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Cover Letters

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a way to introduce yourself and highlight your skills and fit specific to the opportunity to which you are applying. It often serves as a good writing sample, and a view into your editing and proofreading skills, your organizational skills, and clarity of thought. This is your opportunity to impress an employer and put your best foot forward.

Not all positions will request a cover letter, but we suggest you always include one with your application materials, when possible. When application instructions are to email your resume, consider using the body of the email to convey a brief summary of your cover letter content and attaching a cover letter even if only a resume is requested. If you are submitting your resume as part of an online submission form and there is an “other documents” section, you can attach your cover letter there. If there is no “other documents” section, you can combine your cover letter with your resume (page 1 and page 2) and attach it as one PDF document.

How Do You Write a Strong Cover Letter?

The format of a cover letter follows professional document etiquette with your contact information, the employer’s contact information, and a formal salutation followed by the body and a closing signature.

The strength of a great cover letter is in the personal details. Your cover letter is your chance to show more of your style and to prove you are the best fit for the position (or opportunity).

Tips for Cover Letters:
  • Target to each individual position or opportunity by specifying why you want to be part of that organization (or why you are interested in that position with that organization).
  • Focus on 2-3 most relevant skills and pick your best examples of experiences to provide details on how you used those skills. Give more details than your resume.
  • This is your chance to include details about you that do not fit on your resume that you would like the recruiter to know.
  • Avoid overly long paragraphs.
  • Should be single-spaced, and paragraphs should not be indented; double-space between paragraphs.
  • Do your best to address the letter to the person hiring or supervising, or at least name the position title; Avoid using "To Whom It May Concern."
  • Write a strong opening paragraph, communicating your target position or role, how you learned about the position, and key strengths within the first few lines.
  • Limit the number of sentences that begin with 'I.'
  • Make sure your letter is free of spelling, grammar, syntax, and formatting errors.
  • Save as a .pdf with your name and organization or position included in the file name.

For more strategies, including a sample cover letter, read through our cover letter checklist (PDF)!

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