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The Industry / Non-Profit Job Search


Cover letters are your opportunity to "personalize" your application to a prospective employer. It identifies what specifically qualifies you for a position, how you found out about the job or internship and/or why you want to be placed with their organization.

The cover letter should be perfectly typed in a business format. If applying to an advertisement, address the letter as noted in the advertisement. If you are submitting a resume to a firm that has not advertised an open position, be certain to address the letter to a specific individual. Check directories or the organization directly to get the current name and title of the person who should receive your inquiry.

Always include an original cover letter with the resume and make sure the envelope matches the stationery used for the resume and cover letter. Send only an original, one-page letter, and sign it. Keep copies of all letters you send out, noting dates for follow-up calls.

There is some truth to the opinion that a cover letter plays little importance in the initial screening of applicants. Many employers often skip immediately to the resume, in search of the necessary skills and experiences required of the opening. Many employers now scan resumes for storage and search their resume databases by key word searches when openings occur.  However, if the employer is interested in the qualifications listed on the resume, they will usually then turn to the cover letter to appraise the applicant’s motivation for applying and writing skills. Therefore, a cover letter should always accompany a resume and vise versa.

If you are emailing your resume and cover letter, check with the employer before sending to verify the format they prefer to receive it in. Most employers prefer receiving documents attached to email messages for ease of reading and printing capabilities.


Your letter should follow this sample format.

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Cover Letter Key Points

Include the following information clearly, briefly, and concisely:

  • A description of the position or title of the position you seek.
  • Name of the advertisement source and/or of the person who referred you to their organization.
  • A brief summary of your qualifications that would meet their needs.
  • Refer to the resume, application and additional support information such as a portfolio, slides, or enclosed samples that represent your work.
  • Request an interview and set up a time to follow up with a call or a visit. Be sure to follow through with any commitment you make.

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Related Links:

The Employment Wizard - job search tips including cover letter samples, resumes and interviewing

The Riley Guide - great resources for job-search information

National Association of Colleges and Employers online career magazine

Web page maintained by Ann Halbach
Send comments or questions to ah@education.wisc.ed


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