A letter that accompanies a résumé for a job application is a cover letter; however, cover letters may be used to introduce or explain other kinds of enclosures or attachments as well, such as business or legal documents and forms, surveys, software, and more.
Good cover letters of all kinds are brief and to the point. This is particularly important with a letter that accompanies a job résumé. The purpose of the application cover letter is to get the recipient to examine a résumé, and brevity is inviting to the reader who may be overwhelmed with the number of applications he or she receives.
For that reason, unless you can write an exceptionally interesting cover letter, keep it to a single page, and on that page, three paragraphs are ideal. An exception is a cover letter designed for web reading: these may require breaking up paragraphs and using larger font sizes and greater leading for readability, resulting in more than one page on the web for the same number of lines as a printed page.
In addition to brevity, a cover letter should be written to grab the attention of the recipient. A letter that is like every other letter that comes across the recipient's desk will reduce your chances of getting the reader to the end of the page. Considering the large numbers of résumés that hiring persons receive, a cover letter is a quick way to measure the relevancy of an applicant without having to spend valuable time reading a résumé.
Components of a Successful Cover Letter
The three paragraphs of a successful cover letter comprise an attention-grabbing introduction including the purpose of the letter; a second paragraph that highlights the relevancy of the applicant; and a third paragraph that indicates action by the applicant. Finally, sincerity is important in a cover letter—and a letter that appears overly concerned about "key words" may come across as similar to all the others.
Paragraph One: Purpose
In addition to the purpose of the letter, express enthusiasm about the prospect of having the position in your opening paragraph, without sounding obsequious.
Tell where you learned of the job opening if it contributes to the strength of letter. It is especially an advantage if the applicant learned of the job opening from an employee at the company that is offering the position, or from a teacher or a professional organization.
Paragraph Two: The Applicant's Relevancy
Highlight the most important one or two parts of your résumé that show what results or special skill you can bring to the company, and if possible connect this skill to a success you had at a company. Also, show your sincerity by demonstrating knowledge about the company you are applying to. This may require some research about the company, but your effort will be obvious to the cover letter recipient.
Paragraph Three: Action by the Applicant
Request an interview by indicating you will make an effort to get in touch with the recipient of your cover letter. Examples:
• If I can have the chance to meet with you, I can provide you with more information about how I can contribute to your company's success.
• I do hope I will be available to meet with you soon.
• I will give you a call to answer any questions you may have about my résumé and qualifications.
Your final paragraph is also where you also thank the recipient for taking time to read your résumé. See also Express It Effectively on this website for additional examples of cover letters.
Sample Cover Letters
Student internship query