Resumes for College Students and Recent Graduates: The Cover Letter
Once your resume has been assembled, laid out, and printed to your satisfaction, the next and final step before distribution is to write your cover letter. Though there may be instances where you deliver your resume in person, you will usually send it through the mail or online. Resumes sent through the mail always need an accompanying letter that briefly introduces you and your resume. The purpose of the cover letter is to get a potential employer to read your resume, just as the purpose of the resume is to get that same potential employer to call you for an interview.
Like your resume, your cover letter should be clean, neat, and direct. A cover letter usually includes the following information:
- Your name and address (unless it already appears on your personal letterhead) and your phone number(s); see item 7.
- The date.
- The name and address of the person and company to whom you are sending your resume.
- The salutation (“Dear Mr.” or “Dear Ms.” followed by the person’s last name, or “To Whom It May Concern” if you are answering a blind ad).
- An opening paragraph explaining why you are writing (for example, in response to an ad, as a follow-up to a previous meeting, at the suggestion of someone you both know) and indicating that you are interested in whatever job is being offered.
- One or more paragraphs that tell why you want to work for the company and what qualifications and experiences you can bring to the position. This is a good place to mention some detail about that particular company that makes you want to work for them; this shows that you have done some research before applying.
- A final paragraph that closes the letter and invites the reviewer to contact you for an interview. This can be a good place to tell the potential employer which method would be best to use when contacting you. Be sure to give the correct phone number and a good time to reach you, if that is important. You may mention here that your references are available upon request.
- The closing (“Sincerely” or “Yours truly”) followed by your signature in a dark ink, with your name typed under it.
Your cover letter should include all of this information and be no longer than one page in length. The language used should be polite, businesslike, and to the point. Don’t attempt to tell your life story in the cover letter; a long and cluttered letter will serve only to annoy the reader. Remember that you need to mention only a few of your accomplishments and skills in the cover letter. The rest of your information is available in your resume. If your cover letter is a success, your resume will be read and all pertinent information reviewed by your prospective employer.
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