CPA Firm Recruitment Guide: Cover Letters

Writing Effective Cover Letters

Cover letters are typically not required at a job fair, but many times they are required as part of the application process. An accounting cover letter must be mistake free, should focus on your relevant qualifications including: education, technical experience, class projects, personal attributes (leadership, communication, passion, perseverance, etc), campus involvement, and knowledge of the employer and industry.

How is a cover letter different from a resume?

You may ask yourself, "I am already including most of this information on my resume, how is it any different to include it in a cover letter?" One main difference is that a resume has an objective tone; the words "I", "me", or "my" are never included in a resume.  Instead, it's as if the resume is a third person that is describing you.

A cover letter is the exact opposite: it should be written subjectively, in your voice, expressing your passion and enthusiasm for the position and the industry.  Imagine you only had a minute to two with an accounting manager to explain to them why they should hire you and why you're a good fit for their firm.  That is what should be in your cover letter.

Tip: The ability to communicate effectively is highly regarded in accounting. Your cover letter is a direct sample of your ability to communicate clearly, properly and succinctly in writing. Take advantage of this opportunity!


Cover letter structure and content

A cover letter should be:

  • In traditional business format.
  • One page including 3-5 paragraphs.
  • Address your letter to a specific individual if possible.  Check the organization's website or call to get information.


Paragraphs should include:

Paragraph 1: Introduction

  • Introduce yourself and exclaim your interest in the position and the employer.
  • Mention your qualifications in broad terms including your education and how you learned about the opening.


Paragraph 2 (and possibly 3): Overview of your qualifications

  • It is fine to use bullet points instead of a paragraph for this section.
  • It is acceptable to use two paragraphs to describe your qualifications.
  • Briefly describe your most relevant experiences, internships, projects, volunteer work and personal attributes and relate them to the job description.
  • Use accounting terminology, mention accounting software, and present your achievements using figures whenever possible.
  • Focus on leadership, teamwork and communication throughout.


Paragraph 4: Demonstrate your knowledge of the employer

  • Put your research to work in your cover letter.
  • What impressed you about the employer? The position?
  • How can you contribute to the type of accomplishments you discovered the employer values and pursues?


Paragraph 5: Closing

  • Thank the reader for their time, reassert your interest in the position, provide contact information and express your desire to share more about your qualifications.

Tip: For additional cover letter help and examples, check out the cover letter section of our resume toolkit.


Next: The CPA Firm Interview