While much focus is placed on the resume, the cover letter is also an important part of a job application—especially if you’re looking to go into a writing-heavy field.
Where a resume offers information about your work and academic experience, the cover letter tells an employer more about your personality: it gives you an opportunity to show off who you are and what interests you.
While this may seem like a lot to accomplish in a single page, it’s not as difficult as it might seem on first glance. Broken down, there are three important components to any cover letter: telling an employer who you are, telling an employer what you know about them, and telling an employer why you and they are a good fit.
Here are 3 steps to follow when writing your cover letter.
- Step 1: Explain that you want the job and how you found it
- Step 2: Determine which work/academic experiences of yours you’d like to highlight
- Step 3: Connect your accomplishments to the responsibilities indicated in the job description
Looking for further guidance? Below are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
Do…translate your personality traits into actions
Are you great at time management? That’s awesome—now, find an example that illustrates your stellar time management skills. Did you successfully balance a 20-hour per week internship and a full course load? Did you play a varsity sport while maintaining straight A’s? Show, don’t tell.
Do…your homework about a company
If you have no idea what a company does, that will be pretty apparent to the person reading your cover letter. At the very least, take the time to browse through a company’s website. If you want to work at a magazine, click through some of their articles to see what topics they cover and what tone of voice they use. If you want to work at a consulting company, learn who some of their clients are and what their company culture is like.
Do…explain that you’re interested in a position
In the very first sentence of your cover letter, include both the title of the position to which you’re applying and the name of the company. Explain what excites you about the job opportunity. Pro tip: focus on what you can do for them, not on what they can do for you. For example, “Please accept my application for the ____ internship at _____ for the summer 2019 semester, which I discovered on Internships.com. When I saw this opportunity, I was excited by the opportunity to develop creative ideas and work with an innovative group of professionals in a fast-paced environment.”
Don’t…copy and paste the same letter
Companies can absolutely tell if you’re copying and pasting a letter you used for another opportunity. Don’t create one form letter that you use for every opportunity. You may be able to reuse pieces from one cover letter in another—for instance, if you’re applying to an internship in the financial sector and want to highlight your experience working at a bank. But a cover letter should include enough company-specific information that you cannot simply submit it over and over again.
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