Developing a Cover Letter

A compelling cover letter should always accompany your résumé. While a résumé highlights your academic and professional experience, a cover letter allows you to tell the story beyond your résumé. So invest the time to make it concise, authentic and tailored to the company. Here are the steps to writing a targeted cover letter:

Step 1: Analyze the position and the company.

  • Underline key words or phrases in the job description that offer clues as to what the employer wants or requires.
  • Identify why you are interested in the position and company.
  • Identify the recruiter or hiring manager for the position.
  • Identify any contacts you have within the organization.

Step 2: Compare your credentials with the position.

  • List at least three key accomplishments or experiences relevant to the position.
  • Identify transferable skills that make you an ideal candidate, such as:
    • Communication skills
    • Teamwork and leadership skills
    • Critical-thinking and quantitative skills
    • Work ethic traits (self-motivation, initiative, ambition, reliability, commitment)
    • Logic, intelligence, proficiency in study

Step 3: Write your letter.

  • Use the cover letter sample and checklist.
  • The letter should answer the following questions:
    • Why are you interested in the position and company?
    • How are you qualified for the position?
    • Why should you be hired over other candidates?

Step 4: Proofread and review.

  • Complete the self-review using the cover letter checklist.
  • Have a career advisor and a friend review your letter.

For cover letter samples and guidelines, see pages 22-25 of the Career Guide. Additionally, our advisors will help you hone your cover letter for maximum impact. Simply email your résumé and/or cover letter drafts to a Career Advisor requesting feedback.

To meet with a career coach, schedule an appointment online, email wcc@olin.wustl.edu, call 314-935-5950, or stop by the WCC in Knight Hall 210.

The Career Guide is a reference tool that complements OlinCareers. Stop by the WCC to pick up the latest issue.