Note: Although this post is intended for technical writing students who are about to begin the job search process, but the techniques here might be useful for other students as well.
A cover letter is an essential component of your job application that helps you discuss why you should be considered for the position and demonstrates your communication skills.
The keys to a good letter are selectivity and results.
- Select two or three points of greatest interest to the potential employer and develop them into paragraphs.
- Emphasize results.
Elements of a cover letter:
- Introductory paragraph:
- Identify your source of information: State about how you heard about the position.
- Identify the position you are interested in.
- State that you wish to apply for the position.
- Choose a few phrases that forecast the body of the letter so that the rest of the letter flows smoothly.
- Education paragraph:
- Focus on the courses, projects, and extra-curricular activities that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
- Discuss the skills and knowledge gained from advanced coursework in your major field.
- If you haven’t already specified your major and your college or university in the introductory paragraph, be sure to include that here.
- Employment paragraph:
- Like the education paragraph, the employment paragraph should begin with a topic sentence and develop into a single idea.
- Choose only the relevant employment experience.
- Concluding paragraph:
- A reference to your resume
- A polite but confident request for an interview
- Your phone number and email address
Examples of good cover letters:
Update: As Larry Kunz (technical writer extraordinaire) advised in the comment below, the first sample is of the appropriate length, but the second one is longer than optimal.
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