Aurora University

Cover Letters

A cover letter creates a critical first impression for potential employers and should accompany every resume you send. It’s an opportunity to tell prospective employers who you are and how you stand out above all other candidates for a particular position.

A small error like a typo can get your application rejected. So can a cover letter that is generic and makes no reference to the company or the job description, even if it’s free of errors. It takes longer to compose a personalized cover letter for each application. But if you take the time to customize each letter, that attention will shine through, and you’ll set yourself apart from applicants who don’t make the extra effort.

Download our Steps to Writing Effective Cover Letters guide. 

Components

  • Today’s date
  • The hiring manager’s name and title
  • The company’s name and address
  • A greeting/salutation (e.g., Dear Ms. Johnson:)
  • An opening statement: paragraph #1
  • 2-3 short body paragraphs or a point-by-point match to 4-6 job requirements.
  • Closing statement/paragraph
  • Complimentary close (e.g., Regards, Sincerely)
  • Your name/signature at the bottom

Note: Address your cover letter to a specific person; it shows that you’re willing to do your research and will impress the reader. If the posting doesn’t include a name, look up the company’s hiring manager. If that’s not available, search for the person in charge of the department to which you’re applying. If still no luck, use “Dear Hiring Manager.”

Format

Like your resume, your cover letter introduces you to an employer, so ensure that you present yourself professionally and briefly. Here are best practices in formatting your letters:

Length: A cover letter should not exceed one page. Remember that the hiring manager will have many applications to review. A letter that is too long may seem daunting to read and get passed over, while a concise, targeted letter will draw attention to the most important parts of your message.

Margins: Use .5-inch to 1.5-inch margins.

Font: Match font in your cover letter to that of your resume. Use a font that is easy to read, such as Arial, Tahoma, or Times New Roman. Depending on the specific font, a 10- to 12-point font size is recommended to ensure readability.

Accuracy: Your letter must be 100% error free. Be sure to carefully read through your cover letter, checking grammar, spelling and punctuation. Ask at least one other person to proofread it as well.

Word Choice: Use clear and concise language to express yourself. Being wordy or employing overly complicated language can hinder your ability to effectively communicate your fit.

Note: If someone in the company referred you to the position, be sure to mention that as well in your opening paragraph. Having the name of an employee as the source is a great way to get the hiring manager’s attention.

Examples

Create a compelling cover letter by considering the following guidelines.

Scenario 1: responding to a job posting, exact match

Review the posting carefully and think about how your experience matches up. You can write a traditional letter with a few short paragraphs. Or you may want to try a “point-by-point match” cover letter that allows you to respond specifically to the requirements listed in the ad. Whichever format you choose, you’ll need to clearly convey to the hiring manager that you are a good fit for the position.

Here’s a sample point-by-point cover letter in response to an ad:

[date]

[company name]

[company address]

[city, state, zip]

Dear [Hiring Manager’s name, ie, Ms. Jones]

I’m excited to apply for the position of [name of position]. I think I’d be an excellent fit for this role, as I have outlined for you below.

You’re looking for [list a requirement mentioned in the job posting. For this example, let’s say this is an HR manager job, and a requirement is having a bachelor’s degree and 5 to 7 years of experience. You will then explain that you have these requirements. Repeat for 3 to 5 more requirements.]

  • I hold a bachelor’s degree with 6 years of experience managing benefits programs.

You need someone with technical skills to analyze data and administer surveys:

  • I have analyzed market data to recommend competitive salaries and bonuses.

You need a proactive and self-directed problem solver:

  • I’m known for being a proactive collaborator and partnering with leaders across the company to solve complex problems.

You’re looking for someone with extensive knowledge of MS Office, including Excel and Access:

  • I’ve been an advanced user of MS Office Suite since 20xx.

