What is a Cover Letter?

It’s a 1 to 1.5 pages letter that includes an introduction, 2-3 body paragraphs, and a concluding statement. It is addressed to the recipient, including their mailing address, and signed at the bottom by you. It should include your personalized header at the top of the page detailing your name and contact information.

What is Its Purpose?

Cover letters are sent with job applications to inform employers why you are suited for a position. They do not explain everything from your résumé. Instead, they highlight 2-3 related experiences you want potential employers to notice. Connect the dots for your readers so it is easy to understand how your experiences are related to the open position. In addition, mention something specific about the organization, showing you have fully researched the job.

When Is a Cover Letter Needed?

For almost every job posting! Sometimes it is specially asked for and sometimes it’s just assumed you will send one in with your resume. When in doubt, submit one.

Steps to Writing a Cover Letter

1. Read Sample Cover Letters

Read some sample cover letters to better understanding of layout, the depth of description of an experience, tone, and length.

2. Find a Job Posting

It’s impossible to complete a cover letter without have a specific job position in mind. Postings will describe what they are looking for in a candidate – from experiences to skillsets – which need to be directly demonstrated in this letter.

3. Research the Organization

Explore their website, news articles, or social media accounts to learn more about the institution. It can help you understand what they prioritize and what they are expecting in people they hire.

4. Identify Your Themes

Each body paragraph should have one focus or theme. It could be a skill set (communication, arranging), an experience (internship, student position), or project (school related or personal). Theming makes it easier for readers to enjoy.

5. Identify Appropriate Examples

Once you know your theme, determine the specific example(s) you will be demonstrated and be sure to provide appropriate details. Don’t just say you have classroom management skill, show your abilities through an example.

6. Have Someone Read It

We know what we want to say, but sometimes it doesn’t come across that way. Having a friend or colleague read over your materials can help you identify areas of confusion or any mistakes.

Cover Letter Handbook

For further instructions and sample cover letters, please view our Musician’s Cover Letter Handbook or listen to our IML Podcast!

“I have worked with IML advisors many times over the past twelve months, and while I have progressively fine-tuned my job application materials since the beginning, I am always amazed that their insight and constructive criticism never run dry. They make me feel confident with my submissions because they know the field and how we measure up on paper. I’ve recommended IML advisor’s to my fellow classmates because they are one of the best-kept secrets at Eastman, and one that I hope doesn’t remain a secret.” 

Daniel Kuehler, ’20E
DMA in Piano Performance & Literature