A cover letter is an important tool to use when applying for a job because it:
- Introduces you to the prospective employer
- Highlights your enthusiasm for the position
- Describes your specific skills and qualifications for the job or internship, and clearly explains why you are a good fit
- Confirms your availability to start a new position
You should always include a cover letter when applying for a job unless you are specifically told not to by the employer. We recommend that you write a cover letter (aka letter of intent) after you have drafted and tailored your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) for a particular job description. For academic faculty and teaching positions, see cover letter instructions in Masters, Ph.D.'s and Postdocs section. When applying online and limited to uploading one document, you can create a single PDF document that includes both your resume and cover letter.
What to Include in a Cover Letter
Use the cover letter template and planner to get started. When drafting your cover letter, keep the following DO’s and DON’Ts in mind:
- Limit the cover letter to one page if possible, unless applying to academic faculty, teaching or research positions.
- Use the same font and formatting in the cover letter as you use in your resume.
- You might also want to use the same header in both a cover letter and resume. See header formatting examples.
- If providing a printed copy, use the same type of paper for both your cover letter and resume. Resume paper can be purchased at the UC Davis Bookstore or at an office supply store.
- Many tech companies prefer the cover letter not be attached, but uploaded as text in an email with the resume attached.
- Use formal, professional language in a cover letter. This is true when sending your cover letter as text in an email (above point).
- Personalize each cover letter to the specific position you are applying to.
- Address your cover letter to a specific person or the hiring manager whenever possible. If you don’t know their name, use one of the following examples:
- "Dear Hiring Manager,"
- "Dear [insert department here] Hiring Team,"
- "Dear Recruiter, "
- “Dear Search Committee Chair and Committee Members:” (used for academic teaching positions)
- "To Whom It May Concern: " Note, this last one uses a “:” not a “,”
- Check for typos, proper grammar and accuracy.
- Use spellcheck, but do not rely on it to catch all errors.
- Have multiple people review your application materials.
- Make an appointment with an ICC adviser to review your application materials before you apply.
- Unless told explicitly not to, you should always include a cover letter in your application.
- Don’t use text abbreviations or emoticons if you are using email.
- Don’t be too wordy or write just to fill the entire page.
- Don’t submit a generic “one size fits all” cover letter; tailor your cover letter to fit each position. Thus, none of your cover letters will be exactly the same, though a lot of content will be similar in each.
- Don’t repeat or summarize your resume in your cover letter. Instead, focus the cover letter on your enthusiasm for the job, excitement about working with that organization, to highlight unique skills that make you qualified for the position and a good fit for the employer.
- Don’t overuse adjectives or superlatives, especially subjective ones (e.g. “You are the best company in the world” or “I am the most hardworking student intern you will ever meet.”).
- Quantify when possible. "I've helped organize three club events, including two successful initiatives attended by 25 people" is a better descriptor then "I've helped organize several club events, including a couple successful initiatives attended by many people."
- Don’t exaggerate your skills or experience.
- Don’t use UC Davis letterhead, logo, or UC seal in your cover letter. [NOTE: For graduate students and postdocs, some departments allow use of department letterhead for tenure-track faculty applications. Check with your department before using.]
How to Write a Cover Letter for a Government Internship
A Cover Letter is More Than a Summary of Your Resume
A cover letter is frequently required, and recommended, along with your job application. It expresses your interest in the role, sums up your qualifications, and attempts to show how you are different than the other candidates.
What Makes a Good Cover Letter?
A good cover letter doesn't tell an employer what you want from a job; it tells them how you will help them. It demonstrates the strengths and benefits you will bring to the position and how your past experience will make it a quick transition.
Each cover letter you submit should be customized for the particular job description. Particularly when applying for a job in government, an individualized cover letter is essential. Government human resources departments frequently use computer programs to scan cover letters, and using keywords from the specific job description can help your application be recognized.
What Should a Cover Letter Look Like?
While cover letters used to be mailed or faxed, they are now almost exclusively emailed along with your resume. A cover letter for a government position would look like the below sample:
Dear Mr. Norton:
I would like to express my enthusiasm in applying for the position as a legislative intern at the New York Civil Liberties Union recently posted in The New York Times. As a prospective May 20XX graduate from Boston College with considerable writing and administrative experience, and a strong interest in law, public policy, and immigrant rights, I believe I am a strong candidate for the legislative intern position.
The job description states that you are looking for a candidate with a commitment to civil liberties, who has strong communication and interpersonal skills, excellent writing skills, organizational skills, and someone who is very detail oriented. As a government major currently involved in writing a thesis on immigration law and as someone who contributes regularly to several blogs focused on government and immigration issues, I have become a proficient and skilled writer. As an intern for Mayor Jones at the New Brunswick City Court House, I have developed strong interpersonal skills, acquired a basic knowledge of public affairs, and have polished my organizational and administrative skills. As a current intern and assistant to Tom Jones, Legislative Assistant for Attorney Bill Phillips, in New Brunswick, NY, I have further enhanced my quantitative and qualitative research, editing, writing, and administrative skills.
As a government major, I have spent the past four years of my academic career focusing on U.S. immigration politics and immigrant rights. I have taken courses in American Politics, Immigration Law I and II, Dissident Political Thought, Politics of Congress in addition to conducting several research projects in collaboration with Professor Jack Barnes at Boston College. My case research explored the civil rights of minorities who were recently denied jobs for which it appeared that they were fully qualified. While working on my thesis, I learned a great deal about the process of conducting legal research and in writing about civil rights litigation.
I have excelled in my academics and previous internships and jobs and feel that I would be an asset if I were selected to intern for the New York Civil Liberties Union.
I will call within a week to discuss my candidacy and see if we might arrange for mutually convenient time in which we can speak.
Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing back from you soon.