Cover Letter Writing Guide

Write your first cover letter by downloading the template below and following the step-by-step guide for overall formatting and what to write in each paragraph.

Download the cover letter template in a Microsoft Word document

Step 1: Add Your Contact Information

  • Use the same heading as on your resume with your name and personal information below it. You can copy and paste the contact information portion of your resume into a new Word document and start from there.

Step 2: Add the Date, Employer Contact Information, & Greeting

  • Underneath your contact information, add the full date, the employer’s contact name and address, and your greeting
  • Address your letter to the contact person listed in the position description; if there is none, address it as “Dear Hiring Manager”
    • Examples: Dear Lorraine Jimenez,  Dear Dr. Phillips, Dear Hiring Manager, Dear Hiring Committee

cover letter with a "1" near the contact information, a "2" near greeting, and a "3" near the intro paragraph

Step 3: The Intro Paragraph

The opening sentence should be an enthusiastic reference to your interest in the position. Talk about what led to your discovery of the position and your unique interest in the role. If someone referred you to the position, mention them by name in the first paragraph.

Intro paragraph opening sentence examples:
  • “While browsing the Handshake listings for on-campus jobs, I was motivated to apply my previous barista experience to work with Starbucks—a company I greatly admire.”
  • “When I met with Campus Recreation at the Student Employment Fair, I was inspired by the positive workplace culture and opportunity to connect students with athletic opportunities.”
  • “I am excited to express my interest in working as a Lab Assistant with the Physics Department because of my passion for science and life-long interest in the behavior of the universe.”
  • “As a rising senior with a passion for human-centered design and transportation technology, I was thrilled to see the UX Design internship posted on Handshake.”

For a more personal or creative letter, you can add in a very brief (2-3 sentences) anecdote or explanation of why you’re interested in this particular employer or job or feel connected to their values. Regardless of how you organize it, your introductory paragraph should include these four things:

  1. The specific position title
  2. The organization name
  3. Why you’re interested
  4. Why you’d be a good fit

Step 4: Body Paragraph(s)

Cover letters typically include 1-2 body paragraphs that show employers examples of your previous experience or times when you’ve put your relevant skills to use. These examples should be specific, detailing actions you took, things you learned, and the impact of your work whenever possible.

Everyone’s writing style is unique, but each body paragraph generally includes:

  • An opening sentence that introduces what experience, skill, or qualification you’ll be explaining in this paragraph.
  • Clear example(s) of what you’ve done or accomplished–be specific! Show, don’t tell.
  • A sentence that connects what you’ve done with what you can contribute if hired.
Good: Telling the employer what you’ve accomplished Better: Showing the employer what you’ve accomplished
“As a shift lead, I demonstrated strong communication skills and leadership to help update our store scheduling system.” “As a shift lead, I updated our staff training after I learned several students were missing their shifts due to confusion with our new scheduling system. I created a video walk-through of how to review and accept shift schedules and updated the onboarding process manual to dedicate more time to reviewing the system.”

Step 5: Closing Paragraph

Your closing paragraph will be shorter than your body paragraphs. It should be a concise wrap-up to your letter that…

  • Reiterates your most relevant qualifications and your interest in the position in 1-2 sentences
    • Optional: You can include one more additional fact or expression of unique connection to the role or employer that you haven’t mentioned in the body paragraphs
  • Thanks them for their time and consideration of your application

That’s all there is to it! The process may seem overwhelming at first, but if you write to a specific job description and explain your skills and experience with detail, you’ll be off to a great start.

Next Steps

See Examples

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