Writing Effective Cover Letter

A Cover Letter is:

  • A necessary companion to the resume.
  • Potentially the employer’s first impression of you. Often, students spend hours working on their resume when the cover letter is just as important given that it’s received on top of your resume.
  • A complementary tool to enhance your qualifications, does NOT simply restate your resume.
  • An attention grabber encouraging the recipient to read everything you have presented.

Tips for Writing Effective Cover Letters

  • Customize each letter to fit the position for which you are applying.
  • Write about what you’ll bring the employer, not what you seek to get from the employer.
  • Be brief and concise. Keep it to about one page.
  • Use the same font, format, and paper as resume.
  • Maintain professionalism, yet let your personality show.
  • Use active rather than passive voice and do not overuse the word “I.”
  • Never confess shortcomings, give a positive slant to your background and experience.
  • Address your letter to a specific individual and avoid “To Whom It May Concern.”Go online and search the company’s website or call the company directly and ask for a contact person.

Cover Letter Components

  • Introductory Paragraph

    Explain why you are writing this letter while trying to catch your reader’s attention.

    • State your purpose – identify the position (and position number, if applicable) for which you are applying. Indicate how and where you learned of the opening in the organization whether by personal referral (give person’s name), publication, employment website.For Example: Your advertisement in the Wisconsin State Journal indicated you are seeking _____. I am applying for ________. My professor, Dr. Steven Wells, informed me about the opening _____.
    • Briefly describe your academic background (degree/year and major)
  • Middle Paragraph(s)
    Persuade the employer you are worth an interview by explaining how your skills fit the position. This section can be separated into two shorter paragraphs.

    • State your educational and work experience and how they are a “good match” to the needs of the position and organization
    • Highlight your experience and elaborate on your strengths.
    • Provide specific examples to back up these qualifications.
    • Indicate how you intend to help the employer and contribute to the organization.
    • Impress your audience by using the exact wording from the specific job description and your research on the company.
    • Tell why you are particularly interested in the position or organization.
  • Final Paragraph
    Indicate your intention to follow-up by opening the door for further communication.

    • Thank employer for the time spent to review and consider your materials.
    • Indicate your willingness to answer further questions or provide additional information.
    • Refer the reader to your enclosed resume or other required application materials.
    • Let the employer know when and where you can be contacted and give the employer your telephone number and/or email address.
    • Suggest an action depending on your comfort level: a) Request an interview at the employer’s convenience; b) Indicate that you will call the employer to arrange an interview; c) Mention when you will be in the area if the employer is not located nearby
  • Note – Do not assume an employer will contact you when the employer receives your cover letter and resume. It is your responsibility is to follow up!
    • I will be in Milwaukee during the week of _________.
    • I would appreciate an opportunity to discuss my experience and qualifications with you __________.
    • I will be contacting you ________.
    • Enclosed is a copy of my resume that _______.

Sample Cover Letter