Cover Letters

Craft messages that open doors

A good cover letter can mean the difference between landing an interview and disappearing into the slush pile. We’ll show you how to write a compelling letter that makes a great first impression.

In this section

Preparing to write

A strong cover letter answers two key questions:

    • Why are you interested in this opportunity?
    • Why should the company be interested in hiring you?


Without a cover letter, you’d have to rely solely on your resume to make an impact big enough for the hiring manager or recruiter to call you for an interview. Use your letter to highlight your abilities, show why you’d be a great fit for that particular job and, of course, demonstrate your excellent communication skills.


Just as chefs gather all of their ingredients before starting to cook, you’ll start by collecting information about the job, the company and your strengths as they relate to that role. Here’s how to get started:


    1. Prepare your resume.
    • Each statement in your letter will refer to a bullet point in your resume, so it’s important to complete your resume first.
    • You may also want to leverage the work you’ve done on your personal brand and career story. This process helped you identify your strengths and capabilities, so make use of it.


    1. Review the job posting carefully.
    • Make note of the key skills and qualifications in the description.
    • If the posting offers few details or you’re applying for an unadvertised position, research similar positions at similar organizations for guidance on what to emphasize.


    1. Research the company.
    • Review the company’s website to understand its market, products and vision.
    • Search for more information, such as news articles, press releases and social media posts.
    • Seek information from your network of contacts.


    1. Complete the Cover Letter Prep Worksheet.
    • The worksheet will help you organize your research, list your relevant skills and qualifications, and choose examples of accomplishments.

Writing your first draft

Now that you have all the information you need, you can put together your first draft.



Your letter will fill two-thirds to three-quarters of one page, and it will include up to four paragraphs. The body of the letter should be around 400 words.


    1. Header
    2. Salutation
    3. First paragraph: Introduction / summary statement
    4. Middle paragraph(s): Skills, experience, professional development, extracurricular activities
    5. Closing paragraph: Reinforcement of interest and desire to move to the next step
    6. Complimentary closing and signature


1. Header

    • At the top of the page, type your name and designation (if you have completed one) in 14-pt font.
    • Below that, in 11-pt font, add your contact information: phone number, Rotman email address and LinkedIn URL.
    • Below that, add the name, title and address of the contact at the company you’re applying to. If the complete address is not available, include all known information.
    • Below that, add a line with the position title (and reference number/job identification, if applicable).


2. Salutation

If no contact name is provided, use:

Dear Recruitment Manager,

Dear Hiring Manager,


If a contact name is provided, use:

Dear [first name],


You can also check LinkedIn to see if the person has indicated their preferred pronouns.


3. First paragraph

Your opening paragraph should demonstrate strong interest, passion, and knowledge about the company, role and/or company people you’ve met. Grab the reader’s attention by telling a compelling story, highlighting a detail about the company, or shining a spotlight on your qualifications. Show that you’re a great fit for the role by connecting your skills, interests and experiences to the company’s needs. Emphasize what you can do for them, not the other way around.



    • Don’t start with a dull, generic statement like “In response to your ad for a [position], I am enclosing my resume…” or “Please find attached my resume…”
    • Don’t provide a laundry list of your accomplishments. This is boring and repetitive.
    • Don’t try to cram everything into your letter. Choose strong, relevant, specific examples that match what the company is seeking.
    • Don’t use examples that are not a bullet point on your resume.
    • Don’t include any personal details (age, marital status, etc.).
Do I need to tailor my cover letter for each job?


Yes. Your cover letter, like your resume, should be tailored to the position and reflect your suitability for the role. Demonstrate your familiarity with the company, either through research you’ve done or meetings you’ve had with people who work there.

For similar jobs, you can usually keep your middle and end paragraphs the same or similar, but consider tweaking keywords or revising your examples based on company-specific requirements, catchwords or corporate values.

4. Middle paragraph(s)

In one or two paragraphs, demonstrate your strong fit for the role by connecting your experience to a few of the position’s most important skills. You can also mention extracurricular and professional development activities that differentiate you from other candidates, such as relevant industry/volunteer work, certifications, designations, etc.


