The purposes of a cover letter are many, including,
• To inform the employer the type of position you seek and why you are interested in becoming part of their team
• To highlight the fit between your skills and background and the position’s requirements
• To demonstrate to the employer your written communication skills
• To compel the employer to learn more about you by reading your resume.
Things to remember:
• Address the letter to a specific individual. If you are not sure to whom the letter should be addressed, call the organization and request the name and title of the person in charge of the particular unit or the staff member responsible for hiring. If you cannot get this information, you have a couple of options:
1. Address the letter to a job title, “Dear Research Director ” or “To the Members of the Search Committee”
2. Address the letter “To Whom It May Concern.”
• Write an attention-getting introduction. Remember you are trying to compel the reader to know you better and, ultimately, hire you.
• State the position for which you are applying and point out relevant qualifications. Select specific experiences relevant to the job and discuss them. Highlight the ways in which your background matches the stated needs of the employer.
• Tailor your letter to the needs of the organization and requirements of the position. How will the employer benefit by hiring you? Published job descriptions inform you what skills to stress.
• Write cover letters in the active voice.
• The topic sentence in the body paragraphs is used as the bearer of the skill and the sentences which follow aim to help the reader to see and remember this skill. This four-part approach works well for the body paragraphs (1. Context + Skill; 2. Problem or Goal; 3. Your Solution; 4. Result)
• When editing, look for strings of qualifying phrases, often beginning with a preposition. Most of these phrases can be cut, and the sentence rewritten in a more direct fashion. State your meaning as clearly and as directly as possible.
• Avoid empty, vague, clichéd adjectives (meaningful, important, unique, challenging, invaluable,
rewarding, etc.). A good concrete example will work better.
• Inform employers how to contact you or your intention to contact them within a specified time period (one week, two weeks). If you say you will contact someone in 10 days, be sure to do so.
Statements of Interest
At times a job description will ask you to submit a statement of interest in lieu of a cover letter. The main difference between a statement of interest and a cover letter is its format. Whereas a cover letter is written in a traditional business letter format complete with your return address, date, address of recipient, and salutation, a statement of interest does not necessarily require such stringent formatting. The content o your statement remains professional and formal, answers the question posed in the directions, and highlights your interests and qualifications. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact the employer for clarification.
(Adapted from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy Career Center Resources)