When you apply for a job with a curriculum vitae (CV), it's important to include a cover letter, also known as a covering letter. This letter allows you to make a favorable first impression, using narrative in your own tone of voice to catch the reader’s attention and encourage them to seriously review your attached CV.
Like a resume, a CV summarizes your skills and experience. The difference between a CV and a resume is length, the focus on credentials, and what the documents are used for. Typically, a CV is required to apply for roles in academia, scientific research, and medical fields.
Tips for Writing a Cover Letter for a CV
While your CV provides a detailed—and often lengthy—look at your experience and credentials, the cover letter is an opportunity to call out your most important qualifications and make a compelling case for your candidacy for the role at hand. Here's what you need to know to write a successful curriculum vitae cover letter.
Tailor the Letter to Fit the Organization
The CV cover letter should be tailored to respond to the unique and specific requirements requested by each organization you are approaching.
Do not use the same cover letter for every job you apply to, even though it may seem like a timesaver.
Each letter needs to provide detailed information about why are you are qualified for the specific job in question, and it should outline the reasons for your interest in the company or organization. Being specific is advantageous. Even if you're applying for two similar roles in two different hospitals, the two hospitals may serve different populations or require slightly different responsibilities for people in the role. Your letters to each hospital should reflect that.
Use your cover letter to identify the skills or experiences most specific to the job, rather than copying directly the information in your CV.
What to Include
As a candidate, it's tempting to feel like the cover letter is unnecessary, since it is likely that all the pertinent information is included in your CV. Still, as you can see, the cover letter is a helpful tool in your application. Here's what to keep in mind as you write a cover letter.
The content of your cover letter should be brief and structured. Aim for 3-5 paragraphs in your letter. Start with a salutation. Your letter should address the relevant contact, whose name often appears in the job advertisement. Avoid “Sir” or “Madam” if possible.
If the letter recipient's name isn't provided, try these tips to determine the correct contact person.
Start With an Introduction
Typically, the first paragraph will be an introduction—if you are applying to a job ad, mention it here. Mention the job title, any reference number, and where and when you saw it. The first paragraph is also where you should mention if someone referred you to the position.
The Body of the Cover Letter
The body of the letter—the second and third paragraphs—should highlight your relevant skills and experience. Highlight your transferable skills, achievements, and versatility. Explain what you can contribute and what makes you stand out from your competition. Include mention of your current or last job, qualifications, and professional and academic training, tailoring your information to make it as relevant as possible to the organization or job applied for.
In the body of the cover letter, you can mention personality traits relevant to the role at hand. You can also use this space to call out why you're interested in this specific role, at this specific company. Potential employers and hiring managers will appreciate it if you can show you've read the job ad and researched the company.
Avoid lengthy repetition of information covered in your CV. Unlike a CV, it is acceptable to write a cover letter in the first person.
Conclude the letter by succinctly summarizing why an employer may want to meet and employ you. Include a polite expression of interest in further dialogue with the recruiter. Do mention that you would like the opportunity to discuss your suitability further in a personal interview and that you await a response in due course.
In some cases, an advertisement will indicate that a more substantial letter is required.
Always follow specific instructions and include any information if it is specifically requested. For instance, some employers may ask you to include your current salary or your desired salary range.
Make Sure the Letter Reads Well
Ensure that your CV cover letter flows freely. You do not need to precisely match every point on the job description. The reader should be left with an overall impression that you are a potentially valuable addition to the workforce.
The letter should be readable and engaging.
Negative information of any sort should be avoided in your cover letter, as well as on your CV.
Proofread Before Sending
You'll want to be sure your letter is free from grammar or spelling errors. It should also be clearly presented—that means using standard formatting, and common readable fonts (such as Times New Roman or Verdana) in an appropriate size.
Cover Letter Template
This is a cover letter example. Download the cover letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.
Cover Letter Sample
Depending on the employer's submission requirements, cover letters can be submitted online with your CV, uploaded online, or mailed. Be sure to follow the application instructions and follow the directions on how to apply. Consider this template for how to structure your letter:
123 Main Street
Anytown, CA 12345
October 25, 2021
Clark Lee, PhD
Biology Department Chair
123 Business Rd.
Business City, NY 54321
Dear Dr, Lee:
I am writing to apply for the position of assistant professor in the Biology department, as described in the Northern University website. The opportunity to teach biology appeals to me, and I believe I can be an asset to the department due to my experience as a field biologist, as well as my work as an adjunct professor at Southern State University. In accordance with your job description, I have the following skills:
• Experience lecturing to large audiences
• Experience with learning management systems and course design
• Ability to assist with labs for other professors
• Experience with grant writing and research
I have enclosed my curriculum vitae so you may examine my work and research experience, the papers I’ve published, and my educational background.
I can be reached anytime by email at Belinda.email@example.com or my cell phone, 555-555-5555. Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I look forward to speaking with you about this position.
Signature (hard copy letter)
Sending an Email Cover Letter
When you are sending your cover letter by email, list your contact information in your signature rather than at the top of the letter. List your name and the job title in the subject line of the message.
More Cover Letter Examples
Here are more examples of cover letters that you can use as a starting point for your own correspondence.