Cover Letter Tips

The Basics

  • Always send one!  Never send your resume or CV without a cover letter
  • Consistency: If delivering in-person or sending via mail, use the same (preferably good) paper that your resume or CV is printed on.
  • Brevity is the soul of…successful job searching: each paragraph should be 7 lines at most, and your cover letter should not exceed one page. (template and sample below)
  • Professional:  Assuming that your contact at the employer is “Darryl Patel”, the salutation should be “Dear Mr. Patel:" not "Dear Darryl,".  Do not use, under any circumstance, instant message abbreviations (e.g., “u”, “thx”, “i”) in any correspondence with a potential employer, no matter what your previous relationship.  If a friend or former colleague is able to provide an opportunity at their current place of employ, the last thing you want to do is embarrass them – and yourself - with unprofessional communication.
  • Specificity counts:  Address your cover letter to a specific person.  If no contact is listed in the job posting, try to find out from the company web site, or by calling the employer (unless the ad specifies "no phone calls").

Following Up

  • Do it: if you mentioned, “I will contact you in a week to set up an interview”, well…contact them a week after sending the letter.

Focus on the Employer

  • The most compelling letters demonstrate what you can do for the employer, not what the employer can do for you. While the cover letter should show off your particular skill set, education and previous experience --- connect it to how your particular experience, education and aptitude will meet an employer's needs via the position you want.

This Electronic Age

  • Email does not excuse you from writing a cover letter: although it should be short, don’t allow a cover letter delivered in the body of an email to be too short.  A few brief paragraphs are ideal, and the template suggested below should still be used.
  • Get out the magnifying glass - Don’t rely solely on spell-check.  Typos, name misspellings, grammatical errors, incorrect word usage, extra spaces, inconsistent formatting – any of these demonstrate that you are careless – and are an easy way for an employer to toss your cover letter and resume in the recycling bin without considering you for a job.  After you have spell-checked, proofread.  Revise and then have a friend proofread.  Proofread again before submitting.
  • 12 point font.  If using a legible font size makes your letter “spill” onto 2 pages, then your letter is too long.  Revise so it fits onto 1 page with 1” margins.

Be a Show-off, but be Nice too

  • Resumes and CVs are formal, but cover letters can be personable AND professional.  Demonstrate that you are perfect for the position, and get the reader to like you.  Exclamation points and smiley faces are inappropriate, but enthusiasm is perfect.

Cover Letter Template:

  • 1st Paragraph:  Introduce yourself.  Explain that you would like to be considered for a position with the organization.  Be as specific as possible and include the job title or career area.  If responding to a newspaper or web site ad, mention the date and the newspaper/site.  If following up on the suggestion of a contact person (e.g., an employee or a professor), mention the person by name.  Finally, indicate your Rutgers School of Public Health status.  Whether you are currently enrolled or recently graduated, specify your program (i.e., MPH, MS, PhD, DrPH), concentration and graduation date.  If you are a current student, include your expected graduation date, just as you have on your resume or CV.
  • 2nd Paragraph:  Sell yourself.  Identify one or two key qualifications from your resume or CV that respond directly to the job qualifications, and briefly explain how they make you a strong candidate for the position.  Explain why you are interested in the employer, location or type of work.  Give the employer a sense of your strengths and talents, but be concise.  If you have had related experience or specialized training, be sure to point it out.  If your G.P.A. is impressive (above 3.5), you may consider citing it.
  • 3rd Paragraph:  Be polite but sincere in your request for further action.  Mention that your resume or CV is attached.  Close by asking for an opportunity to set up an in-person or phone appointment.  If you are willing to contact the employer, mention that you will phone or email within a specified amount of time e.g., one week, two weeks.  Thank the reader for his or her time and attention.