Center for Career Development – University of Tennessee

University of Tennessee – Center for Career Development

Cover Letters

Cover Letter, Letter of Inquiry, or Letter of Application

A cover letter contains an explanation of or additional information about an accompanying communication, such as a resume. It is sometimes called an application letter or letter of inquiry, whether it is sent in response to a job opening or mailed to a company for which you would like to work. Employers receive hundreds of letters and resumes for each advertised position vacancy. Your letter, therefore, will have to be well written and designed to attract attention in a positive way in order to receive a favorable response.
Your cover letter should communicate something personal about yourself along with information that is specific for the division, organization or company to which the letter is being sent. This lets the reader know that you have spent some time researching the organization and writing a personal letter. Form letters elicit a negative reaction, if not a toss in the trash can.
To receive a positive response, it is imperative that you research every company to which you apply in order to give knowledgeable and specific reasons for your interest in that company and how you can meet their needs through your qualifications, experiences and personal qualities. Do not repeat your resume; use the cover letter to interpret and expand the resume, stressing relevant details in a personalized fashion. Communicate your ability to assist and support the organization. State explicitly how your background relates to the specific job; emphasize your strongest and most pertinent characteristics. The cover letter should demonstrate that you know both the company and yourself.

Cover letters should never be duplicated. Each must be individually written and originally typed, single spaced on a good quality bond paper matching the paper used in your resume. The cover letter should be one page in length and addressed to a specific individual in charge of the department or unit in which you want to work or to the human resources department. Different employers handle resumes differently and you might want to try writing to both.
There are several formats which may be used in writing your cover letter. If you are not familiar with them, check the references in the Career Resource Center. Use simple, direct language and correct grammar. Triple check the letter to be absolutely sure there are no spelling, typographical or grammatical errors.
Remember: The letter and resume are examples of your written communication skills and organizational abilities.
See below for a cover letter example. Because your letter of application must communicate your ambition and enthusiasm in a unique and assertive manner, a sample letter has not been included. Use the guidelines to write your own letter applicable to the position and company, and to individualize your background and abilities.



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