You’ve searched for a job or an internship. You’ve done the research on the position; you’ve crafted the perfect resume. Now what?
Then next step in any job or internship process is to create a cover letter to send to a prospective employer that further expresses your interest for the job, expands upon the qualifications listed on your resume and proves how you will deliver value to the company if hired. A cover letter is a great way to help the employer get to know you better and convince them you are worthy of an interview. But it is more than just a simple written letter. To knock it out of the park, take these six tips into consideration:
- Start with a STRUCTURE
When it comes to constructing your cover letter – the structure and order in which you present information matters. Your cover letter should NOT be longer than a page, so keeping your information short and concise while still impactful is key. Be sure to use an easily read font like Times and at least 11-point. Don’t shrink your font to get your letter to fit on one page. You can do that with this format:
- First, start with your personal information in the header. In most cases, you will send your cover letter and resume as a package to an employer, so keeping your header the exact same on each document is important.
- Second, you should open the letter with the date you are writing and/or sending the letter followed by the contact information for the specific person you are sending the letter to. For example:
- October 24, 2021
- Mr/Mrs./Ms NAME
- Job position
- Next, work on your salutation. This should be simple and professional. If you know the name of the prospective employer, you can go with something as easy as Dear Mr./Mrs/Ms. LAST NAME. If you do not know the name of the direct point of contact, go with something less descriptive such as “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Prospective Hiring Panel/Employer”.
- Next is the LEAD, or the opening statement with your first paragraph, which is where you will make your first impression. This is where you describe how you learned about the position, what makes you want to work for the company and your genuine interest in applying based on the reputation the company has built. (We cover this more in tip #4)
- Next, you’ll work on the body of your letter. This is where you expand beyond the experiences you listed in your resume and give more details on how your skills and attributes can add value to this position and the company. (We cover this in depth in tip #5)
- Lastly, you’ll want to close your letter with a call to action. This will give them the next steps on how to follow up with you if an interview is desired. (We cover this in tip #6)
- And of course, don’t forget to leave space at the bottom for your signature!
- Customize it to your job
As an employer it is easy to tell if someone has written a generic cover letter and tweaked just a few details to make it match the job being applied for. Even though it may take some time, it is always better to do your research about the job and craft a letter that reflects your interest in the specific position or internship you might be applying for. The easiest way to do this is by matching your qualifications to the job and talking about them in your letter. Look at the job listing and select a few abilities, experiences and skills that the job calls for that you know you have. In the letter, be sure to provide and expand upon experiences and times where you demonstrated those skills accurately. It always helps to provide some key words from the job description as well!
- Find the correct point of contact
In order to get the right foot in the door, it’s important to get in contact with the CORRECT person. Be sure to read the whole application process and see if there is a point of contact listed in which the cover letter and resume should be sent to. If there isn’t one, try visiting the website and looking for the hiring manager’s information or you could even reach out to the company’s HR representative and express your interest by following up with who your information should be sent to in order to get looked at for a position. Finding the right point of contact is important for personalizing your letter. Not only are you targeting it to the company, but you’re targeting it to the individual as well. If you are unable to find the contact and cannot get in touch with someone to confirm who your letter should be addressed to, it is always safe to go with an introduction of “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Hiring Team/Panel”.
- Draw them in with your lead
One common misconception about the lead into your letter is to start with a statement such as “I am writing to apply for X position.” The lead is the most important part of your letter. It is where you draw the employer in and get them interested to continue reading. Rather than stating the obvious of desiring a job or position, start by sharing the information that they want to hear most – share NOT that you are applying to work for them, but rather WHY you want to work for them based on what about THEIR organization impresses you. Make sure the reasons you choose are unique and memorable and draw back to some of your experiences that drove you toward the field in the position you are applying for. For instance, if you are applying for a job or internship for a youth activities director of a livestock breed association, you might lead with something like:
“Making a positive impact on the youth of the livestock industry is something I’ve dreamed of accomplishing since an early age. Upon discovering the Youth Activities Internship with the X Breed Association, I knew this would be a tremendous opportunity to pursue my passion of developing young people because of the reputation this breed has built. X Breed Association has become one of the fastest growing junior affiliations in the industry, known for superior education and leadership, career development and personal growth amongst its members. It is because of this reputation that I would love the opportunity to work alongside those involved with the X Breed Association.”
Tell them what they want to hear, and they will be more interested in giving you a chance to share more about how you can serve them.
- Explain what you’ll do for them, not what they can do for you
When you’ve gotten the reader hooked with your lead, it is time to spend the body of your letter explaining what you will deliver…aka how you can serve them. Once again, this starts with reading the job description and pinpointing 3-4 job requirements you know you have the experience for and can deliver upon. Now you might be saying “But I already did that in my resume’”. The answer is yes – you listed your qualifications in bullet form, but now it is time to go beyond the resume and expand upon your qualifications. Here you can go into more details about the experiences that have helped you build your skills that make you qualified for the position. You should expand upon the specific work you did, what you accomplished in your past experiences and how you added value in other places of work and/or the skills you gained from your past experiences. Always remember that all the skills you expand upon should marry up to how you plan to add value to their company. For example, if you are applying for an event coordinator internship or position, instead of saying “I developed a 16-week planning schedule to execute all event planning on time at my last job” you could say “I could use my organization and planning development skills from my past experiences to develop a 4-month planning schedule that will ensure your company’s events are executed on time and on budget.”
- Seal it with a CTA
Don’t leave the employer guessing. At the end of your letter, be sure to re-iterate your interest in the job and make it clear as to what you would like them to do next. Your CTA should include a timeline for following up, how they can reach you, either email or phone, and the times you are best available during the day. Regardless of how you decide to compose your final statements, just make sure they are left knowing your level of interest and how they can reach you.