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Resumes and cover letters

How to write a cover letter for a job: 5 essential tips

Learn how to create a cover letter that will get an employer's attention.

Before you start writing your cover letter, read the job posting carefully. Pay attention to the primary responsibilities, as well as the desired skills and experience for candidates. Keep the posting handy so you can refer back to it while you write.

Learn the sections of a cover letter and download our free template.

Customize your letter

One of the most important cover letter tips: do not use the same generic letter for all of your applications. Employers will be able to tell you didn’t take time to create a unique letter for them. Instead, open your cover letter by sharing why you’re excited about the job and employer, and why you’re the right candidate.

Supplement your resume, don’t repeat it

You include your resume in your job application, so don’t summarize it in your letter. Instead of listing your experience, highlight the reasons why you’re a good fit for the job. Is there an anecdote, project, or trait that doesn't belong on your resume but illustrates your strengths?

For example, were you nominated as club secretary because of your knack for organized, color-coded spreadsheets? Does the manager at your part-time job regularly compliment your talent for turning angry customers into happy ones? These can help illustrate your attention to detail and interpersonal skills.

Include keywords and supporting details

It is common for employers to scan resumes and cover letters for keywords related to the job. Be sure to incorporate any skills or experience that you have that are listed in the description.

And while your resume lists your technical skills and experience, cover letters are a great opportunity to talk about desirable soft skills like communication and project management. If you’re mentioning soft skills, provide support. For example, if you want to highlight your leadership skills, you can detail the time you led a major group project that received rave reviews from your professor.

Address any missing pieces

Your cover letter is meant to highlight your unique strengths and tell the employer why they should interview you. If you don’t have a lot of experience on your resume, take time to outline your biggest strengths as related to the job—with concrete examples.

If you don’t meet all of the qualifications listed in the posting, mention this in your letter. Be forthright and use this opportunity to explain to the hiring manager why you’re still a good fit for the job.

Proofread and ask for feedback

Carefully read through your cover letter when it's ready and check for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. Have a friend or family member review it as well and give their feedback.

Don’t forget to contact your school’s career center and schedule an appointment to go over your cover letter, resume, and other application questions you may have.

Get started on your cover letter by downloading our free template.

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