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Crafting a Cover Letter

Crafting a Cover Letter

Cover letters are often required for job and internship applications. Use the guide below to get started. Be sure to work with your Career Planning and Placement staff to hone your cover letter writing skills.              

Cover Letter Tips:
  • Customize your cover letter for each job application. 
  • The goal of your cover letter is to get an interview, so describe your qualifications clearly. 
  • Your cover letter should focus on how your unique background fits the unique job position.
  • A cover letter should not simply repeat the details from your resume.
  • Cover letters should be concise and limited to one page. 
  • Cover letter writing is not easy, but putting in the effort pays off.

Get Started              

Successfully written cover letters consist of an outline, a draft and then a final review. It is important that you give each step in the process attention.              

Use the Job Description              

Before you begin, read the job description several times and research the company. As you read, pick out two or three of your skills that you think best fit the job description. Then write down specific examples that highlight those skills. Make sure they are also clear on your resume. Once you have identified two or three key skills to highlight, it's time to start your outline.              

Create an Outline              

A productive way to ensure your cover letter is clear and concise is to develop an outline. See below for an example of a successful outline. 


Put it All Together

Once you have completed the outline above, your cover letter should be much easier to write. Simply take the elements of your outline and weave them together into a letter form. Here is one way using the examples above:       


XYZ Company
Address line 1
Address line 2

Dear Hiring Manager,

I am writing to express my interest in the Customer Services Associate position posted on City Colleges of Chicago’s Career Network job board. I am excited about the opportunity because XYZ Company is growing quickly and has a fast paced environment. I am confident my years of customer service experience and attention to detail will make me a valuable asset to the XYZ team.

As a barista at Coffee Shop, I spent approximately two years serving hundreds of customers per week. My Coffee Shop was located in a very popular spot, so I developed the ability to work quickly, while maintaining a high-level of customer service. My success was demonstrated when my team and I were awarded Best Overall Store in 2012. Our team also increased annual sales by 15%. I am confident my time at Coffee Shop has prepared me to succeed in the dynamic environment at XYZ. I also bring a careful eye to detail which I know is important for a Customer Service Associate. An example of my detail-orientated nature is when I identified a pricing error at Coffee Shop during our busy holiday season. Thanks to my attention, our store saved $1,000.00 and it was one of our most profitable quarters.

I am excited for the opportunity to learn more about XYZ Company and to discuss my experience, attention to detail and other skills in depth. I welcome a phone or in person interview. I can be contacted at (555)234-7643 between 8 am and 6 pm on week days. Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Example Sally



Review and Improve

Once the first draft of your letter is complete, it's time to check for errors. Work with your Career Planning and Placement staff and make sure you use the checklist below.          

Is your cover letter:
  • One page or less? 
  • Free of grammar or spelling errors? 
  • Concise and clear? 
  • Addressed to an actual person within the company, when possible?

Does your cover letter:  

  • Answer why an employer should interview you?
  • Provide examples of your key skills that match the job description?
  • Provide additional information to support the accomplishments on your resume?
  • Use similar words and phrases in the job description?
  • Sound genuine and  like it’s written in your voice?

Once you have followed the steps and answered the questions above, your cover letter should be ready for distribution. You can use the core of your cover letter again, but be sure to customize it for each job. Need help? Your Career Planning and Placement staff are cover letter experts and can help you at all stages of this process.​​ 


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