Elements of a Cover Letter

Employers use cover letters to determine your interest in a position and to assess your written communication skills. Even those employers who don’t read cover letters at first may eventually review them to compare applicants who seem similarly qualified.


The cover letter should answer the following questions:

  • Why are you interested in the position?
  • How are you qualified?
  • Why should you be hired?


Keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Address the letter to a specific individual if possible.
  • Be brief. Use powerful words, concise sentences, and short paragraphs.
  • Don’t restate your CV; instead, explain how your experiences meet the specific needs of the position.
  • Focus on the particular employer’s needs and what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
  • Keep it to one page.
  • Match the type style and paper with your CV.
  • Proofread for spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Keep a record of where you have applied, when you’ve sent each cover letter, and when you plan to follow up with a phone call.


Types of cover letters

  • Applying to a job (download a sample pdf, 56 kb)
  • Exploratory letter (download a sample pdf, 55 kb)


Other letters

  • Thank you letter (download a sample pdf, 72 kb)
  • Rejection letter


Credentials and Letters of Recommendation

Most employers and academic institutions request two to three letters of recommendation. In early fall, contact three individuals to ask if they would be willing to write recommendations for you. Possible recommenders are professors, past and current employers, advisors, and coaches. Many individuals who write recommendations request a CV to help them review your activities and experiences.

The best letters will come from people who know you well and can provide detailed comments about your academic, professional, or extra-curricular work.

This information is provided as a courtesy of Georgetown University's Career Education Center.