What are the objectives of a cover letter?
A good cover letter puts
your résumé in context and persuades
the prospective employer that you are a good match for the position in question.
If your cover letter does its job, the prospective employer will begin to consider
your candidacy and go on to review your résumé in detail.
Your cover letter also
serves as a sample of your organizational and communication skills. For this
reason, it's essential to spend time writing and organizing
the content, and to proofread it carefully. The time and care that you devote
to constructing and writing your cover letter and résumé will
demonstrate to the prospective employer that you're capable of producing high
Finally, your cover letter expresses your interest in the particular position
or particular organization. Cover letters should be individually tailored for
each job prospect. Your letter should convey to each prospective employer that
you have an understanding of the job, and that you've done some thinking about
how you could fit in to the organization and contribute to its goals.
How should I approach the writing task?
Your cover letter is your
opportunity to market those aspects of your skills, abilities, education,
training, background, and experience which are most relevant
to the position you're seeking. This means that you will need to begin by doing
some thinking about your skills and background and how these relate to the
position for which you're applying. (For more information about skills, visit
the English Advising Career Page.) Your cover letter should reflect your individuality,
but remember that you are "introducing yourself" for the first time
to a stranger: it's best to err on the side of professionalism.
Read the job announcement carefully. What are the most important qualifications
being sought? How can you best demonstrate that you have them? Try to put yourself
in the prospective employer's position: What would you want to know about a
candidate for this particular job? What information would be most important
to you? Include only the most relevant attributes and experiences you possess
which specifically match the job for which you're applying.
Research the company or
organization: What does the employing organization do? What are its goals?
What is its history? How does it fit in to its industry?
What characterizes the organization's culture (e.g., is it casual, conservative,
highly structured, diverse, traditional, modern, fast-paced, etc.)? Some information,
such as the organization's mission, purpose, clients, partners, and a sense
of its "style" can be found on its website (if it has one). There
are also industry and employer directories available on the web, in the libraries,
and at UW Career
Center in 134 Mary Gates Hall. Local and national
newspapers, industry-related publications and journals, and the Washington
Occupational Information System are
also good resources.
Address the letter to a specific individual. As with all writing, it's important
to identify your audience. Taking the time to find out the hiring party's name
and correct title is another way to demonstrate your interest in the position.
How should I format my cover letter?
Your cover letter should be three to four paragraphs in length and limited
to one page. Like an essay, its content can usually be divided up into three
The introduction states the position you're seeking, explains how you learned
about the position, and indicates your interest. It often also contains a brief
statement of your qualifications (education, experience, and skills).
The body highlights the
most important qualities you can offer to this particular employer,
related to the position that you're seeking. Because you will be attaching
your résumé, this is not the place to go into great detail. What
you are attempting to do is to get the employer's attention and interest him/her
in your candidacy. This is also the place to present other relevant information
about your characteristics or background that may not be evident from your
résumé. You might provide the employer with some specific examples
of how you've demonstrated particular key skills or how you fulfill the most
important qualifications listed in the job announcement.
The conclusion should summarize your qualifications and your interest in the
position. Be sure to close your letter with a request for action or an indication
that you'll be following up. This might include a request for an interview,
a statement of your intent to call the employer on a specific date, or the
dates you'll be in town for an interview. Finally, always thank the employer
for considering your application.
Sample Cover Letters
221 Peachtree Street
Seattle, WA 98105
April 22, 2013
Ms Stephanie Everly
12 Main Street
Amherst, MA 11001
Re: Editorial assistant position
Dear Ms Everly:
I am writing to express my keen interest in the editorial assistant position
you advertised with the University of Washington's Career Center. I will be receiving
my bachelor of arts degree in English in June 2012, and I am eager to join a
small publishing house where I can use my skills in writing, editing, proofreading,
research, and critical anaylsis. Based on my knowledge of Dickinson Press publications
and objectives, I believe that my educational background and abilities would
be an excellent match for the editorial position.
Through my academic work in English language, literature, and writing, I am prepared
to make meaningful contributions to editorial discussions and to function as
a member of your editorial team. In addition to my university training, I have
held editorial positions with Bricolage, the University of Washington's
undergraduate literary journal, and with Steubing Press, a small publishing house
specializing in non fiction and regional publications in the Pacific Northwest.
These intern positions have provided me with experience in editing, proofreading,
fact checking, production scheduling, working with off-site vendors, sales, marketing,
and customer service. My positions with a small publication and a small press
have taught me to manage my time effectively, adapt readily to new responsibilities,
work as a team member, and function well under pressure. The writing skills I
developed through my background as an English major have been further refined
in both of these positions, where I learned to write concise, persuasive prose
for press releases, catalog statements, and website content. Both positions afforded
me an in-depth understanding of the important and varied behind-the-scenes work
involved in book publishing.
I hope you'll agree that the combination of my academic training and my internship work in publishing has provided me with excellent preparation for the demands of a literary editorial position with Dickinson Press. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss this opportunity in greater detail.
Mary L. Martin
221 Peachtree Street
Seattle, WA 98105
April 22, 2013
Echomedia Marketing Group
123 Avery Place
Seattle, WA 98111
Dear Ms Rodell:
John Bingham of Hemming Communications tells me that you are seeking a marketing
assistant at the Echomedia Marketing Group, and he suggested that I send you
my résumé. I am particularly interested in the public relations
work that Echomedia has done in the non profit sector, and I hope you'll agree
that my academic background in English along with my promotions internship with
the Experience Music Project make me a good candidate for this position.
In June, I will be receiving my BA in English and Communications. My background includes relevant course work in mass media communications, concepts of new media, media structure, and cross-cultural communications. I have also developed strong writing, persuasive, and critical analysis skills through my major in English.
In the course of my internship in promotions, I gained practical skills in managing
media campaigns, doing press work, and planning promotional events. One of my
tasks with the EMP was to prepare promotional materials for upcoming museum events
and to distribute these materials to the local media. Because there was often
very little lead time, I learned to obtain information quickly and assimilate
it into a persuasive set of ad materials in short order. At the end of the internship,
I was commended by my supervisor, Marion King, for producing high quality work
on a strict timeline. I am diligent, creative, and flexible, and I work well
as a member of a marketing team.
I look forward to speaking with you about the suitability of my English and marketing background for this position with Echomedia. I will telephone you within a week in the hope that we can set up a meeting soon. Thank you for considering my application.
Mary L. Martin