You never get a second chance to make a first impression! Take advantage of the cover letter to add clarity to your experiences with more granular details and context. Even if the cover letter is optional, this is a great chance to give them another data point to highlight your candidacy.


  • Address the cover letter to a specific person or search committee and avoid using to To Whom It May Concern as that is not a personal greeting.
  • In the introductory paragraph, state the position you are applying for, how you found out about the position (if this information is noteworthy), and 1-3 reasons why you are a desirable candidate. These reasons may include your interest in the company, impressive skill sets, standout personal traits, experience, or other topics.
  • In the body paragraph(s), discuss the reasons why you are a desirable candidate that you mentioned in the introduction. Be sure to back up each claim with evidence, past experiences or situations that help prove that claim.
  • In the conclusion paragraph, restate your qualifications, express interest in interviewing and thank the reader for their time.


  • Is It Relevant?
    It can be tempting to spend your cover letter discussing those skills, experiences, or accomplishments that you yourself find most interesting. However, these will fall on deaf ears unless they are also what will interest the reader/hiring manager: edit your letter with an eye towards what they need to know in order to decide to interview you.
  • Is It Supported?
    Anyone can claim that they have a particular skills or experience. Evidence, in the form of specific past experiences demonstrating the depth and breadth of your abilities, is what convinces the hiring manager that you aren’t just anyone.
  • Can It Be Cut?
    Good documents include all the relevant information, great documents cut out the less-important information so the most-critical information is easy for the hiring manager to find. In general, the length of the 2nd draft = the 1st draft minus 10%

The complete Triton Career Guide can be downloaded in Handshake. Download a few pages to get you started.