It should be concise and straightforward, and it should clearly demonstrate why you are a strong fit for the specific job you are applying to. Cover letters are typically 1 page and should include a similar layout (contact information header, heading and subheading styles, fonts, etc.) to your resume for your applicant “brand.”
Elements of a Strong Cover Letter
Speak to the Job Description and Employer
- Target your letter to the specifications of the employer. If a detailed job description is available, study its language and look for repetition of key skills or qualifications they seek and how you embody those. If there is no job description or limited information, then research as much as you can about the organization’s mission and reflect on common values you share.
- Research the company – its mission, brand, and culture. Think about what makes you want to work at this company specifically. Plan to include a couple of lines about this in your introductory or closing paragraphs
- Think about the top 3-5 values, skills, or qualifications you have identified from above. What relevant skills, experience, or accomplishments demonstrate your ability to fulfill those needs or requirements?
Provide Specific Examples
- Give examples of the experiences and skills that best qualify you for the position (the ones from your list).
- Do not repeat everything listed on your resume as examples; instead, focus on specific key points from a couple of roles held that you could reflect on with the most detail. Employers will often have your resume as a companion document.
- Articulate your qualifications, strengths, and interests in 3-4 paragraphs.
- Avoid examples that are not connected to the most important needs of the employers.
- It's important to remember this is a formal document that you can refer to even as you prepare for your interview and later stages of offer negotiation.
- This is not a casual letter or email, so avoid contractions, informal greetings or closings, and abbreviated terms to ensure precision, accuracy, and clarity.
Structure of Cover Letter
- Can be the same header you use for your contact information in your resume
- You should put the date on the letter along the left margin
- Hiring Manager’s name if known
- Hiring Manager’s title if known
- Company name if known
- Full street address of company if known
All information should be aligned along the left margin in letter format.
First Paragraph: The Introduction
- Introduce yourself and identify why or for what role you are writing.
- State how you learned about the position.
- Identify why you are interested in the position or employer.
- Indicate what qualifies you for the position as a preview of the next paragraphs by listing 2-3 key skills or qualifications you possess relevant for the role.
Second Paragraph: The Evidence
- Choose 1-2 experiences, courses, or projects that support your strength for the role and connect reflections of those individually with the needs of the employer based on the job description.
- Provide specific examples of how you have fulfilled similar requirements or responsibilities in the past, highlighting your results and achievements and making your skills transferrable this way.
Third Paragraph: The Connection
- Identify specifically what you know about the employer (their mission, brand, values, etc.) and how that excites you for the career opportunity given your experiences and interests.
- Make explicit how you will support, enhance, and/or innovate within such a setting.
Final Paragraph: The Wrap-Up
- Reiterate your interest in the position
- Note your preferred method of follow up (email, phone, etc.)
- Thank the employer for their time and consideration.