How to write the perfect cover letter

Haley Phillippi

Have you ever wondered how to write the perfect cover letter?

According to Carla Owens, associate director for The Career Services Center, “the most important thing is each cover letter needs to be unique.”

A cover letter, often referred to as a letter of interest, should be customized for each position you are applying for. It’s important to get a very detailed job description and then work your résumé around your cover letter, which is traditionally three to four paragraphs.

Owens explained that most students create a template letter and that is not effective.

“Actually, your cover letter needs to compliment [your] résumé,” Owens said.

It’s an opportunity, she said, for your future employers to see how articulate you are and for you to sell yourself in a more personal manner.

If you happen to know someone in the professional field, you could mention their name in the letter — after first asking permission, of course.

A cover letter should share personal details. According to Owens, if you mention the company’s history and competitors in your letter, it will give you more of an edge.

The cover letter’s organization is all about specifics.

Try to find a particular person to direct your letter to. The introductory paragraph should explain why you’re applying and how you found out about the position. A second paragraph should sell your character for reasons of uniqueness in skill and personality. The final paragraph should be used to request a formal interview.

Students should not use the same cover letter when applying for different positions. If you are applying for three alternate positions, she said, then you should have three unique cover letters.

Other important tips:

  • Your letter must be well-written, and free of errors or grammatical mistakes.
  • Read your letter out loud to ensure that it is coherent.
  • Bring your letter to The Career Services Center for review by a career counselor.
  • Print your letter on quality paper.

Contact Haley Phillippi at [email protected].