While it is often thought that cover letters have lost their value in the hiring process, that is simply not true. Many hiring managers still look for cover letters and give a lot of weight to a strong cover letter. Candidates who stand out know the value of a high quality cover letter and spend time carefully tailoring their cover letter to match each job they apply to. If a job asks for a cover letter, or even says it is optional, it is always the best choice to submit a high quality cover letter just in case!
Your Academic & Career Advisor is always happy to assist you with the cover letter writing process!
What is a Cover Letter?
Your cover letter serves several purposes as part of your application. It demonstrates that you understand the needs of the employer, organization, or graduate program and that you have the skills, qualities, or experiences that they are looking for. This is your chance to introduce how your skills and experiences can serve as assets to their team. Your cover letter and resume should work together to help build your case as a qualified candidate for the position or opportunity you’re applying for.
A cover letter should mimic the look and feel of your resume. The following aspects should be identical to your resume:
- Font – Size & Style
- Resume Header (Name & Contact Information) – copied exactly from your resume
For more information on how to properly format your resume, visit the Resume Writing page.
Sections of a Cover Letter
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Beginning of the Cover letter
Your introduction paragraph is your chance to hook the attention of the reader. It should not be too long, but should introduce all of the most important information you’d want a hiring manager to see. Typically, your introduction paragraph includes the following:
- Introduction of yourself: This includes your name, that you are a student at UW-Madison, what you are studying, and/or other noteworthy qualifications.
- Statement of interest for the specific position and company: Be specific! What excites you about THIS opportunity?
- Closing Statement: This should be the last sentence of your introduction paragraph and introduce the themes of your body paragraphs. For example: Based on my strong data analytics skills, relevant finance experience, and demonstrated leadership experience, I am an outstanding candidate for the XYZ role”
It is recommended that you have 2-3 body paragraphs. More experienced professionals may have more, and that is up to you to determine. Keep in mind, your cover letter should ideally be 1 page, but can extend to 2 if needed.
Body paragraphs should each have their own theme. These themes are up to you to decide. What are your top qualifications you want a hiring manager to know about? A common mistake people make is trying to cram too many qualifications into one paragraph. Keep paragraphs focused and only include multiple qualifications if it makes sense to pair them together.
When trying to illustrate that you have a skill or quality being sought by the employer, it is important to back these claims up with examples from previous experiences. You should not simply list skills you have, but instead should explain how you have demonstrated these skills in the past.
Each body paragraph should answer the prompt: Tell us about a time you demonstrated XYZ skill or quality.
Your closing paragraph should mirror many elements found in your introduction paragraph. This is your chance to thank the hiring manager for taking the time to review your materials, restate your interest, and finally, remind them of your qualifications (restate your intro paragraph’s closing statement from earlier).
Finally, end by saying “Sincerely, Your Name”
Cover Letter Template
Click the button below to download a cover letter template & outline. Be sure to carefully review the document to ensure that you have completely edited it to be your own and that there is no filler or template text remaining.