You’ve done it. At last the search is over. You’ve found your dream job.
Now the question is how to get considered for the position when there are 250 other applicants? The best, most direct way you can showcase your talent is only partially through your resume—the first impression you make is with the cover letter. Resumes are flat. This is your opportunity to become three-dimensional to your prospective employer. Don’t hate the cover letter—embrace it! You can write the perfect cover letter that’s going to open doors to set you on your path to your dream job. Here’s how.
1. Brainstorm. Write a list of five positive adjectives, attributes, or skills that describe you. Don’t just pick adjectives at random—you have to be able to support them with evidence. Here are some samples to get you started:
- Excellent time management skills: took 18 hour course load as part of your degree in Communication, participated in 4 clubs, and volunteered 20 hours per week, while maintaining at 3.75 GPA.
- Compassionate: volunteer at a soup kitchen 20 hours per week
- Creative: hobbies are painting and pottery, member of the Creative Writing Society and Poetry Exchange
2. How to Begin. I understand that you want to be unique and eye-catching. The first two sentences of a cover letter are generally not the place to do so. It’s slightly formulaic, but you should always being your cover letter with a statement of purpose. First and foremost, they have to know what position you’re applying for! You should begin with a variant of:
- “I am writing to express my interest in the position of Junior Community Editor and Curator. I would like to briefly share why I feel I am a strong candidate for the position.”
3. Make your Battle Plan. You have to be strategic about what to highlight in your cover letter. You need to critically scan the job description and incorporate strategic words in your letter. Large corporations actually scan cover letters and chuck out the applications that don’t mention certain key words.
A Real Job Description from Monsters.com
How to do this? Let’s pick apart an actual advertisement for a Junior Community Editor & Curator position. The description stresses analytics, research, social networking and social business platforms, strong communication skills—make sure you include these words in your cover letter! This job was tailored made for Arts and Communication majors. Your BS degree in Communication provides you with the exact skill set they’re looking for. They want strategic newsletters? Perfect! Your course in Strategic Communication taught you how to strategically target stakeholders in publications, and you developed the skill as part of your internship with Marketing, where you strategically designed a newsletter for incoming freshman. You’ve conducted in-depth research on the emerging trend of advertising across social media platforms, and are
masterful in using Facebook, Twitter, Google-Plus, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Moreover, you contributed to the blog for the School of Arts and Communication at Florida Tech, where you received intensive training on how to write effective posts with Google Analytics [hint hint—email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be a contributor!]. Rattle off any skill sets that showcase your communication skills with relevant experience: strategic communication, new media, layout and design and your role in professional organizations like Florida Public Relations Association and the newspaper The Crimson.
You generally want to keep this section to around three paragraphs. Unlike the short introduction, you can be as expressive as you want, but keep in mind that the best cover letters are one page—you aren’t doing yourself any favors by being super wordy. This is just a taster. If they’re interested in you, they’ll arrange an interview.
It should be single-spaced, and your paragraphs should not be intended, but you should include a blank line to separate paragraphs.
4. Signing off. You have to revert to a more formal ending. Use a variant of:
- “Thank you for your consideration. I would love to discuss the position further with you at your convenience.”
- Use a formal goodbye, such as: regards, sincerely, or best wishes. Hit “Enter” three for four spaces to leave a space for your signature, and then type your full name. Be sure to include your contact information—even if it’s listed on your resume, the two may get separated. Then, in a black or blue pen, sign your name above your typed name. It should look like this:
How to Sign Your Cover Letter
Newbie mistakes to avoid:
Use the right company name! Ideally, you should try and tailor each cover letter to the position that you’re applying for; however, when you’re apply for 20 jobs, I can understand how you might not have the time. If you’re simply plugging in the company’s name in a form letter, make sure you change it all the way through: how seriously do you think a recruiter of Corporation X is going to take a cover letter that says “I would love the opportunity to work at Company Y!”?
Proofread proofread proofread! Spell check isn’t enough: you might have written “through” instead of “though” or—horror of horrors—misused “their” and “they’re.” It’s always better to have a second set of eyes look over your work if you can.
Don’t lose your “youness!” along the way! A cover letter is a unique opportunity. It is a mirror that you are the dictator of—you can selectively showcase the assets you want to highlight, but the end result still needs to be you. Don’t lose the “youness” along the way!
Still having issues with your cover letter and resume? Fortunately, Florida Tech has an amazing Career Management Service s program.