A cover letter is a letter that accompanies and introduces your résumé to demonstrate how your skills and experience match the employer's needs. Use a cover letter when you're:
- applying to a posted position
- submitting your résumé to an organization that is not currently hiring (in this case, it’s sometimes called a “letter of introduction” or a “prospecting letter”)
- applying for graduate school, a co-op program, an internship, a scholarship, etc.
You should put together a specific cover letter for each position you're applying to. This shows you've put in the effort to tailor your application and makes it easier for the employer to see how you fit their specific needs.
What to include
Include information like specific competencies, credentials, experiences and accomplishments.
Responding to a job posting
- Identify the organization, spectific position and, if possible, the specific individual to whom you are addressing the letter
- Speak to the requirements of the position (look at the posting and outline how your experience matches the criteria)
- Describe how your experience and competencies will benefit the organization (if you have no direct experience, highlight your transferable experience)
Introduction or prospecting letter
- Identify the type of position you’re interested in and explain how you know to contact them
- Outline how your experience and competencies will bring value
- Indicate when and how you’re going to follow up
See our Cover letter basicsresource for a take-away version.
How to structure your cover letter
Every cover letter is different, but this is a suggested structure. See our What does a cover letter look like? resource for a visual breakdown of content and structure.
- State your purpose and why you're applying
- List the job title and organization name
- Show that you’ve researched the organization by referencing its mission/vision statement
- Indicate your enthusiasm and state what you’ll bring to the organization
- Use an active voice and group information around the job requirements (e.g. your organizational skills)
- Avoid starting every sentence with “I”
- Use transition phrases (e.g. "additionally", "also")
- Give solid, specific examples of your past experience and the competencies you bring to the organization
- Thank the employer for their consideration
- Cover any “add-ons” (e.g. criminal record check, age limit, citizenship/residency, driver’s license)
- Provide your contact information (if applicable)
- Restate your interest in the position and express interest in an interview
Writing your cover letter
- Deconstruct the job posting
- Assess the needs of the organization and how you can bring value
- Write your first draft—you can use our Cover letter checklist or samples below for help
- Get feedback and make revisions
- Proofread and submit your cover letter
Sample cover letters
I applied online. The process took 4+ weeks. I interviewed at Lam Research (Fremont, CA) in December 2017.
I applied online for a process engineer 3 position last December 2017 and got an email from an HR lady asking if I'm interested in a 30 min interview for this position. She was very friendly, not intimidating, and overall, the interview went quite well. The next day, I received an email from her, inviting me to have a phone interview with the hiring manager of the team. The interview was scheduled 3 days later and he asked me to describe my research, and also some typical behavioral questions. He mentioned that since the company employers are going on a 2-week break due to the holidays, I might probably hear back sometime within the 1st or 2nd week of January. I didn't receive any update within this timeframe so I emailed the HR lady to check in. She replied that the HM will reach out to me shortly. That was last week and so far I haven't heard from them again.
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