What Is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a document that discusses your job goals, education, job history, and reasons why you would like to work for the company you are applying too. The cover letter will compliment your resume and further explain why you are capable of meet the qualifications and requirements of the job you want.

I have a Resume and an Application. Do I really need a Cover Letter?

Yes. Your cover letter can be an important tool for you to utilize while applying for positions as it shows that you are capable of communicating effectively. When used appropriately a cover letter will help highlight your main skills and qualifications and how they relate to the position that you are applying for. It helps to explain to the employer why you are an excellent candidate without the employer having to decipher this information through your resume.


How do I prepare to write a cover letter?

One of the first steps that you may complete when writing a cover letter is researching the company, identifying what they would like in an employee, and where the company places value. Complete the following steps to help prepare you for the process of writing.

  1. Decode Job Posting: By now you have most likely already decoded the job posting. This should give you a great idea of what skills and qualifications that the company is looking for. This is a first great step.  
  2. Go Online: Look up the company's website. Pay attention to their mission statement, if they are involved in the community, recent completed projects. Make sure to highlight the areas of interest for you. It's great to know the background of the company, but if you find that the company just completed a school lunch initiative for the community that really excites you mention this. It's easier to talk about what excites us.
  3. Who do you know? Think about if you know any friends, relatives, etc that have or are currently working for the company. Reach out to them. They can give you valuable insight into the kind of employee the company values or qualifications that are most important. This may help you determine which qualifications or skills to highlight in your cover letter.  
  4. Don't Stress: Writing cover letters can feel intimidating. Take a deep breath. This letter is simply explaining you and why you are qualified. If you get stumped ask friends and family why they enjoy hanging out with you. You may find that they think your a great listener or are always upbeat. This can help you begin to write about yourself.

What is the correct format?


  • Single Space your cover letter
  • Leave a space between each paragraph
  • Leave space between your heading and greeting
  • Either align all paragraphs to the left of the page, or indent the first line of each paragraph to the right
  • Use standard margins 


  • Keep to one page
  • 1 paragraph of introduction, 1-3 paragraphs for the body, 1 paragraph to conclude


Basic elements of a cover letter

  1. Greeting: Make sure that you are addressing your cover letter to the proper person if listed in the job posting.
  2. Introduction/Opening:This should be a personable, inviting paragraph that briefly explains what you will be discussing in the rest of the letter. It should also include the position you are applying for and how you heard about the job.
  3. Achievements/Work History/Education: Highlight your work history and past achievements. You may discuss job duties that you have accomplished in the past that the job requires. If you have limited experience discuss internships, volunteer work, or courses in school that have prepared you for this role.
  4. Skills/Qualifications: Discuss any relevant skills that would apply to this position. Talk about how you have you will utilize them in the position and why they are valuable to the role.
  5. Closing: You may briefly discuss a piece of information that you found valuable or interesting about the company. Explain why you are excited to become a member of the team. End with how they can contact you if they are interested in a resume. Remember to thank them for taking the time to consider you as an applicant.

Common cover letter mistakes

  • Don't address your cover letter "To Whom It May Concern." Look at the job posting first, is a name or contact person listed? If so, use the name to address your cover letter. If there is not a name listed try "Dear Hiring Professional" or utilize a subject line instead of a formal salutation.
  • Mind your typos and grammatical errors. Make sure to read through your cover letter when finished and not just rely on spell check. It may miss errors such as "there" vs "their" or "its" vs "it's." Ask a friend, mentor, or FSET case manager to proofread your job materials.
  • Not customizing your cover letter can come across as not caring or impersonal. Make sure to include your company research, how you will help the company succeed, or explain specific qualifications that you possess which were located in the job posting.
  • Lengthy cover letters will most likely begin to bore the reader or lead to questions on if you are able to communicate concisely. Two page cover letters are not acceptable they should be kept to 1 page. Be sure to avoid extremely short cover letters as well. Not having enough information can come across as not being qualified for the position.  
  • Using words that are outside of your vocabulary can be detrimental. Your cover letter should sound like you. It's ok to branch out a bit and utilize more descriptive words when describing tasks and qualifications. However, remember that if you would never use the word "prompt" when talking and instead would state "punctual" use the language that you are most comfortable with.

Cover Letter Examples

Jeremy J. Swift

88 Green St.

Lafayette, IN 47905


Reggie Lee

Hoosier Distribution

Lafayette Warehouse

500 Farabee Ct.

Lafayette, IN 47905


Dear Mr. Lee:


I read in the June 7, 2009 Journal and Courier employment section that Hoosier Distribution is

hiring a warehouse worker and truck driver, and I would like to speak with you about this job.

My strong work ethic and solid teamwork skills make me a good match for Hoosier Distribution.

