cover letters

Cover letters are necessary whenever you send a resume to apply for an internship or a job. A good cover letter introduces you to a potential employer and briefly highlights your best qualities. It should convince the reader of your enthusiasm, and it must be interesting enough to tempt the employer to read your resume. It also acts as a sample of your writing style, so it must use compelling language and be free of grammatical and spelling errors. Cover letters are generally quite short, using only a few paragraphs to present the most important points.

This is a business letter, and it should be formatted as such. Include the date, and address the letter to a specific person in the organization, for example, the internship coordinator or the personnel director. If you don’t know that person’s name and title, a quick call to the receptionist will supply the correct name, title, and spelling. “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” is only acceptable when answering a blind ad about which you cannot obtain any more information. 

In the first paragraph, mention the position for which you are applying, where you heard about the opening, and why you want the job. Think about why the position is attractive to you and highlight that in one or two concise sentences. It is not enough that you need a job or an internship—there must be a connection between your career aspirations and this particular position. Be sure to show the employer that connection. If you don’t know what is interesting to you about a specific employer, a little research about the organization will help you to understand what they do and how you would fit in. If you have any personal connections or were referred by people known to the employer, mention those in the very first sentence.

Typically, the second paragraph describes the contributions you can make to the organization, highlighting your relevant skills, experience, and education. Using words carefully chosen to convey your interest and enthusiasm about the position, write three or four sentences to show why you are well qualified for the opening. It is important to write confidently about your ability to add to the organization and to detail your qualifications. Use concrete examples from your background to illustrate any assertions you make.

The closing paragraph of a cover letter gives the employer information about how to reach you to set up an interview or how you are planning to contact them. Generally, it is good to take the initiative to follow up on sending your cover letter and resume by calling to see if they will grant you an interview. If you say that you will call them at a certain time, be sure to follow through. Also, if you must be out of town for a period of time, it’s good to let them know how they can reach you or how you will keep in touch. The last sentence of the final paragraph should sum up your genuine interest in the position and reaffirm your qualifications.

If you are submitting your application by mail, the paper, fonts, and format used in your cover letter, resume, and envelope should all match. The finished look of your application package conveys to an employer that you have given thought and consideration to your presentation before they even open the envelope. If you are applying via email, the best options are either to type your cover letter directly into the email message or to attach it as a PDF. If you attach both your cover letter and resume as PDFs, the format and fonts should match.

{Sample Cover Letter}


Ms. Jane Gallery
No Such Gallery
77 Geary Street, 13th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94108

Dear Ms. Gallery,

Professor John Doe mentioned to me today that you have an internship opening for a Gallery Assistant at the No Such Gallery. As a Painting major at the San Francisco Art Institute, I am very interested in exploring a career in galleries; I believe that working as an intern in your gallery will give me wonderful experience and help me decide if gallery work is right for me. While I am learning, I am positive that I can make an active contribution to your gallery as well.

In addition to my fascination with art, I have organizational and personal skills that will be useful in the gallery. While working for Professor Doe last summer cataloguing his collection of art, I learned to use a computer program to inventory and track the work. When he decided to sell part of his collection, I was able to easily locate the pieces. I also took responsibility for packing the work for shipment, obtaining the necessary insurance coverage, and verifying receipt of the works. I gained my people skills while working in a summer job as a lifeguard at Y Camp. In that position, it was important for me to maintain safety regulations without spoiling the campers’ fun. I learned to be diplomatic yet firm. That training will help me to work well with gallery clients.

My resume is enclosed for your consideration. I look forward to talking with you about this internship in an interview.  I am excited about the possibility of working with you at the No Such Gallery next semester.  

Thank you for your time and attention.


Joe Art Student
1313 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94410