The Cover Letter
A cover letter introduces your resume to an employer. It states why you’re writing, often says how you learned
of the position, and highlights your most relevant skills and experience. The cover letter does not repeat the re-
sume. Instead, it shows where the fit is between you, the position, and the organization and explains why you
would be excited to have the position. Include a cover letter with your resume, even if not required.
Research the organization and position before writing your letter. Fully explore its website and speak with
Smith alums and others familiar with it. If you’ve been referred by a contact, mention her/his name (with permis-
sion) in the first paragraph.
When responding to a position with little description, you may email or phone for more information. Be pre-
pared—you could end up speaking with the person doing the hiring.
Address your letter to a person by name, preferably the person with hiring authority. Phone for this infor-
mation if necessary. If you can’t get a name and title, address the letter as indicated in the ad or something like:
“Dear Director,” “To the Search Committee,” or “To Whom it May Concern.”
Use business letter format with your name, address, phone number, and email blocked left, right, or as a head-
er. For postal mailing, use the same paper as for your resume and a matching business-size envelope.
Write in an active, conversational style. Instead of saying, “My placement at xxx agency afforded me the op-
portunity to do xxx,” or “I would be honored to work at your agency,” say, “During my placement at xxx agency I
provided individual psychotherapy to adolescent substance abuse patients,” or, “I would bring strong clinical and
administrative skills to your agency.” Be specific.
Keep your letter to one page unless applying for academic, research, or fellowship positions. There’s no set
number of paragraphs for a cover letter, but make each one concise. Avoid long, dense blocks of text.
Pave the way for an interview by ending your letter with a next step. You might say, “I’ll contact you next week
to see if we can find a convenient time to meet,” If you prefer, offer the best way of contacting you and say that
you look forward to hearing from the employer.
When emailing your resume as an attachment, include your letter as a second attachment. In the body of the
email be brief: “Dear Ms. Alon: I am writing to apply for the clinician position advertised on your website. I will
be receiving my MSW from the Smith College School for Social Work this August and would bring strong clinical
skills and experience with at-risk youth to the position. My cover letter and resume are attached; please contact
me if you have difficulty opening the attachments. I look forward to meeting you. Sincerely, Philip Lakey.” In the
subject line, put “Resume and cover letter for clinician position. ” Label your PDFs with your name, and whether
using a Word doc or PDF, send it to yourself first and to friends with different computers to double-check its for-
Follow up after sending your letter and resume, unless an ad says, “No calls, please.” Ask if your application has
been received, if you can provide further information, or arrange an interview.
Keep track of your applications and contacts with a spreadsheet or other method so you can take timely and
appropriate follow-up steps. Your goal is to keep your application in the employer’s mind.
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Consult us for help any time. We’re happy to assist you in person, by phone, or via email!