Common Guidelines for Cover Letters

Read our Cover Letter Handout

  • Paragraph and page length: 3-4 paragraphs and 1 page
  • Font: Arial, Times New Roman, Gill Sans (easy to read types), 10 - 12 pt size
  • Your name, mailing address and date should always be included
  • Use a standard business letter format for cover letters
  • Margins: ½ inch to 1 inch on all sides; keep sides symmetrical
  • Write a unique cover letter for each job
  • Address your letter to a specific person, avoid "To Whom it May Concern"
  • Proofread each cover letter and have others review it for typos, grammar and clarity
  • Name the document appropriately when saving to your computer, (ex. Jane Doe Xerox Cover Letter 2011.doc)
  • Save your cover letters as .pdf documents for easy electronic transmission
  • If printing, do so on resume paper using a laser printer

Before You Begin

Below is a list of what you will need to know/have before you begin writing each cover letter:

  • A copy of your resume(s)
  • Advertisement for each position to which you plan to apply
  • Contact information for a representative at each organization
  • Knowledge about each potential employer

Paragraph by Paragraph

It is easy to spot a 'canned' cover letter; one that is generically written and sent to every employer, regardless of the type of position advertised. Take the time to write a unique cover letter for each job you apply for and make sure that what you write sounds like you.

Suggestions of what to include in each paragraph of your cover letter:

1st Paragraph
State what position you are applying for and how you learned of the position. It is helpful to include a
transitional sentence to set the tone for your letter.

Example: I'm writing in reference to the Account Manager position advertised on the Xerox website. After
reviewing the qualifications you seek, I believe that my background and experience are a good fit. The
attached resume highlights my active involvement in several organizations at Gettysburg College and skills; such as leadership and communication, that could be valuable assets to Xerox.

2nd Paragraph
Address the specific needs of the employer and show how you can fill those needs. Do not simply list or
repeat items on your resume. Highlight 2-3 relevant skills or experiences. Give examples and show transferable skills - it is up to you to show how what you have done connects to what the employer seeks.

3rd Paragraph

This optional paragraph is a good place to highlight additional skills, a specific interest in the company, or educational experiences.

4th Paragraph
The closing paragraph calls for action. You should mention your intention to follow-up with the employer and let the reader know that you want to interview for the position. Close by thanking the reader for considering your application.