You are here: American University Career Center Cover Letters

Cover Letters

The purpose of a cover letter, when required by an employer, is to introduce yourself and compel an employer to learn more about you through your resume. Capture an employer's attention by following the actions below.

Personalize

The statement "To Whom it May Concern" is concerning! Always address your letter to a specific person. If you do not know who should receive your letter, research the organization's website or call the main number and ask for the appropriate person's name and title.

Research

In addition to determining the recipient's name and title, research the organization so that you can convey an appreciation for its mission and an understanding of the duties and qualifications of the position for which you are applying.

Convince

Articulate how your skills and experiences uniquely qualify you for the position and demonstrate why you are a good fit for the organization. Be clear and concise and limit your cover letter to one page. Additionally, maintain a professional tone while providing insight into your personality so that your letter leaves an employer with a sense of wanting to learn more about you.

Proofread

A poorly written or error-laden letter is a surefire way to end your candidacy. If you want an employer to spend additional time reviewing your resume, you must make time to proofread your letter and ensure that your grammar and spelling are perfect.

Cover Letter Format

Date

Recipient's first and last name
Title
Organization name
Street address
City, state, zip code

Re: Name of position for which your are applying

Dear first and last name (address to someone specific or Dear Hiring Manager),

Paragraph 1: State why are you applying to XYZ organization or position. Introduce yourself by saying something about yourself (i.e., I am a senior studying communications at American University). If you are writing at the suggestion of someone who knows the recipient, say so. Introduce 3-5 skills or strengths that you offer to the position/organization that you will give an example of in the following paragraphs.

Paragraph 2: Share your first story to demonstrate your skill or skills. Have a succinct beginning, middle, and end to the story. Follow the CAR method -- Context, Action, Result to tell a full story.

Paragraph 3: Share your second story following the CAR method.

Paragraph 4: Summarize what you bring to the organization and include any logistical information (when you are available, how they can contact you). Thank them for their consideration.

Sincerely,

Your signature (on a hard copy letter)
Your name (typed)