Cover Letter Guidelines

Cover Letter

A cover letter is sent in response to an advertisement or posting for a job or internship opportunity. In this type of letter, you will need to indicate how you found out about the position and relate your skills and experience to the specific position. It is vital to follow-up with the employer within two weeks to determine the status of your application.

When writing a cover letter, there are three basic paragraphs that need to be included. Additional paragraphs may be included as needed. The following gives the three essential paragraphs and what information should be included in each paragraph.

Opening Paragraph
State why you are writing, identify the position for which you would like to be considered, and indicate how you heard of the position. If you are sending an interest/inquiry letter, simply indicate the type of work you are seeking. Be specific.

Middle Paragraph(s)
Your goal in this paragraph is to show how you can be useful to this particular organization in this particular position. Describe what strengths you have to offer. You might use one of the following approaches:
- Illustrate the relationship between your skills, experience and the position for which you are applying.
- Describe your previous accomplishments as they relate to the position.
- Identify three reasons for the employer to consider you for the position.
- State why you want to work for their organization.
- Refer the reader to your enclosed resume for additional information.

Closing Paragraph
End your letter by clarifying what will happen next and how they most easily can reach you. Whenever it is possible, you want to take the next step yourself. In addition, thank them for their time and consideration.

Salary Requirements
Some employers will request a salary requirement. You may address the issue in the cover letter. In reporting your salary requirement, it is best to indicate that this can be negotiated or discussed in the interview. This allows you flexibility in determining a fit for the position after you have been interviewed and determined that the position is a good fit for you. You do not want to “lock” yourself into a salary figure that is either too high for the employer or too little for what the position deserves.
If the employer requests a salary requirement, don’t ignore it. Many employers who request salary requirements will not consider an application without a salary requirement. Your salary requirement needs to fit the general range of what are typical earnings for the position. If you are unsure about the salary ranges for particular positions you can research some general information about specific salaries on the internet at Salary.com, The Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) or O*Net. O*Net can give salary information to the specific geographical area.

Salary History
Sometimes an employer will ask applicants to provide salary histories. The employer may use a salary history to gauge the employers' ability to pay an employee at a certain level. When providing a salary history, give the salaries of your recent work experiences or most relevant work experiences.

The salary history can be included in the final or next to last paragraph of your cover letter or as a separate document. Some employers will not consider an application without the requested salary history, so don’t ignore it. If you believe your salary history does not match with the type of positions you are applying for, certainly explain briefly why your salary history may be out of sync with a particular industry and always state that salaries are negotiable.