Most positions are never advertised. A cold cover letter is an uninvited inquiry to an employer, recruiter or other hiring manager regarding possible job opportunities.
Cold cover letters' potential advantages include creating a job that didn't previously exist, gaining early consideration for a position that hasn't yet been advertised and expanding your network of contacts. By sending a letter to an employer who's not soliciting candidates, your resume will not be buried in a pile of hundreds of others.
- Heather secured a marketing director position after sending a cold cover letter. She read about the company's expansion goals in a trade magazine and sent a letter that outlined how she would help the company achieve its objectives. The company was impressed by Heather's enthusiasm, knowledge of the company's mission and ideas for successful expansion.
- Stuart compiled a list of his dream companies and contacted them directly. His letter arrived at the right time at one of the companies -- a network engineer had just given her notice and a position became available. The company benefited from hiring Stuart and saving on recruitment costs.
- Mark is a salesperson with a passion for sporting goods. His favorite retailer did not have a presence in his local market, so Mark sent a cover letter outlining how he would establish a local presence. After reading the letter, the company flew Mark in for an interview and hired him on the spot.
- Know Yourself: You are contacting a company that hasn't asked to be contacted. So what do you offer? Why should the company take an interest in you? What skills, abilities and credentials would be desirable to the organization?
- Research the Employer: Find out as much as you can about your target company, including past performance, goals and competitors so you can knowledgeably write about how you would help the operation.
- The Salutation: Since you are writing an unsolicited letter, it's crucial that you address a particular person. Do some research so you can get your resume in the hands of the manager most likely to be interested in hiring you.
- The Opener: You can use a number of different techniques to open your letter. Here are two examples:
The Value Proposition:If you have identified goal-surpassing revenue and market-share growth among your goals for this year, my credentials will be of interest. Allow me to introduce myself: A marketing executive with 15 years of experience within Fortune 500 environments...
The News Angle:After reading of your consulting-services expansion in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, I am eager to join your team as an accounting manager. You will benefit from my top credentials, including CPA with Big Four experience and multilingual fluency (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian)...
- The Body: Summarize the key strengths you bring to the table. A great strategy is to include a bulleted list of achievements and qualifications that would benefit the company. Provide an overview of your main selling points and examples of how you have contributed to your current or former employers.
- The Close: End your letter with an action statement, promising to follow up to explore the possibility of an interview. This is a much stronger closing than, "I hope to hear from you soon."
On This Page:
What are Cover Letters and Letters of Inquiry?
Cover letters: When mailing your resume to prospective employers, it should always be accompanied by a cover letter. Your letter should capture the interest of the employer and communicate a personalized message about what you can contribute to that particular organization. Make sure to tailor your letters for each employer, because letters that are mass produced and generic are unappealing.
Letters of Inquiry: A letter of inquiry is similar to a cover letter, but it asks about possible job opportunities rather than responding to a specific job announcement.
What to Include
Begin by addressing your letter to a specific person. This may involve some research on your part, such as a call to the organization to find out the correct name and title of the person to whom you should write. "Dear Sir/Madam" is very impersonal and indicates a lack of real interest in the organization and the person to whom you should write.
In the body of the letter, make it short and to the point. Throughout the letter, avoid the use of flowery language and cliches. Identify who you are, why you are writing, and where you learned of the opening. Relate your qualifications and skills to the position or organization to which you are applying. This demonstrates your knowledge of the organization and illustrates how you can be an asset to them. Refer to your resume without restating it word for word. Your cover letter is supposed to highlight your resume. The goal is to emphasize a few strong, specific examples that highlight your experience, skills, passion, and qualifications. This is your time to communicate your passion, interest, and enthusiasm – utilize the time! To conclude the letter, indicate what you want to happen next. If you want an interview, ask for it.
Format and Style
Any business-style letter format is appropriate (e.g. full-block format, modified-block format). Always indicate whether there are enclosures included (e.g. resume, writing sample, transcript).
When writing your letter, keep in mind the reader's perspective. The most effective cover letters are clear, concise, and convey messages in three to five paragraphs. Your letter should not exceed one page in length.
Use paper that matches the paper of your printed resume. You may use matching envelopes or plain manila envelopes. Like the resume, your letter must be neat and typed with no spelling or grammar errors.
Read through our three paragraph model for writing cover letters, or click the images below for sample cover letters:
How We Can Help
Career & Academic Planning staff can review and provide feedback on your cover letter or other job search correspondence during a 30-minute individual meeting. At minimum, you need to have a first draft written to schedule an appointment. You can schedule an appointment online, or schedule an appointment by calling us at 540-568-6555.