Writing a strong cover letter or email increases your chances of getting an interview.
A cover letter or email introduces your resumé or application form to an employer. When you write a cover letter, your goal is to get the employer’s attention by showing how your skills and accomplishments make you a good fit for the job.
Writing your cover letter or email
Keep these suggestions in mind as you write your cover letter:
- Include the job reference number and position name, if they’re shown in the ad or posting.
- Be brief. Your letter should be no longer than 1 page.
- Use simple, direct language.
- Keep your paragraphs short.
- Tailor each cover letter or email to fit the specific job you’re applying for. Show the employer how your skills match what the job requires.
- Give the employer a good reason to read your resumé. Explain how hiring you would benefit the organization. Explain how working there would benefit you. Answer any questions you think the employer might have about your experience and skills.
- Show that you know about the employer’s goals and activities. Explore the employer’s website to find out.
- Personalize your letter, but avoid being pushy or too familiar. A cover letter is a business letter, so humour is usually not appropriate.
Formatting your cover letter or email
The following outline is a guide. You would not include the information above the subject line in an email.
City or town, province, postal code
Name of person receiving the letter
Position or title
Street address or box number
City or town, province, postal code
RE: Position you’re applying for and job reference number if available
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:
(Send your letter or email to a specific person. If you don’t know whether the person is male or female, use the full name. For example, “Dear Chris Smith.” If you don’t have a specific name, send the letter to “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear XYZ Company Team.”)
First paragraph (Keep your paragraphs short.)
Tell the reader why you’re writing. If you’re interested in a specific job, say why. Say how you heard about the job if appropriate. For example, “My neighbour, Leslie Shewchuk, is your office manager and she told me about the position.” Let the employer know that you’re familiar with the organization.
Avoid listing facts from your resumé. Instead, explain why you’re good fit for the job, Explain how your skills and experience match those in the job posting. Highlight any key experience (including volunteer or school experience) that qualifies you for the position.
Tell the employer that you have enclosed a resumé or application. Offer to provide additional information, if needed. Close by saying that you’re available for an interview or to discuss other opportunities. Give a phone number and/or email address where you can be reached.
(If you’re sending your resumé as a hard copy, leave 3 lines for your signature before your name.)
Enclosure or attachment
Sending your cover letter or email
Make sure your cover letter or email makes a positive first impression.
- Check your letter for any spelling, punctuation, grammar or typing errors. Ask a friend to check it too.
- Use the same font as in your resumé.
- Print your hard copy letter on the same good-quality paper as your resumé. Use a printer that gives you a professional-looking copy.
- If you’re sending your resumé as an email attachment, use one of the following options. If you choose the second or third option, be sure that the body of your email includes a brief message saying that you have attached your cover letter and resumé.
- Put your cover letter in the body of the email.
- Include your cover letter as the first page of the file that includes your resumé.
- Attach your cover letter as a separate file.
Write a strong cover letter to improve your chance of an interview
An effective cover letter or email is short and clear. It focuses on how your skills and experience can meet an employer’s needs.
When your cover letter or email encourages an employer to read your resumé, it helps to open the door to an interview.