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About Cover Letters

ArrowWho Needs A Cover Letter?
ArrowWhat Makes a Good Cover Letter?
ArrowSample Cover Letters
ArrowRecommended Books on Cover Letters
ArrowCover Letter Resources on the Web
ArrowHow to Include Your Cover Letter in an Electronic Resume

Who Needs a Cover Letter?

Everyone who sends out a resume does! Even if the cover letter never "came up" in conversation or wasn't mentioned in an advertisement, it's expected that you will write one.

It is regarded as a sign of laziness (sorry about that) to send out a cover letter that is not tailored to the specific company. In the days before word processors, you could maybe get away with it. Not anymore. (Electra must be emphatic: Not anymore.)

Yes, it adds to the wear and tear of looking for a job! But the good news is: the cover letter gives you another chance to emphasize what you have to contribute to the company or organization. Don't give the person screening the resumes a second to entertain the thought: "But how can this person help US?" Your cover letter will answer that question in your own words. Your resume will also answer that question but in a somewhat more rigid format.

What makes a Good Cover Letter?

JobStar Recommends for Great Resumes
150 Templates - 800 Sample Elements

  1. No spelling or typing errors. Not even one.

  2. Address it to the person who can hire you. Resumes sent to the personnel department have a tougher time of it. If you can find out (through networking and researching) exactly who is making the hiring decision, address the letter to that person. Be sure the name is spelled correctly and the title is correct. A touch of formality is good too: address the person as "Mr.," "Ms.," "Mrs.," "Miss," "Dr.," or "Professor." (Yes, life is complicated.)

  3. Write it in your own words so that it sounds like you--not like something out of a book. (Electra gets in trouble with libraries when she says things like this.) Employers are looking for knowledge, enthusiasm, focus.

  4. Being "natural" makes many people nervous. And then even more nervous because they are trying to avoid spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. If you need a little help with grammar (do they still teach grammar?)--check out the classic work on simple writing, Strunk & White's Elements of Style, published in 1918 and now online. A good place to begin is "Chapter 5: Words and Expressions Commonly Misused."

  5. Show that you know something about the company and the industry. This is where your research comes in. Don't go overboard--just make it clear that you didn't pick this company out of the phone book. You know who they are, what they do and you have chosen them!

  6. Use terms and phrases that are meaningful to the employer. (This is where your industry research and networking come in.) If you are applying for an advertised position, use the requirements in the ad and put them in BOLD type. For example: the ad says--
"2 years' experience processing magnetic media (cartridge, tape, disc); interface with benefit plan design, contracts and claims; and business background with strong analytical & technical skills--dBase, Excel, R&R, SQL."

Make sure your cover letter contains each of these requirements and shows how you measure up.

Sample Cover Letters

Recommended Books on Cover Letters

Search Your Library The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Cover Letter. Susan Ireland.

Cover Letters for Dummies. Joyce Lain Kennedy.

Overnight Job Change Letter. Donald Asher.

Dynamic Cover Letters. Katherine and Randall Hansen.

Dynamic Cover Letters Formula
A brief excerpt from Dynamic Cover Letters, Katherine and Randall Hansen.

Many resume guides include a section on writing cover letters.

Cover Letter Resources on the Web

JobStar Recommends for Great Resumes
150 Templates - 800 Sample Elements

Electra recommends*:

***Cover Letter Samples
A thematic list of samples from Susan Ireland, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Cover Letter: follow-up to a phone call, when you don't know the hiring manager, cover letter for an e-mailed resume.

*Cover Letters
Guidance and sample cover letters from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's great job guide!

Cover Letters
Nuts & bolts guide with samples from the Career Center at CSU, Chico.

CareerLab - First and Best Cover Letters
Excellent range of sample letters for all work purposes from William S. Frank's 200 Cover Letters for Job Hunters. (Some samples are free and others require membership.)

How to Include Your Cover Letter in an Electronic Resume:

Electronic Resumes: Prepare your resume for e-mail, web-forms & scanning
Excellent guide from Santa Clara University includes a sample text-version cover letter and resume.

General Information:

Cover Letters Build the Case for 50-Plus Workers
Tips from Monster on using the cover letter to highlight job achievements & get an interview.

Three Simple Rules for Emailing Potential Employers
Good guidelines & tips from Peter Weddle at

Cover Letter Checklist
Use this list from Bucknell University before you mail that cover letter (in .pdf format.)

Cover Letter Types & Samples
From the Career Center at Virginia Tech.

College Grad Job Hunter: Best College Cover Letters
A chapter from College Grad Job Hunter. (Quantum Leap Publishing.)

I need to work on my resume!