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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.
Letter of Inquiry
A letter of inquiry is a cover letter that asks about possibilities for an internship or position.
A letter of inquiry may be used in a variety of cases, including when:
- A job or internship is posted, and you would like to express interest and inquire about the availability of the same or similar opportunity at a future time (next semester, summer, etc.) that better fits your schedule
- A networking contact has recommended an organization, and you would like to inquire about possibilities for an internship with the organization (include his or her name as a reference)
- Full name, mailing address with zip code, email address and phone number
- Date that you send the letter
- Salutation that addresses an individual by name (may require web research or a phone call to the organization)
- Introduction of yourself as a Hope College student with a ________ major inquiring about the availability of an internship experience at the organization
- A one-sentence summation of how you identified the organization
- Beginning date and time frame of your availability for work (summer, fall semester, etc.), as well as the number of hours per week available
- Information that you are pursuing an internship for academic course credit, if applicable
- An indication that you are pursuing an internship primarily for experience and are flexible with job responsibilities and compensation, if applicable
- Information about your coursework and how the knowledge you have gained at Hope will benefit the organization (including computer skills and programs used in and out of the classroom)
- Several sentences highlighting your previous experiences, including paid and unpaid work and volunteer positions, and how the skills gained from those experiences would benefit you
- A reference to your enclosed resume that highlights your experience and provides contact information
- A telephone number and email address that may be used to contact you with questions regarding your application
- Information on when and how you will contact the letter reader to follow up
- A standard closing statement such as “Sincerely,” followed by your name, signature and the words “Enclosure: Resume”
SAMPLE LETTER OF INQUIRY
Your street address
City, State, Zip Code
Name of recipient
Name of Organization
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Dr./Mr./Ms. _______________________:
I am a junior Hope College student working toward a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a focus in Criminal Justice. I am seeking an internship for the summer of 20XX, and while researching opportunities in the field of juvenile criminal justice, I found your program listing internship opportunities for the fall semester on the Department of Justice website. I am writing to inquire about possible internship opportunities with the Marion County Family Court in the upcoming months of May through August 20XX. I am seeking an internship primarily for experience, and am therefore flexible with both internship possibilities and compensation.
My background and coursework have supplied me with many skills, as well as an understanding of common issues with the adolescent community. A few examples of my experience include:
- Courses in sociology and social work, criminology, and business computing
- Summer work as a hotline assistant for a local intervention center, involving peer counseling for teenagers about personal concerns with referrals to appropriate professional services
- Active involvement at Hope College as a Resident Assistant, which requires me to establish rapport with thirty residents and advise them on personal matters, as well as university policies
My enclosed resume provides additional details about my background and experience. I may be reached at (616) 123-4567 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments regarding my inquiry. Thank you for your time.
(4 spaces left for handwritten signature, or electronically sign your PDF)