Letter Tips

  • Always include a cover letter.
  • Address your cover letter to a specific contact person.
    • If you don't know the name of a contact, call the organization and ask for the name of the manager or director of the department that interests you. If you can't find a contact name, write "Dear Director," but only as a last resort.
  • Describe your accomplishments and experiences in a way that focuses on the needs of the employer and position.
    • Cover letters need to be tailored to the employer and position for which you're applying. Avoid creating one cover letter and mass mailing it to employers.
  • Research the employer.
    • Your cover letter should reflect that you know something about the organization and the type of industry in general. Each cover letter should be unique to that organization. Do not use a cover letter that looks like it could've been sent to anyone.
  • Conclude the cover letter by directly asking for an opportunity to meet and/or speak with the employer.
    • Include your contact information. It's appropriate to contact the employer one to two weeks after you send it to confirm they received your application and to inquire about the status of your application.
  • Your cover letter should be typed and no longer than one page. Avoid graphics.
  • Double check for spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • The paper on which your cover letter is printed should match the paper on which your resume is printed.
  • Keep a copy of each cover letter you send.

» View a cover letter writing rubric

Anatomy of a Cover Letter


Your Street Address
City, State, Zip Code
Phone number

Mr. or Ms. Employer
Street Address
City, State, Zip

Dear Mr. or Ms. Employer,

First paragraph. In one to two sentences, tell why you are writing. Name the position, field or general area about which you are asking, as well as how you heard of the opening or organization (e.g., newspaper, website, etc.). Be specific!

Second paragraph. In four to six sentences, mention one or two qualifications that you think would be of greatest interest to the employer. Address your remarks to their point of view. Tell why you are particularly interested in this type of work. If you have had related experience or specialized training, point it out. Expand on a few points of information stated in your resume.

Third paragraph. In one to two sentences, thank the employer for taking the time to consider your application to the position in question. Close by either making a specific request for an interview, or by letting the employer know how you will look forward to hearing from them regarding the status of your application.


Your signature

Your name (typed)