Please refer to my resume for additional accomplishments. Thank you so much for your consideration. I look forward to talking with you.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

[Your phone number]

[Your email address]

[Your customized LinkedIn URL]

Alternative format: You can also consider a “T-Letter” format, which is similar to the point-by-point format. You put the job requirements in column A and then line up your skills in column B. Note that the T-Letter format should never be sent in the body of an email because the format may likely shift and change when you send the message. Instead, put the letter in a document and send along as an attachment including your resume.

Scenario 2: responding to a job posting, career change

If you’re looking to make a career change, there are ways to help you get noticed through your cover letter. Let’s say you’ve been an office assistant with some accounting responsibilities, and now you want to make a move into an accounting position. You’ve completed some accounting training, but you’ve never held an accounting position. You see a job posting for an accountant. You will show a point-by-point comparison of how you match what they need, sometimes through equivalent skills or experience.

Here’s a sample point-by-point cover letter in response to an ad:

[date]

[company name]

[company address]

[city, state, zip]

Dear [Hiring Manager’s name, ie, Ms. Jones]

I’m excited to apply for the position of [name of position]. Although at first glance I may not seem like the typical applicant, many of your needs match my skills. I’ve admired your company since you started x program and would love the opportunity to bring my expertise to your team. I think I’d be an excellent fit for this role, as I have outlined for you below.

You’re looking for [list a required qualification mentioned in the job posting. For example, bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting, CPA preferred. You will then explain that you have these requirements. Repeat for 3 to 5 more requirements.]

  • I hold a bachelor’s degree with accounting certification in AP. [This isn’t the same as what is listed in the job description, but it is similar.]

You need someone with 4-6 years of accounting experience:

  • I have 5 years of accounting experience in AP and AR. [Even though this experience was gained through being an office manager, not an accountant, don’t mention that.]

You’re looking for a detail-oriented go-getter who meets deadlines:

  • I’m known for being proactive, organized and finishing projects ahead of schedule. Created new AP processes that improved productivity by 15%. Partnered with leaders across the company to solve complex problems.

You need someone with extensive knowledge of MS Office, including Excel and Access:

  • I’ve been an advanced user of MS Office Suite since 20xx.

Please refer to my resume for additional accomplishments. You’ll find that my experience in administrative roles involved learning accounting, and that’s how I decided to pursue additional development and training. I want to make accounting my career. [This paragraph explains why you want to make a career change and restates your interest.]

Thank you so much for your consideration. I look forward to talking with you.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

[Your phone number]

[Your email address]

[Your customized LinkedIn URL]

Alternative format: You can also consider a “T-Letter” format, which is similar to the point-by-point format. You put the job requirements in column A and then line up your skills in column B. Note that the T-Letter format should never be sent in the body of an email because the format may likely shift and change when you send the message. Instead, put the letter in a document and send along as an attachment including your resume.

Scenario 3: responding to an internship posting

Before you start writing, take the time to assess your network of contacts. Check with Career Services to see if the college already has a working relationship with the organization or if there are any alumni contacts there. Perhaps you share a LinkedIn connection with an employee or you’re active in the same professional group. Having a good connection may help you get noticed.

Think about why you want to work for this specific organization and be able to articulate it. Instead of writing something generic like, “I’d love the opportunity to work for XYZ Company because you do great things in the community,” get into the specifics. If you appreciate their mission or read an interesting news article about the company, mention that. Establishing a personal connection will make your interest clear.

Address your letter to a specific person within the organization, and keep the letter to less than one page.

In your internship cover letter, you’ll express how the position fits with your career goals and how you’ll add value. Because an internship is a role in which a student can gain work experience, your cover letter can emphasize what you want to learn and why, which is a bit different than the typical entry-level cover letter. You can express how the specific opportunity complements your studies, why you’re interested in working with the company, and how the internship will help prepare you for professional success. It also tells the organization exactly what you can offer.

Writing tips to stand out from other applicants:

Write an enticing introduction: Hiring managers will compare you to other applicants, so take the time to craft an interesting introduction. Write a brief, compelling paragraph customized to the internship and organization that explains who you are (your major and year in school or graduation date) and why you’re applying. You want to entice the reader to learn more. For example:

  • This May, I’ll graduate from Aurora University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. I would like to pursue an accounting internship after graduation so I can bolster my expertise to help others improve their financial literacy.