Also, my warehouse experience and excellent driving record at Small Car Parts International

make me a good candidate for this job.


As a warehouse worker and deliver driver for Small Car Parts International in Lafayette, I lifted

and carried boxes well over 100 pounds, tracked inventory, and I used maps and directions to

deliver car parts. I also interacted with gas station and auto mechanic shop employees to conduct

business. As a pizza delivery driver for Ernie’s Premier Pizza, I drove routes in a heavily

trafficked urban and suburban areas, interacted with delivery customers to conduct business, and

worked with employees and customers from diverse ethnicities and cultures. I believe that my

warehouse and driving experience will make me a strong member of your distribution team.


I am looking forward to meeting with you about the warehouse and truck driver position. I am

sure that my strong work ethic and experience can help Hoosier Distribution maintain a high

level of service. If you have any questions, please call me at 765-123-4567. For your reference, I

have included my résumé. Thank you for taking the time to review my documents.





Jeremy J. Swift





Karl M. Jones

900 N. 7th St. Apt. 6

Lafayette, IN 47904



Alex Carson

Manager, A & D Industries

1437 State Route 26

Lafayette, IN 47904


Dear Alex Carson:

I read in the June 7, 2009 Journal and Courier employment section that A & D Industries is hiring a welder apprentice (#46), and I would like to speak with you about this position. My strong work ethic and solid teamwork skills make me a good match for A & D Industries. Also, my welding experience at Russell’s Collision Service as an auto body technician, welder/fabricator and my courses in welding make me a good candidate for your apprentice position.

For the past two years, I have been working as an auto body technician and welder/fabricator at Russell’s Collision Service in Lafayette. My strong work ethic and solid teamwork skills helped me increase my part-time hours at Russell’s from five to ten hours per week. I also received the employee of the month award for May 2006 and April 2008 at my full-time position as a clerk at Village Pantry in Lafayette. I believe that my responsible approach to work makes me a good match for A & D Industries.


In addition, during my two years at Russell’s I have developed my welding skills to include welding steel, aluminum, and stainless steel, working with hand and power tools, diagnosing auto body problems and determining appropriate action to fix various types of damage. I have knowledge of mathematics, and I can read technical manuals, schematic diagrams, and work orders to carry out auto body damage repair. During coursework in High School and at Ivy Tech, I have studied welding theory and principles, as well as welding codes. Lastly, I am familiar with workplace safety practices. I believe my work experience and my coursework make me a strong candidate to fill the welder apprentice position at A & D Industries.

I am looking forward to meeting with you to interview for the welder apprentice position. I am sure that my strong work ethic, customer service skills, and welding experience can help A & D Industries. If you have any questions, please call me at 765-123-4567. You may also email me at kmjones@gmail.com. For your reference, I have included my résumé. Thank you for taking the time to review my documents.


Karl M. Jones





Resume Examples Courtesy of :  Owl Purdue


Test Your Skills

Now that you have learnt a bit more about cover letters take a look at the one listed below. Note where you find errors and check it with the highlighted version below. If you have questions on the errors or would like a case manager to read through your cover letter make sure to contact your local FSET agency.



Michael S. Lee

2084 W. Jefferson St.

Stevens Point, WI 54481


To whom it may concern,


My Name is Michael, I am attaching my resume and cover letter for the position of that is now available at the United States Postal Service.  I have a strong work ethic which I obtained at my previous position with General Assembly Plant. Moreover, my classes in Human Services at Ivy Tech Community College have raised my awareness of public service and the importance it provides our communities.


Although I have no experience in the Postal Service field, I do feel that my other experience is relevant to the position. From 2000 to 2008, I worked for General Assembly Plant as an automotive painter, and this job taught me a lot about dedication and teamwork, the types of skills the Postal Service is looking for in its employees. During my time at General Assembly Plant. I followed detailed engieering drawings to apply paint to parts and complete vehicles. I also prepared bare metal materials and applied single- and two-part top finishes using complex technologies. I believe that my experience with coworkers in stressful situations using high-tech machinery will make me a great employee.


I unfortunately left my position at General Assembly Plant after they decided to let go of over 100 employees with no explanation. I then went on to registered for classes at Ivy Tech Community College. My classes at Ivy Tech raised my awareness of the needs of our communities, and I am interested in “giving back” by becoming a federal employee.


I am looking forward to meeting with you to interview for the position at Portage County Health and Human Services. I am sure that my strong work ethic and dedication to community service can help the facility in Stevens Point maintain a high level of postal service. If you have any questions, please call me at 765-891-112. You may also email me at mslee123@gmail.com.





Michael S. Lee



Address: Wood County Human Services - River Block

111 W. Jackson St., 2nd Floor, Wisconsin Rapids WI 54495  

Phone: +1 (715) 421-8608 8


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