Penn State Harrisburg

Cover Letter Instructions

In any job search campaign it is usually preferable to personally deliver your resume to a prospective employer. However, it is very likely that today's job candidate will be unable to accomplish this task in every instance.

The primary purpose of the cover letter is to acquaint the prospective employer with your unique talents and skills, and to arrange an interview to discuss employment possibilities. Because a resume is included with each cover letter, it is important that the cover letter not simply duplicate the resume. That is, your cover letter should highlight your resume by identifying how you are qualified for the position and the reasons why it will be to the employer’s advantage to hire you. It is valuable to state the reasons for your interest in that particular employer.

The cover letter should be as brief as possible and should usually be limited to one page. If possible, the letter should not be directed to sir, madam, or director of personnel. Find out who is responsible for hiring and direct the letter to that individual.

Click here to view an outline for writing a cover letter.

Points to remember:

  1. Never mail a resume without a cover letter.
  2. Address by name and title the individual with the power to hire you, if at all possible.
  3. Plan your letter before you write it.
  4. Adapt the letter carefully to conditions of job opportunity.
  5. Open with an idea that captures the attention of the prospective employer – so that the letter and resume are considered worth reading.
  6. Highlight and draw attention to the points in your resume that uniquely qualify you for the position.
  7. If you are unsure what jobs are available, include one or more questions in the cover letter that requires a response – this precludes a form letter reply.
  8. Close your letter with a request for an interview.
  9. Avoid jargon and trite language.
  10. Use good quality stationery and have the letter typed in a professional manner – never use form letters.
  11. Finally, special attention should be given to the following items – grammar, spelling, and neatness. The cover letter should represent your very best efforts. It may be beneficial to have a friend, relative, or member of the Career Services staff review your letter prior to sending it to an employer.