Employment Applications: Cover Letters

The process for applying to jobs has changed rapidly since the advent of applicant tracking systems (ATS) and artificial intelligence (AI). It's important to use the language from the job posting in your application documents and should be applied to both your resume/CV and your cover letter. 

We've found that since times are changing, the cover letter isn't required as often as it used to be.  However, in many companies and professions, they are still expected as part of the application package.

Just like the resume/CV, your cover letter needs to be specifically tailored to the position for which you are applying. The following lists some key aspects of a cover letter that should always be included:

  1. Your name and contact information at the top, along with the date, position, and company for which you are applying. 
  2. Cordial greeting to the reviewer. For example, "Dear HR Manager," "Dear Selection Committee," or what is best, if you know the name(s) of the reviewer of your application package, "Dear Juanita Gonzales and Hiring Committee." 
  3. Opening paragraph about why you're a good fit for the position. This should only be 2-3 concise sentences and will set up the rest of the document. 
  4. The body of your cover letter should outline and give specific examples of why you're qualified and the best candidate for the position. Remember Writing 101: Have a topic sentence, supporting sentences, use specific examples, and recap or segue into your next paragraph. 
  5. Concluding paragraph that explains why you want to work for this company/organization/institution. Be as personal and authentic as possible. Perhaps you saw a post from this company on social media that influenced your career trajectory? Perhaps their mission aligns with your personal values? Maybe you had a friend or family member who has worked there and you've heard great things about the company? It could be anything, but make sure it's a realistic and authentic reason. 
  6. Proper sign-off for the letter, "Sincerely, Jackson Hodges." 

When we start to write our cover letters, we think about what free tools are available on the internet to visualize key words and phrases. We recommend starting by creating a "word cloud" by copy and pasting the language from a job posting into a word cloud generator. That helps visualize key words and phrases to include in your writing!

We'd like to provide you with an example of a job posting and a corresponding cover letter. You can find the job posting here. Please read through this before reading this example of a cover letter in response to that posting. Notice all the different components listed above? Pay particular attention to the structure, language, and content of the letter. See how it includes specific examples?