A cover letter, covering letter, motivation letter, motivational letter or a letter of motivation is a letter of introduction attached to, or accompanying another document such as a résumé or curriculum vitae.
Job seekers frequently send a cover letter along with their curriculum vitae or application for employment as a way of introducing themselves to potential employers and explaining their suitability for the desired position. Employers may look for individualized and thoughtfully written cover letters as one method of screening out applicants who are not sufficiently interested in their position or who lack necessary basic skills. Cover letters are typically divided into three categories:
- The application letter or invited cover letter which responds to a known job opening
- The prospecting letter or uninvited cover letter which inquires about possible positions
- The networking letter which requests information and assistance in the sender's job search
Cover letters are generally one page at most in length, divided into a header, introduction, body, and closing.
- Header. Cover letters use standard business letter style, with the sender's address and other information, the recipient's contact information, and the date sent after either the sender's or the recipient's address. Following that is an optional reference section (e.g. "RE: Internship Opportunity at Global Corporation") and an optional transmission note (e.g. "Via Email to firstname.lastname@example.org"). The final part of the header is a salutation (e.g., "Dear Hiring Managers").
- Introduction. The introduction briefly states the specific position desired, and should be designed to catch the employer's immediate interest.
- Body. The body highlights or amplifies on material in the resume or job application, and explains why the job seeker is interested in the job and would be of value to the employer. Also, matters discussed typically include skills, qualifications, and past experience. If there are any special things to note such as availability date, they may be included as well.
- Closing. A closing sums up the letter and indicates the next step the applicant expects to take. It may indicate that the applicant intends to contact the employer, although many favor the more indirect approach of simply saying that the applicant will look forward to hearing from or speaking with the employer. After the closing is a valediction (e.g. "Sincerely"), and then a signature line. Optionally, the abbreviation "ENCL" may be used to indicate that there are enclosures.
Resume cover letters may also serve as marketing devices for prospective job seekers. Cover letters are used in connection with many business documents such as loan applications (mortgage loan), contract drafts and proposals, and executed documents. The MIT Sloan School of Management requests a cover letter as part of their MBA admission application. Cover letters may serve the purpose of trying to catch the reader's interest or persuade the reader of something, or they may simply be an inventory or summary of the documents included along with a discussion of the expected future actions the sender or recipient will take in connection with the documents.
- Wendy S. Enelow; Louise Kursmark (January 2004). Cover letter magic: trade secrets of professional resumé writers. JIST Works. ISBN 978-1-56370-986-9. Retrieved 23 July 2011.