A cover letter is an important tool to use when applying for a job because it:
- Introduces you to the prospective employer
- Highlights your enthusiasm for the position
- Describes your specific skills and qualifications for the job or internship, and clearly explains why you are a good fit
- Confirms your availability to start a new position
You should always include a cover letter when applying for a job unless you are specifically told not to by the employer. We recommend that you write a cover letter (aka letter of intent) after you have drafted and tailored your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) for a particular job description. For academic faculty and teaching positions, see cover letter instructions in Masters, Ph.D.'s and Postdocs section. When applying online and limited to uploading one document, you can create a single PDF document that includes both your resume and cover letter.
What to Include in a Cover Letter
Use the cover letter template and planner to get started. When drafting your cover letter, keep the following DO’s and DON’Ts in mind:
- Limit the cover letter to one page if possible, unless applying to academic faculty, teaching or research positions.
- Use the same font and formatting in the cover letter as you use in your resume.
- You might also want to use the same header in both a cover letter and resume. See header formatting examples.
- If providing a printed copy, use the same type of paper for both your cover letter and resume. Resume paper can be purchased at the UC Davis Bookstore or at an office supply store.
- Many tech companies prefer the cover letter not be attached, but uploaded as text in an email with the resume attached.
- Use formal, professional language in a cover letter. This is true when sending your cover letter as text in an email (above point).
- Personalize each cover letter to the specific position you are applying to.
- Address your cover letter to a specific person or the hiring manager whenever possible. If you don’t know their name, use one of the following examples:
- "Dear Hiring Manager,"
- "Dear [insert department here] Hiring Team,"
- "Dear Recruiter, "
- “Dear Search Committee Chair and Committee Members:” (used for academic teaching positions)
- "To Whom It May Concern: " Note, this last one uses a “:” not a “,”
- Check for typos, proper grammar and accuracy.
- Use spellcheck, but do not rely on it to catch all errors.
- Have multiple people review your application materials.
- Make an appointment with an ICC adviser to review your application materials before you apply.
- Unless told explicitly not to, you should always include a cover letter in your application.
- Don’t use text abbreviations or emoticons if you are using email.
- Don’t be too wordy or write just to fill the entire page.
- Don’t submit a generic “one size fits all” cover letter; tailor your cover letter to fit each position. Thus, none of your cover letters will be exactly the same, though a lot of content will be similar in each.
- Don’t repeat or summarize your resume in your cover letter. Instead, focus the cover letter on your enthusiasm for the job, excitement about working with that organization, to highlight unique skills that make you qualified for the position and a good fit for the employer.
- Don’t overuse adjectives or superlatives, especially subjective ones (e.g. “You are the best company in the world” or “I am the most hardworking student intern you will ever meet.”).
- Quantify when possible. "I've helped organize three club events, including two successful initiatives attended by 25 people" is a better descriptor then "I've helped organize several club events, including a couple successful initiatives attended by many people."
- Don’t exaggerate your skills or experience.
- Don’t use UC Davis letterhead, logo, or UC seal in your cover letter. [NOTE: For graduate students and postdocs, some departments allow use of department letterhead for tenure-track faculty applications. Check with your department before using.]
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Pitch Yourself for an Internship: Cover Letter Sample for Internships
Writing a letter to get an internship can be intimidating. By using well-chosen words, you can make a good impression. While your letter needs to be customized to individual circumstances, this sample cover letter below can help an aspiring intern’s cause.
Present yourself in the best light. Monster’s resume and cover letter writing service can help.
December 1, 2008
Mr. James Crowley Finance Manager Acme Inc. 555 W. Applegarth Blvd. Anytown, TX 75000
Dear Mr. Crowley:
Two of your former interns, Brian Hodges and Martha Smith, suggested I contact you regarding finance internship opportunities. They are familiar with my background and felt I would be an excellent match for your summer internship program.
Currently a junior majoring in finance at UNT, I have demonstrated strong academic performance in all finance courses, maintaining a 3.5 GPA in my major. The courses I have completed have given me a solid foundation in the tools, processes and methodologies involved in the successful analysis and management of portfolio-investment strategies. I have a proven ability to learn challenging concepts quickly and have developed competencies in diverse areas, including:
- Industry research/information sourcing
- Comparative analysis
- Quantitative analysis
- Pro forma analysis
- Cash-flow analysis
- Financial modeling and asset valuation
- Portfolio and asset management
- Insurance plans and mutual funds
- Retirement and estate planning
- Tax planning and investment strategies
In addition to my analytical strengths, I bring to the table advanced computer skills (with cross-platform exerptise in Windows and Mac); expertise in the MS Office suite of products; and familiarity with programming languages including SQL, HTML and VB.
Since starting college, I have worked part-time (summers/holidays/evenings) as a clerk at Wal-Mart. In this position, I have earned a reputation for consistently exceeding company and customer expectations. Wal-Mart’s store manager has asked me to return this summer, but I yearn to gain corporate finance experience. I am impressed by Acme’s innovation and success, and I would very much like to be part of such a winning company.
The enclosed resume provides more details of my skills and achievement track record. If you agree that I would make a valuable addition to your team, please feel free to call me at (555) 555-5555 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I know you are busy, so thank you for your time, and I look forward to speaking with you.
Check out more cover letter and resume resources.
This article originally appeared in Monster’s Career Advice Section.