A cover letter accompanies a résumé any time you are not able to hand deliver it. Generally fairly formulaic in format, a cover letter serves three purposes:
- To tell a potential employer of your interest in applying for a job,
- To describe the ways your skills and experience meet the employer’s needs, and
- To explain what you will do to follow up with this contact.
As you compose your cover letter, bear the following rules in mind:
- Follow standard business letter format and punctuation,
- Address your letter to an actual person, rather than to a job title, whenever possible,
- Explain why you are writing in the first sentence so that the letter can be read with that understanding or rerouted to the proper person. If you have connections with the addressee or have had prior contact, state that in the first sentence as well,
- Describe your professional skills as they relate to the actual position you are hoping to attain. If at all possible, incorporate the specific skills or terms targeted by the employer in the job advertisement into your letter,
- Outline what you are willing to do as a next step in establishing contact with the employer to further your application, and
- Sign your letter!
For detailed, step-by-step instructions on writing an effective cover letter, and sample letters, download the Career Center's Cover Letter Guide.
About e-mail: When emailing your documents, save them as PDFs so that your formatting is preserved and with your name in the document title (Mary Brown Resume Assistant Manager) so that it can be distinguished from others', and send them as attachments to a very brief, typo-free, introductory e-mail message that says, “Please accept the attached documents in application for [position title]. Sincerely, [your name]”