Cover Letter Do’s and Don’ts

A cover letter is your chance to introduce your personal story and create a positive first impression with potential employers. In this competitive job market, a great cover letter (accompanying a great resume) increases your chances of getting an interview.

The letter lets the reader know why you are contacting them; connects your skills, experience, and education to the position; and allows you to articulate—through specific examples—why YOU are a good fit.

How do you write a great cover letter? To start, follow these key tips.

DON’T use the same letter for every application. Your cover letter should always be targeted to the specific position and organization, so you will need a customized letter for each internship or job application! That said, your letters should include 3-4 paragraphs that can follow a similar formula.

DO show you’ve done your research! Begin your letter with information about the organization that will grab the employer’s attention. Say something about their mission, a recent achievement, something about one of their projects or products, or anything else that shows you’ve done some homework about the organization.

DO include a thesis statement. This tells the reader what you will prove about your ability to do the job. For example: My project management, research, and written communication skills make me an excellent match for this position. Use your thesis statement to give examples that illustrate your skills and experience and how they match the employer’s requirements.

DON’T recycle your resume. Avoid repeating facts outlined on your resume and continue to match your skills and experience with their requirements.

DO finish strong. Give a final statement of your interests/qualifications by circling back to your thesis statement. Thank the employer for their consideration and state your availability to discuss your qualifications in a personal interview. If you have the employer’s contact information, plan to follow up with a phone call or email. If not, you may restate your contact information.

DO utilize CCD resources! Check out the CCD’s website for useful information. There you will find the CCD Cover Letter Guide, which includes specific examples for different situations (referral by a personal contact to the employer, previous work experience at the organization, etc.). You can also drop in for a 15-minute cover letter review or make an individual career counseling appointment at the CCD if you are struggling. We can help!

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