Stack OverflowWhat makes a good cover letter?
[+11] [7] AJ.
[2008-12-17 04:55:24]
[ cover-letter ]

I'm going to begin applying for internships over Christmas break and a number of places require a cover letter. So, I was wondering, what ought to go into a cover letter, or rather what do you think makes a good cover letter?

[+20] [2008-12-17 05:39:20] BenAlabaster [ACCEPTED]

Find out a bit about the company you're writing to. Address your letter to the interviewer by name people feel important when you take the time to address them properly. Mention why you're interested in their company to give them cause to relate to you. Be specific and keep your letter concise, interviewers have very little time to read cover letters, if you're long winded, it will likely just end up "filed". I usually use some variation of the following format:

<< Mr/Ms. Enter name here >>

Short paragraph showing your interest in the company and what attracted you to them. Be specific about something that really impressed you, bonus points for using something about the interviewer that's reading this letter without kissing ass. No more than 3-4 lines.

Short paragraph about how you feel you could be of benefit to the team, mention how passionate you are about your craft. Be specific about how it applies to this particular team/company. Talk about what you would like to do to help. No more than about 4-5 lines.

Provide a short example of how your numerous qualities and skills could be applied to what you said in paragraph 2. 4-5 lines is fine, keep it concise!

I would love the opportunity to see your company and demonstrate my abilities to you in person if you can spare some time to see me.

Your attention is greatly appreciated.

Best regards/Many thanks

<< Enter your name here >>

[+4] [2009-05-07 18:49:53] Serapth

Asking this question is about the same as asking what makes for good art. You will get a thousand different answers from a thousand different people.

There are a few universal truths however. In order.

1- Absolutely no, zero, none, grammatic or spelling mistakes. In many places this will result in an instant discarding of your resume even before they have processed the cover letter.

2- Personalized. Do not use a template or obviously cookie cutter'd cover letter. I even know some HR managers that google the text to see if its from an Internet template. Make sure you address the company, if possible what the company does and ideally address the position your are applying for directly, if you know it in advance.

3- Ideally, find out of the name of the HR manager or person most likely to receive your letter. If there is a clearly defined individual in the organization address the letter directly. This information can easily be obtained by calling a general switchboard and asking the operator who to address in HR.

4- Sell yourself, but don't repeat your resume. The details are in the resume, keep it brisk and generalize in the cover letter, and for heavens sake, keep it positive!

5- This one is controversial, but keep it short, but not lazy. I would say two or three paragraphs is ideal. First paragraph identify the purpose of your letter and the position you are interested in. Second paragraph, sell yourself enough they will read the attached resume. Possibly describe why you and Company X are a good match. Third paragraph, is a closing. Thank them for their time, announce your availability and preferred means of contact. Finally, the proper salutations.

No matter what you do, do not exceed a single page!

[+3] [2008-12-17 05:07:30] Travis

Make sure that it is specific to the company. Let's start with their name :-). Also, know what they do and express and interest in their field. Try to be sincere, let them know that you would be happy to have an interview and finally, keep it short.

[+3] [2008-12-17 05:15:02] Marc Charbonneau

Don't send form letters. Recently I've reviewed about thirty or so applications, the only cover letters I received were obvious form letters. If it's not clearly written to the job you're applying for, you shouldn't even bother.

[+2] [2008-12-17 04:57:46] John T

sell yourself.

(8) Isn't that illegal? ;) - alex
[+1] [2008-12-17 05:00:21] alex

If you're passionate about your work, mention you are. Helped me :)

[+1] [2008-12-17 05:29:11] Parappa

A cover letter should be used primarily to demonstrate the following things:

  • Your communication skills
  • Why you're interested in the specific job you're applying for

If you're not confident in your writing and you really only want the job because you need to earn a living, you may be better off not bothering to submit a cover letter. Ideally, you should only write a cover letter if you think you have something compelling to say in it. They're important when you're applying for a dream job and you need to give the HR person processing your application an extra incentive to take a chance on you, but in my own experience that's about all you need them for.