Oregon State University

Cover Letter

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a formal way to announce that you are applying to a position. It should be targeted to employers and specific jobs. It should promote your abilities and make the employer want to look at your resumé. You can highlight things in your cover letter that are on your resumé, but do not go over your entire resumé in the cover letter. Cover letters should be error-free and be organized and visually pleasing. They should be clear and concise and adequately articulate your skills.

Cover Letter WritingWhat should I include in a cover letter?

  • Contact information -- Your address and phone number
  • Date
  • Employers' contact information
  • Salutation -- Try to address it to a specific person
  • Introductory paragraph -- State what position you are applying for. Indicate how you learned of the position and why you are interested in working for the company/organization.
  • Body of letter -- One or more paragraphs connecting your skills to employer needs. Highlight your skills and how you will fill the position in the company - explain why they should they hire you.
  • Conclusion -- Be polite and enthusiastic. Express the fact that you are qualified for the position. Explain how you can be contacted and invite the reader to contact you. Reiterate your interest and express your desire to meet for an interview.
  • Closing -- Do not forget your signature!

Cover Letter Examples

General Cover Letter - this is just an example, be sure to always tailor your cover letter to every job you apply for.

Prospecting Cover Letter - sometimes you may be interested in working for a company but there are not any jobs posted. This is an example of a cover letter inquiring about possible job openings.

Tips to remember

  • Use the vocabulary of your field or industry
  • Use concise phrases
  • Use numbers to quantify achievements
  • Avoid long paragraphs
  • Omit personal pronouns
  • Margins should be 1/2 inch to 1 inch
  • One page length is standard, one side only but you can have two pages
  • Use bolding, italics, and underlining to highlight
  • Laser print on quality paper
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread!

Comment about writing cover letters by an employer

In response to a recent job post...

"We received 74 applications; just over half of them were competitive, with the rest failing to demonstrate any research experience or meet the education requirements. 

One trend that I noticed with many of the students who submitted applications through their school job sites was that they neglected to include a cover letter (as requested).  This was not the case with the one OSU student who applied, but something that you may want to pass on to students as they are learning how to best present themselves in this competitive job market.  Other things that seem to frequently pop up include: clearly using the same cover letter for multiple jobs (often not all of the names/dates/titles get changed), having spelling errors on their resume, not including appropriate contact information on a resume (name, mailing address, city, state, ZIP, phone and email), and spelling and grammar errors in their cover letter.  As the person who is responsible for logging all of the submitted resumes, I really appreciate it when applicants use a formal business letter format and include all of their contact information in a block at the top of their cover letter.  This speeds up my job significantly, makes it easier for the person reviewing the resumes to know which they are looking at, and gives a more professional appearance."

Additional Information about Cover Letters

If you would like your cover letter, resume or both reviewed, come to Drop-In hours: Monday-Thursday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Career Services.

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