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Cover Letters and Letters of Inquiry

When mailing your resume to prospective employers, it should always be accompanied by a cover letter. Your letter should capture the interest of the employer and communicate a personalized message about what you can contribute to that particular organization. Make sure to tailor your letters for each employer, because letters that are mass produced and generic are unappealing.

A letter of inquiry is similar to a cover letter, but it asks about possible job opportunities rather than responding to a specific job announcement.

Content

Begin by addressing your letter to a specific person. This may involve some research on your part, such as a call to the organization to find out the correct name and title of the person to whom you should write. "Dear Sir/Madam" is very impersonal and indicates a lack of real interest in the organization and the person to whom you should write.

In the body of the letter, make it short and to the point. Throughout the letter, avoid the use of flowery language and cliches. Identify who you are, why you are writing, and where you learned of the opening. Relate your qualifications and skills to the position or organization to which you are applying. This demonstrates your knowledge of the organization and illustrates how you can be an asset to them. Refer to your resume without restating it word for word. Your cover letter is supposed to highlight your resume. The goal is to emphasize a few strong, specific examples that highlight your experience, skills, passion, and qualifications. This is your time to communicate your passion, interest, and enthusiasm – utilize the time! To conclude the letter, indicate what you want to happen next. If you want an interview, ask for it.

Format and Style

Any business-style letter format is appropriate (e.g. full-block format, modified-block format). Always indicate whether there are enclosures included (e.g. resume, writing sample, transcript).

When writing your letter, keep in mind the reader's perspective. The most effective cover letters are clear, concise, and convey messages in three to five paragraphs. Your letter should not exceed one page in length.

Use paper that matches the paper of your printed resume. You may use matching envelopes or plain manila envelopes. Like the resume, your letter must be neat and typed with no spelling or grammar errors.


Examples

Read through our three paragraph model for writing cover letters, or click the images below for sample cover letters:


Reviews

Career & Academic Planning staff can review and provide feedback on your cover letter or other job search correspondence during a 30-minute individual meeting. At minimum, you need to have a first draft written to schedule an appointment. You can schedule an appointment online, or schedule an appointment by calling us at 540-568-6555.