Cover Letter Help & Tips

Your cover letter is the best way to introduce yourself to the hiring manager, expand upon experiences and skills listed in your resume and explain why you would be an asset to their company. Each position should have a unique cover letter. Find helpful tips by the section of your cover letter and schedule an appointment with a career advisor if you’d like additional support.

Cover letters should include:

  • Explain why you are interested in a particular position.
  • Discuss how your past roles make you a good candidate for this position.
  • Name some of your skills and discuss how they will translate to the position.
  • Thank the employer for their time and reiterate your interest.

A cover letter will follow the traditional format of a mailed letter and ideally should match the style of your resume header. 

The top of the document should include:

  • Your name, address and contact information. This can be done by using the same header from your resume.
  • The date you plan to submit the application.
  • The hiring manager’s name. It would be great if you could find the name of the person who will be reading the letter, such as the recruiter or supervisor.  Try to steer away from using “To Whom It May Concern”, and use “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Editorial Team”, etc.  
  • The company’s address. The job description should include a location or link to the website.

Some other tips for making a visually appealing cover letter:

  • Keep it under one page, but not too short because they might see this as not caring too much about the position.
  • Even one-inch margins all around (0.5 inch is also acceptable).
  • Easily readable fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. If the font size is less than 11, some readers might have difficulty reading your letter and get frustrated. 
  • Use assertive language such as “I will” or “I know.”
  • Have someone look over your cover letter before submitting it.

It’s important to catch the attention of the person reading your cover letter. Letting them know you are a recent graduate signals that you’re ready to start working, which is great if they need to onboard someone quickly. If you are looking for an internship, let them know how excited you are to learn about the field, which can help if they are looking to train new talent.

Here is what a quick opening paragraph might look like:

Dear Mrs. Lim,

I am excited to submit my application for the Accountant position at DataABC.  As a recent graduate with an Accounting & Finance degree from Merrimack College, I am confident I could contribute to the success of your team.

After introducing yourself, it’s time to tell the reader why you want to work for them.  Showing your interest, excitement and passion about the work they do and explaining how you’re connected to that work really helps your application stand out.

If you have a personal connection to the company, such as someone who referred you, be sure to mention them and what you discussed. An example of this might be:

In March, I had the pleasure of speaking with LaKeya Washington from your analytics team during a career fair at Merrimack College.  After learning about your company’s focus on data within the social impact sector, I knew DataABC was exactly where I was meant to work. 

If you don’t know anyone at the company, no worries! Research their company’s website and their “about us” page to see if their work culture aligns with yours and if so, mention that. You want to let them know they provide the type of environment where you can thrive, contribute and be happy to go into the office in the morning. If they have been in the news recently, this is when you want to show that you have noticed them and enter these little pieces of information into the “why this company” question. 

These next couple paragraphs are your chance to really stand out and showcase how your skills align with what the company is looking for. You want to use the job description as your blueprint and pay particular attention to themes that are repeated throughout, especially the attributes they mention in the beginning. If they mention data analysis and Microsoft Excel, this is something that you’ll want to highlight. If they mention collaboration, communication and creativity, these are other clues as to what you should be mentioning in your cover letter. 

Sometimes we come across a job description that is not very detailed, so when this is the case try researching their website for more information. We also recommend trying to connect with the company on LinkedIn. If you can connect with any of their employees on LinkedIn (currently or previously employed), this is also a great way to get some insider information and possibly use their name in your cover letter if they give permission.  

Next, we want to make sure that your skills shine through. The person reading your cover letter should be compelled to learn more about you. Don’t bore them by restating what’s on your resume, rather using this time to highlight the themes that are your focus. Show that you have the qualities they are looking for and then share an example. 

I have experience leveraging analytics to make data-informed decisions. While interning at TaxesAllDay, I used Tableau to analyze customer service ratings and identified trends that correlated with high satisfaction ratings. With the data I collected and my recommendations, the company was able to save more money at the end of its fiscal year than ever before. I would be thrilled to apply this same motivation to help your company save resources wherever they can. 

Of course, meeting the requirements of the job description is important, but it’s also critical to showcase your soft skills such as collaboration, communication and innovation. Remember to include group projects here because this shows that you can function on a team.  

We can’t assume that the reader will make connections as to how your skills line up with what they are looking for. Make it very clear for them so it’s impossible to miss. It may seem like you are repeating yourself throughout the cover letter because you keep aligning yourself with the job description, but this is what they are looking for!

It’s standard to include a final paragraph to reassert your interest in the position, letting the employer know they can contact you with questions and thanking them for their time.

You should close with Sincerely or Thank you before adding your name. You can include your phone number and email address below your signature if this information is not already listed. Some people also choose to include their LinkedIn URL as well. 

Merri Mack

You may find these additional resources beneficial as you work on your cover letter.