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Cover Letter Content

A cover letter is a one page letter addressed to a specific person or office at a specific company.  It MUST not look like a form letter you have used for many companies. No one likes getting a form letter.

The following is a section by section description of what should be in a cover letter.  Everything lines up with the left margin. If you cover letter is an email you do not need to include mailing addresses or the date. See below for instructions for specific sections.  View samples
Your Address – Do not include your name.  You can include contact information if you want. If you do not include it here be sure to include it in the body of the letter. Do not need to include this if you cover letter is an email

123 Main St.
Albany, NY 12222

Date:  The date you send the letter.  Do not include this if your cover letter is an email

September 1, 2010  (don’t use 9/1/10)

The Addressee:
Try to find the name and title of the person you are trying to contact. Use their full name. On the next line, list their formal title then, the name of the organization, then the mailing address. If you do not have a name, simply type the mailing address as it appears on the job listing. Do not include this if your cover letter is an email

Dr. John. Smith
Director of Human Resources
Acme Financials Inc.
123 Wall St.
New York, NY 11111

The Salutation:
The salutation should begin with "Dear Mr.", "Dear Ms.", or "Dear Dr." (Do not use Miss. or Mrs., even if you happen to know the marital status of the addressee) followed by the individual's last name and a colon. If no name is provided you should use "Dear Sir or Madam:" not “To Whom it May Concern:”.  If your cover letter is an email DO INCLUDE THIS.  It makes the email more professional.

Dear Dr. Smith:

The Opening Paragraph:
It is here where you state immediately which position you wish to be considered for and what makes you the best candidate for that position. This should be a one or two lead-off sentence to grab their attention. Always let the employer know where you heard about the job. 

Having majored in Finance at the University at Albany, where I also worked as a Graduate Assistant, I am confident that I would make a very successful Analyst in your Investment Banking Department. I learned about this opportunity from your website and feel I have all the necessary skills and experience for this position.

Paragraphs 2 and 3
The next 1 or 2 paragraphs are the main part of your letter.  Here you must convince them you have read their posting and researched their company; and show them where and how you developed the required skills etc.   Be specific when you talk about your skills.  “I have excellent customer service skills which I have developed while working at Abercrombie and Fitch.  While there I received several awards for employee of the month based on customer service goals.” You should say why you want to work for them and how you will be able to help them once you are hired.  Make sure that the reason you want to work there will help them and is not about how they will help you.  “Enterprise Rent-A-Car has an excellent reputation for rewarding hard-working employees and I feel that my desire for advancement makes me a strong candidate for this type of environment.”

Final Paragraph:
In the final section you want to specifically request an interview. Be sure to include contact information such as your e-mail address, phone number.

Thank you for your consideration.  If you need any additional information please contact me at (518) 555-1212 or myname@yahoo.com. I look forward to hearing from you about scheduling an interview.

Salary Requirements:
Some job posting ask for your salary requirements.  If you have specific salary requirements you should state them in the last paragraph. If you do not have specific salary requirements, you may decide that you would rather discuss such matters later in the process. You can state that your requirements are negotiable or if you decide to state your salary requirements, do so in a range. Research standard salaries for the position and include that in your letter.  For example, "I seek a starting salary between $38,000 and $42,000," or "I seek a starting salary from the high 30s to low 40s." If you are asking for a premium, be prepared to defend why you should be paid such a premium.

The Closing:
Keep the closing simple; "Sincerely" suffices. Type in your full name, preferably with a middle name or middle initial, as this is more formal.  If you are emailing the cover letter you are done.  If you are mailing the letter, leave 4 lines between “Sincerely” and your name so that you will have room to sign the letter. Use blue ink so the reader will see that your letter is an original, not a photocopy.   Type the word "Enclosure" two lines below your name to indicate that your resume is included.