Skip to main content

Cover Letters

The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce yourself and to demonstrate the fit between your background and the position for which you are applying.

Take this opportunity to:

  • Briefly tell your story, especially if you are applying for a position that is not clearly linked to your previous experiences.
  • Explain how your particular experiences have provided you with the skills needed to be successful in the position.

A cover letter should accompany any résumé you submit. However, if you are uploading your résumé online, there may not be a place to include a letter. In those cases, you may be asked to answer questions, such as why you are applying.

What to Write About

Although most cover letters follow a similar structure, you should tailor each one for the job to which you are applying. Sample cover letters for nonacademic positions (PDF) can demonstrate the basic structure.

Research the organization or institution you are applying to, especially its philosophy and internal structure. Identify areas you find most interesting and ways in which you could contribute to the department or organization as a whole. Work this information into your letter, but do not regurgitate their website.

The Basics

Cover letters for nonacademic positions should not exceed one page, though sometimes you may need to risk writing a two-page letter in order to best demonstrate you skills.

  • Address the letter to the person named in the job listing if possible. Otherwise, use “Dear Hiring Manager.”
  • Answer questions the employer might have, such as, “Are you willing to relocate?” or, “When are you available?”
  • If you have a contact at the company and have their permission to mention their name, do so early in the letter.
  • Show enthusiasm for the position.
  • Remember, this is a writing sample; it must be good. Write clearly and concisely.
  • Emphasize what you can do for the organization, not what you hope to gain from the job.

Opening paragraph

Introduce yourself to the employer.

  • Mention the university you attend, your degree program, and when you expect to graduate.
  • Refer to the specific position for which you are applying and indicate how you learned about the position or organization.
  • Include a thesis statement, outlining reasons you are applying for this position and why you are an excellent candidate. Mention strengths—both technical and interpersonal—that you will expand on later.

Body paragraphs

Describe your achievements and distinct qualifications for the position; paint a picture of yourself in the job.

  • Address the desired skills outlined in the job description.
  • Use brief but specific examples to demonstrate your strengths and experiences—do not just restate your résumé.
  • Mirror language used in the description and demonstrate your knowledge of the company. Show that you have done your research.

Concluding paragraph

Use this paragraph to reinforce your interest and enthusiasm.

  • Indicate next steps. For example, state that you look forward to learning more about this opportunity.
  • Offer to provide extra materials or additional information if necessary.
  • Thank the reader for his or her consideration.
  • End with a professional closing such as “Sincerely” or “Kind Regards” and your full name.