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The purpose of a cover letter is to convince an employer that your skills and background make you worth interviewing. While a resume summarizes your experience, a cover letter persuasively relates that experience to the specific job to which you are applying.
It’s true that some employers barely glance at cover letters; however, many others review them attentively. View it as an extra opportunity for you to promote yourself, and increase your chances of getting an interview by sending a well-written cover letter with every application.
Sample cover letters can be viewed here.
A cover letter generally consists of three or four paragraphs and is always less than a page; very experienced candidates applying for senior positions may write more. The goal is to give employers enough information to want to meet you, without overwhelming them.
Explain clearly and concisely why you are writing. Since your name is at the bottom of the letter, you do not need to introduce yourself. State the full name of the position and how you learned about it, including the name of the person, publication or website and the date of the listing. This paragraph can be as simple as the following:
“I am writing in response to your advertisement for a Special Events Assistant in the May 24 Boston Sunday Globe. My skills and experience would enable me to excel in this position.”
Some applicants prefer to begin this paragraph in a way they hope will grab the reader’s attention:
“If you’re looking for a Sales Associate with boundless energy and a record of excellence, your search is over…”
“As a recent Electrical Engineering graduate with a 3.9 GPA, I can offer your firm a mastery of the latest technologies…”
This can be an effective technique if you know the personality of the organization or the individual receiving the letter, but it is risky if you don’t.
• Write these paragraphs using the outline you prepared, tailoring your letter to the job. Don't just repeat the content on your resume, but explain the value that your experience would bring to the employer. Explain how your qualifications match the job description by highlighting relevant experience and briefly describing concrete examples that demonstrate your capabilities:
“The research paper I wrote about the benefits Islamic banking would have on the U.S. economy required me to do extensive research of literary sources and interview experts in the field of finance.”
“Boston Pharmaceuticals’ cancer vaccine has revolutionized preventative medicine. One of my most important career goals is to help bring cutting-edge health care products to doctors and patients, which is why I would be proud to work for your organization.”
Sometimes a resume leaves questions in the employer’s mind, for example, about periods of unemployment or
reasons for a career change or relocation. These questions may be serious enough to prevent you from getting an interview, so it is usually best to address them directly:
“I resigned from my last position six months ago in order to care for an ailing family member. I am
now ready to recommit myself full time to my career.”
“Although I currently live in Boston, I am preparing to relocate to the San Diego area in order to be
closer to my family.”
“I am eager to discuss with you the kind of contributions I can make to Zephyr Advertising as an Account Representative. I will contact you next week to follow up on my candidacy. Feel free to contact me at 123-456-7890 or email@example.com. Thank you for your kind attention to my application; I look forward to hearing from you.”
Write a networking letter or e-mail to request an informational interview or a meeting with a professional contact. Check out the Job Search Networking and Informational Interviewing page
If you want to work for a particular organization and cannot find a contact, try a letter of inquiry to express your interest and ask about opportunities.
After the interview, send a thank-you note within 24 to 48 hours by e-mail or postal mail to the person who interviewed you. Thank-you note sample
Once you've been offered the position, you'll need to know how to affirm your acceptance with the employer. Here's a sample letter of acceptance.
Should you decide to leave a position, a letter notifying your employer should be sent well in advance of your departure so as to maintain a respectful work relationship and give the employer time to adjust to the change by looking for a replacement. Here's a sample of a format used when resigning from a position.
You will need a list of three or four references to take with you to interviews.
Bring your drafts to walk-in hours (M-F, 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. 103 Stearns) for a critique!