Your letter is your introduction
—it continues or starts a conversation about work or education
Just as you start a conversation by introducing yourself, a résumé should always be sent with an accompanying letter. Picture yourself sitting face-to-face with a person doing work that is interesting. What would you say? What do you want to ensure they know about you before you leave the room? Your letter is a chance to make a great first impression or continue a conversation that has already been started.
Your letter is something employers expect
—it shows your professionalism and helps them get to know you
Every time you submit a résumé, you should attach an accompanying letter. Even if they don’t specifically request it, employers expect documentation from you that shows your professionalism and potential contributions. What better way to start than by using a cover letter?
Your letter should clearly show the match
—it illustrates the connections between you and the work
Some employers scan your résumé first, while others start with the cover letter. To increase your chances of being invited to an interview, ensure that both documents clearly show the match between what the employer needs and what you can contribute. Once you have made the match, remember that the letter is your chance to stand out as an individual from the many other qualified applicants. Include information that supports and points to your résumé, without repeating it. Write professionally, using your own “voice”. Give relevant evidence from your life that will help them remember you.
Craft and review any correspondence with care
—that includes cover letters, prospecting letters, thank-you letters and emails
Any correspondence you have with a potential colleague or employer will be evaluated. Use the same careful writing, editing and reviewing techniques with all the letters and emails you send. A great cover letter that is followed by an unprofessional, poorly-punctuated email can change your opportunities quickly—and not necessarily in a positive way.
I’m not a very good writer, but I am an excellent re-writer.
– James Michener, Pulitzer prize-winning novelist
Career Services, Queen’s University 1995-2005
Letters should be:
Maximum one page
Double-spaced between paragraphs and sections
Body of text spaced well on the page
Same typeface as in résumé
“Full Block” format— justified on the left with no indents
Street or PO Box
Use the same “letterhead” that appears on your résumé—it saves time, avoids mistakes and looks professional Keep a copy of it in a template on your computer and use it in all your correspondence.
Date of writing
Name of recipient
Recipient’s job title
An actual person’s name is preferable
Check accuracy and spelling
Salutation (e.g. “Dear Ms. Gupta” or “Dear Sir or Madam”),
THE INTRODUCTION: In the first paragraph, tell the reader why you are writing. Essentially, give an indication of who you are (in context—not your name), what you want, and how you came to know about them. If you know it, include the position title for which you are applying. Note attachments/enclosures. THE RESEARCH PIECE: Paragraph two distinguishes your letter from all the rest by telling the employer why you want to work for them. Let them know that you know what they do and why it matters to you. Show that you have investigated the organization and the work.
THE MATCH: In the next paragraph (or two), let them know why they should hire you. Highlight the major skills, personality traits and areas of knowledge and expertise that you have to offer, and indicate how you perceive your attributes match their needs. Include evidence of positive contributions and perhaps tell a brief story of when you have used some of the skills they require.
Express yourself sincerely, and in