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Cover Letters

At certain points in your job search, it will be necessary to write (or e-mail or fax) employers. This handout contains information and guidelines for writing professional correspondence including cover letters, thank you letters, networking, acceptance, withdrawal and rejection letters.

Cover Letters

Purpose of a Cover Letter

  1. Highlight Experience - A cover letter accompanies a resume being sent to an organization for a specific position or area of interest. The well-written cover letter highlights selective aspects of your background which best suit the employer's needs. The cover letter bridges the gap (or "makes the connection" instead) between your skills and experience and the qualifications of the position.
  2. Capture Attention - A well-written cover letter commands the reader's attention. It stimulates interest in you and your resume as well as reflects your interest and fit within the job and organization.
  3. Ask for an Interview - The opportunity to interview is the ultimate goal of your cover letter and resume.

Content of a Cover Letter

A cover letter usually includes three to four paragraphs. Each paragraph has a different goal.

  1. First Paragraph - This opening paragraph explains why you are writing the letter. State your purpose; identify the position you are applying for and how you learned about the opening. If someone within the organization referred you, mention the person's name and connection.
  2. Second Paragraph - Explain why you are a strong candidate for this employer/job. Highlight relevant achievements, skills and/or experience. Be specific about your accomplishments as they relate to the job. Explain how you intend to help the employer and contribute to the organization. Take the time to market yourself by targeting your skills to their requirements. Also, mention any interpersonal skills that you have that add to your qualifications.
  3. Third paragraph (optional) - This extra paragraph can be included if there is additional information that hasn't been mentioned on your resume, or needs to be described in more detail.
  4. Closing Paragraph - The final paragraph describes next steps, which will depend on the specifics of the job posting. There are two options:
    a. state how and when they may best contact you. Make sure you include your phone number and e-mail. Do not assume an employer will contact you once you have sent your cover letter and resume. It is your responsibility to follow up, if possible.
    b. If you have the contact information to follow up, state when and how you will contact the employer to arrange a mutually convenient time to interview. In either case, thank the employer and mention that you are looking forward to meeting him or her.

Essentials for Success

  • Make it perfect. Check to make sure your cover letter is free of typos and grammatically correct. Your letter will be evaluated on the quality of your writing.
  • Keep your letter concise and a maximum of one page long.
  • Communicate your ambition and enthusiasm.
  • Research the organization before you write the cover letter. Ideally, every cover letter is unique and targeted to a specific position or type of work.
  • Show how previous experiences/accomplishments relate to the position for which you are applying.
  • Address the letter to a specific person within an organization. If you don't know the person's name, title, or gender call the organization and ask for the correct information. If you are unable to get a specific name, then use "Dear Hiring Manager".
  • If you need to mail your cover letter and resume, print both on good paper and enclose them in a matching business envelope for a more professional image.

Correspondence Critiques

  • See your program coordinator; he/she will be happy to critique your letters.

Thank You Letters

This is one of the most important, yet least used, tools in a job search. Fewer than 20 percent of candidates bother to extend this basic courtesy. The thank you letter shows your appreciation, and is an excellent opportunity to market your skills and interest in the position.

  • Thank you letters should be sent as soon as possible after the interview, preferably within 24 hours.
  • It is best to send thank you notes by e-mail for quick receipt, although you may send a card or letter through the mail. Keep in mind it may take longer for the employer to receive.
  • If you are interviewed by a committee, you may opt to send each committee member a thank you letter, or one letter to the committee chairperson asking that they share it with the other members.
  • State that you remain interested in the job, and are interested in taking the next steps.

Networking / Informational Interview Letter

Networking, in a professional sense, is an organized method of making links from the people you know to the people they know - to exchange information, advice, contacts or support. Networking is a process of building relationships, which will continue throughout your career.

Connecting with someone who can give you advice about your industry and career path is part of networking too. A request for Informational Interview letter is designed to generate informational interviews, not job interviews, which allow you to meet individuals who can give specific information about a career, an industry of interest, or their position and company.

Acceptance Letter

Generally, employers make a verbal job offer, and then send a letter. Ask the employer if they are going to send a letter, and if they do not, you may wish to write one to confirm. The letter confirms your acceptance of the offer with confirmation of the details, expresses your appreciation for the opportunity, and positively reinforces the employer's decision to hire you.

Withdrawal Letter

Once you accept a position, you have an obligation to inform all other employers with whom you have had an interview (or have one pending) of your decision and to withdraw your employment application from consideration. Email other employers as soon as you have made your final decision. Express appreciation for the employer's consideration and courtesy. It may be appropriate to state that your decision to go with another organization was based on having better job fit for this stage in your career. If you are applying for a co-op, you can state your interest in being considered for a future opportunity.

Decline Letter

Employers are not the only ones to send rejection letters. Candidates may have to decline employment offers that do not fit their career objectives and interests. Rejecting an employment offer should be handled professionally, and preferably verbally. If you need to inform the employer in writing, indicate that you have carefully considered the offer and have decided not to accept it. Also, be sure to thank the employer for the offer and for consideration of you as a candidate. This will improve your chances should you later reapply to the employer.

Applications via the Web or Email

Most job applications require submission of a resume via email, or through the company website. Depending on the application instructions, there are several ways to apply via e-mail.

  • Use the body of the e-mail message as if it were a formal cover letter, and attach the resume.
  • You can also place a text verision of your resume in the body of your message and attach a formatted version as an attachment or link to an online version.
  • Always fill in the subject line. Flag your message with a succinct, informative header "Applicant for (job title)." Some job postings specify what to use in the subject line, such as the job title or a reference number.
  • Create a standard signature that is automatically attached to your business e-mails. Include your full name, title or major (if you are a student), phone number, address.
  • Answer emails promptly, especially time-sensitive interview requests.
  • Always respond to emails in professional, business language.
  • Use spell check, and proof-read all your correspondence.

Connection Request Examples

Dear Ari,

I am a junior at Rochester Institute of Technology and found your profile in our LinkedIn Group. I admire your career in graphic design and hope to pursue a similar path. Would you be willing to connect with me and possibly offer some advice by email or phone? I would greatly appreciate your time!

Thank you,



Hi Debra,

May I ask you for a big favor? I noticed that you’re connected with Jane Doe, a social media manager at a non-profit organization. I am very interested in that as a potential career direction. Would you be willing to introduce us?

I realize this is a huge favor. If you don’t feel comfortable introducing us, I understand. But if you can introduce us, thank you!

And please let me if I can return the favor.


Mark Smith

Correspondence Do's and Don'ts


  • Proof-read your documents, and always have someone else check them for you
  • Use correct contact information
  • Use your RIT email address
  • Use business language. Capitalize when appropriate
  • Match the font and style of your resume and cover letter
  • Use keywords from the job description
  • Focus on the positives


  • Send generic cover letters
  • Provide any misinformation or exaggeration of your abilities
  • Use any negatives
  • Point out a lack of experience (such as "although I do not have the experience you require...")
  • Use informal "text" language