Start with the facts

“My four years as an engineering consultant with [company] have helped me to develop a diverse skill set that will allow me to excel as a member of [target company]’s strategy group…”

“I am a licensed professional engineer with extensive experience in Ontario’s energy sector and have primarily worked as a client-facing nuclear consultant. In my previous engagement at [company], I managed a $7-million contract as the lead engineer. On this project, I developed…”

“Over the past year and a half, I have been working full-time, studying part-time and running a not-for-profit. I enjoy working hard and know that this is something that the position at [company] will demand of me…”


Summarize key skills with examples

“While at [company], I conducted a valuation for a mid-cap mining company, for which I prepared a financial model of the organization from scratch. I compiled the valuation findings with industry research and comparables into a deck and presented my research and recommendations to the Board of Directors. After extensive consultations with various stakeholders across the organization, I compiled our findings into a proposal that was eventually implemented by the client, resulting in an acquisition of a smaller competitor worth $10 million.”

You can also include one or two sentences that provide insight into items on your resume that employers might be curious about, such as gaps, career changes, etc.


5. Closing paragraph

Use this paragraph to reinforce your interest and desire to move to the next step.


“I am eager to tackle challenging problems using skills I have gained from my previous experience as a Project Lead, my Master’s degree in Engineering and my MBA. I believe that I have a lot to offer the [company] team.”


Follow that with a warm closing statement such as:


“I would very much appreciate the chance to connect with you at your earliest convenience should you feel that my education, skills and experience are a fit for this role. Thank you for your time and consideration.”


Don’t repeat your contact information (it’s already in the header).


6. Complimentary closing and signature

End with a formal closing, such as:

    • Sincerely,
    • Regards,
    • Respectfully,

Formatting your letter

Your cover letter should look clean and professional. Follow these formatting tips:

    • Choose a font that’s simple and easy to read, such as Arial, Cambria or Georgia. (Your resume font should match.)
    • Set the font size to 10 pt.
    • Use an 8½’’ x 11’’ page and set the page margins from half an inch to 1 inch.
    • If you’re submitting a hard copy, print your resume on high-quality white or ivory paper.

Polishing your letter

Once you’ve written your letter, run through the steps below. Repeat until your letter is in the best possible shape.


  1. Read your letter aloud to check that it flows well and the tone is appropriate.
  2. Proofread your draft for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. (Don’t just use a spellchecker — if you’ve typed the wrong word but you spelled it correctly, a spellchecker won’t catch it.)
  3. Follow the formatting tips above, and check for any formatting glitches.
  4. Ask a friend, a classmate, a mentor or Career Services staff to review your letter. Consider their feedback and revise your letter. Repeat steps 1 to 4.
  5. Proofread again! We can’t emphasize this enough — many employers disregard applications with errors.
  6. If using the “track changes” function in your word processor, accept all changes and turn off track changes.
  7. Save your letter as PDF.
Common writing errors


Check your letter and resume for these common mistakes in spelling, grammar and punctuation that spellcheckers might miss.

    • Look for words mistakenly used in place of others that sound similar, such as “their,” “there” and “they’re,” or “your” and “you’re.”
    • Check for unnecessary apostrophes. For example, people often write “it’s” (a contraction for “it is” or “it has”) when they mean “its” (this indicates possession: “The company released its annual report”).
    • Check that your subjects and verbs agree. Singular subjects go with singular verbs, and plural subjects go with plural verbs. Sometimes people aren’t sure whether the subject of a sentence is singular or plural. For example, in a phrase like “range of options,” the subject is “range.” That’s a singular noun, so you should use a singular verb: “The range of options is impressive.”
    • Look for dangling modifiers. A modifier is a phrase that describes something else. If it’s unclear what’s being described, or if the modifier seems to describe the wrong part of a sentence, the modifier is “dangling.” The result is a sentence that confuses or amuses: “Attending the webinar, my webcam stopped working.” (It wasn’t the webcam that attended the webinar.) Better: “My webcam stopped working while I was attending the webinar.”
    • Read your writing slowly to look for missing or duplicated words, spaces and punctuation marks. Also check for instances of “pubic” instead of “public,” and “asses” instead of “assess.” (It happens. Don’t let it happen to you!)
    • Don’t double-space after a period — it’s old-fashioned.


For additional writing support, consult your Rotman Career Coach.

Next steps


Next: Social media