Cover Letters


  • There is no such thing as a generic cover letter! Customize each letter to the specific position, emphasizing your relevant skills and experience.
  • Address the letter to a specific person if possible. Otherwise, "Dear Hiring Manager" or "Dear Search Committee Chair" is acceptable.
  • Use a standard (block text) business letter format.
  • Keep the letter to one page or less.
  • Proofread your letter carefully before sending it.

Suggested Layout

A cover letter generally has three main parts: an introduction (one paragraph), a body (usually one to three paragraphs), and a conclusion (one paragraph).


  • Explain why you are interested in the company, institution, or organization and in the specific position to which you are applying (reference a job title and/or number, if available). Indicate where or how you found out about the position (Nittany Lion Careers, The Chronicle of Higher Education, institutional website, personal referral, etc.).
  • The last sentence of your introductory paragraph should provide an overview of the topics you plan to cover in the rest of the letter. Examples:
    • "My internship experience last summer working in the automotive industry, my leadership skills as president of the Engineering Student Council last year, and my volunteer work as a math tutor have all prepared me well for this position".
    • "My research experience last summer and my first-year student teaching background have prepared me well for this position."


  • Make the case for your candidacy by providing specific examples of your experience and qualifications for the position you want. Use keywords from the job description to show that you understand what the position entails.
  • Identify specific examples that highlight at least two or three of your skills and/or paid or unpaid work that fit the job description.
  • If you don't have the exact type of experience the employer wants, emphasize your transferable skills (e.g., discuss your leadership potential at the company based on leadership experience you've had in student organizations, or emphasize research in a similar or related area).


  • Restate your interest in the job and the company and briefly summarize your strengths and qualifications.
  • Indicate your interest in an interview if you know the company or institution will be interviewing soon and state that you will follow up regarding the position within a specific time frame.
  • Sign off with "Sincerely" or "Best regards" and your name.

See our Sample Job Search Documents page for links to different types of cover letters.

Learn More: Cover Letters


Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032