Cover Letter

As you make your way through your four years of college and beyond, you will encounter the job recruitment process over and over again until you land a position that meets your needs. Most people know that they need a resume when applying for positions, but many don’t realize that a cover letter is equally if not more important to have and can be the final piece in making or breaking a hiring manager’s decision. Hopefully this post can teach you some of the basic elements and strategies to have when writing a cover letter.

Do I need a cover letter?

The Bottom Line is: YES you need a cover letter – if you’re already spending all this time working, building you resumes and networking you should be doing everything that can make you look favorable in the eyes of the recruiter

What’s the difference between a resume and a cover letter?

Resumes feature brief snapshots of your education, experience, and skills, while a cover letter is exactly that- a letter. Do not simply regurgitate information from your resume but rather treat the cover letter as a supplement. You want your reader to want to read your resume after reading your cover letter. It is an opportunity for you to introduce yourself to the company, link your skills to the job description, and demonstrate you passions.

What do I need to write a cover letter?

You need to do your homework. Research the company before hand, look up their company philosophy, mission, statement, values, etc. and try to demonstrate these qualities in your cover letter. Read the official job description and try and incorporate the words and skills that they want into your text. You want to write a unique cover letter for each position you apply to, and this only comes from personalizing each cover letter to show an investment and genuine interest.


Screen Shot 2016-11-06 at 8.04.17 PM.pngWhat goes in a cover letter?

Header: You want to make sure that your header at the top of your page exactly matches the header on your resume. Include your name, address, phone number, and e-mail just like on your resume. Then use the following format to address your letter below your header.

Ok, now we can get to the nitty gritty basics of cover letter writing. A cover letter has four main parts: a header, an introduction of purpose, an explanation of relevant experience, and a conclusion.

Body: Your cover letter should not be more than one page in length and it will probably be no more than half a page of text. You will want no more than 3-4 paragraphs for your introduction and body. These paragraphs should progressively get more and more specific and personalized, but it is important to always focus on the position itself, tying everything you say about you to what that means for the company. Your ideas should go in the order of:

  1. Introducing the position (How you became interested, how you found this job, paint a picture of yourself and why you generally see yourself fitting in with their company. Include any previous experiences you’ve had with them such as career fair interactions, personal connections, etc.)
  2. Introducing yourself (List your major, field of study, interests and explain why you are pursuing the studies you have listed.)
  3. Credentials and qualifications (Highlight key information from your resume to paint a picture of what you can do for the company. Talk about classes you’ve taken that enhanced your interest and are relevant, use words from their job description to relate your past work experience to the job you want-be specific and explain the knowledge, skills, an abilities you have. Take this time to emphasize the leadership or extracurricular credentials you have and let your voice shine through.)
  4. What this opportunity means to you (Include what your future goals are and where you see yourself in the future. Wrap your letter up, voice your hopes for hearing back from them soon, and reiterate your passions and how this job will affect you and your future.

  • Have a strong opening statement clarifying reasons for wanting the job and why you’re a good contender to get it.
  • Say more with less.  Employers must read hundreds, so make it quick and easy for them.
  • Emphasize what you can do for them.

  • Try to be funny– often times it falls flat.
  • Be generic.  Each cover letter (and often times resume) should be tailored to where you are applying for.
  • Over-flatter.  Keep it formal and mature.

Some Final Tips

  • Make sure your qualifications match the organization’s needs
  • Use job description words
  • Be specific and quantify
  • Don’t try and fit things with cover letters you find online, make it YOUR OWN
  • No spelling error
  • Include specific information about why you want to work for the employer and industry
  • Make sure your
  • Make sure your header and overall style matches your resume
  • Mention the position and company in your first paragraph. It may seem redundant but do it!
  • Use the Cal Career Center as a resource for advising, sample cover letters, and lists of words

Featured Image:

“Hire Us” – Original picture by Dita Margarita

Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Written by Nicole Timofeevski

Accessed November 6th, 2016