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Career Center, Santa Clara University

Cover Letters

What is a Cover Letter?

Your cover letter is your chance to communicate what makes you, you. But remember, employers can spot a form cover letter a mile away. So, while it’s important to highlight your experience, accomplishments, and skills, it’s essential that you research the company and connect your qualifications, passion, and interests to their needs.

Anatomy of a Cover Letter

Greeting: Dear Mr., Ms., Dr. OR Hiring Manager/Committee (Avoid “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam”)

Opening Paragraph: Announce the purpose of your letter and provide the reader with a compelling reason to read on.  Indicate who you are and what you want.  State the reason for writing, naming the position or type of work for which you are applying.  

Body Paragraph(s): What can you offer to the employer? Describe your strongest qualifications that match the position requirements. Describe the unique skills and background that make you the perfect fit for the organization and position.  Be sure to include specific examples of your accomplishments.

Closing Paragraph: Assert your confidence that you are qualified for the position.  State your next step, whether it is to call to follow up on your letter, or if you look forward to the opportunity to discuss your qualifications in detail at their convenience.  Thank the person for his/her time and interest.

Quick Tips
  • Research the intended recipient thoroughly and understand the nature of the organization’s products or services before you begin writing.  
  • Keep your letter short, no more than 1 page.
  • Prepare a specific letter for each employer.
  • When possible, address each employer by name and title.
  • Open your letter with a strong sentence that will encourage the employer to keep reading.
  • Use accomplishment statements to describe your skills and contributions.  Give specific examples of results you have delivered.
  • Be sure to demonstrate how you can support the organization rather than how you hope to benefit from the job.
  • Tailor your letter to the interests and needs of the person to whom you are writing.  Focus on the outcomes that will help solve the employer’s problems.  
  • Check carefully for grammatical and typing errors.  Have someone else proofread your letter before sending.  Remember that your cover letter is evidence of your communication and writing ability.