What is a Cover Letter?

By: Anne Hwang ’23

If you’re currently searching for an internship, program, or job position, then you’ve likely come across an application that has “cover letter” listed as one of its requirements. So what exactly is a cover letter?


What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter, also known as a covering letter or motivational letter, is a letter of introduction that is intended to introduce a job applicant’s professional background, skills, and personal interests in the job. Typically, the cover letter is one page in length, and it is usually attached to a resume or CV, which allows for the job seeker to elaborate on the information that is included in these documents. Ultimately, the main purpose of writing a cover letter is to showcase your personality and explain why you would be a good fit for the position. Thus, it’s important to make sure that your cover letter is meticulously crafted so that it catches the attention of the hiring manager and gets your point across clearly.


Components of a Cover Letter

Since a cover letter tends to be one page in length, its components can be broken down into the following:



  1. Professional Heading

This is the section where you will include your name and relevant contact information. Underneath your information, you will list the name and contact information of the employer that you are addressing.  


  1. Greetings

After the relevant information, the next part of the cover letters begins like any letter— with a professional greeting. Typically in this section, you will see “Dear (employer name),” with either the employer’s first or last name, depending on how formal the cover letter is intended to be. Note that the employer name inserted here is the same employer whose contact information is listed above. To ensure professionalism, it’s a good idea to always double check who the employer or hiring manager is and utilize the appropriate name and pronouns if applicable. 


  1. Content 

Following the greetings, this is where the main component of the cover letter begins. Depending on the source, you’ll find that there are plenty of ways to construct the main content of the cover letter. In general, the content will include an attention grabbing introduction, followed by a relevant story or experience, and conclude with the reasons why the job applicant is a good fit for the job and how the applicant can contribute to the team. This portion of the cover letter is the most flexible component, as you can decide how you want to go about writing the cover letter. However, it is important to note that if you don’t have much experience writing cover letters, your best option is to follow along with a guide that will help you craft a structured and effective cover letter. 


  1. Salutations

Lastly, the cover letter ends with salutations, where you thank the reader and leave a positive note about your excitement and eagerness to hear back or further discuss the position. There are plenty of ways to sign off on a letter, but there are definitely ways to sign off that can make your cover letter stand out! 

To learn how to formulate cover letters and tips for making your cover letter stand out, check out these websites: 


Interested in writing a blog for the Career Development blog? It’s open to Macaulay students and alums. If you would like to contribute or have any questions, feel free to email Jamie.Ruden@mhc.cuny.edu.