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O’Brien Center for Career Development

Cover Letters

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a marketing tool used to create interest in your candidacy.  The goal of the cover letter is to prompt the recipient to review the accompanying resume and ultimately invite you for an interview.   A cover letter should clearly demonstrate how you are an excellent fit for the particular organization or position to which you are applying.

Where do I start?

It is very important to read the job description thoroughly. Dissect the job description and highlight the key skills that are required in the position. Your cover letter should mirror what it is they are looking for in an employee. For example, if the description reads they are looking for someone who can read lab reports; write about how, when and where you applied that skill. It is not enough to just write you can do something, you have to provide an example.

For sample cover letters please see the Document Library under the Resources tab on Advantage.


Cover letters should be no longer than three or four paragraphs. The goal is to get an interview and the cover letter is your first opportunity to ‘toot your own horn’. You are the only one who can do this in a manner that is clear, concise and with confidence.

Final Tips

  • Use a PROFESSIONAL tone in your letter.  Address the person formally (Dear Dr. Smith) or (Dear Hiring Manager)
  • Address your values, passion, career interests, and the skills you possess  that are  related to the position – DO NOT use a generic letter.
  • Use a business format in writing your letter.
  • Make sure all your contact information is included in the letter.
  • Focus on the content over style.
  • Be clear, concise and specific in your writing.
  • Keep the letter to one page.
  • CHECK YOUR SPELLING!  Proofread before you send all letters!  If you can, have someone else read the letter before it is sent.

Paragraph One - Introduction

State why you are writing; name the position or type of work in which you are interested. (Mention the resource used in finding out about the position or company: news media, friend, internet, on-campus resource)

Paragraph Two - Body

Discuss your qualifications (academic background, work experience, personal skills) for this type of work. Call attention to relevant experience, but do not simply repeat your resume word for word. (Include your resume) Indicate your interest and strong desire to find work in the field. (You can cover the main points in one paragraph).

Paragraph Three -  Closing

Suggest a time when you will contact the employer. Be sure to thank the employer.