By: Rachael Durant
In the job and internship hunting process, the most fear-inducing, dreaded part is usually writing the perfect cover letter. There are a myriad of articles and books all claiming to have the formula for cover letters. You can find said tips in the New York Times, Business Insider, and even Buzzfeed. While I personally don’t claim to have the silver bullet or magic formula for the absolutely perfect cover letter, I do have a series of simple tricks that will help make your cover letter better.
1) Do not use a fill-in-the-blanks cover letter you found online
Though the fill-in-the-blanks cover letters are often well-intentioned, try not to use them, as most employers and hiring professionals can tell them from a mile away. The best cover letters showcase personality, allowing the employer to see more of you than a resume might. A cover letter should not be a regurgitation of your resume. It should point to specific skills and examples of past successes that back up why you are the perfect candidate for the job. Including measurable successes is really important because it shows results, and filling in the blanks of a cover letter someone else created isn't an easy way to do so.
This is imperative. Take your time. Read your cover letter backwards and out loud, which can help you catch mistakes.
3) Pay attention to instructions
The instructions for applying to a specific role may change your cover letter strategy a bit. Some require that it be attached, and this is where formatting is key. Others will have you upload it in the body of an email, where you should keep it short so your whole cover letter can be viewed on one screen. Others may even request specific things to be included in the cover letter that wouldn’t typically be asked elsewhere, so definitely make sure to pay attention.
4) Do your research
I like to include a short paragraph about what I appreciate about the company specifically, and why that company is therefore a good fit for me. This may mean writing about how they work with a specific client, or that they are in a niche industry. It ultimately shows that you care about this company beyond the posting on Indeed or LinkedIn. It also gives you a leg up for when you interview, as you already have some research about the company under your belt.
This needs to be mentioned twice. Ask a friend, neighbor, the girl or guy at the coffee shop you have a crush on, your mom, etc. to take a look for any spelling or grammar mistakes. You'll be glad you did.
6) Know your industry (and the company)!
For example, in creative industries, you may have some wiggle room in terms of what is appropriate to include in your cover letter. My experience with this is from the time I applied for an internship with my local Girl Scouts. In my cover letter I included a short anecdote at the beginning about how being a Girl Scout had shaped my leadership skills and love of learning, which was a coy way to include my strengths as well as compliment the program itself.
7) Keep it concise and to the point
Flowery language and prose can be a strength in some cases, but not in your cover letter. You want it to be short and sweet, clear and concise.
8) Address it to a specific person
It can be really difficult to find out who to address your cover letter to, but it's worth it. It may require some extensive LinkedIn or website searching, or even calling the company to ask who the hiring manager is. However, that extra step can make your cover letter stand out. Always do your best to find out who will be reading it and address your cover letter to that person.
9) Ending your cover letters with confidence.
I like to end my cover letters with when I am available for an interview, and that I look forward to hearing from them soon. It may not make a huge difference, but I feel like it projects confidence.
10) Create a unique cover letter for each job
This sounds really time consuming, however applying for jobs in general are a time consuming process. There are benefits to creating a unique cover letter for each job. For one, you will never have the wrong company name or the wrong job title. Those little mistakes can cost you big opportunities! This does not mean you have to work from scratch each time. Instead, take bits and pieces from past cover letters that are applicable. This is why suggestions 2 & 5 are important and necessary: you want to make sure that the cover letter flows nicely.
Cover letters are tedious, but they are also an opportunity to make a first impression with your potential future employer. I wish it was easier to offer a foolproof template that would always result in an interview. Unfortunately, however, this does not seem to exist. My best advice is to therefore make sure a piece of you shines through in your cover letter, as authenticity is important.
On the other hand, don’t sweat the cover letter part too too much! According to some sources, cover letters aren't as important as a well timed recommendation or knowing the right people. So, along with a strong cover letter that utilizes the above tips, also make sure to keep your networks strong and let former supervisors know when you are applying to a job.
Best of luck in your job hunting, and let us know in the comments – did our suggestions help in the job search? Do you have further questions? We'd love to hear from you.