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Cover Letters and Professional Communication

Learn about how to professionally communicate and leave a positive impression for getting you hired or building your network.

Cover Letters

The purpose of the cover letter is to provide the organization with more information about you as a candidate. Think of this document as a support to, not a repetition of, your résumé. The style of writing should be narrative, not a list of skills or qualities.

  • Tailor your cover letter for each position; do not use a generic letter or the same letter for every position you apply to.
  • Cover letters are written in three sections: the introduction, the support, the close (see the booklet below for more information).
  • Use the position description and your research on the organization to guide your writing.

Ask for help – at any stage, whether you are just starting and jotting notes down or after several drafts. Career Development is here to help you with your cover letters! Call (507-933-7575), use Handshake, or stop in to schedule an appointment or drop in during the academic year to meet with a Peer Career Advisor. 

Professional Communication

  • Including a subject for your email message is important, make sure to include the purpose of your request. (Example: Request for an Informational Interview)
  • Your initial email should have a formal greeting that includes title (Dr./Ms./Mr.) and last name.
  • Follow up emails can be addressed to the recipient based on how they closed their email or asked you to refer to them as.
  • Use formal, not text language. Write in concise, complete sentences without use of phrasing, caps, exclamation points or emoticons. Be sure to proofread before hitting send.
  • Be polite in your closing and include your name and contact information. Consider using an email signature with your contact information and personalized LinkedIn URL.
  • Email Etiquette and Email Etiquette for Students

  • Do not answer your phone if you are not prepared to have a conversation. It is better to let the call go to voicemail and return that call at a better time. 
  • Make sure that you have a professional voicemail greeting set up.
  • Avoid any kind of distraction that would take your focus off of the conversation. Be engaged in the conversation and your tone should sound positive. 
  • Prepare what you want to say. (Example: Hello, Mr/Ms. _______. My name is _______________. I am a currently a sophomore at Gustavus Adolphus College and am considering a career in ______________. I am looking for information on the career field and was referred to you by _______. I am wondering if I could have 30 minutes of your time to hear from you about the field and your career path.)
  • Be prepared to ask questions and have a discussion.
  • Before ending the call thank the person for their time and confirm next steps if applicable.

Thank You Notes

Always follow-up with a thank you message after an interview, networking meeting, or informational interview. Traditional guidance has been that thank you messages should be handwritten cards mailed within two days. While handwritten cards are nice, email is appropriate and preferred for quick timelines or for organizations that are high technology. Unless initiated by the other party, thank you messages are not appropriate via text or social media. If you are in an interview process with multiple rounds of interviews, thank you messages can be sent after each round, but will be different (e.g. a brief email thank you after a phone screen followed by a more detailed thank you after an in-person interview).  

Personal Branding

Having a personal brand is the impression a person gives in-person, online, or on paper. A positive impression can help you get hired and build your network. Personal branding materials include résumés, LinkedIn and Handshake profiles, and a professional introduction/elevator pitch and voicemail message.


Contact & Location


Johnson Student Union 209
800 West College Avenue
Saint Peter, MN 56082

Career Service Hours

Monday 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Tuesday 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Wednesday 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Thursday 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Friday 8:00 am - 4:30 pm