Cover Letter Guide

What to include in your Cover Letter

Cover letters should NOT list everything in your resume; rather, they should highlight a few relevant experiences, skills, or student involvements related to the position. They are usually one page long, free from grammatical errors, and use the language of the job description. Cover letters should refer to specific qualifications needed in the role and tie your past experiences to show how you are qualified. Template cover letters that are not tailored to the company typically receive no response from the employer.

Types of Cover Letters

  • Application cover letter. Use this format when responding to an ad or other listing. Describe how your qualifications meet the needs of the position.
  • Cold-contact cover letter. Use this format to contact employers without advertising or publishing job openings. Research careers to find the requirements for the job you’re applying for, matching your qualifications with that research.
  • Networking or Referral cover letter. Use this format if you were referred to a job opening through networking, informational interviewing, or contact with employers. A referral may be to a specific job opening (advertised or unadvertised) or to an employer who may or may not be hiring now. Make sure you mention the person who referred you.

Cover Letter Outline

Heading & Greeting

In the heading, include the date, name, and contact information. Address your letter to the contact listed on the posting; if one is not listed or you cannot find one by searching online, start your cover letter with “Dear Hiring Manager:”, or you may use the job title of the recipient (Maintenance Supervisor, Office Manager), or perhaps “Human Resources” or “Search Committee.” Do not address your letter to a business, a department, or “To Whom It May Concern.”


Explain who you are and your reason for writing; indicate the position to which you are applying, where you found it, and why you believe you are qualified using keywords you identified from the job description. Use the first paragraph to express your energy, enthusiasm, skills, education, and work experience that could contribute to the employer’s success. Doing this should introduce the key reasons you believe you are qualified to set up your next paragraph(s).


Market yourself. Illustrate how you are an excellent match for the position by mentioning relevant skills, part-time jobs, previous internships, projects, or other transferrable skills.

Briefly summarize your talents, experience, and achievements, as it should list only some of what you have on your resume. Instead, you should select at most 2-3 items and relate how these have prepared you for the position. Be specific as to why you are interested in that particular job and employer. Reveal why you are a perfect and unique match for the position. Explain why you have chosen the employer. Pull language from the job description and infuse it into this paragraph as you highlight your qualifications.


Thank the person for taking the time to read your letter. Reassert your interest in the organization and specific position. Tell the employer how you plan to follow up. Include your phone number and email. Use an appropriate closing, such as “Sincerely.”