The cover letter is your chance to sell your résumé to the employer. They are less direct than résumés and provide you with the opportunity to make a great first impression. It is important to include a cover letter with every résumé you submit.

Cover Letter Formats

The Opening Paragraph

The opening paragraph is your first chance to grab the employers attention. Include the following in your introduction:

  • The reason you are writing
  • The name of the position you are applying for
  • The place the job was announced or how you heard about it
  • Your degree(s), including when and where you received it (them)
  • Date of availability

Rule of thumb: Recycle terms directly from the job announcement, especially the exact “title” of the position.

The Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs allow you to highlight your credentials to the employer

  • Include one or two qualifications that the employers would be interested in
  • Explain why you are interested in this organization
  • Provide any previous experience which is related to the position
  • Refer the employer to the enclosed résumé
  • Be positive about your skills

Rule of thumb: Tailor these paragraphs to the specific job. Remember, the most important information should come first.

The Final Paragraph

  • Be brief and direct
  • Indicate the time period you are available for an interview
  • Thank the employer for their consideration

Cover Letter Do's and Don'ts


  • Be direct and “to the point”
  • Address the specific person and not “To Whom it May Concern”
  • Highlight
  • Tailor your letter to the specific job
  • Recycle terms from the job announcement
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread
  • Sign the letter


  • Be sloppy
  • Be longwinded—one page is preferred
  • Try to flatter the employer

The information on this page is from
Harris, Muriel. (1994).
Reference Guide to Grammar and Usage. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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