Cover Letters

The cover puts a real person behind the resume.  It should answer the question - Why should I hire you? It should grab employees attention and point out why you, above all other applicants, should be contacted for a personal interview.


A selling tool that outlines your skills and experiences so an employer can see, at a glance, how you can contribute to the employer's workplace.  Most employers spend 30 seconds or less per initial resume review.


Learn what makes an effective recommendation and what you can do to help your contact say what you need to land the job.

Cover Letter Format

First paragraph

  • What led you to apply (referral, job posting, etc.)?
  • Do you have a prior relationship/mutual contact with the reader?
  • Address why the employer must read further. Grab the reader's attention. What can you do for the company?

Second paragraph (optional third - transferable skills)

  • Sales paragraph - point out achievements or qualifications in this field - Use your positioning / mission statement.
  • Demonstrate your research / knowledge of the position by comparing your experience to their needs.

Closing paragraph

  • Pave the way for the interview (ask for an appointment, restate your interest in the company).

Effective Cover Letter Content

  • Tailor each cover letter to the specific company and position.
  • Create personalized letterhead for a polished, professional look.
  • Develop a compelling first paragraph stating why you want to work for the company.
  • Be specific! Stay focused on the value you can add to the company.
  • Don't waste the reader's time with extraneous information. Don't rehash items already listed on the resume.
  • Make relevant links between the position and your past experiences.
  • Avoid indirect language: "I believe I have the skills," Use positive language: "I have the skills"
  • If you have a job description for the position, link between it with your experiences. You can use bullet points to emphasize relevant skills.
  • Maintain control of the process. Tell the reader that YOU will follow up with a phone call at a specified time rather than saying, "I look forward to hearing from you."
  • Be your own critic! Review each sentence in detail. Include accomplishments that relate to the specific job.

Adapted from "Discovering Your Career in Business",
Tim Butler& Jim Waldroop, 1996
and from William Fitzpatrick,

Cover Letter Sample

Resume Writing Strategies and Tools

  • Be concise and emphasize critical points.
  • Reinvent yourself. Maximize your use of transferable skills.
  • Keep layout and language simple, concise and consistent.
  • Only highlight accomplishments that add value or show results.
  • Distinguish between duties and accomplishments and emphasize accomplishments.
  • Use action verbs to convey accomplishments and results.
  • Only list computer skills you have knowledge of.
  • Avoid excessive jargon, abbreviations, acronyms, and personal pronouns. Use common language.
  • Less is more. Avoid decorative fonts, underlines, italics, creative bullets, graphics and shading and use lots of white space.
  • Internships DO NOT go under work experience. Any internships should be displayed under a separate section.

Resume Action Verbs - Summary of key action verbs that can be used in your resume.

Resume Samples


References and Letters of Recommendation

Who do you choose?

  • Who you choose to be a reference or write a letter of recommendation can be just as important as what they say about you.
  • Select someone who knows you professionally.
  • A direct supervisor is always a top choice.
  • If possible, provide two to three references or letters of recommendation from people who can address different areas of your professional and academic history and can highlight different strengths and accomplishments you had while working for or as a student.
  • General rule: Family members or close personal friends as references is not a good idea.

Prepare your references

  • Always notify references that they may be contacted by a potential employer.
  • Let your reference know what questions to expect.
  • Provide references with a copy of your resume.
  • Provide your reference information about the potential job. Ideally, they can site specific examples of how your past experiences will add value to the new job.
  • Ask references to enclose a business card as well so that the potential employer may contact them if they seek additional information.

Letters of recommendation in addition to references

  • Letters of recommendation should be accumulated and every time you leave a job or internship you should get a letter of recommendation from your supervisor so you have it in the future.
  • It may speed up your hiring process.
  • The biggest advantage is that you already know exactly what your references said about you.