Cover letters can be scary. You want to stand out but don’t want to repeat the experiences already specified in your resume. I’ve studied how to craft cover letters and have put together my own how-to guide that will hopefully make this process a bit easier and less stressful.
I like to start by putting myself in the shoes of the employer. The first materials they’ll read in the hiring process are your cover letter and resume, so make sure they complement each other instead of combat each other.
Cover Letter Format
Top: Include name, address, cell number, email address, LinkedIn/website (if applicable).
To: If you know the name of the person looking at this, write it here. If not, you can’t go wrong with “To Whom It May Concern.”
First Paragraph: Introduce yourself. Talk about how you heard about the position and why it interests you. If you talked to somebody in the company (via informational interview, at a recruiting fair, etc.), drop their name here and mention what you talked about. Don’t forget to include how it made you more excited to apply. Show them the effort you’ve already invested in their company.
Second and Third Paragraph: Briefly go over why you’re qualified for the position. Try not to regurgitate your resume. Put details in that they won’t be able to gather from your resume alone. Make them remember you. It’s okay to take two paragraphs for this if needed. Tell them a story that will make them feel something.
Final Paragraph: Conclude everything, end on a strong note OR a call to action.
Example: “I’d love to set up a time to talk more about the position over the phone. You can reach me at 123-456-7890 or in person at a time that works for you.”
Talk to them like they’re a human being. Don’t sound like a robot.
Always export and send your cover letter and resume as a PDF. Add your digital signature in if possible (it makes a difference).
Keep in mind: what first impression do you want to make on whomever reads this?
Be unique. Don’t sound like what the other candidates will write. We all have a story to tell, what’s yours?
I’ve attached an example Cover Letter. This cover letter helped land me an interview and then the internship shortly after. Best of luck!
Tips on what to Include in Your Resume and Cover Letter
In the real world, no matter what career you wish to pursue, a thorough resume and cover letter will help you set yourself apart from other candidates. Most college students are aware of what a resume should consist of, but are still a bit unclear on what a “good” cover letter should consist of and how to tailor their resumes to specific companies or positions.
As I’ve learned in Business Communication (CMN 211) you should always have a working template resume. This resume should include every single thing you deem important about your college career and extras such as volunteering. Once you have a certain position in mind, you can then begin to start picking and choosing which parts of that standard resume best fit the job description.
You should always include a heading with your name and contact info, a short two to three sentence skill summary – but make sure you assess your skill level accurately.
For example, if you worked in retail you can state that you learned to handle money carefully as well as built communication skills by aiding customers.
Remember, it is all about how you frame your already established experiences and skills to fit what the employer is asking for. Often times you’ve learned more from an experience than you think you have. You should also always include your education (including majors and minors) and typically for an undergrad student, this information should be located closer to the top.
Lastly, add in any awards and recognition, volunteer work, or RSOs you are an active member of. Remember, always add in a description of what your role is in your RSO and what the overall goal of the organization is.
For an exceptional cover letter, you want to really focus on what your purpose is in applying and gaining the attention of the reader. This will be your potential employer’s first glimpse at your writing skills, so make it well written and proofread!
Your goal is to elaborate about what is on your resume and how it connects to this specific career, not simply restating your entire resume. You want to make the cover letter very specialized and show you have done the research (you might even find it beneficial to add in quotes from their mission or values statements). Typically, you will want to follow the AIDA model which stands for Attention grabbing, Interest in the company or field, making the company Desire you by showcasing your skills and experience, and a call to Action toward the end which states something along the lines of “I look forward to hearing from you”. Lastly, keep it concise! A straight to the point and well-organized cover letter should be three to four paragraphs and will make you stand out from the rest of your job competitors.