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Cover and broadcast letters

Cover and broadcast letters

A cover or broadcast letter accompanies your résumé to introduce you to a prospective employer as a knowledgeable and capable applicant. It should be written in business format and be no longer than one page.

If you are a co-op student and wish to include a cover letter with your other application documents, load it onto WaterlooWorks as the first page of your résumé. Because the co-op process is time sensitive, you may not be able to write a cover letter in every case. Consider writing tailored letters for those positions that are a priority for you. Do not address your letters to an individual. Remove the salutation line or replace it with “Dear Recruiter“ and do not make the mistake of addressing your letter to any of the Co-operative and Experiential Service Team staff members whose names are listed in the posting.

Use cover letters to apply to specific, advertised positions. Remember: fewer than 25% of available positions are advertised (i.e., the visible job market), so do not limit yourself to these jobs. The position you want may not be advertised when it first becomes available, if ever. You are competing with others for interviews. In fact, 90% of all job seekers are applying to the approximately 25% of jobs that are advertised!

Use broadcast letters to uncover opportunities in organizations. Jobs in the hidden job market can be found most easily through networking. (For more information regarding the hidden job market, review the Work: Find/Create section.) Through your contacts, you should be able to obtain the names and addresses of people who hire for the work you would like to do. You can also use employer directories and web sites to discover which organizations might hire. Refer to the Contacting hiring managers page within the Success at Work unit for additional ideas on the effective use of broadcast letters.


The quality of your letter will determine the employer’s first impression of you. Do your research so that you can articulate your competitive advantage. Remember that your goal is to clearly and effectively explain why the employer should consider hiring you. Include only job-relevant information, particularly on your experience (paid and volunteer), education, accomplishments, and skills related to the job. Your cover letter highlights the most important information while your résumé is more comprehensive.

Write down ideas for your letter as you think of them. Then analyze the material and organize it into themes. Highlight achievements and how they are transferable to the job for which you are applying. Based on your research (literature/web review and speaking to knowledgeable people) and the advertisement, make notes on the qualifications required or desired, and be sure to emphasize your strengths in these areas. Use action verbs, but do not repeat verbatim what is in your résumé. Avoid negative words and negative ideas: stress your qualifications for the job rather than mention those you do not have. Avoid words such as “although” and “however” if they introduce negative statements.

Letters are typically written in complete sentences. In fact, employers often consider the letter to be evidence of your written communication skills, particularly for jobs that involve significant writing. If it seems appropriate, you may wish to highlight several key points in a bulleted list. If you use this approach, make sure that your list is not a repeat of your Summary of Qualifications. Underlining, bolding, and italicizing are not recommended.

Be sure to group your points by themes: decide which points fit together to form your paragraphs, prioritize your themes, and include only the most essential information. Refer to your notes to determine the order of importance for your paragraphs, using the job description as a guide. Construct an opening sentence for each paragraph. Throughout your paragraphs, make clear statements, expand upon each point, and give examples as proof. In your examples, include specifics such as dollar amounts or other numbers, to validate your assessment of your capabilities. Follow this process for each paragraph. Include three to five paragraphs in your letter (one opening, one to three middle, one closing), and limit each paragraph to a maximum of five sentences. Be sure you close with a strong paragraph that encourages the employer to take action (i.e., to contact you).

Rewrite as many times as necessary to create a clear, interesting, and relevant document for the reader. Then, be sure to proofread and, if possible, have someone else review your letter. If sending printed copies, use good-quality paper, preferably the same paper used for your résumé.

In a broadcast letter, carefully choose the phrasing of statements about the type of work you are seeking. If you are too narrow, you may not be considered for some positions. If you are too broad, you may be perceived as unfocused or indecisive. When sending letters into the hidden job market, don’t send hundreds because you will not be able to do the necessary research, and the response rate will not justify the time and cost. Concentrate initially on fifteen to twenty organizations. Then expand your focus to the next group of fifteen to twenty. Expand your mailing list only as long as you can produce quality applications.

Both types of letters are best addressed to a named individual. When composing a broadcast letter, you require a contact name, so obtain the name and title of the person to whom you will apply (supervisor or manager of the area you want to work in; president of a small company; executive director of an organization). Remember to record the mailing address and phone number.

Quick tips/final check


  • Address to a named individual (except in co-op process)
  • Project confidence
  • Make the most of the opening paragraph
  • Use simple business language
  • Speak to the job requirements
  • Demonstrate value added
  • Clarify why you should be hired 
  • Minimize “I” statements
  • Use action verbs
  • Provide your contact information
  • Track all correspondence for follow up
  • Follow the format of a standard business letter
  • Be brief and to the point
  • Proofread your letter

Do Not

  • Send a form letter
  • Use clichés
  • Be negative or excessively humble
  • Send your résumé without a letter
  • Wait for the employer to follow up with you
  • Send written material with typos or  smudges
  • Tell employers what they can do for you
  • Repeat your résumé or include too much detail
  • Mention your lack of experience



  • Dear First, Last Name: (except in co-op process)
  • Dear First, Last Name: (except in co-op process)


  • Name the job you are applying to and where you saw or heard the advertisement
  • If applicable, include a reference to the person(s) you spoke to about the organization
  • Briefly sum up your value to the employer by stating what interests you in the organization and position
  • Name the area you are interested in and starting date
  • Include a reference to the person(s) you spoke to about the organization
  • Briefly sum up your value to the employer by stating what interests you in the organization and area


  • When discussing your qualifications, use (occasionally) words from the job description
  • Group your qualifications according to themes and prove points by using examples
  • Organize paragraphs carefully and place the most important ones first
  • Group your qualifications according to themes and prove points by using examples
  • Organize paragraphs carefully and place the most important ones first


  • Refer to your enclosed résumé (optional)
  • Mention that you would like to provide more information in an interview
  • Include your phone number with the best times to reach you, and your email address (except in co-op process)
  • Refer to your enclosed résumé (optional)
  • Mention that you would like to provide more information in an interview
  • Indicate the follow-up you will do (e.g., phone to arrange a mutually convenient time to meet)
University of Waterloo

Centre for Career Development