This time of year, you are probably considering starting your summer job search or looking for a job after graduation. An important part of this search however, is to perfect your resume and cover letter so it is ready to be reviewed by a potential employer. Last semester, we gave you some tips on how to write a resume, and this term, we want to help you improve, or create a cover letter!
Start With The Header: Make sure the header that you put on your resume is also copied onto your cover letter. You want your documents to be unique to you, and having them match also looks more professional. Keep it brief by adding your name in a larger font, and putting your contact information on the next line. Consistency is key because it shows that you pay attention to details!
Don’t Repeat Your Resume: Your cover letter is looked at IN ADDITION to a resume, so an employer is already familiar with exactly what experiences you have. Keep in mind a cover letter is a chance to show personality, and to share specific examples of why your past experience can apply to this job position. This will show expertise and highlight your transferable skills, which is important for any employer.
Make Sure Your Contact Person is Correct!: Nothing shows unprofessionalism better to an employer than you not doing your research. Chances are if you are following a job posting, there will be a contact person that you are specifically addressing your letter to. Hear about the job internally? Ask your supervisor who the letter will be addressed to- it shows that you are concerned about your new potential employer and demonstrates your professionalism. In the case of a female employer, if you are unsure of what personal title to use, “Ms.” is always a safe choice.
Customize Your Cover Letter: Use the job posting to pick out keywords from the posting that you will add in your letter and relate your experience back to. A lot of times, employers put your application documents in a system that will highlight words that match their posting to see if you are an appropriate fir for the job. Another thing to keep in mind is to do your research and look up a company’s values and mission statements so that you can tailor your experience to fit exactly what they are looking for. Don’t be afraid to copy parts of these sentences and incorporate them directly into your letter.
Be Specific: Try to make your letter unique by avoiding generic statements other cover letters would have included in them as well. A statement like: “I’m an expert communicator with experience bringing together diverse departments to develop a cohesive program” is long, but speaks to specific skills you have to make you stand out. Statements like “I’m a people person”, are more generic and won’t allow your skills to shine.
Cover letters can be intimidating to start because they require you to talk more specifically on your skills. Just like resumes, try to make it brief- a page is the maximum length you want to make your letter, but try and keep it a bit shorter. Focus on two or three key skills and experiences that you want to highlight for the employer to keep it short but specific. If you need help finishing your cover letter, or need a career peer to look over it, come to any of our drop in hours!