After the introduction, express your interest in the position and company. Always customize your cover letter with the specific position title and the name of the company. Here are two examples:

  • When I found the marketing internship with Edelman on Aurora’s job board, I was excited by the opportunity to gain experience in the field alongside seasoned copy writers and advertising executives.
  • Ever since I could walk, I’ve been performing in front of anyone who would watch. The internship with ABC Theater Company sounds like an excellent opportunity to learn alongside working, professional actors and directors.

Next, highlight why you’re the most qualified candidate. Describe your qualifications as they relate to the position by matching the requirements outlined in the job description to your own interests and skills. Use an accomplishment from your resume and explain how that’s relevant to the internship for which you’re applying. For example:

  • Through my volunteer work with the Aurora YMCA, I discovered my passion for working with youth development organizations. For the past two summers, I have served as camp counselor at Camp Aurora, where I work with 7 other counselors to organize team-building activities for school-age campers. I am dedicated to helping young people uncover their potential and hone their leadership skills.

Here are two examples of complete cover letters. The first example uses bullet points, which can convey multiple qualifications concisely.

This May, I’ll graduate from Aurora University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. As a motivated and driven self-starter, with solid communication and interpersonal skills, I’m well qualified for your marketing internship. Here’s why:

    • Academic coursework. I have completed courses in consumer behavior, internet marketing and integrated marketing communication, making the Dean’s List with a 3.9 GPA.
    • Networking skills. As the events director of Aurora University’s chapter of the American Marketing Association, I secure sought-after speakers for campus events, driving visibility and growing membership by 13% last semester.
    • Leadership experience. This year, my classmates elected me as the president of the Student Government Association.

You’re looking for a self-motivated intern who prizes continuous growth and development. I am excited to be that person, adding value to ABC Marketing while advancing my skills as a marketing professional. 

Here’s a more common example. The letter contains several short, easy-to-read paragraphs.

As a motivated and driven self-starter, with solid communication and interpersonal skills, I’m well qualified for your marketing internship. Over the past two years, I have completed courses in consumer behavior, internet marketing and integrated marketing communication, making the Dean’s List with a 3.9 GPA. I look forward to using my experience to advance ABC Marketing’s mission.

In addition, as the events director of Aurora University’s chapter of the American Marketing Association, I secure sought-after speakers for campus events, driving visibility and growing membership by 13% last semester. I also serve as the president of the Student Government Association. In these roles, I’ve employed both written and oral communication skills to accomplish goals. I’m excited to put those skills to use for ABC Marketing while growing my skills as a marketing professional. [this part shows how you match the requirements outlined in the job description]

You’re looking for a self-motivated intern who prizes continuous growth and development. I am excited to be that person, adding value to ABC Marketing while advancing my skills as a marketing professional. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon. [summarize your interest and thank the reader for their consideration.]

Scenario 4: writing an inquiry letter (for an internship)

Write a prospecting letter, or letter of inquiry, when you want to ask a specific company or organization about potential internships or job opportunities. Even though you’re not writing about a specific job, you are writing with the hope of ultimately obtaining an interview. Here’s an example:

I admire ABC Marketing for its mission of supporting women-owned marketing businesses in Chicago and how you’ve helped the XYZ Marketing Company refine its brand and increase profits.

In May, I will complete my sophomore year at Aurora University, and I plan to major in marketing. I’m looking to gain hands-on experience in business and marketing environments so I can further develop my professional skills in preparation for a career in marketing after graduation.

Enclosed is my resume, which details my educational background and internship experience in marketing. I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss the possibility of an internship with ABC. Please feel free to contact me at [email address] or [phone number], or I will follow up with you next week. Thank you for your consideration.

For more information, call Career Services at 630-844-6870 or email studentsuccess@aurora.edu.