Cover Letters

Whether you are applying for a job or applying for an exhibition, cover letters are a chance to give an argument as to why you would be a good fit. Cover letters give you an opportunity to give a narrative to your application materials. The following tips will help you create and format an effective cover letter.

Addressing

Whenever possible, you should try to address your letter to the specific person who will be reviewing applications. You may need to do a little research or ask around to see who will be in charge of a search, but addressing letter directly shows your employer or gallery that you've done your work. If you cannot directly address the letter, use a general term such as "Dear Hiring Manager" or "Dear Search Committee."

First Paragraph

The first paragraph should be short and direct. You need to state what you are applying for and how your overall skills and/or align with the company or gallery. If you have some connection to the hiring committee or organization (a mutual acquaintance, you've met the hiring manager, etc.), you also want to mention that here.

Body

When applying for a job, the body of your cover letter will be the meat of your argument for why your experience and skills make you a good candidate for the position.

In general, you want to keep this portion concise and limit yourself to around one to three short paragraphs. Each paragraph should take some experience you've had and align it with some requirement or duty listed in the job advertisement. Help the potential employer understand how your presence would benefit the organization.

Gallery exhibition cover letters

Cover letters that you send to galleries will generally be shorter than job application cover letters. The body of a gallery cover letter will focus on why your work fits into the gallery's profile and what makes you unique as an artist.

Closing

Restate why you have an interest in the position and why you would be a good fit. Provide the application reviewer with contact information and notify them if you will be following up. Always remember to thank the reviewer for his/her time.

Format

A cover letter is a formal business letter and should follow business letter conventions.

  • Start with the date
  • Give the contact name and address
  • Give a salutation
  • Paragraphs should be single spaced
  • Sign "Sincerely," give three line breaks, and type your name

See the links to guides and examples below.

More Tips

When writing your cover letter, it's a good idea to get a sense of the type of company or institution to which you are applying. Find their website, read their mission statement, read profiles of staff members.

Keep your language professional, upbeat, and free from needless jargon.

Edit, edit, edit, and then give it to your friend to edit. Don't have your application tossed aside because you forgot to proofread.

Your cover letter should be tailored for every single application, no exceptions. You might have a general type of cover letter, but you should be able to tailor some of the details to fit each job.

Guides and examples

Still need help or just want to see some examples? The following resources are excellent guidelines for cover letter writing.

Purdue Cover Letter Workshop
Sotheby's Cover Letter Guide (with examples) - (PDF)
San Francisco Art Institute Cover Letter Guide
Cooper Union Cover Letter Guide