Drafting Cover Letters & Thank You Letters

Drafting Cover Letters

The purpose of the cover letter is to capture the attention of the reader, inspire him/her to go on to read your resume, and motivate the person to call you for an interview. The cover letter is often just as important as your resume. It emphasizes your qualifications for a specific position and demonstrates your genuine interest in the employer.

The key to a good cover letter is to make it as personal as possible. All letters should be addressed to a particular person instead of to a job function (i.e., "Dear Ms. Doe" as opposed to "Dear Hiring Partner"). If you cannot get the name of the appropriate person through written or on-line resources (such as Martindale-Hubbell or the organization's web site), you should call the organization directly. If no one is designated as responsible for hiring, you could address the letter to someone who practices in your area of interest or who is an alumnus/ae of your college or the UW Law School (in other words, someone who is likely to take an interest in your resume).

Personalizing your letter goes far beyond addressing it to a particular person, however. An employer wants to know why you are writing and how your personal skills and attributes can contribute to the organization. Relate what you know about the employer's type of work and how the work matches your interests, skills and experience by highlighting information contained in your resume. In order to do this, you will need to do some preliminary research on the employer before you send out your letter. The Office of Career and Professional Development has many resources available to help you with this task. In addition, many employers have their own web sites that describe in detail the type of work they do. The information that you gather in your research will enable to you show that the decision to write to the employer was an informed one, rather than one based simply on an employer's name appearing on a generic list.

Your cover letter should be in standard business format and printed on the same bond paper as your resume. In addition to being persuasive, it is important that your letter be well-organized, concise, grammatically correct and error-free. It should not exceed one page of approximately three brief paragraphs. Finally, always remember to sign your cover letter.

Cover Letter Format

Sample Cover Letters

Drafting Thank You Letters

Whether to send a thank-you letter after an interview (both screening interviews and callback interviews) is a personal decision.  If you choose to send a thank-you letter, be mindful of the following:

(1) Timing.  Callback decisions are made quickly and a letter sent through the mail after an on-campus interview may not arrive in time.  Consider sending an email in those circumstances.

(2) Proofread.  A thank-you note, by itself, is unlikely to get you an offer.  It can, however, derail a forthcoming offer.  Do not be informal or too familiar, check spelling and grammar, and if it is a hand-written note, make sure it is legible.  Be sure you spell the person’s name correctly! If you asked for a business card, consult the business card or double check spellings on the firm or organization’s website.

(3) To whom the note should be addressed. If you met with multiple people and there was a clear point person for the process, you may consider sending the note to that person and asking him or her to extend your gratitude to the others in the firm or organization.

(4) Do not be generic.  Try to add something that references a point or topic in your conversation.  This is important so the person receiving the thank-you note feels like it was meant for him or her and reaffirms a genuine interest in the interviewer and the organization.

Sample Thank You Letters

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