Cover Letter Tips for College Students

Your Cover Letter Should Be:

  • Formal, polished, and grammatically and stylistically correct
  • Precise and concise--don't waste an employer's time with fluff or wordiness
  • Cordial and confident
  • Written in an active writing style--avoid passive sentences
  • Varied in sentence structure--don't start every sentence with "I"
  • Targeted to the needs of the employer and requirements of the position
  • Limited to one page
  • Laser printed on the same color and type of paper as your résumé, if sending by mail

Visual Presentation

  • Use a block-style letter format so that your text is aligned to the left.
  • Use a simple, professional font such as Times New Roman, Tahoma, Garamond, or Verdana.
  • Limit your use of type enhancements (bold, italics, all caps, underlining, etc.) or don't use them at all.

Address Your Letter to a Specific Person

If you do not have a contact name...

  • Research--Investigate the employer website and other online employer directories for contacts and addresses.
  • Call the employer--Request the name of the person responsible for hiring college graduates in your area.
  • If all efforts fail--Indicate a specific job title, such as Director of Public Relations, rather than Personnel.
  • Use a proper salutation such as "To the Director of Public Relations:" or "Dear College Relations Manager:".
  • Avoid "To Whom it May Concern:".

Tailor Each Cover Letter to a Specific Employer

  • Do NOT use the exact same cover letter for each job or internship to which you apply--a cookie-cutter cover letter demonstrates a lack of interest.
  • The more focused the letter, the greater the impact and the more likely you are to get a response and an opportunity to interview.
  • However, you don't have to reinvent the wheel each time. You can utilize phrases, sentences, and perhaps even whole paragraphs from one cover letter to the next depending on the types of positions to which you are applying.

Email Etiquette

Whenever submitting a cover letter to a prospective employer via email, communicate with the same care as you would in a typed letter. Email to an employer is not casual. You have two options regarding your cover letter:

  • Option 1: Write your cover letter in the body of your email. If you do that, include a salutation and closing, but not the return address, date, and employer address. Include the same information as you would in a letter, only briefer. Attach your résumé and other requested documents as necessary.
  • Option 2: Write a brief message in the body of the email indicating the job to which you are applying and that your résumé and cover letter are attached. And then of course don't forget to attach your cover letter and résumé! Include a salutation and closing.

Here are some additional guidelines to follow when submitting a cover letter and résumé electronically:

  • In the subject line, make the purpose of your email clear (for example, "Application for Analyst Position"). Be descriptive and professional. It is also recommended to include your name in the subject line.
  • Address your email to a person and use the proper salutation (i.e. Mr./Ms./Dr.).
  • Don't use emoticons, abbreviations or common email/text messaging expressions, all caps, or all lowercase letters.

Additional Tips

  • Be sure to proofread and use proper spelling and grammar!
  • Use a professional email address, either your Saint Mary's address or an alternative like Something like "" would not impress a potential employer.
  • Include your own name and the type of document in the names of the files you attach to your email (ex: JaneDoeResume.docx).
  • Respond to all employer emails within one to two business days.