The art of cover letter writing…. You can do it!

Cover letters.  They’re probably my least favorite thing about applying for internships and job opportunities.  I don’t know one person who enjoys sitting down to write a cover letter.  Why is this?  It’s nerve-racking knowing that what you say, or don’t say, could determine whether the reader of your cover gives you the time of day.  Plus all that hard work you put into writing it could basically go to waste if a hiring manager skims the letter doesn’t see anything special and tosses it.  However often these doubts and worries about the mistakes you could make on a cover letter control your thoughts, in the back of your mind you know that not having one is worse.  To put these doubts and worries at ease, this week’s blog is going to focus on some tips to making your cover letter unique and awesome, like YOU!

When writing your cover letters make sure to…

Personalize each cover letter to show how you fit the job description, company, and why you are interested in this particular company.  Try to find someone’s name.  Research the company and the HR department to determine the person to whom you should address the letter; call if you have to.  If you come up with nothing, you can always default to naming the position of the person you’re contacting, for example, “Dear Hiring Manager.”

Keep it short. Aim for 2-4 paragraphs. An ideal cover letter is about a ½ page to 1 scant page long. NEVER exceed one page.

Name the position.  Directly state which position you are applying.  If you are applying to a company for an internship or something that isn’t directly named on the website, describe the type of internship you are hoping to obtain.  For example, a cover letter for a company I applied for that doesn’t have an intern position posted on the website said, “I would love an opportunity to work with [company name] this summer in an intern position.  As an intern, I would be most interested in interning under an account management position, but would be open to any opportunity in which I would be able use and further develop my marketing/advertising education and skills.”

Explain why you want the job. Make sure to think about how this job is going to fit into your career goals and address why it is you want to work in this position at this company.

Highlight your accomplishments but don’t COPY your resume to your cover letter.  Match your resume, but don’t reiterate everything you put in it.  Pick one or two main accomplishments from your resume and describe them in more detail on your cover letter than you did in your resume.  Don’t focus on the tasks you did, focus on the skills or lessons you’ve learned from those accomplishments connected to the job or company.

Thank the reader for his/her time and say what you’re going to do next.  If the job posting has a phone number, indicate that you will call to follow up and when.  The only instance in which you shouldn’t call is if the posting says specifically not to call.  If there is no phone number posted, you could search for the company’s HR department’s phone number or consider sending a follow-up email.  Just force yourself to make a commitment to follow-up on this application.  Also, list your contact information and when you will be available to be contacted; be specific about times in which they can call, “I am available by email always or by phone on Mondays and Wednesdays between 3-5pm.”

PROOFREAD before sending.  Don’t proofread directly after writing.  Do another activity or sleep before you proofread what you’ve written.  Have a friend or parent read through it for errors and suggestions to make it better.  Finally, bring your cover letter to the CCO Monday-Friday from 10am-4pm for a professional opinion on it!

Check out page 42 of the CCO’s Career Planning Handbook for more guidelines and example letters or head to the CCO’s Cover Letter Guide

For more tips and tricks on cover letters and cover letter formats check out:

http://www.careerealism.com/cover-letter-mechanics-how-to-write-a-good-one/

http://www.careerrocketeer.com/2011/09/the-4-cs-of-resume-communication.html

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