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Cover Letter Writing

A cover letter introduces you to a potential employer and should accompany your résumé unless the employer requests otherwise. You should use a business-letter format and keep to one page of three to five paragraphs. Each cover letter you write should be tailored to the specific position and employer to align with the organization’s culture and the requirements of the role.

By clearly highlighting your strengths and credentials, a cover letter should capture the employer’s interest. Don’t repeat all the content from your résumé; instead, select two or three experiences that showcase the positive impact of your relevant skills.

  • Use the same header on both your cover letter and résumé for a cohesive and polished look. When available, include the name, title, company, and address of the person you’re writing.
  • If you don’t know the recruiter or hiring manager’s name, address your letter to “Recruiting Team” or “Hiring Manager.” Avoid using “To whom it may concern.”
  • Use the opening paragraph to introduce yourself. State why you’re writing and how you learned about the position. Demonstrate your level of interest and knowledge of the organization in two to three more sentences. These final sentences of the opening paragraph should grab the employer’s attention and encourage them to read on.
  • If someone referred you or you’ve established a contact through networking, include the person’s name and affiliation with the employer.
  • The middle paragraphs should emphasize and elaborate on your strongest qualifications and key relevant experiences. Address qualifications specified in the job description and give specific examples of when you’ve demonstrated the skills the employer is seeking.
  • Use the closing paragraph to express thanks for consideration and to request an opportunity to discuss the position. For long-distance searches, let the employer know of any plans to visit the area so that you might arrange an in-person interview.
  • If you’re using the header from your résumé, do not repeat your contact information in the signature. 

It’s a good idea to solicit feedback on your cover letter by sharing drafts with NCA staff, professional contacts, and peers. Ask your reviewers, “What did you learn about my qualifications and interest in the position?” Make sure to proofread your letter carefully before sending it.

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