Selecting the Right Type of Cover Letter

When stepping out into the job market the there are three steps that every job seeker must take; writing a cover letter, submitting a resume, and going in for an interview. The cover letter is the first and most important step because it’s the very first impression that potential employers have of you.  When writing a cover letter, it’s crucial that you customize it specifically to the job/company you’re applying for and acquiring an expertise in cover letter writing can be highly beneficial. A cover letter can be used when applying for a job or requesting assistance in the search for a job. The key is to know what the different types of cover letters are and how to match the right type of cover letter with a specific target.


There are four general types of cover letters:

 1. Application Letter: An application letter is written when applying for a specific job opening. If should include why you are       writing, what you have to offer, and how you will follow up. When writing an application cover letter make sure to include information on the position your applying for, your qualifications specific to the position, and why you think you would be a good fit for the job. The letter should be no longer than one page (3-4 paragraphs), single spaced, and written in a traditional font such as Arial or Times New Roman. (Application Letter Guidelines)

2. Letter of Interest: Unlike an application letter written in response to a particular job, a letter of interest is written to inquire about job openings at a company. It’s usually sent to employers that are hiring but have not yet posted any job opportunities. Letters of interest address all job openings in a company instead of focusing on one specific position. Some points to include in a letter of interest are why that specific company interests you, why your skills would be an asset to that company, how the employer can contact you, and how you will follow up. (Letter of Interest Guidelines)

3. Referral Cover Letter: A referral cover letter is used to mention a mutual connection when applying for a job. In the professional world, it’s all about whom you know and mentioning a friend or colleague already working for the company can be a great advantage. In many cases, it can help secure a job interview and a recommendation for the job. Mentioning a friend or colleague should be stated in the first paragraph of the cover letter along with their full name and how you know them. (Referral Cover Letter Guidelines)

4. Networking Letter: A networking letter is sent to people whom you believe can help you find a job or who might know someone who can help you find a job. The point of a networking letter is not to ask people to find you a job but rather request their assistance in connecting you with people or opportunities. You would use this cover letter in situations where job opportunities exist but your not applying for a specific job in particular.  When writing a networking letter make sure to be friendly, while maintaining a professional tone. Include why you are writing, a brief summary of your key strengths, and whether your looking for professional advice or job leads. (Networking Letter Guidelines)

A “one size fits all” approach does not work when writing cover letters. Each letter should be tailored specifically to the job you’re targeting, whether it be applying for a specific job, expressing interest in a company, mentioning a referral from a current employee, or requesting assistance in the job search.


Alicia Palermo is a junior at the University of South Florida majoring in health science. She hopes to attend physician assistant school after graduating from USF. 

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