Dos and Don’ts: Rules for Cover Letters

Job seekers often don’t give enough attention to their cover letters. This is a way for employers to weed people out, so you should make sure this document is well‐written and not generic. The purpose of a cover letter is to convince an employer to call you for an interview. It should not simply repeat what is on your resume. A cover letter should address your qualifications specific to this job and show you know something about the company.


  • If you are applying for a specific job that is currently available, always send a cover letter, even if the advertisement doesn’t ask for one. Even if they don’t read it, it will help you stand out.
  • Use the same font that you used in your resume. Many people will use their name, phone number, and email address as a header on both the resume and the cover letter. It’s like your own personalized stationary, and if your documents get separated, they are easily identifiable.
  • Use perfect grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Proofread it before sending it to anyone, and have a friend, family member, or Specialist in the Bellevue College Career for Career Connections proofread it before sending it to an employer! If you need help with grammar, visit the BC Writing Lab.


  • Do not send a generic cover letter. Employers can spot a generic cover letter from a mile away, and they don’t like it. If it’s going to be effective, you need to tailor it to each new job for which you apply.
  • Do not use more than one page, unless the ad says you can. Most experts say that at most, your cover letter should be two to three paragraphs and under 150 words. The idea is that your cover letter should not be any longer than one computer screen in length.
  • Do not simply repeat what you have written in your resume. Instead, sum up what you have to offer for the specific job, and use this opportunity to bring your resume to life. Let it serve as your introduction to the reader. In simple direct language, demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm by telling why you are uniquely qualified for the job. A successful cover letter highlights and enhances the information on your resume, and targets it toward the prospective employer.
  • It’s okay to let your letter reflect your individuality, but do not be aggressive, overbearing, familiar, or cute, and don’t write your life story. Use the interview as a chance to show your personality and go into more detail about your experiences. This is just a chance to get the interview. You want to stand out by having professional, mistake‐free, visually appealing documents.

Last Updated November 22, 2017