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Back to Basics: The Cover Letter

January 12, 2012 by Careerminds

Jennifer Fry
Careerminds Consultant


There’s a lot of talk about why you should include a cover letter, when you should include a cover letter– which is more or less always– and so on, but rarely does anyone tell you exactly what to put in that all-important cover letter, and we’re just as guilty as everyone else. But, no longer.
As the first installation of our “Back to Basics” series, we’re here to clarify just what information you should include in a cover letter, the appropriate structure and formatting.
To begin, a cover letter is typically one page in length; unlike a resume which can justifiably take up several pages depending on a person’s experience, a cover letter should act as a fairly brief introduction of yourself, your interest in a position/company, and your experience and goals. Upon writing your letter, organize this information into a opening, middle and closing; the “middle” section can be broken down into more than on paragraph if need be.


  • Hard-hitting first line– get the reader’s attention with something unique and interesting. Avoid boring and/or generic statements.
  • Explain why you are writing– keep in mind that this will be different if you are applying for a position or simply inquiring about possible openings, for instance.
  • If there is a position open, or if you have a specific position in mind, include that information.
  • Let the reader know where or how you heard about the company and the position.


  • Describe relevant qualifications– expand upon what you’ve included on your resume.
  • Detail additional relevant information that you may not have included on your resume.
  • Be sure to directly relate your skills and experience to the requirements of the position and the goals of the company.
  • Provide brief specific examples of how you’ve effectively used your skills in the past.


  • Re-emphasize your objective– why you’re writing, what position.
  • Clearly indicate a desire for further communication and/or for an interview– be flexible with times and dates.
  • Choose active (“I will call you”) or passive (“I will wait to hear from you”) language, but regardless of which you choose, always follow up.

A few added tips:

    • If you send your resume via e-mail– not uploaded to the company website or a job board– the body of the e-mail is your cover letter. Do not leave the message blank and attach a cover letter as a file.
    • If your cover letter is sent in hardcopy form– through the mail, delivered in person, etc.– be sure to use proper formatting for a formal letter. Include, in this order, your contact information, the date, the employer’s address, a salutation, the body of the letter, and your signature. Refer to the example below for spacing.


So, now you can’t say that you weren’t sure what to write, and you’ll have no reason not to include a unique cover letter for with every resume you submit.

Careerminds provides scalable, strategic solutions to organizations seeking affordable, web-based outplacement services. Using a Web 2.0 e-learning platform that delivers affordable, online career transition services, Careerminds provides a high-tech and high-touch blend of on-demand career transition education supported by senior-level career consultants to help displaced workers reenter the workforce quickly.



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