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Cover Letters and Writing Samples

The purpose of cover letters is to focus on specific aspects of an organization that interest you and to highlight your relevant skills or knowledge pertaining to the job/internship you are seeking.  

Content of Cover letters:

First Paragraph

Introduces your resume to an employer and identifies the reason for sending it.

Its main or three sentences: tells the employer why you are writing, names the position in which you are interested, mentions how you heard of the position, and tells why you are interested. If a person referred you to the position, mention that person's name. This paragraph should be short and should attract enough attention to make the reader want to read on.

Middle Paragraphs (one or two paragraphs)

The middle paragraph(s) of your cover letter highlight your most significant accomplishments, abilities, and experiences specifically relating to the employer and the job/internship requirements. The first paragraph generally should focus on your work experience and how it relates; the second can focus more on academic qualifications and relevant coursework.

Closing Paragraph

The closing paragraph should make it clear what happens next. It is best to keep the initiative on your side by letting the employer know that you will contact him/her to arrange a suitable time for an interview.

Factors To Consider in writing Cover letters:

Individualize: Address the cover letter to an individual rather than "Dear Sir/Madam” (if possible).

Be Specific: Tell the employer you are applying for a specific position and discuss the specific skills you have that meet the needs of that particular employer.

Be Concise: Since it may be the first contact with an employer, a concise cover letter may increase chances of obtaining an interview.


Writing Samples

Writing samples should demonstrate your ability to write in a policy setting, which means they should demonstrate critical thinking, concision, and appropriateness to the task at hand (or something). In choosing your selection, consider both the skills and types of writing that the job will require, such as memoranda, policy briefs. You may feel that the writing sample that best demonstrates your abilities is longer than the stipulated limit. If so, it’s perfectly fine to include an excerpt from a longer work as long as you clearly explain the context of your sample and how it fits into the larger work. In selecting a writing sample, consider speaking with alumni or other contacts in the field to learn about the kinds of writing that the job demands. When you have chosen a writing sample that suits the job you’re applying for, don’t hesitate to meet with a faculty advisor or OSAP staff to further strengthen your writing samples.