Conquering the Cover Letter

by Michelle Ahn

Don’t let a cover letter delay your application for an awesome job or internship this year! Learn how to master the art of the cover letter with our five best tips below!

1. Start with a clean and solid introductory paragraph

If you know who will be reviewing it, address it to them; otherwise, the “To whom it may concern” approach works well. Your introductory paragraph should not be a summary of your life story. Keep it nice and short, by introducing yourself, and explaining why you’re writing to them. You can also reference how you found the position “I was excited to see XYZ role on the JKL career site,” or “I was forwarded this opportunity by a mentor who saw it as a good fit,” etc. You’re setting the stage for your letter here, so no need to get into the meat of it just yet. Typically this is where you should say “I’m writing to express my interest in XYZ role” and “I am a student at XYZ School with interest in pursuing XYZ.” Any other details you want to add here will 9 times out of 10 belong in your second paragraph.

2. Breathe life into your resume

In your second paragraph you have the chance to contextualize your experiences, and paint a picture of your accomplishments. Don’t overload this paragraph with too much—try and focus in on a few accomplishments that really show your skills, abilities, and strengths that match the job description. Use the job description as a guide, and outline exactly how your past experiences match the qualifications required for this role. This is a good place to include metrics that matter, for example if the job you’re applying for wants to see competency in social media platforms and you were responsible for PR in a student group, you can include “increased Twitter follows by X, over Y” or “during this time our follow count increased by X%.” This is a succinct way to show off your proficiency in a skill.

3. Show off your research

In your third paragraph, make your cover letter personal. Recruiters can instantly tell if you’re submitting the same cover letter to each company, and just slapping a new title onto it. Don’t be that person—make sure you do your research about the company and find reasons why you want to work there, and then put all of that into your cover letter. If you’re excited about the prospect of being able to work with your dream company in your dream gig, this is the place to share! Let them know what it is about their workplace that makes you want to join the team.

4. Closing strong

Congrats, you’re almost at the end of your best cover letter ever! In your closing paragraph make sure that you’re including all the pertinent details that your recruiter might need to know. This is where you can state your availability, your contact information, etc. You should also reiterate your interest in the company position and the role, and then sign off!

5. Polishing it up

Don’t forget that your cover letter, like your resume, should not extend past one page. Period. You also want to make sure that your formatting remains clean and consistent. Don’t feel as if you need to get overly fancy with it—you just want to make sure that it’s a pleasant experience to read. As a personal preference, I like to keep my resume and cover letter formatting aligned and consistent; if I have a contact header on my resume, I try to keep the same style header on my cover letter, so they look good together and stand out above other candidates.

That’s a wrap on writing a great cover letter! Put these tips into action and head over to campusphilly.org/launch to check out your future dream gigs. Stay tuned for the next edition of the career advice blog where we will discuss shining up your Linkedin profile!

Happy Holidays,
Michelle, Campus Philly

Photo by Brian Green