Cover letters

A cover letter is a letter that accompanies and introduces your résumé to demonstrate how your skills and experience match the employer's needs. Use a cover letter when you're:

  • applying to a posted position
  • submitting your résumé to an organization that is not currently hiring (in this case, it’s sometimes called a “letter of introduction” or a “prospecting letter”)
  • applying for graduate school, a co-op program, an internship, a scholarship, etc.

You should put together a specific cover letter for each position you're applying to. This shows you've put in the effort to tailor your application and makes it easier for the employer to see how you fit their specific needs.

TIP: Want some help with your cover letter? Come to a Résumé Lab workshop (cover letters are included too) or meet with a career educator!

What to include

Include information like specific competencies, credentials, experiences and accomplishments.

Responding to a job posting

  • Identify the organization, spectific position and, if possible, the specific individual to whom you are addressing the letter 
  • Speak to the requirements of the position (look at the posting and outline how your experience matches the criteria) 
  • Describe how your experience and competencies will benefit the organization (if you have no direct experience, highlight your transferable experience)

Introduction or prospecting letter

  • Identify the type of position you’re interested in and explain how you know to contact them 
  • Outline how your experience and competencies will bring value 
  • Indicate when and how you’re going to follow up

See our Cover letter basics resource for a take-away version.

How to structure your cover letter

Every cover letter is different, but this is a suggested structure. See our What does a cover letter look like? resource for a visual breakdown of content and structure.

Introductory paragraph 

  • State your purpose and why you're applying
  • List the job title and organization name 
  • Show that you’ve researched the organization by referencing its mission/vision statement 
  • Indicate your enthusiasm and state what you’ll bring to the organization

Middle paragraph(s) 

  • Use an active voice and group information around the job requirements (e.g. your organizational skills) 
  • Avoid starting every sentence with “I” 
  • Use transition phrases (e.g. "additionally", "also") 
  • Give solid, specific examples of your past experience and the competencies you bring to the organization

Closing paragraph 

  • Thank the employer for their consideration
  • Cover any “add-ons” (e.g. criminal record check, age limit, citizenship/residency, driver’s license) 
  • Provide your contact information (if applicable) 
  • Restate your interest in the position and express interest in an interview

Writing your cover letter

  1. Deconstruct the job posting
  2. Assess the needs of the organization and how you can bring value
  3. Write your first draft—you can use our Cover letter checklist or samples below for help
  4. Get feedback and make revisions
  5. Proofread and submit your cover letter

Sample cover letters