Cover Letters

Employers receive hundreds of resumés and applications a year and the task of separating the good from the bad is nearly impossible when everything looks the same. So to answer the question as to how you can set yourself apart from the masses is a cover letter.

Cover letters are an essential part of the application process. It offers:

  • Opportunity to emphasize qualifications
  • Highlight your strengths that pertain to the position
  • Provides personal background that can’t be listed on a resumé
  • Expresses what you can offer the prospective employer

It is a perfect medium for personalizing the application process and introducing yourself to the employer.

There are many do’s and don'ts that can make a cover letter a success or a flop:

  • Do NOT share personal information. (i.e. marital status, religion)
  • Make your letter short and to the point. The typical cover letter is four paragraphs long. The key is to be professional
  • Tailor your cover letter for the individual position and company you are applying for. Don’t fall into the cookie-cutter trap
  • Be honest
  • Use quality paper that is easy to read or can be photocopied
  • Avoid clichés or trite phrases. Do not use gimmicky language or silly anecdotes
  • Don’t sound desperate for the job
  • If you’re overqualified, downplay it a bit in the cover letter
  • Address the letter to the person who will be reviewing the resumés. Include job title and salutation whenever possible
  • Date the letter, sign it and include your telephone number
  • Familiarize yourself with the company where you are applying. This may require a little time but it pays off when you can mention what appeals or impresses you about the company
  • Proofread your letter before sending it. Check for spelling and grammatical errors. Even one spelling mistake can be a kiss of death
  • Follow up with a telephone call in a few days. Don’t be overbearing or make a pest of yourself
  • Choose the same theme or format for your cover letter that you used for your resumé

How To Write a Cover Letter

Date July 1, 2004
Your Name
Your Address
City, State, Zip
Telephone Number
Tom Hepner
1234 Main Street
Salem, OR 97301
Title of Person
Name of Company
City, State, Zip
Mr. William Maikit
Statesman Journal
PO Box 100
Salem, OR 97301


Mr. William Maikit,

1st Paragraph
Why are you writing?
Name position.
How, when, where you learned of the opening.
Mention who referred you, if applicable.

Please consider me an applicant for assistant copy editor for the Statesman Journal. Jerry Smith of the Olympia Daily Herald informed me of this position.

2nd Paragraph
Why are you interested?
Why have you applied?
Emphasize skills and experience and relate them to the position.
Note your interests in the company, etc.

As the copy editor of the Courier, the Chemeketa Community College student newspaper, I have both the experience and practical skills you require. During my term as editor of the Courier, school-wide readership increased by 10 percent. While working as a summer intern with the Olympia Daily Herald, I wrote two guest commentaries. I will utilize my strong communication skills, my ability to interview for information, and my knowledge of the newspaper profession to contribute to the quality of the Statesman Journal.

3rd Paragraph
Mention enclosures.
Relate how information on resumé is relevant.

My enclosed resumé contains additional information, along with copies of articles and commentaries I have written for the Olympic Daily Herald.

Closing Paragraph
When are you available for interview? State intentions - follow-up.

I am available for an interview at your convenience and will contact you to discuss employment opportunities during the week of July 9, 2004. Thank you for your consideration.

Simple closing line such as "Sincerely."
Sign your name legibly.
Type your name


Joe Smith



  • Check spelling
  • Include enclosure line
  • Avoid a lot of "I's"
  • Be sure to use complete sentences
  • Type an error-free envelope using same stationary

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