Writing a Cover Letter

A successful cover letter “hooks” an employer in the first paragraph. Those first few sentences should show that you’ve done your research about the job or internship and the organization, as well as make an employer want to learn more about you. A cover letter is also the first writing sample that an employer sees from you. Make every word count, and make sure the final version is polished and error-free.


  • Research the position. What are its key responsibilities? What skills, knowledge, and qualities are needed?
  • Research the organization. What is its culture? Its history? Its strategic goals?
  • Identify your most relevant skills and competencies. Then create “stories” from your experience that illustrate your competencies in the required areas.


  • Font – 10 to 12 point standard font (Times Roman, Garamond, Veranda, Helvetica, Arial)
  • Spacing – Margins can be .5” all around. Center your letter on the page and left justify all text.
  • Heading – Use business letter format, or use the same header as your resume to “brand” your documents.


  • Be specific – Tailor the letter to each position and employer. This tells the employer that you are truly interested in the job and took the time to research the organization.
  • Whenever possible, address the letter to a person – Spell names correctly.
  • Be concise – Only one page. Be clear and avoid using flowery or boastful language.
  • Complement your résumé – Don’t just repeat information from your résumé. Tell “stories” and use examples.
  • NEVER be negative – Don’t apologize for not yet possessing a skill they would like to see.
  • Proofread, Proofread, Proofread – Typos signal a lack of attention to detail.
  • Come to CareerLAB – Get a cover letter critique! Make an appointment or come to walk-ins.

First Paragraph

  • Name the specific position for which you are applying.
    • Indicate how you learned of the position, for example Handshake or their website.
    • State why you’re interested in the position and the employer. Take time to personalize this in your own words.

Second and/or Third Paragraph(s)

  • Indicate WHY you are a good fit for the position. What skills & competencies do you possess that will benefit them?
    • Explain how your academic experiences provide you with relevant skills.
    • Describe experiences that illustrate your skills (jobs, internships, leadership roles).