Write Cover Letters and More

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter supplements your resume and directly connects your interests and experiences to the organization and position for which you are applying. It proactively addresses any questions the employer may have based on your resume, while also serving as a writing sample. 

Five steps to creating your cover letter

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1. Highlight your strongest skills

 

  • Review the resume that you have customized for the position you are applying for
  • Select your three strongest and most relevant qualifications to highlight in your letter
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2. Provide details

 

  • Express your interest in the opportunity
  • Demonstrate your knowledge of the organization based on your research
  • Use specific examples from your background to connect to the organization’s mission, values, or work
  • Expand on your top three strongest qualifications by explaining how you've used a skill, applied your knowledge, or achieved results
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3. Polish your letter
  • Research the hiring manager or recruiter to address your letter to a specific person 
  • Use keywords from the position description 
  • Design the document using the same style and formatting as your resume
  • Keep your cover letter less than one page
  • Use correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar
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4. Get it reviewed

 

  • Get your cover letter reviewed during drop-in hours or by emailing careers@gmu.edu
  • Use the Read Aloud function in Microsoft Word (under the Review menu) to help improve flow and readability
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5. Format and submit

 

To submit your letter, follow the instructions provided in the job or internship posting. Some methods include:  

  • Uploading your cover letter in a job portal or application system  
  • Sending it via email (either as a Word or PDF attachment or as the body of the email) 
  • Recording a video introduction 

Cover letter templates

Download and customize our templates to help you get started writing your next cover letter

 Sample 

When to use  

Editable Template  

Download and customize

Cover letter Sample job Applying to an advertised/posted job  Cover Letter - Job template
Cover letter sample Internship  Applying to an advertised/posted internship Internship Cover Letter template
Video Introduction  Applying to an advertised/posted job or internship that requires a video introduction  Video Introduction script template

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I always have to write a cover letter? What if they don’t ask for it?

A thoughtful, well-written cover letter that shares information beyond what is on your resume can increase your chances of landing an interview. Submitting a cover letter (even if not requested) shows initiative and deep interest in the opportunity. 

What if I don’t have all the desired experience/skills?

You do not have to meet all of the qualifications to apply for a position. Use your cover letter to emphasize those qualifications that you do have and the unique value that you can add to the organization.

If you are having difficulty identifying your relevant qualifications, consider meeting with your industry advisor for assistance.

What if I have a lot of experience, but it is not directly related? 

If this will be your first experience in a new role or a different industry, or if you’ve followed a non-linear career path, explain your interest in the position and how your past experiences have prepared you. Highlight ways your transferable skills will help you in the role. 

Should I address an employment gap?

If your resume reflects extended time between jobs, recently or in the past, address this in your cover letter. A gap might be the result of:

  • Continuing education, training, or certification
  • Layoff or downsizing
  • Medical or health issues
  • Relocation
  • Time as a caregiver

Keep the explanation of the circumstances brief. Focus on how you used the time, ways the experience helped you develop clarity of purpose, and/or skills and strengths.

How do I highlight that I have a personal connection or was referred to the organization/position?

In the first paragraph of your cover letter, state your connection. If someone referred you to the position, it is best to identify your contact, explain briefly how you know the person, and describe why they made the referral. If you have an existing or previous connection to the organization (e.g., volunteer experience, previous employment, etc.), explain that.

Can I use the same cover letter for more than one position?

It is not recommended. Effective cover letters are tailored for the role and organization to which you are applying. Personalizing your cover letter demonstrates your enthusiasm and interest in a specific job and can help you stand out more as a candidate.   

More Communications

During the job search, you may need a variety of communications. Download any of our editable templates below to customize your messages.