Always submit a cover letter with a resume unless the employer expressly says not to do so. Tailor your cover letter specifically to the position to which you are applying. Cover letters must have correct grammar, proper spelling, good sentence structure and must comply with standard business format. Your cover letter is the first sample of your writing skills. It is essential to proofread!
Cover letter paper and resume paper should match exactly. Likewise, it is preferable that the heading/letterhead on your cover letter be the same as your resume. Regardless, include your return address, telephone number and e-mail address on the cover letter.
Be sure to date the letter.
Address the cover letter to a specific person using the individual's complete and correct name, title, firm/organization name, full street address, city, state and zip code. If you don't know to whom the letter should be addressed or if you have questions regarding the job title or the spelling of a name, call the employer and ask.
Do not address the cover letter to "Dear Hiring Partner," "Dear Sir or Madam" or "To Whom It May Concern". This makes it appear to be a mass mailing rather than a targeted cover letter. If you exhaust all resources to identify to whom the cover letter should be addressed and are still are unable to identify the proper individual, you may use the terms as a course of last resort.
When addressing a letter to an attorney, you may insert "Esq." after the attorney's name in the address block. For example: "Charles A. Abrams, Esq." When using the "Esq." designation in the address block, however, do not insert Mr. or Ms. before the attorney's name. Additionally, in the salutation, (i.e., Dear Mr. Abrams:), do not insert Esq. after the name. Also, use Mr. or Ms. in the salutation. Do not use Mrs. or Miss.
Use a colon, not a comma, after the greeting for business letters.
Generally, the cover letter should contain at least the following 3 basic paragraphs:
1st Paragraph: Tell who you are and why you are writing.
Use contact names and research findings about the firm as it relates to your interests.
2nd Paragraph: Tell what you will bring to the firm.
Describe your skills; give examples of your achievements and accomplishments and how they will benefit the employer. The focus should be what you have to offer the employer, not how you will benefit from the job.
3rd Paragraph: Tell what will be your next step.
If submitting for on-campus interviewing, express that you are appreciative of their time.
For all other letters, ask for an interview and state that you will follow-up with a telephone call to confirm that the employer received your information and to inquire if the employer requires additional information. Include your telephone number and e-mail address if they are not included at the top of your letter.
Thank the individual for his/her time and consideration and mention that you look forward to speaking with the individual soon.
Close the letter with "Sincerely" or "Very truly yours"; leave space (usually 4 spaces) to sign your name.
Remember to sign your letters. Blue ink is preferable so the reader knows it is not a copy, but black ink is acceptable. Do not sign in pencil or unusual color ink.
If you are enclosing a single document (e.g., a resume,) include "Enclosure" two spaces under your name; if you are enclosing more than one document (e.g., writing sample, transcript, list of references, letters of recommendation) include "Enclosures" two spaces under your name.
When submitting by regular mail, do not staple your cover letter to your resume or other documents. It is preferable to use large mailing envelopes, rather than folding the letter and resume.