Job Search Tools
Need More Help?
- Check out the information on this page.
- Come by during our drop-in period in SSC 270 from 1-4 p.m. daily (when classes are in session) for a resume or cover letter review (bring a printed draft of your document).
- Schedule an appointment with an advisor online or call 898-5253.
- Watch our "how-to" video Five Student Resume No-No's.
The cover letter accompanies your resume and its purposes are to demonstrate a match between the employer's needs and your attributes, to demonstrate your knowledge of the organization and why you would be a good "fit" if hired, and to showcase your communication and writing ability/style. A good cover letter is typically short (usually three-to-five paragraphs).The opening paragraph should catch the employer's attention and state what position you are applying for and why. The middle should develop your theme by providing specific examples of your qualifications. The end should summarize by requesting an interview and providing contact information.
- Single space your letter and double space between paragraphs
- Use a business letter format. Google "business letter format" for examples and/or check our
sample cover letters.
- Keep your paragraphs brief and relevant.
- Tailor your letter to the position and company. You are selling yourself, so show how your
qualifications match the job duties and company goals.
- Proofread your letter carefully. Misspellings and grammatical errors communicate that you
are a poor writer and/or are careless.
Addressing the Letter: Printed Version or Attachment
- Usually you will start with your address. Some job seekers like to copy the same heading used on the resume, creating a letterhead.
- After your address, space down at least two lines and enter the date.
- Space down 2-4 more lines and type the name of the person to whom you are addressing your letter. You can type the person's title on the same line or on the line below.
- On the next line, type the company name, followed by the address on the next two or three lines.
Addressing the Letter: E-mail Version
You do not need an address or date for a cover letter embedded in an e-mail. Just start with the salutation (see below)
Begin your salutation with "Dear Mr." or "Dear Ms.," followed by the person's name and a colon or comma.
- Example: Dear Ms. Krebs, Be sure to confirm the name and gender of the addressee before you start. If you absolutely cannot find the name of the recruiter, personnel director, or director, use their title as a salutation; e.g., "Dear Human Resource Director" or "To whom it may concern."
Grabbing Attention in the First Paragraph
Employers receive hundreds of resumes for each position. You want your cover letter to stand out, so start with an opening that grabs attention immediately. Following are a few examples of openings that are effective and interesting.
State how your skills and background match the job and are a benefit to the organization
- Example: I am a computer science graduate with extensive training in networks and graphics. I am confident my experience derived from two summer internships and my demonstrated commitment to hard work and problem-solving will provide an immediate benefit to your company.
- Example: Please accept my resume in consideration for your sales territory manager position. I will graduate in December 2008 with a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Chico, where I excelled academically, earning a 3.2 overall GPA. In addition to my efforts in classroom, my college experience included a variety of jobs that demonstrate my teamwork ability, communication skills, and initiative to excel in the field.
- Example: In December, I will earn a degree in interior design at California State University, Chico. I recently completed a job with an interior designer in Northern California where I was given the responsibility of running a fine art gallery and participating in multiple interior design projects. I am looking for the opportunity to perform in this capacity for Arthur McLaughlin & Associates. Please consider my resume in regards to your design consultant position.
- Example: Laurel Flower, who supervised my work as an intern with your company, recommended that I apply for the position of assistant sales manager. (Follow with a description of your qualifications).
- Example: One of my friends, Mark Star, works as a manager for XYZ Company. He recommended that I write you about a position as a management trainee. He speaks highly of your company and believes my leadership and past sales experience would be an attribute to your organization.
Refer to company or career research you have done
- Example: I read the April 20 issue of the Wall Street Journal with great interest. The article, "Future Directions of Ten Corporations," mentioned that your company is looking for college graduates with marketing backgrounds who are bilingual in Vietnamese and English for your new office in Saigon. (Follow with a description of your qualifications and how they match company needs).
Refer to the content of the employer's ad
- Example: When I read your ad in the Daily News for a civil engineer, I almost believed you had written it for me. (Follow with a description of your qualifications).
Ask a question
- Example: Are you looking for an individual who has set sales records for two different companies and has reorganized an ad campaign to reach thousands more customers? (Follow with the details of this accomplishment).
- Example: How much are rising production costs affecting your bottom line? (Immediately give an example of how your work can improve the bottom line.)
Write about how your experiences and education match what the employer is looking for. You can expand on the main point(s) you introduced in the opening and bring up new examples. Provide specific examples as to how your qualities meet the employer's qualifications.
- Example: My organizational communication major has given me four years of public speaking experience and an extensive background in professional writing.
- Example: Competing on my college basketball team for three years strengthened my teamwork skills and provided the opportunity to build strong relationships with my peers.
Employers consider achievements to be indicators of future success, so do not be modest about yours. Using numbers as in the example demonstrates achievement. Show how your experience and achievements match the position requirements or company goals. The better job you do at matching yourself to the position, the more likely you are to get an interview.
- Example: While I served as the fundraising chair for my fraternity, I planned the campaign; researched and identified possible donors; and organized phone solicitation efforts, visits to potential donors, and several one-day events. As a result, we raised $50,000— a 200 percent increase over the prior year. To be successful, I trained teams in solicitation techniques, acted as mediator when tempers became frayed, and recruited committees who worked together to anticipate and resolve difficulties before they became crises.
Writing An Action Close
Your closing paragraph or sentence should encourage action. Offer one of two choices: either "you call me" or "I will call you." If you have a personal connection with the employer and actually have a personal contact name and phone number, the "I will call you" approach is good. These days, however, it is often difficult to get contact information so do not worry if you can't follow-up. Finally, thank the employer for taking the time to read and consider your letter and resume.
- Example: As I have described above, I am confident my sales skills, organizational abilities, and technical expertise will benefit (name of company). I will call you in a week to check on the status of my application. I look forward to setting up a time for an interview. Thank you for your consideration.
- Example: Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you and the possibility of showing you my demo reel and meeting for an interview. Thanks again.
- Example: I would appreciate the opportunity to meet and further discuss my qualifications and your new graduate registered nurse program. Please contact me at 530-898-3245 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration.
- End your letter with something professional like "Sincerely" or "Respectfully," followed by a comma. Type your name four spaces below that so you have enough room to write your signature (hard copy) or skip one line and type your name for an electronic version.
- Words to the wise: the biggest mistake applicants make is to focus on their own needs with little regard to what the company wants or needs. Write and review your letter with this in mind.