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CRC Cover Letter Guide

Personalize Each Letter

  • Address each letter to a specific individual. Call the company, check spelling of the contact name and get his/her current job title
  • Place emphasis on skills needed/requested for each particular job opportunity
  • Always avoid form letters

Focus on the Reader

  • Use "You" vs. "I"
  • Place emphasis on the contributions you can make, not on how you would benefit from the position
  • Work on "closing the sale"

Three Types of Résumé Cover Letters

  1. "Cold" letter to prospective employer
    This is an unsolicited letter and typically not addressed to a specific contact, which receives little attention from a busy reader. Avoid this when possible and turn it into a "warm" letter by referencing a speaker, newspaper article, etc.
  2. "Warm" letter (in relation to a advertisement or referral)
    This type of letter is sent when someone known to the reader has suggested that you make contact, or when the reader has requested/invited candidates to respond. It is always addressed to a specific contact with the correct title.
            Newspaper ad
            Internet ad
            Personal referral
  3. "Hot" letter
    A decision maker within an organization or a close source has requested that you make contact.

A Cover Letter Should Include the Following Elements

  • A proper business letter heading information
  • An introductory paragraph
  • A statement of purpose
  • A summary of qualifications with evidence of demonstrated skills and accomplishments 
  • A request for a response
  • A proper business letter closing

Heading Information

  • Return address
  • Date
  • Contact name (be sure to include Mr. /Ms. /Dr., etc.), title and address
  • Salutation
    • Avoid generic salutations such as "To Whom it May Concern," "Dear Sir or Madam" and especially gender-specific assumptions such as "Gentlemen"
    • If you have exhausted every possibility of getting the name of an individual and must use a generic salutation, use a simple "Dear Hiring Manager:",  "Dear Prospective Employer:", or "Dear Recruiter:" 
    • Follow salutation with a colon (:). Commas are only for informal correspondence

Introduction/Statement of Purpose (First paragraph)

  • Explain why you are writing
  • State what you hope to achieve

Summary of Qualifications (Should be limited to one or two paragraphs)

  • Explain your relevant qualifications
  • Show the similarity of your qualifications to those required for the position.
  • Explain how you can be a benefit to the employer
  • Include some evidence of how you demonstrated relevant skills and accomplishments

Request for Response (Final paragraph)

  • Affirm interest
  • Take responsibility for next contact
  • If this is not possible, as with a blind ad, for example, include information on how you can be contacted
  • Include your telephone number with the signature if it is not in the body or heading of the letter


  • Close letter with "Sincerely,"
  • Tab down four times
  • Type full name
  • Sign in blue or black in the space between the closing and your typed name

Cover Letter Tips

  • Open your letter with a strong statement.
  • Draw attention to your past experience and accomplishments and the possible benefits to the employer (show, don't tell)
    • Example: Rather than "I can manage money..." write "As treasurer of my fraternity, I was responsible for a budget of $20,000..."
  • Quantify achievements whenever possible
    • Give examples (in percentage or dollars) of situations where you increased sales or profits, improved productivity, decreased costs (or defects) or improved quality
  • Be concise. A one page maximum with three to four paragraphs is more than adequate.
  • Use clean language, be articulate--not pedantic.
    • For example: Avoid saying "utilize" when "use" works. Say "read" not "peruse."
  • Avoid colloquialisms such as "touch base," or "keep in touch"
  • Avoid meaningless filler such as "at this point in time," "for whatever reason," "at the present moment" or "at a mutually convenient time and place"
  • Focus on statements, not feelings
    • Examples:
      • Avoid: "I would like to thank you for..." Instead, say: "Thank you for..."
      • Avoid: "I feel that I am qualified..." Instead say: "As you can see, my skills make me an excellent candidate..."
  • Ask for an interview or at the very least a response
  • Be positive and confident
  • Make copies, and keep track, of all letters sent to make follow-up easier
  • Letter must be 100 percent error-free. Spell-check, grammar-check, proofread and ask others to proofread on your behalf
  • Use quality bond paper in white or buff. (Be sure to use matching paper for your résumé)
  • Use print attributes (bold, italics, underlining) wisely; do not overuse
  • Use a quality laser printer (minimum 300 DPI). Avoid ink jet, bubble jet and dot matrix printers

Other Types of Job Search-Related Letters

  • Thank you letter (after interview)
  • Networking letter
  • Acceptance letter
  • Rejection of offer letter
  • Thank you letter (after hire)
  • Resignation letter

Thank You Letter (After Interview)

  • This letter is sent to interviewer after interview
  • Should be sent as soon as possible after interview (1 or 2 days at most)
  • Be brief
  • Express gratitude for the person’s time and interest
  • Reinforce strengths
  • If necessary, negate weaknesses that may have appeared in the interview
  • Reaffirm interest
  • Take responsibility for next contact

Networking Letter

  • Request an informational interview
  • Best approach: non-threatening

Acceptance Letter

  • Accept offer of position
  • Confirm terms: salary, title, start date...
  • Express gratitude, enthusiasm

Rejection of Offer Letter

  • Politely decline offer of position
  • Give a positive reason for rejection
  • Make a favorable statement about organization
  • Always leave the door open for future opportunities

Thank You Letter (After hire as a follow-up to those who helped with job search)

  • Ideal for keeping networks open. Can include: network contacts, career office personnel, professional contacts and others
  • Express appreciation for time and effort expended on your behalf
  • Offer reciprocal assistance, if ever needed

Resignation Letter

  • Express appreciation for time with organization
  • Acknowledge opportunities provided for personal growth
  • Inform of intention to leave; include final day, date
  • Assure smooth transition
  • Leave the door open for future opportunities

Career Resource Center Cover Letter Template

Once you read the guide above, use one of the appropriate CRC cover letter template links below for help in formatting your letter:

(Note: Each of the CRC's cover letter template styles above corresponds with a similarly styled résumé template for BS students, MBA students and MS Students)