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What Should a Cover Letter Include?

Ask Savvy: What Should a Cover Letter Include?

Dear Savvy,

My problem is not exactly related to my résumé, but I am having problems when it comes to my cover letter. I don't know what it should include or how to correctly send one. So what should a cover letter include? Also, I usually sent my resume via email because that's the way they want to receive it, but should I send it as a PDF or a .doc?

See my suggestions and share your own in the comments! Just


Cover letters are typically your résumé's counterpart and are sent at the same time. You can simply make your cover letter the body of the email while attaching the résumé (unless the job listing specifically asks for no attachments). When I say that the letter is a résumé's counterpart, I do not mean that it should duplicate the information you've already included in your resume, rather that it should serve as a less formal complement to it.

Review the qualifications listed on the job description, and pair them against your résumé to generate examples of how qualified you are for the position. Consider the cover letter an opportunity to showcase more about you and what you're capable of than what can be conveyed through your résumé.

Focusing on yourself is the easy part, but you must blend in plenty about the company to show that you want to work for them and aren't just looking for any old job. You want your own attributes to make you stand out, but highlighting how interested you are in their company can only help you. Demonstrate your knowledge about the type of work they do , their clientele, why you want to work there, and be enthusiastic (but not obnoxiously so).

At all costs, avoid addressing your cover letter with "To Whom It May Concern." It's stuffy and shows that you didn't take the extra step to find the appropriate name. Make sure that your cover letter is written well, showcases your personality, won't make the reader fall asleep from boredom, and most of all, makes you stand out more than you would have if you'd never written the letter.

As for how to attach your résumé, Word documents are widely used and likely compatible with most computers, but PDFs allow you to submit a résumé that cannot be altered. I've always submitted my résumé as Word documents — how about all of you?


jeefrina jeefrina 8 years
this website is good for all of us. ________________________________________________________ Arabela Anya cover letter
GeriAnne1932 GeriAnne1932 9 years
Just a tip, when sending a cover letter and resume to a prospective employer, don't just write an email that says "Hi, here's my attached cover letter and resume for the job you posted on..." Turns people off immediately. If you are emailing a person directly, your email can serve as your cover letter with the resume attached.
RvkPG RvkPG 9 years
So the day I posted this on the groups I sent my resume to two different internships and received calls from both! So now I have updated my resume, made it look prettier xD and saved as pdf... as for the letter I will work on it this weekend, thanks for all the advice and to Savvy for posting this here!
CoralAmber CoralAmber 9 years
I read a great treatise on what to put in a cover letter in Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Focus on how you can meet their wants and not your own. He includes a sample on page 40 in my edition.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
I usually sent my resume as a Word document, but I think I may sending it as a PDF instead. That way I can be sure that my formatting and fonts will be preserved.
md12398 md12398 9 years
when i was hiring, the PDFs irritated me...
graduatedsqueaks graduatedsqueaks 9 years
I usually send the cover letter as the email body, and attach a pdf of my resume (unless they have different requests)
Beauty Beauty 9 years
PDFs all the way. It appeals to my inner control freak. Also, I always call the business or sleuth around to find out who the letter should go to.
shanimalcracker shanimalcracker 9 years
When I first job searched, I didn't know that it was a good idea to PDF my information. However, now I couldn't imagine sending in anything that isn't in PDF form!
suzanneheidi suzanneheidi 9 years
I agree. ALWAYS pdf the resume so formatting doesn't get messed up either on screen or if they go to print it out!
brielleblonde brielleblonde 9 years
i learned through the career center through my school to send as PDF's, especially since there are new versions of microsoft word (2003 and 2007). I also learned to make the cover letter an attachment as well as in the body of the email, so if the person you are emailing it to has to forward it to someone else, it will be easier for them to read.
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 9 years
Oh, and obvs. if the employer specifically asked for a cover letter, and did not explicitly say that the body of the email would be adequate, then I would write one and attach it as a pdf.
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 9 years
Cover letter- body of email, if I don't know the person's name, I will start off with "Hi." I try to make it brief as possible, stating a little more about my experience that would make me great for the job, and a little bit about why I want the job, though I really try to avoid saying what the employer can do for me. Resume- I always pdf my resume. Some law firms for instance do use mainly Word Perfect, and if you sent it pdf you have no worries about formatting issues and it looks more professional.
MartiniLush MartiniLush 9 years
emily and ladypenguin, excellent suggestion!
ladypenguin ladypenguin 9 years
I agree with Emily...I always send my resume as a PDF. If another computer reads the formatting or fonts differently, it can throw off the look of a Word doc and make it look less professional. I spend a lot of time making my resume look good, I want to make sure I know what the potential employer will see!
emily60608 emily60608 9 years
I always use PDFs -- for resumes & cover letters -- then you dont have to worry about your formatting getting messed up or if you've used a less common font it will still show correctly.
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