Cover Letters

How to Write an Effective Cover Letter

When sending a resume to an employer, you should send a cover letter to complement it unless instructed otherwise. Even if the cover letter is optional, this is a great chance to pitch the company.

What is a cover letter?

An effective cover letter should be directed towards a specific position or company and describe examples from your experience that show off skills the employer needs. Try not to simply repeat your resume in paragraph form, but to complement your resume by offering a little more detail about key experiences.

You want to convince the reader that your interest in the job and company are genuine and specific. You also want to demonstrate ways that your experience has prepared you for the role by sharing a few brief stories that highlight your qualifications. This takes time and research; use the job description and the company’s web site or LinkedIn page to identify traits and skills the company values.

Lastly, cover letters are also a chance to demonstrate the communication skills necessary to most jobs. Careful composing and revision are essential. To ensure your cover letter will be effective, make use of our drop-in hours or schedule an appointment with a counselor to have it reviewed.

View sample cover letters (pdf)

Cover letter structure and format

Cover letters should be no longer than one page with a font size between 10-12 points. Be sure to include your contact information and address it directly to a named individual whenever possible. If you aren’t sure who to address it to, you can address as “Dear Hiring Manager.”

Cover letters typically take the following structure:

Introduction: 1st paragraph

  • Say who you are and what position you are applying for (“I am an MIT Chemistry major graduating in June. I am writing to express my interest in the Chemist position with [Company Name].”)
  • Specify why you are interested in that specific position and organization

Body: 2-3 paragraphs

  • Cite a couple of examples from your experience that support your ability to be successful in the position or organization

Closing: Last paragraph

  • Thank the reader for their time.
  • Consider restating succinctly why you are a good candidate
  • State your desire for an interview and include your contact information (phone/email)