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Writing Cover Letters
A cover letter is an introduction, a sales pitch, and a proposal for further action all in one. Cover
letters should not summarize your resume, but should highlight the aspects of your background
that are most relevant to the reader. A cover letter also demonstrates that you can organize your
thoughts and express yourself clearly and appropriately--it reflects your communication skills
and, to some extent, your personality.
Cover letters are a maximum of one page in length and are comprised of four paragraphs:
? Details about why you are writing and who you are.
? Evidence from your resume that demonstrates that you have the skills called for in the
? An explanation of why you want to work for a company.
? A concluding proposal for further action.
Five Things to Consider 3.What are three to five qualities that you can bring
Before You Write to this employer or job?
If you do not know what to wrtite after, "Dear Mr. or If you are responding to a job listing, choose qualities
Ms. So-and-So," take a step back and put some more that match the job requirements. Reference skills, tasks,
thought into your cover letter. Ask yourself the follow- and responsibilities using words similar to those in
ing questions to build a foundation for your letter, and the job posting. If you are inquiring about opportuni-
the actual writing will go more smoothly: ties at the company in general, think of which skills,
knowledge, and experiences would typically be valued.
1. What does the prospective employer need? Visit the company's website to help determine these
Closely examine the job description and make a list of
skills, knowledge, and experiences that are called for in 4.How can you match your experience to the job?
Name at least two of your specific accomplishments,
2. What are your objectives? projects, or jobs that support the qualities you identi-
fied in question 3.
Are you applying for a specific job, or writing to inquire
about employment opportunities that have not been 5.Why do you want to work for this particular
posted? You should clearly state your objective in the organization or person?
What do you know about them? How do their products
or services, philosophy, mission, organizational culture,
Writing Cover Letters
goals, and needs relate to your background, values, and technic Institute (WPI) graduating in May with a
objectives? Has the company been in the news lately or major in biology." Be sure to include your degree,
completed a project related to something you've stud- major, year, and the fact that you are a WPI student.
ied? If yes, mention that connection. You want to tell
the company why you want to work for them specifi- ? The "why you are writing" is where you mention
cally. Use supporting, specific facts. what position you are applying for, or, if there is no
specific position opening, your job objective.
Contact Information ? T he "how you heard about the organization," is a
Include a contact name from the company in both the brief statement of how you found out about the
address and salutation of your cover letter. The saluta- position or company. You might say, "I saw your
tion should never include a first name, but should read, listing for a Mechanical Designer at the Career
"Dear Mr. Smith" or "Dear Ms. Smith." Use Ms. rather than Development Center at Worcester Polytechnic In-
Mrs. or Miss because it applies to any woman, regard- stitute," or, "I read about the expansion of your East
less of marital status, whereas other abbreviations are Coast operations in the New York Times and am
more specific and may be offensive. interested in discussing entry-level opportunities
you might have available." If someone referred you
Job postings may or may not provide a contact name. to the job opening, or you learned about the posi-
Scroll down to the bottom of the posting to see if a tion from a company representative at a career fair,
contact is listed. If not, you can use the Business Card you should mention their name and department as
database on one of the computers in the CDC lobby. well.
Please ask a CDC staff member for assistance. You can
also try to locate a department head/hiring manager Paragraph 2: The Sales/Matching Pitch
from the company's website or Human Resources
department, through LinkedIn, or through Hoover's Before your write this section, read the job description
Company Profiles, an online database accessible from carefully. Reflect on and highlight the key qualifica-
the Gordon Library website, or through Career Search tions and skills sought in a candidate. Next, look at your
located on Job Finder. When all else fails, use, "Dear Hir- resume and identify in writing which projects, experi-
ing Manager." ences, or activities demonstrate these particular quali-
ties. For example, instead of writing, "I have excellent
Sections of a Cover Letter collaboration skills," write, "Through my extensive proj-
ect work at WPI, where students work together to solve
Here's what goes into each of the four main sections of real-world problems, I have gained excellent collabora-
a cover letter when applying for a specific job: tion skills."This is a great way to share less tangible skills
you acquired through project and leadership experi-
Paragraph 1: The Opening ences. You can also discuss and elaborate on a specific
This is where you tell employers who you are, why you
project listed on your resume. Providing evidence that
are writing, and how you heard about the organization
you have the skills the employer is looking for is much
more compelling than just saying that you have these
skills without proof. Begin or end this paragraph with a
? The "who you are" is a brief introduction of yourself summary statement showing how your qualifications
with a phrase like, "I am a senior at Worcester Poly- match the job requirements.
Writing Cover Letters
Paragraph 3: Compliment the Company Sending a Cover Letter via Email
This is the "why I want to work for your company" sec- There are two ways to email your resume and cover let-
tion of your letter. It's where you flatter the reader a bit ter to a company. Either option is acceptable:
by commenting on something positive about the or-
ganization and describing why you want to work there. ? Option 1: Attach the cover letter and resume as two
You can mention the organization's reputation, sales re- separate documents to the email. Write a brief note
cord, size, corporate culture, management philosophy, within the body of the email explaining why you are
or anything else in which they take pride. Prospective writing (i.e., to apply for X position, to inquire about
employers like to know that you have chosen them for opportunities related to Y). Last, indicate that your
a reason and that they are not just one of hundreds of resume and cover letter are attached.
companies you're writing to as part of a mass mailing.
Be sure your flattery is genuine and specific. Look at the ? Option 2: Attach the resume only to the email.
company's website and LinkedIn page, and utilize the Copy and paste the text of your cover letter directly
Gordon Library Resources, for information to reference. into the body of the email, beginning with, "Dear
Paragraph 4: The Request for Further
Action You should follow the application process requested by
the employer. Keep easily accessible copies of all letters
This final section of a cover letter not only thanks the you mail, fax, or email, along with a log of when you
employer for taking the time to read your letter and sent the letters so that you can follow up on them.
consider you as a job candidate, but also discusses next
steps. You should suggest how to proceed, usually by Other Types of Letters
stating that you will call or email the employer to follow Inquiry Letters
up and request a meeting. Always include your email
address and phone number. An inquiry letter is a request for information. You might
Close your letter with "Sincerely" or "Best Regards" and
write one to inquire about opportunities for an intern-
your signature (or your first and last name if submitting
ship or full-time position, request a company's annual
report or brochure, or request the names of people to
whom you can direct further inquiries. For example,
Once you have written the letter, go back and check for you may write to the local chapter of your professional
typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors. organization to request the names of two or three
members who can give you information on employ-
Please come to walk in hours or schedule an ap- ment prospects in a particular field. When writing a
pointment with the CDC to have your cover letter letter to inquire about potential internships or full-time
critiqued. Bring a paper copy of your cover letter opportunities, the format is very similar to a cover letter,
and the job description. except you will provide evidence of the skills and quali-
ties you think they would desire and demonstrate what
For more information about Cover Letter Writing you can do for the company.
see the CDC website or log in to your Job Finder
account and watch the Cover Letter Podcast.
What is a good example of a cover letter?Three excellent cover letter examplesStandard, conservative style This is ideal for sectors such as business, law, accountancy and retail. ...Standard speculative letter This may vary according to the nature of the organisation and the industry you’re applying to. ...Letter for creative jobs
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