Writing a Strong Cover Letter
Your cover letter introduces you to a prospective employer. It may be an email or in hard copy. Either way it creates your first impression and demonstrates your communication skill. While a cover letter may not always be required, it is a great way to explain to an employer why you are a good fit for the position.
Cover letter content
- Catch the employer’s attention quickly by leading with a strong statement.
- Clearly express why you are writing.
- State how you learned of the organization and job opening.
- Express your interest in the organization and job.
- Identify any connection(s) you have with the organization.
Middle (1-3 paragraphs)
- Expand on the information in your resume.
Identify one or two of your strongest qualifications and clearly explain how these skills apply to the job.
Refer to the job description, if applying to a specific position.
Demonstrate that you have researched the organization.
Explain how you are a good fit for the position and/or organization.
- Re-emphasize your interest in the position.
- Express your interest in an interview.
- State that you will follow-up with a phone call (make sure you do call).
- Thank the reader for their time.
Cover letter strategies
- Address your cover letter to a specific person. Figure out who this person is and their title. If you cannot find the contact information, address your letter with “Dear Hiring Manager.”
- Write your cover letter in the traditional business format (even if you are sending email).
- Customize each letter to the position by analyzing the job description and highlighting the experience, skills, and education that the employer is seeking.
- Align your skills and experience with the position requirements in the cover letter.
- Demonstrate your industry and company knowledge through the use of industry-specific keywords.
- Use a professional email account and be sure to name your attached resume using your name, i.e. Last Name_Resume or First.Last_Resume.
- Proofread, proofread, and proofread! Errors are not professional.
- Have someone else read your letter before you send it.
- Use matching paper and fonts for the cover letter and resume if you are sending via mail or in person. This shows continuity and professionalism.
Cover letter example
Customize your cover letter to the job/internship description:
- Internship Name: Access Medical Sales and Marketing Internship (Monroe Brown Foundation) Organization: Access Medical, LLC
- Contact: Tianna Brown, email address, Phone: 269.276.0068, P.O. Box 50986, Kalamazoo, MI 49005, website
- General job functions the organization is usually hiring: Marketing/HR
- Brief Description of Internship: Access Medical is looking for an energetic intern candidate who is interested in learning the operations of a durable medical equipment company with a focus on sales and marketing.
- Required Experiences: Must be self-motivated with a strong work ethic.
- Qualifications: Schools: Four year college 3rd year, Four year college 4th year or more, Graduate School
- About Company: Access Medical is a home Medical Equipment provider serving the greater Kalamazoo community. Our staff is trained and knowledgeable in a wide variety of home medical equipment and supplies, which allows us to meet you and your patient’s needs. Access Medical strives to make a difference in peoples’ lives and in the greater Kalamazoo community.
Insert your name and address
Insert Today's Date
Insert Employer's Name and Title
Dear Ms. Brown:
I am a sales and business marketing major at Western Michigan University and I learned of the internship at Access Medical through Jane Baker at the WMU Business Internship Panel. Based upon the qualifications listed in Handshake, I am writing to express my interest in the position. Access Medical’s commitment to meeting the needs of patients and caregivers, along with my interest in sales, marketing and helping others, make a great combination that will benefit your company.
I pride myself on being a self-motivated individual in all areas of my life, especially when learning new things. For example, in order to learn more about my major, I was selected to be a part of the Business Externship Program, a collegiate level job shadow opportunity. I spent several days at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, learning the role of their sales managers and taking part in several client meetings and calls. I also pride myself on having a strong work ethic. This quality helped me receive two promotions to lead positions in my work at a local ice cream shop. I would utilize these qualities at Access Medical in order to learn the operations of a durable medical equipment company, and dedicate myself to the sales and marketing of your products.
I am confident that my professional and educational background, complemented by my strong work ethic and self-motivation, would be great assets to Access Medical. Although the attached resume outlines my accomplishments, a personal interview would be the only way to fully illustrate why I am an excellent fit for the position. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Cover letter checklist
Business format and overall quality of writing ability
- The letter uses correct business format with date and addresses at the top, and a signature at the bottom. The letter is clear and concise, and grammatically correct. There are no spelling errors.
Section 1: Introduction
- This section identifies the position for which you are applying and explains why you are interested in the job. You have described how you heard about the opening. The wording is creative and catches an employer’s attention quickly.
Section 2: Identification of skills and experiences as related to position
- The letter identifies one or two of your strongest qualifications and clearly relates how these skills apply to the job at hand. The letter explains specifically why you are interested in the position and this type of job, company, and/or location.
Section 3: Closing
- The letter refers the reader to your resume or any other enclosed documents. The letter thanks the reader for taking time to read this letter. You are assertive as you describe how you will follow up with the employer in a stated time period.
Grammar is the foundation for communication. The better your grammar, the clearer your message. Of course we all make mistakes, but take extra precaution with your professional documents because with such intense competition in the job market, you don’t want to give hiring managers any reason to disqualify you for the position.
Tips for grammar
- Spell check – Be aware, spellcheck does not catch everything. For example, to has a different meaning than too.
- No text language – Always spell out your words. Casual language can give an employer the idea that you are not to be taken seriously. Avoid LOLs and emoticons… always.
- No contractions – Contractions are words that use apostrophes to replace letters. These sound more informal than you want to use in formal letters. For example, write (and speak) I am instead of I’m.
- Read it aloud – It is often easier to catch mistakes when we read something out loud, even if it feels silly! Try reading to yourself or having a friend read it aloud for you.
- Know the rules – When in doubt, look it up! A good rule of thumb is that commas go where you would naturally take a pause in your sentence.
Remember: It's all in the details
- This is someone’s first impression of you. If you claim to be “detail-oriented” or say that you have “excellent communication” skills, mistakes on your professional documents invalidate these claims as well as potentially the rest of your qualifications.
- If you failed to take the time to proofread and correct your professional documents for your application, you may not appear to respect or value a position with them.
Your professional documents represent your written communication skills. If their sample size of your written communication is one and you have a few errors in it or it does not flow well, a recruiter may assume you don’t possess this skill.