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.
If you have questions, suggestions, or blog post requests, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org