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O’Brien Center for Student Success

Cover Letters

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a marketing tool used to create interest in your candidacy.  The goal of the cover letter is to prompt the recipient to review the accompanying resume and ultimately invite you for an interview.   A cover letter should clearly demonstrate how you are an excellent fit for the particular organization or position to which you are applying.

Where do I start?

It is very important to read the job description thoroughly. Dissect the job description and highlight the key skills that are required in the position. Your cover letter should mirror what it is they are looking for in an employee. For example, if the description reads they are looking for someone who can read lab reports; write about how, when and where you applied that skill. It is not enough to just write you can do something you have to provide an example.

For sample cover letters please see the Resource Library on Advantage

Format

Cover letters should be no longer than three or four paragraphs. The goal is to get an interview and the cover letter is your first opportunity to ‘toot your own horn’. You are the only one who can do this in a manner that is clear, concise and with confidence.

Final Tips

  • Use a PROFESSIONAL tone in your letter.  Address the person formally (Dear Dr. Smith) or (Dear Hiring Manager)
  • Address your values, passion, career interests, and the skills you possess  that are  related to the position – DO NOT use a generic letter.
  • Use a business format in writing your letter.
  • Make sure all your contact information is included in the letter.
  • Focus on the content over style.
  • Be clear, concise and specific in your writing.
  • Keep the letter to one page.
  • CHECK YOUR SPELLING!  Proofread before you send all letters!  If you can, have someone else read the letter before it is sent.

Paragraph One - Introduction

State why you are writing; name the position or type of work in which you are interested. (Mention the resource used in finding out about the position or company: news media, friend, internet, on-campus resource)

Paragraph Two - Body

Discuss your qualifications (academic background, work experience, personal skills) for this type of work. Call attention to relevant experience, but do not simply repeat your resume word for word. (Include your resume) Indicate your interest and strong desire to find work in the field. (You can cover the main points in one paragraph).

Paragraph Three -  Closing

Suggest a time when you will contact the employer. Be sure to thank the employer. 

SAMPLE COVER LETTER – APPLYING FOR SPECIFIC JOB

222 Howard Street
Hillsboro, MA 99999

March 5, 2011

Pamela Woods
Human Resources Manager
ABD Company
Lowell, MA 03345

Dear Ms. Woods:

I am applying for your Sales Support Co-op position that I learned about through the Co-op Office at Merrimack College. As sophomore business major at Merrimack College, I am interested in gaining sales and marketing experience in the computer software field. Attached is a copy of my resume for your review.

My academic background and work experience make me an ideal candidate for this opportunity. I have demonstrated excellent customer service and telephone skills through my work as a medical administrative assistant.   As a business student I have gained a comprehensive knowledge of computer applications. While serving as a resident assistant and orientation committee team leader on campus, I developed strong leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills.

I believe that all these attributes will allow me to make a valuable contribution to your company. I will contact you in one week to further discuss my qualification and interest in the sales support co-op position. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Todd Whitman

NOTE: Please include cover letter and resume as attachments to your email message when applying for a position via email. In the body of the email message, you can state briefly that your cover letter and resume are attached and that you are applying for a specific position. Make sure your resume and cover letter are attached as one document that is two pages.