Cover Letter Do's & Don'ts

Many recruiters take about 30 seconds to determine if your résumé has the right credentials and skills. Assuming you do, the cover letter is a way of introducing yourself to them, especially when you cannot be there in person. It also serves the important function of demonstrating your written communication ability. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

 The Opening Paragraph

  • States the reason for the letter.
  • Include the specific referral source - where did you find the job?
  • Sound excited!

The Body

  • Use info you have learned about the company, its products or services explain how you can help achieve its objectives.
  • Why are one to two key qualification you need to help the employer focus in on?
  • How does your academic background qualify you?
  • Point out your specific/unique achievements but don't duplicate your résumé info. 

The Closing Paragraph

  • State your interest in an interview and indicate your flexibility in time and place. 
  • Repeat your contact info.
  • Indicate your plan for following up on the receipt of your application materials.
  • Remember your signature and typed name.


  • Address the letter correctly!
  • Double check names, addresses and job titles, position numbers.
  • Make it easy to read, this is a critical element! Looks aren't everything but they do make a statement. Block format works well.
  • Customize each cover letter to relate to the position - meet each employer's need, explain and expand your experiences and career direction, show who you are, use clear concise statements.
  • Vary the sentence structure.
  • Sound excited about the opportunity.
  • Keep it to ONE page, 3 – 4 paragraphs MAX.
  • Use the same paper and font style as your résumé - continuity is important.
  • Check and recheck spelling and grammar.
  • Maintain punctuation and capitalization standards.
  • Remember to sign it.
  • Follow-up.


  • Frequent "I" statements
  • Abbreviations
  • Restating your résumé
  • Being arrogant or presumptuous
  • Babble
  • Sounding bored or like everyone else