Create Cover Letters

A cover letter is a letter that you often send to the employer with your resume. The cover letter makes your resume more personal, and is targeted to a job lead and employer. This shows the employer that you read and understood the job description and gives the employer key points about why you are the right person for that job. You can view a sample cover letter template (pdf) here.

Parts of a Cover Letter

Heading and greeting
Every cover letter needs the date. List your name and how to contact you. Address the letter to a specific person when possible. Be sure to follow directions regarding subject reference. The employer may request that you reference the position you are applying for, the date the position was posted, etc.

Opening and introduction
Explain who you are and why you are writing. Tell them how you found out about the position.

Body
Sell yourself. Reveal why you are a perfect and unique match for the position. Explain why you have chosen the employer. No more than 2 short paragraphs.

Assertive closing
Be positive. Tell them that you will contact them, and when. Thank them for their time. Be sure to follow up when you say you will.

References
When you apply for jobs, you will likely be asked for references. References are people who can talk about your skills and work history. Choose your references carefully. You want to list about 3 people who will say good things about you.
Here are some rules about getting and listing references.

1. If possible, talk to your supervisor before you leave a job and ask if he/she will give you a reference. The best possible reference is a recent supervisor. If you don’t have a good one you can use past supervisors, coworkers, supervisees, volunteer managers, teachers, etc. Other nonstandard but acceptable reference providers: current/former clients, academic counselors, business partners, funders, and colleagues at another company/agency. If you have a job and don’t want your current employer to know that you are looking for a new one, ask a colleague that you can trust. 

2. References come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In order from best to worst, they are:

  • Someone who knows you well, thinks you’re great, is interested in helping you to advance your career, and will respond quickly and cheerfully to a telephoned reference request. 
  • Someone interested in helping you to advance your career, but can’t give details over the phone for legal reasons. Ask him/her to write you a general letter of recommendation.
  • Someone who will confirm your past employment over the phone.
  • Someone who says they will do any of the above, and then doesn’t. Feel free to check by having a friend call them and pretend to be a prospective employer!

3. Always tell your reference that you are listing them. Before you list any person as a reference, ask for permission. Make sure they have an updated copy of your resume, and a good idea of what kind of jobs you are applying for, and when you are scheduled to interview, so they can be prepared to answer questions well.

4. Keeping in touch with your references periodically also helps in maintaining up to date contact information. Be sure to connect with them via LinkedIn.

5. Bring a copy of your references to the interview. Your reference list should be separate from your resume. Make sure that you have a separate page that you can hand over upon request. This way you will have the exact contact information on hand if the application asks you to list references during the interview. 
 

Cover Letter & References Resources

Career One Stop: Cover Letters
iSeek: References

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