Cover Letter Writing

Effective cover letters convey a sense of purpose, project enthusiasm for the position or program, and demonstrate your knowledge of the employer or graduate program’s goals and needs. A positive first impression requires that your cover letter be neat and concise, containing no errors in spelling or grammar. Each cover letter should be customized to fit the position for which you are applying. You will want to customize your cover letter depending on its purpose.

Possible reasons for sending a cover letter:

  • A result of a direct search
  • A response to an advertisement
  • A follow up on a contact made through networking

Suggested Cover Letter Structure


  • Use the same heading from your resume on the top of your cover letter

Beginning Paragraph

  • State purpose of letter
  • Catch attention
  • Indicate your interest in the position or company
  • Flatter your audience by using company/ program information found through research

Middle Paragraph(s)

  • Explain how your background makes you a qualified candidate
  • Give an example, talk about a specific project, accomplishment, or service
  • Highlight information found in the resume

Final Paragraph

  • Refer the reader to your enclosures (resume, reference, examples of work)
  • Indicate your intentions for follow-up
  • Repeat a number where you may be reached


  • Complementary Close (e.g. Sincerely, Regards, Thank you)
  • Signature

Design Guidelines

  • Layout: You may use the same heading for your cover letter as you used for your resume.
  • Font: Use a font size of 10-12 points. Choose a standard font that is easy to read (Times New Roman, Arial, etc.) Do not mix two font styles. Use the same font for both your cover letter and resume
  • Margins: Keep the margins even. Margins should be between .5 and 1 inch.
  • Length: You may use the entire page for your cover letter but keep it to one page. Most cover letters are 3-4 paragraphs.
  • Document Format: Before submitting your cover letter, always save it as a PDF file. This will preserve your formatting upon being opened.

Eight Ways to Write a Killer Cover Letter

  1. Keep your writing style direct and concise; refrain from using formal or academic language
  2. Research the organization and use similar language in your intro paragraph; quote the mission, vision, or other highlights
  3. Address it to a specific person; if you cannot find a proper contact use, “Hiring Manager”
  4. Demonstrate how you can meet the organization’s needs by using your skills and experience; use “I” sparingly
  5. Emphasize several of your top accomplishments, strengths, and capabilities; the job search is the proper place to sell yourself
  6. Ask for the next step, most likely an interview or virtual meeting
  7. Add your electronic signature (learn how to Add an Electronic Signature)
  8. Write an error-free correspondence; have at least two other people review (send it to your career coach)

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*Writing a cover letter and having it reviewed by a career coach or career mentor is equal to 4pts for the Viking Score*