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Cover Letters

The cover letter is more than a summary. You need to make a persuasive argument about your unique ability to contribute to the organization. Take this opportunity to tell your story by describing experiences, skills, and any other qualities needed to be successful in the role.

Cover Letter Format

Most cover letters follow a similar layout. Sample cover letters for nonacademic positions (PDF) can demonstrate the basic structure and format. Generally, you want to aim for one full page, but check for norms in your field as to whether going beyond one page is appropriate.

Styles vary, but in most cases, traditional professional letter format with the employers’ name and contact information listed at the top of the page is not necessary. Simply address the letter to the person named in the job listing if possible. Otherwise, some options to use include: “Dear Hiring Manager,” "Dear (Employer Name) Team," or "Dear Hiring Committee,"

Cover Letter Content

Opening paragraph

Grab the readers’ attention with an engaging introductory sentence. Tell them something about you that explains your interest in contributing to their work.

  • Include the specific position for which you are applying.
  • If you were referred to the position by a current employee, name them in the opening paragraph.
  • Compose a thesis statement, outlining reasons you are applying for this position and why you are an excellent candidate. Mention the specific qualities and experiences in the thesis statement that tells the reader what you will expand on in the letter.

Body paragraphs

Describe your achievements and distinct qualifications for the position using specific examples. You want the reader to visualize you doing the job.

  • Tell stories that demonstrate your key skills. Choose examples that represent the strongest overlap between your experience and the requirements of the role.
  • Examples should be brief and specific but more detailed than your resume.
  • Mirror language from the job description and demonstrate your knowledge of the position. Show that you have done your research but avoiding repeating exact information from an employer’s website.

Concluding paragraph

Use this paragraph to reinforce your interest, enthusiasm, and fit.

  • Echo your thesis statement to summarize your unique ability to succeed in the role.
  • Thank the reader for their consideration.
  • End with a professional closing such as “Sincerely” or “Kind Regards” and your name.

Cover Letter Tips

  • Show some personality. Tell the reader why you are excited about the position. This is a way for your letter to stand out amongst the stack of applicants.
  • Some overlap with your resume is necessary, but the letter should read as a narrative document. Avoid paragraphs with lists that repeat the same points in the resume.
  • Start by writing your example stories in modules. Write many cover letter stories then choose which ones you want to tell for specific applications.
  • If the job ad lists the cover letter as optional, send them a cover letter.